Actual Name : Venkata Subrahmanya
From : 26th April, 1762 To : 6th Feb, 1827
Father : Visvanatha Iyer
Mother : Vengalakshmi
Place of birth : Thiruvarur in Tanjavur Dist of Tamilnadu
Shyama Shastri was the oldest of the Trinity of Carnatic music. He was a contemporary of the other two, Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar, and was a personal friend of the former
Early years and background
He was born in Tiruvarur (of Tanjavur district in Tamil Nadu) on April 26 1762, into the scholarly and priestly Tamil Brahmin family of Viswanatha Iyer; a family not particularly interested in music. Though Shyama Shastri attained scholarship in Telugu and Sanskrit at a young age, he got no further than the elementary stages in music education, in spite of his melodious voice. When he was eighteen years old, his family moved to Tanjore.
Around then, his family got a chance to host a sanyasi (monk), sangitaswami, a master of dance and music, who was spending some four months in Tanjore. The sanyasi was quick to discover Shyama Shastri's keen intellect, melodious voice and musical talent and foresaw greatness in him. He obtained the father's consent to tutor the son in music and taught Shyama Shastri all aspects of raga, tala and swara prasthara-s. The teacher found that the student could absorb even the intricate details very quickly.. all in a matter of four months or less. Sangitaswami presented Shyama Shastri with a few rare treatises on music and certified that the student had gained full knowledge on the theoretical aspects of music. He advised his student to seek the friendship of and listen to the music (but not learn anything from) one Adiyappayya, a composer of the famous bhairavi ata tala varnam, viriboni, and a court musician in Tanjore. shyama Shastri duly did as he was advised.
Shyama Shastri – Prime years
Over the years, Shyama Shastri became a well-known and respected musician, scholar and a composer. He was quite admired and respected by Tyagaraja and it appears that the two of them often held scholarly and lengthy discussions on their latest compositions. Shyama Shastri, like his father was the archaka (priest) in the Bangaru Kamakshi Temple in Tanjore. Always worshipping Kamakshi at the temple and at home, Syama Sastri had little occasion to go out of Tanjavur, but from his pieces, it is seen that he went to the neighboring Tiruvayyaru and sang of Dharmasamvardhini; to Jambukesvaram and sang of Akilandeswari, and also to the more distant Madurai where he sang nine pieces on Meenakshi.
While all his pieces are on Devi, chiefly Kamakshi, and also some of her other forms including Brihannayaki at the Big Temple at Tanjavur, there are also, among the published and the unpublished kritis, a few on Subramanya. We may not find among his compositions several types as in those of the other two masters, but besides Kritis, he composed also Tana Varnam and Swarajatis. The Bhairavi, Todi and Yadukalakambhoji Swarajatis of Syama Sastri could be counted as the composer’s specialities by the side of the Pancharatnas of Tyagaraja and Ragamalikas of Dikshita
* brOva samayamidhE dhEvI
Shyama Shastri had two sons, Panju Shastri and Subbaraya Shastri. The former became a priest and the latter was a versatile musician (and a disciple of Thyagaraja). Through Panju Shastri, the family tree grew and produced quite a few scholars. Shyama Shastri's great grandson was alive till the age of 94 and passed away only in 1950. Hence, many incidents of Shyama Shastri's life are known. He was reportedly a tall and a rather stout person with a fondness for betel leaves! Shyama Shastri, like Thyagaraja and Dikshitar, was well-versed in astrology.
Like his great contemporaries, he too correctly predicted the time of his passing. He passed away on February 6, 1827, six days after, his devoted wife passed away.
P.S. Prj done by Brunda Ramesh