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Shyama Shastri

Shyama Shastri
Shyama Sastri.jpg
Born Venkata Subrahmanya
(1762-04-26)April 26, 1762
Tiruvarur, Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu
Died 1827
Other names Shyama Krishna
Occupation Carnatic music Composer

Shyama Shastri (IAST: Śyāma Śāstri; 26 April 1762–1827) or Syama Sastri was a musician and composer of Carnatic music. He was the oldest among the Trinity of Carnatic music, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar being the other two.[1]

Early life and career

Shyama Shastri was born on 26 April 1762 in a Brahmin family in Tiruvarur in what is now the state of Tamil Nadu.[2][a] He received his instruction in the vedas, astrology, and other traditional subjects early on and learned music from his maternal uncle. He was later trained in music by Adiappayya, a noted durbar musician of Thanjavur.[3]

Although Śyāma Śastri did not compose as so many kritis as his two prolific contemporaries, his compositions are still well known due to the literary, melodic and rhythmic proficiency observed in them. It is said that he composed about three hundred pieces in all.

He did not have many disciples to propagate his compositions, nor was the printing press widely accessible during his time. More importantly, the scholarly nature of his compositions made them more appealing to the learned than to the lay. His compositions are far fewer in number than Tyagaraja or Dikshita. Additionally, they feature a more formal form of Telugu which borrows heavily from Sanskrit. In contrast, Tyagaraja composes in this form of Telugu but also resorts to a more colloquial dialect to which Syama Sastri does not.

There are also a number of krithis in Tamil attributed to him. Most of his compositions propitiate the goddess Kamakshi.

He composed kritis, varṇa(s) and svarajati(s) with the ankita or mudra (signature) Śyāma Krishna. He was probably the first to compose in a new form of the svarajati musical genre, where the compositions could be rendered solely in a singing or instrumental manner. Prior to this, the svarajati was primarily a dance form, and was close in structure to the dance Varṇaṃ (padavarṇaṃ).

His set of three famous svarajati(s) are intended to be sung in concert rather than danced, and are sometimes referred to as "Ratnatrayam" (Three jewels). They are Kāmākṣhī Anudinamu, Kāmākṣhī Padayugamē, and Rāvē himagiri kumāri, composed in the ragas Bhairavi, Yadukula kambhoji and Todi respectively. The former two are set to Miśra Cāpu Tāḷa, while the third is set to Ādi Tāḷa.

He was known for his ability to compose in the most complex of tāḷas.[4] He was also widely revered for his voice and singing ability during his time.

Death and legacy

Shyama Shastri died in Thanjavur in 1827. He had two sons, Panju Shastri and Subbaraya Shastri. Panju was a devoted worshipper of the deity, Bangaru Kamakshi. Subbaraya was trained in music by his father and became a gifted composer as well as a noted player of the veena. At his father's behest, he was also trained by Tyagaraja, Shyama Shastri's renowned contemporary.[3] Shyama Shastri's adopted grandson, Annasvami Shastri (1827–1900), was also a fine composer.[citation needed]

Shastri had a number of disciples who excelled at the art. Alasur Krishna Iyer became a musician at the royal durbar in Mysore. Porambur Krishna Iyer popularised many of his guru's works. Another disciple, Talagambadi Panchanada Iyer also made his mark as a composer. Another disciple named Dasari gained fame as a noted nāgaswaram player.[3]


The below sections mention some of his compositions.

Svara Jati

Composition Raga Tāḷa Language Description
Kāmākṣhī anudinamu maruvakanē
కామాక్షీ అనుదినము మరువకనే
Bhairavi Miśra Cāpu Telugu
Kāmākṣhī padayugame sthiramaninē
Yadukulakamboji Miśra Cāpu Telugu
Rāvē himagiri kumāri
రావే హిమగిరి కుమారీ
Todi Ādi Telugu


Composition Raga Tāḷa Language Description
Śaṅkari Śaṃkuru candra mukhī
Sanskrit: शङ्करि शंकुरु चन्द्र मुखी
Telugu Script: శఙ్కరి శంకురు చన్ద్ర ముఖీ
Sāvēri Ādi – Tiśra Gati Sanskrit
pAlayAshu mAM paradEvatE Arabhi Sanskrit
kanaka śaila vihāriṇī
Sanskrit: कनक शैल विहारिणी
Telugu Script: కనక శైల విహారిణీ
Punnāga Varāḷi Ādi Sanskrit
Birāna varālicci brōvave
బిరాన వరాలిచ్చి బ్రోవవె
Kaḷyāṇi Ādi – Tiśra Gati Telugu
Dēvī brōva samayamu
దేవీ బ్రోవ సమయము
Cintāmaṇi Telugu
kAmAkSi lOka sAkSiNi madhyamAvati Sanskrit
Himādri sutē pāhimāṃ
హిమాద్రి సుతే పాహిమాం
Kaḷyāṇi Ādi Sanskrit
Māyammā yani nē pilacite
మాయమ్మా యని నే పిలచితె
Ahiri Ādi Telugu
Mari vērē gati evvarammā
మరి వేరే గతి ఎవరమ్మా
Anandabhairavi Miśra Cāpu Telugu
Nannu brōvu lalitā
నన్ను బ్రోవు లలితా
Lalita Miśra Cāpu Telugu
O jagadambā nannu
ఓ జగదమ్బా నన్ను
Anandabhairavi Ādi Telugu
Pārvati ninu nē nera nammiti
పార్వతీ నిను నే నెర నమ్మితి
kalkaḍa Telugu
Sarōja daḷa nētri himagiri putrī
సరోజ దళ నేత్రి హిమగిరి పుత్రీ
śaṃkarābharaṇaṃ Ādi Telugu
Tallī ninnu nera namminānu vinavē
తల్లీ నిన్ను నెర నమ్మినాను వినవే
Kaḷyāṇi Miśra Cāpu Telugu
Pāhi Srī Girirājasutē Karuṇākalitē Anandabhairavī Rūpakaṃ Telugu-Sanskrit
Devī Nī Mīna Nētrī Brōva Shankarabharanam Adi Telugu
Ennēramum un Nāmam
என்னேரமும் உன் நாமம்
Pūrvikalyāni Tripūṭa Tamil
Ennēramum un Pāda Kamalam
என்னேரமும் உன் பாத கமலம்
Punnāgavarāḷi Miśra Cāpu Tamil

See also


  1. ^ Some sources state that his family was Telugu[2] while others claim that they were Tamil.[3]


  1. ^ P. Sambamoorthy, Great Composers, pp69–94. (Madras: The Indian Music Publishing House)
  2. ^ a b Fuller & Narasimhan 2014, p. 201.
  3. ^ a b c d OEMI:SS.
  4. ^ Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 231. 


External links