Neyveli Skandasubramanian : ‘Playing for bhajans improved my skill’

Neyveli Skandasubramanian : ‘Playing for bhajans improved my skill’

Over the years, encouraged by his gurus and fellow musicians, Neyveli Skandasubramanian has become one of the most sought after mridangam players. Impeccably dressed, he can be identified at once thanks to the sacred ash and vermilion on his forehead and his broad smile. Skandasubramaniam recalls some memorable moments in his musical journey.

Early years and basic training…

My father B.Y. Sundararajan learnt mridangam from Poovalur Venkatraman (a disciple of Palani Subramania Pillai). Compelling family circumstances made him take up a teacher’s job in Neyveli. His unfulfilled desire of becoming a mridangam player was in a way responsible for what I am today. Neyveli Balasubramaniam spotted my love for rhythm and put me under Tiruvarur Krishnamurthy of AIR Pondy, who was frequenting Neyveli to conduct classes. In a year, there were only four or five classes. But I would continue practising. Then there was a lull for four years. But my father was determined and took me to Tiruvarur Krishnamurthy’s house at Pondy. Soon classes began during weekends and holidays. The only difference was I had to travel to Pondy every time. Playing for Srirangam Ranganathan’s vocals regularly helped immensely. Also, my sister, a qualified musician, would sing at home so that I could practise.

My days in Neyveli…

Even as a child, my mother would take me and my sister to all concerts in Neyveli along with my grandmother, who was a good singer. I have listened to many veterans. Music was always my first choice when compared to games in the township. I would never miss concerts even during exams. Competing with my sister, I would run to the main gate to grab the concert notice for the month when it was being distributed. Listening to concerts in AIR was another highlight.

Most memorable Neyveli concert…

D.K. Jayaraman’s performance with T. Rukmini and R. Ramesh is still etched in mind. We were in awe as we had listened to him only on AIR. That day, we never wanted the concert to end. The way he encouraged young R. Ramesh was something incredible.

The influence of Pudukottai Sanjeevi Bhagavatar…

Regular bhajans and annual Radha Kalyanam were part and parcel of Neyveli life. Pudukottai Sanjeevi Bhagavatar would stay in our house when he came to participate in the Radha Kalyanam festival. It was he who made me play for his bhajans. I received my first ever sambhavanai of Rs.75 from him. Playing for bhajans regularly improved my skill, what with varied style, different talams and tunes and long hours of non-stop playing.

Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam and an important decision…

After completing DME, I immediately got a job. Tiruvarur Bhaktavatsalam, a nephew of my first guru, knew me even during my Neyveli days. After convincing my parents, he made me take up mridangam full time. Then I moved to Madras. His words of encouragement helped me overcome my initial diffidence in a new atmosphere. His mother T.R. Aanandavalli sang a lot for my practice sessions. Bhaktavatsalam made me participate in several competitions and in the first year of my entry, I won prizes at The Music Academy, IFAS and MFAC . Incidentally I got the Government scholarship to learn mridangam under him.

Professional life…

Winning competitions earned me a few concerts. My guru also recommended me to many artistes, and sabhas. S.V. Krishnan of Raga Sudha boosted my morale by featuring me at least twice a month. One such concert for Rajee Gopalakrishnan really pushed my career ahead. My maiden tour abroad was with her, arranged by Cleveland Sundaram. Playing for veena vidwan K.S. Narayanaswamy in the presence of M.S. Subbulakshmi is something I will cherish forever. At the end of the concert, Veenai Vasu virtually lifted me from the stage on his shoulders, showering praises.

My association with Sudha Ragunathan…

After playing at a few concerts for Sudha Ragunathan, there was a gap. Then, all of a sudden, she called me up and asked me to accompany her. There was no turning back after that. Accompanying her for concerts, there has not been a place that I have not visited both within India and abroad.

Encouragement from other vidwans…

O.S.Thiagarajan is a big source of inspiration and so is T.V. Sankaranarayanan. Playing for Priya Sisters, Nithyasree Mahadevan, Sikkil Gurucharan and many others regularly, has helped me adapt to different styles.

Love for Tiruppugazh…

Our house in Neyveli would always ring with Tiruppugazh. My parents, brothers and sisters were all good at it. These hymns of Arunagirinathar are the ultimate statement on rhythm. Taking part with T.V. Sundaravalli in her Tiruppugazh concerts and albums has been soul satisfying.

Most cherished moments…

The blessings I received from Kanchi Paramacharya when he released the first Tiruppugazh CD of T.V. Sundaravalli at the Mutt and the pat on my cheeks from Sathya Sai Baba after I played with Priya Sisters in Puttaparthi… I will never forget those moments.

Approach to concerts…

On the days I have concerts, I get up early and set my mind for the evening’s concert. Tuning myself to the style of the artist whom I am going to accompany that evening goes on the whole day. By the time I leave my house, I am all set. On concert days I never undertake any domestic work. Non-concert days are reserved for my family.

The Hindu Reference

Baba’s birthday a low-key affair

Baba’s birthday a low-key affair
Express News Service
First Published : 24 Nov 2009 03:48:00 AM IST
Last Updated : 24 Nov 2009 11:08:59 AM IST

PUTTAPARTHI: The 84th birthday celebrations of Sri Satya Sai Baba were held at Sai Kulwant Hall in Prashanti Nilayam in Puttaparthi. Saibaba has formally cut the cake to mark his birthday in the presence of several dignitaries and thousands of devotees who thronged to witness the celebrations.

This time around, Sathya Sai Baba did not speak nor give any message.

The entire celebrations were a low-key affair. Malgudi brothers entertained the audience with their bhajans.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan attended the function with his family members.

Tourism Minister J Geeta Reddy, Puttaparthi MLA Palle Raghunatha Reddy, former Supreme Court Justice PN Bhagawati, TTD chairman DK Audikesavulu Naidu. Additional DGP Sivanarayana, former DGP HJ Dora, former cricketer EAS Prasanna, TVS Group head Srinivasan, Mallika Srinivasan, noted Sitar player Pandit Ravishankar, District Collector B Janardhan Reddy, Anantapur Range DIG BL Sujatha Rao, SP MK Singh, actresses Anjali Devi, Krishnakumari, Janaki, Jamuna, playback singer Suseela and a host of other celebrities participated.

There were less number of foreign devotees this year for the birthday celebrations may be due to economic recession and the recent floods. NT Chowdary and Dr Damoder arranged for free food for the devotees.

The district SP made elaborate police bandobast in Puttaparthi.

Express Buzz Reference

An enchanting evening of ragas and talas
TNN 24 November 2009, 05:13am IST

BANGALORE: The Goddesses of Carnatic music and dance left audience hooked to their seats at Ambedkar Bhavan. The musical evening, part of the ‘Bangalore Festival’ had the audience swaying to ragas and talas.

Monday saw mesmerizing performances from Carnatic music singer Sudha Raghunathan and Bharatanatyam dancer, choreographer, and accomplished actress, Shobhana.

It was Sudha who set the pace for the evening. She began with preludes in Sanskrit, seeking the blessings of lord Ganesha and Krishna. The ragas she sang left listeners lost in a melodious world.

When she picked the high note, the packed audience echoed with applause. She also rendered a bhajan to Sathya Sai Baba, as it was his birthday on Monday.

After one hour of pure bliss, Padma Shri Shobhana took centrestage. She began with a varnam and she also danced to a bhajan from one of her Hindi movies. Her troupe, which performed a ballet, regaled the rasikas as well. A music lover and dancer herself, Vani Ganapathy kept on clapping and encouraging both her contemporaries. She expressed delight in attending the cultural festival. At the end of the programme, music and dance lovers went home craving for more.

Times Of India Reference

Also see:
Sudha Raghunathan And Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Baba In Melody

Sathya Sai Baba In Melody

Devotional singer Bhavdeep Jaipurwala is to release an album in praise of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba. His forthcoming album “Sathya Sai Baba” is also sung and composed by Sumit Tappu.

“The album comprises of nine songs which are not the typical bhajans, in fact we have kept the music contemporary. It is different from what has been sung so far for baba, so I am sure people will like it,” informs Bhavdeep Jaipurwala.

The album will be releasing in November in Puttaparthi, Bengaluru. “We are releasing it in Puttaparthi as 15 years back we had released an album called Sai Darshan, which went on to become one of the bestsellers so far among the devotional music,” he shares.

Hopefully this time too Sai makes their belief stronger with the success of yet another devotional stint.

Deepa Mishra/ Sampurn Media

Thai Indian Reference

Melting Pots

Melting Pots
Posted: Nov 23, 2008 at 0054 hrs IST

In Devotion
Haven taken thousands of devotees into the trance of the spiritual world, for over the last few decades, Sathya Sai Baba aka Satyanarayan Raju has been a guru for many. And as he celebrates his 83rd birthday, his ardent followers have planned grand celebrations in the city to commemorate the occasion.

With a line up of spiritual programmes, the Sai Seva Samiti, Pune will begin the day with chanting Omkaar, followed by Prasanti Bhajan. “All his devotees in the city will gather for the function at Pradhyapak Ramkrishna More auditorium in Chinchwad. During the Prasanti Bhajan and Nam San Kirtan, which is a recital of holy songs, all the devotees will get together chanting bhajans,” says B K Vasudev, co-ordinator, state seva dal.

“On this occasion have also arranged for the Jhoola programme where renowned classical singer Padmashree Padmaja Phenani Joglekar of Mumbai will attend and perform,” says Shashikant Nalawade, convener of the samiti, adding, “A picture of Satya Sai Baba will be kept in the cradle and his praises will be sung.”

The celebration will also see kids from Bal Vikas where they will chant sholakas from Vedas before the audience. The chief guest for the occasion is Vilas Lande, MLA from Haveli Taluka.


Arathi / Aarti To Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Sathya Sai Aarti

Sathya Sai Aarti

Arathi / Aarti To Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba

Om Jai Jagadeesha Harey
Swaamee Sathya Sai Harey
Bhakta Janaa Samrakshaka
Partee Maheshwaraa
Om Jai Jagadeesha Harey

Victory to the Lord of the Universe, Lord Sathya Sai, who destroys grief, evil and the miseries of life and who guards and protects devotees. Victory to the Lord of the Universe, Lord of Puttaparthi.

Shashi Vadanaa Shreekaraa Sarvaa Prana Patey
Swaamee Sarvaa Praana Patey
Aashrita Kalpalateekaa Aapad Baandhavaa.
Om Jai Jagadesha Harey

Graceful and charming as a full Moon, O Auspicious One! O Lord Sai! Thou art the Indweller and Life-force of all Beings, the Wish-fulfilling Divine creeper to those, who have surrended to Thee. Thou art Kinsman, Protector and Friend in times of distress and calamities. Victory to the Lord of the Universe.

Maata Pitaa Guru Daivam Maree Antayu Neevey
Swaamee Maree Antayu Neevey
Naada Brahma Jaganaaathaa Naagendra Shayanaa
Om Jai Jagadesha Harey

O Lord Sai! Thou art Mother, Father, Noble Teacher, Supreme Divinity and everything to us. O Lord of the Universe! Thou art the Primeval Sound and Thou art reclined on the coiled serpent. (Reference here is to Lord Vishnu lying on the coiled serpent Shesha Naaga, in the Ocean of Milk – Ksheera Saagara).

Omkaara Roopa Ojaswee Om Sai Mahaadevaa
Sathya Sai Mahaadevaa
Mangal Aaratee Anduko Mandara Giridhaaree
Om Jai Jagadesha Harey

O Splendorous One! O Lord of Lords – Lord Sai! Thy Form is the Praanava. OM. We pray Thee to accept this auspicious waving of the flame or light (signifying the removal of ignorance) Victory to Thee, O Lord of the universe who (as Kurmaavataara) supported the Mandara Mountain during the churning of the Milky Ocean.

Narayana Narayana Om
Sathya Narayana Narayana Om
Narayana Narayana Om
Sathya Narayana Narayana Om
Sathya Narayana Narayana Om
Om Jai Sad Guru Devaa

Chant the name of Lord Sathya Sai Narayana, whose Form is the Praanava. Victory to the Noble Teacher and Supreme Lord Shri Sai Sathya Sai.

Notes :
Arathi is the finale of a Sai Bhajan session when a camphor flame is waved in front of Bhagawan Sri Sathya Sai Baba or His picture. Indeed, in any Hindu home or temple, the arathi signals the culmination of a ritual worship. This is because all rituals are the means to have the Darshan of God and the pure camphor (which does not leave any residue after burning) symbolises the total dedication of the devotee whose only aim is to serve the Lord and not leave behind a name or anything else to be remembered by. It is through the lives of such devotees, one can best ‘see’ God and understand His true nature and teachings.

Since the general meaning of the Arati song is given above, let us here consider in detail only the meanings and implications of the key words or phrases in it: This will facilitate the chanting with fervour and purpose rather than as a mechanical routine.

Every stanza in the song ends with the words “Om Jai Jagadeesa Harey” expressing the deep desire of the devotees that God (denoted by His sound symbol Om) must be victorious over the degrading forces of the world and assert His rule over it. Its purport is similar to the expression in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. (Mathew 6:10)

In the first stanza, the Lord is described as ‘Bhakta Jana Samrakshaka’ that is, as the one who protects all the people devoted to Him. A discerning and unbiased person may have doubts regarding this statement. After all any number of cases can be cited where devotees have succumbed to illness or died in accidents just as any number of cases can be cited in which devotees have been saved from dangerous accidents or ailments. Evidently not all devotees are protected well enough.

However imagine the following situations: a steel safe is stolen and the police recover the money and precious jewels kept in it but not the safe itself. Should the police be thanked for the good job done or blamed for not securing the safe?

Again let a patient go to a doctor with some minor skin problem together with a sprain in the leg. Assume that on examination, the doctor happens to find that the patient is having a serious heart problem, which has to be attended to immediately. So, suppose the doctor without informing the patient (to avoid alarming him) sends him to the ICU for cardiac treatment, ignoring his other complaints. Has the doctor taken proper care of the patient or not?

Similarly, the omniscient Bhagawan Baba knows what is good for the soul. He knows what is best in view of the karma of the past and tendencies in the future (births). He does indeed what is best to the devotee and what is divinely right and just in the given circumstances. It is reported how in several cases He has pointed out to the relatives of deceased persons that He could have prevented the mishaps but let them happen in their particular cases only due to considerations of long range benefits and justice. In sum, therefore, it can be asserted that Bhagawan indeed protects well all His devotees taking into account all the various aspects of life. That is how Rama allowed his wife Sita to be abducted by Ravana, the demon-king; how Krishna allowed the only son of his great devotee Arjuna to be killed in battle; how Jesus allowed himself to be crucified though he knew about it in advance, and so on.

Next let us consider the statement in the third stanza viz., “Aasritha Kalpalatheeka” which means that the Lord Sai fulfills all our wishes like the mythical creeper of the heavens. Again this also can be questioned: does the Lord grant us all that we seek from him?

Indeed He does, if we go by the published and privately intimated experiences of many devotees. But in many other cases, apparently, “man proposes but God disposes.” However when one is patient and faithful enough, it will be discovered that the granting of devotees’ desires is only postponed – not denied: what was desired was not deserved or desirable at that point of time.

In the third stanza, the devotee claims that Baba is his mother, father, spiritual teacher and chosen deity. In a gathering of the office-bearers of Sri Sathya Sai Organisations sometime in the 1980s, Bhagawan quoted this and asked, “If you are sincere in regarding me as your mother and father, what are you? Are you not my sons and daughters? Are you conducting yourselves in accordance with that status? Are you behaving like brothers and sisters in the Organisation?” Let us have some introspection now and then on that.

In the fourth stanza, the Lord is described as the very personification of the mystic sound OM, with spiritual splendour and a shining aura all over Him. He is requested to accept the Mangala Arathi shown to him. Mangala means auspicious. How this word is derived? ‘maam galanaa’ is Mangalam i.e.; the dropping of ego is auspiciousness! Egolessness symbolised by the totally self-sacrificing camphor kindles the inner light and the awareness of the true and Eternal Self dawns in the devotee. That is the real culmination of the arathi ritual. What remains then? Only the awareness of the omnipresent God manifesting with different forms and names everywhere! The word ‘Narayana’ means the one who is within and without of all that is created (Ref: Narayana Upanishad 13:1 & 2) Hence the repetition of that name at the end of the arathi. Let us realise all this and be in harmony and peace with everyone and everything around us.

Om Shanthi Shanthi Shanthi.

— O. P. Vidayakar