Legacy of Chitrasutra – Fourteen – Shri S Rajam

27 Sep

[This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on  the Art of Painting in Ancient India 

This is the concluding part of a series that attempted to trace the influence of Chitrasutra, the ancient text and its recommended practices, from the days of the Ajanta to the present period.

In this article we move on to the 20th and 21st century   and admire the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam, perhaps the sole votary of Chitrasutra tradition in the modern times.

The present article briefly outlines Shri S Rajam’s achievements in the field of music and in the music related arts.

In the next part we shall look at Chitrasutra and Shri Rajam as an artist who brought to life the traditional art of India.]

Continued from  The Legacy of Chitrasutra – Thirteen – The Murals of Kerala (Mattanchery and Padmanabhapuram Palaces)

1. Shri S Rajam

1.1 Sangita Kalacharya Vidvan Shri S Rajam is a many splendored jewel of Indian art and music. He is the musicians’ musician; held in very high esteem by the connoisseurs of Carnatic music; he is the creator of sublime art in the pristine and ancient tradition of Chitrasutra; he is an excellent photographer who produced outstanding photographs of temple architecture and sculptures; and, in his youth a hero of early South Indian films who composed songs and sung them too.

The most amazing aspect of his involvement in several branches of arts is that he excelled in each of them; created a unique niche of his own; and , yet remained unaffected by his success.

And, above all , he is a remarkable human being with a flame-like imagination ; and, a teacher with an understanding heart. He is often, aptly, described as a simple man of singular achievements in a plurality of fields. It is hard to cite anyone, in the contemporary world, as comparable to Shri S Rajam. He is a rare gem; and, like any precious gem he is away from public gaze.

1.2. Even as he is mellowing sweetly into his nineties, he retains  the sense of wonder and awe at the marvels of life. He continues  to work with zeal, regularly, at his art; and says with a child-like delight : he is discovering and learning a few new things each day. As regarded music, his other passion in life, he is active as a teacher and as a guide; and  participates in academia and in the discussions at various  Sabhas .

[ Sad to say that about two years after this article was posted, Shri Rajam passed away at the age  of 91 , on 29 Jan 2010 . Please click  here  .

But, prior to that , in January 2009 , Shri Rajam had seen this article; had it read it to him; and, had conveyed his appreciation through his disciple Smt. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam (please see the comments section) . He had also made certain suggestions/corrections. I gratefully acknowledge  that as his approval and blessings.]

1.3. I have special regard, appreciation and reverence towards Shri S Rajam; because I view him as one of the few gifted artists of the twentieth century who breathed fresh life into the ancient tradition of Chitrasutra – not by talking or writing about the ancient art but by diligently practicing it with devotion and sincerity , over a long period of more than sixty years.

My admiration of him is heightened because he is perhaps the sole true representative and votary of the Chitrasutra in the modern era. To use a favorite phrase of Sri Shankara-bhagavatpada , Shri S Rajam is a Sampradaya-vit, the one who understands Sampradaya  the good tradition.

Shri S Rajam pointed out, “In tradition, only good things should remain; the bad should be ignored and not continued. This is tradition”. And he also said, “Be modern in outlook; there is no problem with that. But, learn to appreciate the beauty and elegance of your culture. Safeguard it; develop it; and, carry it forward for the benefit of the next generation “.

The present article aims, mainly, to talk about that aspect of Shri Rajam’s artistic genius.

But, before we resume discussion on Shri Rajam as an artist, let’s take a quick glance at a few of his life-events  and his  achievements.

2. Early years

S Rajam as babyA Rajam as adolecent01rajamS Rajam as young man

2.1. S Rajam was born at Madurai on 10.02.1919 to Smt. Parvathiamma (also called Chellammal) and Sri V Sundaram Ayyar, a leading advocate of Madras. Sundaram Ayyar was a scholar, a person of culture and a lover of Carnatic music. He, as a connoisseur and patron of music, wrote music-reviews for ‘The Hindu‘; and , his views were respected by artistes such as Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar and others. S Rajam later in his life recalled, “In case my father felt that a particular sangati was out of place, Iyengar would drop it”.


It is said; at the suggestion of Sri Pudukkottai Dakshinamoorthi   Pillai (1875 – 1925), a noted mridangam and khanjira vidwan of those times, Sundaram Ayyar constructed a spacious hall on the first floor of his house at Mylapore , in order to hold the concerts of the musicians he admired, such as Ariyakudi Ramanujam Iyengar, Madurai Mani, Ambi Deekshithar, Muthiah Bagavathar and Karaikudi Sambasivam. Sundaram Ayyar, it is said, supported and sponsored a young and talented musician Ramaiya who had come to Madras in search of a career in music. Ramaiya later flowered and flourished as a noted singer and a composer of great merit; and gained fame as Papanasanam Sivan (1890 – 1973).

Rajam house Rajam house 2

2.2. Musicians, writers and scholars frequented Ayyar’s household which was a sort of cultural hub in Mylapore of those days. The atmosphere at home was conducive for nurturing love for art and culture in the young hearts of the children at home. Rajam’s younger brother, by about eight years, S Balachender (1927-1990) grew into a larger- than – life personality; a remarkable veena player, with a unique style of his own; a forceful writer; an accomplished actor and an eminent director. Rajam’s two sisters: Jayalakshmi and Saraswathi too were very good singers. Shri Rajam had another younger bother S Gopalaswamy and another younger sister S Kalpakam Balakrishnan who was an accomplished veena player. These two were twins and were the youngest in the family,

2.3. Rajam had his music training at a very young age. Sundaram Ayyar had engaged Ramaiya (Papanasanam Sivan) to train Rajam and his sister Jayalakshmi. Rajam was thus  among the earliest disciples of Papanasanam Sivan. The talented disciple performed  as early as in his 13th year.

Rajam who was then in P.S. High School was an avid movie fan; he hardly missed a silent movie that ran in the tent cinema behind his school. Little did he realize then he himself would very soon be a movie star. The year 1934 proved to be a very important year for Rajam , a handsome lad of fifteen years; as also for his teacher Papanasam Sivan who in his mid-age (say about 44) was in search of a stable career in music. The year saw them launched into successful careers in films and music.

The noted film critique historian Madabhushi Rangadorai who gained fame under his pen-name Randor Guy has described the circumstances that led Papanasam Sivan as also Rajam and family into the world of films. Rajam’s first film was Seetha Kalyanam (1934), a Prabhat Talkies production directed by the well known Marathi and Hindi filmmaker of his day, Baburao Phendharkar

The strikingly handsome fifteen year lad Rajam  of  sharp features and slim figure played the leading role of Sri Rama, while his sister Jayalakshmi played the leading- lady Seetha. (That raised quite a few eyebrows).

The film, in a way, was a family venture, as Rajam’s father Sundaram Ayyar played Janaka, while  Rajam’ s other sister  Saraswathi played Urmila and Rajam’s kid-brother Balachender played a child musician in the court of Demon King Ravana. The music was provided by Rajam’s teacher Papanasam Sivan.

[For more on the Seethakalyanam Film, please check the following link and the references listed on the page. ]

seetha kalyana

The film Seetha Kalyanam and its music was a huge success. It launched Rajam and his teacher Papanasam Sivan on their way to stardom. Some songs set to music by Papanasam Sivan ; and, sung by Rajam became hits. To mention a couple of those: ‘Nal vidai thaarum…’ (Raga Kalyani – based on Saint Thyagaraja’s ‘Amma Raavamaa…’); and, ‘Kaaranam ethu swami….’ (Raga Kaanada – based on Saint Purandaradasa’s composition ‘Sevaka kana ruchirey…).

Following that success, Rajam’s second film was Radha Kalyanam (1935), produced by Meenakshi Movies and directed by C. K. Sathasivan (better known as Saachi). Rajam played the lead role of Krishna while Radha was played by the beautiful looking star of those days M.R. Santhanalakshmi who perhaps was elder to the hero Rajam. The music to the film was provided by the noted singer-composer Sri Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavatar.

Rajam’s third film as hero was Rukmini Kalyanam (1936); and, Rajam played Krishna again. The film was directed by the famous Marathi filmmaker, actor and Baburao Phendharkar’s brother Balji Phendharkar.

Of the three films in which Rajam played the leading role, it appears, the first film Seetha Kalyanam, was true success; the other two were not so successful. But, by then the handsome brothers S. Rajam (18) and Balachander (10) had gained fame as ‘Prabhat Prodigy Stars‘ and ‘South Indian Prodigies‘. They toured several cities in India and in Sri Lanka, performing duet-concerts. It is said, like the legendary Lav and Kush, the two handsome and talented young lads were the darlings of art-lovers and the cynosure of all eyes.

Rajam 1Rajam 2Rajam 3

2.4. Shri Rajam played leading roles in three Tamil films Seetha-kalyanam, Radha-kalyanam and Rukmini-kalyanam; and also sang. By then Rajam was married and  his wife was not in favour of his acting in movies. Shri Rajam later humorously remarked, all his three films were Kalyanams ; and , after his own Kalyanam there could not be any more Kalyanams.

Shri Rajam’s association with the world of films was relatively brief ; but, it was highly successful.

In the years thereafter, Shri Rajam   visited many temples in India and Sri Lanka; and, stayed for a while in the 7th century temple of Sri Kailasanathar at Kanchipuram.

S. Jayalakshmi

Shri Rajam did however , later in 1942,  played a supporting triple role of Lord Muruga; the boy-Murga; and, the hunter-Muruga in a hit movie Sivakavi in which the doyen of Tamil films Tyagaraja Bhagavathar the singer- actor played the lead role. Rajam’s sister Jayalakshmi played the leading lady in the film; while Rajam’s father Sundaram Ayyar played guru, the teacher of young Sivakavi.


Later in 1948, Shri Rajam composed music and also sang the song ‘Kaathal puyalthaniley thurumbupol…’ in V. Shantaram’s ‘Nam Nadu’ the Tamil remake of his Hindi film ‘Apna Desh’.

Shri S Rajam thus was a pioneer in the development of the Tamil films. Shri Rajam blessed with an agile mind and good health is today the senior-most living hero, the leading-man, of the Tamil film world. His contribution to Tamil films is recognized by one and all  with pleasure and gratitude.

Please click here for a video on Sri Rajam’s life and achievements

3. Music


3.1. Shri S Rajam is a well recognized, much admired and an honored performing musician. In his home state, Tamil Nadu, he enjoys more fame in the world of music than in art. In one of the interviews to a music journal, Shri Rajam quietly remarked towards the end of the interview “Not many may know that I am a painter; and, I do original classical paintings. I divide my time between painting and music.” Such is the child-like candor and humility of the grand-old man of Indian arts and music…!

3.2. Shri S  Rajam served for about 35 years as music supervisor and a Grade A artiste at the All India Radio (AIR), where he popularized Carnatic Music and also Thirukkural singing . He performed full duration kutcheris based on Tirukkural couplets.  During his tenure, he recorded rare compositions of the Vaggeyakars, produced many operas and musical plays.  He later mentioned that his most cherished program with AIR was the presentation of Silappadikaram as an opera with a huge orchestra. “Our culture is a very ancient one; and, we have the responsibility of passing it on to the next generation in its truest form. I shall strive to do my best in this regard; and , I may even write a book”.

Between 1970 and 1982, while serving AIR, he led a team of artists on a music tour to Africa , presenting a percussion ensemble; and, also toured USA performing 32 musical concerts in various cities. He also performed in Burma, Sri Lanka and Canada.

His lecture demonstration on rare Ragas and kritis, vivadi Ragas, as also on the compositions of Koteeswara Iyer are admired by the connoisseurs. His special interest in vivadi ragas, as also Lakshana and Lakshya aspects of Carnatic music is well known.

[Please check the following for Shri S Rajam’s rendering of Dikshitar’s Navagraha kritis

Rajam S – Music India Online :   Album: Navagraha Krithis ]

Sri S Rajam was best known for very aesthetic renditions of ‘vivaadi ragas’, which need a balanced and delicate handling.  Please listen to his rendering  Sri Muttuswami Dikshitar‘s  composition ‘kalavati kamalasana yuvati’ in Raga kalavati, (One of the vivadi ragas). Please click on :

rajam u tube

3.3. Shri Rajam continued to serve , till his last days ,  on the expert committee of the Music Academy at Chennai.  His simplicity and willingness to help anyone who approaches  him on subjects related to art and music has endeared him to all ; and , to the young, in particular.

rajam old

3.4. Over the years, many honors have been showered on Shri Rajam. Just to name a few of those: He was awarded the title “Isai Kadal” (ocean of music) by the Tamil Sangham, Karikudi in 1988. He was accorded the Sangeetha Nataka Academy award in 1992; and , the Kala Acharya in 1996. The only significant honor he received from the Madras Music Academy (to which he contributed so much) has been the title of Sangeetha Acharya. Probably the best way to describe him is: Acharya.

It is interesting that as early as 1947 when Shri Rajam was still a young man of about 28 years, the late K.V. Ramachandran (well known Art critic), wrote him: “You know I am not given to praising anyone, still less over praising. If it were in my gift to give a title, and if any one deserves it in India today, you deserve the name of Acharya — the master in painting. I don’t flatter. “Shri Ramachandran (1898-1956) , it is said , was in his day  regarded   the foremost music and art critic in the country. He was not easily pleased; and a ‘good-word’ from him was considered a high reward even by merited artists. His high praise of Rajam signified the eminence that Shri Rajam enjoyed even as a young person.

I understand that at the 76th South Indian music conference and festival of Indian Fine Arts Society to be held in Chennai during Dec 18, 2008 to Jan 4th, 2009, Shri S Rajam would be honored with the title, ‘Sangeetha Kalasikhamani‘. No honor is too high for Vidvan Shri S Rajam.

rajam honour

3.5. While reminiscenceing his musical training, Sri Rajam fondly recalls how his father Sundaram Ayyar took him, while still a lad of ten, to the well known musician Sri Ambi Dikshitar  (son of the renowned Sri Subbarama Dikshitar) for music lessons. Talking about his Guru, Shri Rajam mentions that Sri Ambi Dikshitar had a deep voice of low sruthi that could easily touch the panchama in the lower octave; and Ambi Dikshitar’s voice was well suited for rendering, with clarity, the grand and slow paced compositions of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar. Rajam was amused that his teacher , a descendant of the Mutthuswami Dikshitar lineage , should commence his lessons with a composition of Sri Thyagaraja (enta nercina in shuddha dhanyaasi). It was a rare privilege, he remarked, and a great fortune. Later, of course, Sri Ambi Dikshitar taught Rajam many compositions of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar, most notable being the Navagraha kritis.

3.6. He had the privilege of being trained in music by a galaxy of stalwarts. He recalls with gratitude and pleasure, “I have undergone training from many Gurus. I learnt Dikshitar kritis from Sri Ambi Dikshitar. It is from Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar that I attained Pathantara suddham and perfection in singing fast tempo. I learnt depiction of vakra, varjya ragas; and swaraprastara from Madurai Mani Iyer. Papanasam Sivan, though a composer himself , taught me lots of Tyagaraja Kritis… Madurai Mani Iyer taught me Nagumomu with chatusruti dhaivata; while Papanasam Sivan taught me in suddhadhaivatam, the correct way…. Although I have learnt from many gurus, I crave to express what we have not heard from other musicians.”

musicians.1 jpgmusicians.2 jpgmusicians.3 jpg

One of the musicians he admired most in his youth was Smt. Veena Dhanammal (1867-1938),  renowned for adherence to traditional values and profundity of music expression. He heard her in the latter years of her life. He spoke of her  from his heart “It was Dhanammal’s music that haunted me in my early years.  Dhanammal was Sarasvathi incarnate – she sang and played the veena alternately. I was fortunate to attend her Friday soirees , some 40 times. I would sit very close to her; and when she sang Akshayalinga vibho, she shed tears while doing niraval on the line ‘padarivana’. Shouldn’t we have the same intensity of feeling while performing? How can you be a real singer if you are not a rasika yourself?”

3.7.kotesvaraiyer S Rajam’s favourite composer is Koteeswara Iyer (January 1870 – October 21, 1936) popularly known as Kavi Kunjara Dasan. “I am deeply interested in Koteeswara Iyer’s compositions” S Rajam said, ” I do not compare any other composer with him, I find great pleasure in singing his compositions”. Koteeswara Iyer was the first composer, after Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar, who composed krithis in all 72 Melakartha-ragas. His monumental work, “kanda ganamudam” has songs, in praise of Lord Muruga, composed in all the 72 Melas. The songs are in chaste Tamil .

[Please listen to Sri Rajam speaking about Sri Koteeswara Iyer]

3.8. Shri S. Rajam has the distinction of being the only musician to have sung all those 72 compositions; each kriti being accompanied by raga-alapana, neraval and kalpana-svaras. He said,” It is vital to understand the meaning and bhava of a composition to make an emotional presentation or render the song with insight “. His rendering of Koteeswara Iyer’s songs is recorded in a set of ten tapes / nine CDs.  Sri  S. Rajam has also published a book giving notations for all the 72 songs.

3.9.The noted scholar, Prof .N. Ramanathan , in the March 2019 issue of Sruti , writes about the Music of Sri S Rajam:

The music and personality of S. Rajam made a great impression. It is not possible to separate music and his nature.

He was blessed with an enviable voice while very few male singers from Tamil Nadu have a melodious voice. From the panchama in the mandra sthayi to the tara panchama, he had a voice of uniform evenness and steadiness. He did not croon, nor did he use a false (head?) voice. His voice production was clean.

It is common for musicians to set some musical preferences for themselves. The thrust among Carnatic musicians is usually on the madhyama kala or medium tempo. Gamakas like kampita, jaru and vali characterise the melodic line in abundance, but in their performances, we do observe a fundamental incompatibility between the kala-pramanam and the Gamakas.

In other words, when there is an acceleration from the madhyama kala to the druta kala, the Gamakas are intensified instead of being sobered up, resulting in a kind of melodic jarring and confusion.

Rajam gave preference to madhyama kala but maintained a certain restraint in the extent and tempo of Gamakas and kept the melodic expression from getting out of control. As a result, his music might have given the impression of lacking a ‘Carnatic melodic depth’, but the richness of the voice was not sacrificed and the beauty of melodic expression was well maintained.

Dwaram Venkata Swamy Naidu too, as we observe in his recordings, in order to avoid any compromise with the tonal quality of the violin, curtailed the intensity of some Gamakas and also simulated them through ‘viraladi’, the dexterous movement of different fingers, instead of quick up-and-down sliding movements on the string. These could be referred to as aesthetic preferences of artists.

By nature, Rajam was fond of extended plain Svaras devoid of heavy oscillatory tonal movements. Hence, we can understand his liking for and embracing of Mela-Karta-ragas, especially the vivadi ones, and consequently his preference for the kritis of KotiswaraIyer.

As a result, in Cutcherries—both on stage and in All India Radio, the voice came out clear and majestic. He did not exploit or abuse his gifted voice. He was like G.N. Balasubramaniam in his capability of rendering druta kala phrases and briga phrases with ease, but he never indulged in them. In fact, he did not adapt music to project his voice and instead gave primacy to melodic beauty. It is no wonder that even in the later years, his voice did not lose its mettle and remained fresh, despite his continued smoking habit.

Even in the All-India Radio cutcherry performed in his 87th year, the music and voice appeared bright and did not display any signs of ageing. Except on one or two occasions, that too only in the last two years of his life, I have never heard him being troubled by voice or straying off shruti. Today however, we come across many singers with a penchant for harmonium-type brigas, abusing their voices and tragically losing them at a very early age.

At the same time, Rajam did not allow his voice to dominate his music. This is where we see his nature being reflected. He never made any effort to impress the audience through his performances, never played to the gallery. Hence a large number of his performances were those broadcast by All India Radio and not at sabhas. The radio medium was best suited to his nature.

Rajam’s main professional career was as an employee in the Music section of All India Radio, Chennai. He was the architect behind the production of many features like devotional songs, musical dramas and contribution of specific vaggeyakaras. Mi. Pa. Somasundaram and T. Sankaran were his colleagues and they often teamed up in preparing, producing and executing valuable musical features. All three prided themselves on having worked under the legendary G.T. Sastry, Station Director of All India Radio, Trichy, and later Chennai.


3.10 Listen to Shri S. Rajam singing the popular kriti, Sri Valli:

…and to Shri S. Rajam speak about Papanasanam Sivan and Natabhairavi:

4. Music & painting

Rajam painting

4.1. Shri S Rajam is the golden link (svarna setu) between music and art. He provided a visual identity and a tangible idiom of expression to Indian classical music through his paintings. For instance; just to mention a few, his series of paintings Origin & Classification of Svaras (inspired by Sangeetha Kalpadrumam of Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavatar), illustrating the origins and characteristics of each of the seven notes of Indian music, explaining their nature and their relation to the Hindustani and Western music systems, is a remarkable work of great learning and sublime art. I have not come across a like of it anywhere else.

Similarly, his series of twelve paintings illustrating Venkatamakhi’s Melakartha scheme by classifying the 72 Mela ragas into 12 Chakras or segments; associating each Chakra with a month of the year (from April- March) ; and, illustrating them through soulful and imaginative paintings is a marvelous example of the delightful amalgam of innovation , scholarship and superb artistry. It is a unique piece of visual poetry and music. This series was also meant as a tribute to Venkatamakhi the great musician-musicologist (1635-1690).


And, his series of paintings illustrating the kritis and particularly the  Navagraha kritis of Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar are, of course, legendary; and have passed into the folklore of music, astrology, and tantra traditions; and also have become idioms in  classical school of painting.

rajam ramaSRajam

4.2. In each case, he poured into puranas, epics and ancient texts searching for details and for the right idioms of expression. His involvement was complete; and , he was totally absorbed into his work. While recalling his experience while painting the Navagraha series, he mentions, “Inexplicable incidents occurred, a reminder that Dikshitar’s compositions are invested with awesome power. While painting Surya, gusts of wind would snatch the paper away from my hands.  while embarking on Rahu, I found a snake skin hanging from a creeper;  and, even a live snake coiled beneath the finished painting.”

purandaradasa kshetrayya

4.3. His portraitures of the composers in the classical traditions of Indian music are benchmarks; and now, after his advent, one can scarcely visualize the hoary composers but through the eyes of Shri S Rajam. His portrait of the trinity of Carnatic music (Saint Thyagaraja, Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar and Sri Shyama Shastri) which he painted when he was barely twenty years of age is a true classic; it is a universally acclaimed archetype and one that is even worshipped.


4.4. Hallmarks of his portraits are their authenticity. He studied and researched into his subjects thoroughly, grasped the essence of their character and achievements. His portraits therefore bring out not mere the physical resemblance of the subjects but more importantly the essence of their very inner being.

4.5. There are some interesting stories associated with his portraitures of the Music Trinity. In the case of Saint Thyagaraja, the old drawings available at that time (before 1940) showed a weak, melancholic person with his chest bones protruding and having a rather sickly countenance. Shri S Rajam felt offended by the old portraits; and was hurt the saint was shown in a poor light causing injustice to his genius. Shri S Rajam strongly felt that the portrait should aptly project the character and greatness of the person, his achievements, his genius and his mellow glowing sattvic nature;   and not just his physical resemblance.


Sri Mutthuswami Dikshitar was an Upasaka of Sri Chakra and the Devi; he was an advaitin in his outlook. There was always a certain serene detachment about him; and in his eyes. In Shri S Rajam’s portraits, Sri Dikshitar comes across as a calm, composed, handsome young person of lime-color (golden hue) complexion. He always wears a green  (or a blue) shawl over his left shoulder, and sports rudraksha -mala around his neck. His veena is upturned; with the face of the yali looking up.


His portrait of Sri Shyama Shastri which eventually turned into an Indian postal stamp has an interesting story around it. Sri Shyama Shastri too was a Devi Upasaka, but charged with intense devotion and a poignant longing for the Mother. He was a deeply religious person who adhered to the prescriptions of the scriptures. He always had a dash of vermilion (Devi –prasada) right between his eye brows and stripes of Vibhuthi across his forehead; he sported a tuft (Kudumi) and appeared with stubble on his chin, because he shaved only once in a fortnight just as an orthodox Brahmin would do. Sri Shyama Shastri – was a dark, handsome, serious looking person, rather absorbed in himself ; and , had a slight rotund around his waist. He was always dressed in a gold-laced (zari) dhoti and a red upper garment (uttariya). He was fond of chewing betel leaf (paan); his lips are depicted dark red (He is occasionally shown with a paan petti, a small box to hold leaves and nuts). Sri Shyama Shastri’s tambura had a yali-mukham, not usually found in other tambura depictions.


Another interesting  incident came up  when Shri Rajam had to paint the picture of Venkatamakhin [1635-1690, the great musicologist who devised the Melakartha  system of  classifying ragas in the Carnatic music] as an introductory painting for the Apr 2008 – March 2009 calendar brought out by L&T, he had no earlier pictures of Venkatamakhin to guide him. His research into the archives of Kanci mutt led him to an interesting detail showing that Venkatamakhin who was also a skillful vainika wore his long hair in a coil such that it did not touch his body; he coiled it atop his head. Shri S Rajam then pictured Venkatamakhin with coiled locks of hair, rudraksha-mala; and surrounded by musical instruments such as veena, tambura etc. as also scrolls of ancient manuscripts, lending the picture an air scholarship and a spiritual aura.


4.6. It is said, nowhere is the bond between the arts stronger than that binding painting and music (Svarna Sethu) . As sister arts, music and painting share a common vocabulary. Both arts are often referred to as compositions; both talk in terms of tones and shades; and, there is a certain rhythm and fluency in both. In the present Indian context, nowhere do both the arts find their fulfillment, in creative as well as traditional sense, in one person than in Vidvan Shri S Rajam.




Continued in part Fifteen

—Chitrasutra and Shri S Rajam

Resources & References

S Rajam

An afternoon with S Rajam

Aesthetic and faithful depiction of character

Visual poetry

Ajanta Cave Paintings

S. Rajam – a rare gem

All pictures are from Internet


Tags: , ,

8 responses to “Legacy of Chitrasutra – Fourteen – Shri S Rajam

  1. sreenivasaraos

    March 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    hi subbannaji/sreenivasaraogaru,
    what a fantastic series you have brought out on chitrasutra!!!!! truly a great labour of love and dedication!!!! you have written not only painstakingly but most impeccably and beautifully too.
    when the series is over, i shall take a print out of all the blogs and bind them into a book form.

    i am very proud of the fact that shri s.rajam is my uncle (my mother late sarasa’s elder brother)and to a tiny extent i have inherited his love for art and music.i am glad you have included my two blogs on him in your vast list of references. yours is truly an erudite work.sulekha is of late brimming with blogs on kissing and such inane stuff, and your scholarship stands out like a balming thumb!!!! awaiting the next part!
    much regards
    vs gopal

    • sreenivasaraos

      May 1, 2017 at 2:45 am

      Dear Shri Gopal.

      I am reproducing an E-Mail dated 23/01/09 received from Smt. Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam – on behalf of Sri S Rajam

      Please take a look



      Dear Sri Subbanna

      I am Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam, disciple of Rajam Sir, writing to you on his behalf. I trust this finds you well.

      Rajam Sir is quite in awe of the article you have written about him. He is amazed that someone he has not even met should write such a detailed and comprehensive article about him.

      A few corrections/ suggestions to the article as requested by you–

      PART I –Music

      1. Section 2.1– DOB is 10.02.1919( Feb)
      2. Section 2.2

      Rajam Sir also had a twin brother and sister– the youngest in the family– S.Gopalaswamy and S.Kalpakam balakrishnan. She was also an accomplished vainika.

      3.Section 2.4– He only sang the songs– he did not write them.
      4.Section 2.4– He stayed ion the Kailasanathar temple for a while– did not live there.
      5.Section 3.8 — Kotiswara Iyer songs are also available in a set of 9 CDs.

      PART II — ART

      1. Section 2.1 -” I learnt it all from my teacher V. Doraisamy Achari” Pl omit the Principal Devi Prasad Roy CHoudhari’s name here.
      2. Section 3.2 — Pl add– Mr. Lewis Thompson, from England– a poet turned philosopher, who later took to sanyas– was instrumental in Rajam finding the Oriental school approach in his painting method.
      3.Section 5.6 — The painting is not by Rajam Sir but by someone adopting his style.
      5.Section 5.7 — As above. The painting is not by him.
      6. Section 6.3 — Pl delete the last line that says– “I learnt it all from Devi prasad Roy Chaudhury…..I was a student.” He did not learn this from him.

      I do not have Sri kannan Rangachar’s phone no or mail id. Pl convey our regards to him too. My ph no is 91 44 24424463/ 919952969538. Pl feel free to mail or call me any time. May I add what a pleasure it was for me to read this wonderful insightful article on my Guru.

      With warm regards and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2009.


  2. sreenivasaraos

    March 17, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Dear Raoji,
    As you know, my revered uncle Shri S. Rajam passed away about 9 months back. He used to be proud that I used his pen for my IAS Examinations and succeeded in them! As a youngster I used to watch his painting work sitting by his side. He discovered my talent at painting and would give me minor jobs on his canvses like the renaissance Italian painters used some juniors as assistants!!

    I would like to point out to what looks like a possible error in the narration about his brother late Shri Gopalaswamy and sister late Smt Kalpagam. Actually Gopalaswamy and Kalpagam were twins. (and not Rajam and Gopalaswamy) . Can you rephrase your concerned sentence clearly please?
    Many thanks and regards!
    vs gopal

  3. sreenivasaraos

    March 17, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Dear Shri Gopal, Thank you very much for suggesting the correction. I have since carried it out. Kindly check. I trust it is OK now.

    These and other few bits of information were added after I posted the articles initially. How this came about is rather interesting.

    Soon after I posted the article on Sulekha one Shri Kannan Rangachar sent Shri Rajam the print outs of the articles .It appears Sri Rajam had these read out to him several times; and seemed pleased with the effort.

    Thereafter, he asked one of his disciples Smt Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam (vijsubra) also a noted musician, to let me know of his appreciation with suggestions to add a few other bits of information as also to carry out a few minor corrections. She had sent me numbers of E-mails. The information about Shri Gopalaswamy and Smt Kalpagam was one among those. I had just reproduced the line written by Smt Vijsubra. . Thank you for the correction.

    The other few additions that Shri Rajam suggested were about: his art teacher Shri V. Doraisamy Achari ( in place of D P Rai Chaudhury);Shri Ambi Dikshitar, Smt. Veena Dhanammal ; Mr. Lewis Thompson (about him I wrote a short biographical note and added it in part Two of the article), about his stay at the Sri Kailasanathar temple for a while; and about this songs in his early films etc.

    (I had of course no knowledge of these details.)

    He had also asked me to replace a couple of his reproductions which I had posted as illustrations.

    (I deleted a few lines I had written about Smt Ananda Rajam’s demise.)

    Some of the other pictures were added later.

    These were, of course, spread over three or four E-mails. I took all those as his approval and blessings. I was mighty happy.

    Thank you for reading again and suggesting the correction.

    Cheers and Regards

    • sreenivasaraos

      May 22, 2017 at 6:40 am



      to me

      Dear Sri Subbanna


      I am Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam, disciple of Rajam Sir, writing to you on his behalf. I trust this finds you well.

      Rajam Sir is quite in awe of the article you have written about him. He is amazed that someone he has not even met should write such a detailed and comprehensive article about him.
      A few corrections/ suggestions to the article as requested by you–
      PART I –Music
      1. Section 2.1– DOB is 10.02.1919( Feb)
      2. Section 2.2
      Rajam Sir also had a twin brother and sister– the youngest in the family– S.Gopalaswamy and S.Kalpakam balakrishnan. She was also an accomplished vainika.
      3.Section 2.4– He only sang the songs– he did not write them.
      4.Section 2.4– He stayed ion the Kailasanathar temple for a while– did not live there.
      5.Section 3.8 — Kotiswara Iyer songs are also available in a set of 9 CDs.
      PART II — ART
      1. Section 2.1 -” I learnt it all from my teacher V. Doraisamy Achari” Pl omit the Principal Devi Prasad Roy CHoudhari’s name here.
      2. Section 3.2 — Pl add– Mr. Lewis Thompson, from England– a poet turned philosopher, who later took to sanyas– was instrumental in Rajam finding the Oriental school approach in his painting method.
      3.Section 5.6 — The painting is not by Rajam Sir but by someone adopting his style.
      5.Section 5.7 — As above. The painting is not by him.
      6. Section 6.3 — Pl delete the last line that says– “I learnt it all from Devi prasad Roy Chaudhury…..I was a student.” He did not learn this from him.

      I do not have Sri kannan Rangachar’s phone no or mail id. Pl convey our regards to him too. My ph no is 91 44 24424463/ 919952969538. Pl feel free to mail or call me any time. May I add what a pleasure it was for me to read this wonderful insightful article on my Guru.
      With warm regards and best wishes for a happy and healthy 2009.


  4. hitesh mamgain

    May 29, 2018 at 4:39 am


    I came across your blog while searching for a painting of shiva as Chandarsekar, on his way to marry parvati. I recall seeing the painting somewhere outside india, USA or Uk I do not remember, but it depicted an elaborate procession and parvati and himal at the top. Would you know a link to this painting?

    • sreenivasaraos

      May 29, 2018 at 4:49 am

      Dear Shri hitesh
      You are welcome. Can you please be more specific? Can you please send me the link address of the page on which you found the painting in question?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: