‘Legends of our Land’ – Pudhukotai Dakshinamurthy Pillai (1875-1937)

In the world of Carnatic music, one of the immortal names is Pudhukotai Dakshinamurthy Pillai. Unforgettable and ever-shining, equal to none other than Nandikeshwara, perhaps considered as his very incarnation, Dakshinamurthy brought dignity and popularity to percussion and the percussion instruments, kanjira and mridangam.

His early learning in this field was from well-known guru Maanpundiya Pillai, and his advanced studies in percussion were under the tutelage of Tanjavur Krishna Bhgavathar. His approach to the technique of playing was highly influenced by Tanjavur Pakkiri and Sri Narayanaswamyappa.

He trained several disciples – among them the well-known are Palghat Mani Iyer, Devakoti Sunder Raj Iyengar and Tanjavur Ram Das.

His technique in playing the instrument had the essence of melody woven with a great sense of laya or rhythm, embellished with harmony and lilt, though mridangam is a non-melodic instrument. This aspect was enhanced in his renderings of Thani Avarthanam, the solo percussion performance in a classical music concert.

Though perfect in playing the calculations of complicated ferns in the instrument, he emphasized on the aspect of aesthetics of music and the joy of the audience in his playing technique, thereby contributing to the success of the concert.

“Simple Life, Simple Music” was his motto. An introvert by nature, he was a thinker and philosopher too. A devotee of Lord Muruga, he slowly turned to spirituality in the later part of his life; he became an ascetic taking the name “Sri Chinmayananda Guru”.


This is a translation of one of the articles from Hiriya Hejjegalu (in Kannada), the noteworthy work of Prof. S. K. Ramachandra Rao, published by Ananya. The book presents pen-portraits of the great legends in the field of music, of our land, who made the country proud.

(Readers who are interested in purchasing Hiriya Hejjegalu can contact Drishti on 080-23377466 or Ananya Sangraha on 080-23440409.)