In the good old days, when nature was kind, river Kaveri was a delight to watch. There was perennial flow of water almost throughout the year. On the river belt, the towns were prosperous with wealthy Zamindars and highly creative composers of Carnatic music.
The very name ‘Kaveri’ is a source of inspiration as the flow of the tiny brown dinged water inflames the desire to sing and dance. The small towns on the banks have produced many great composers and singers both in Tamil and Telegu. The best of talentsin music, yesterday and today are from the banks of Kaveri. The composers were known as Vaggeyakaras. One of the best among the composers was ThiruvarurRamaswami Pillai.
Ramaswami Pillai was born in 1798 to Vasantammal and Tyagesan Pillai. Hs father was a musician. The couple also had a daughter named Sarasvati. She became an expert Veena player. Ramaswami opted to sing. He came in contact with Muthu swamiDikshitar who also lived in Thiruvarur.
It is said that SreeThyagaraja who happened to visit Thiruvarur, heard Ramaswami sing, praised him saying,“only Saraswathi is dwelling in your tongue; always be singing on the goddess”. From that moment, Ramaswami started composing songs. Both Saraswathi and Ramaswami remained single.
Saraswati and Ramaswami migrated to Vaideeswaran Koil and lived there. As a young pretty girl, Saraswathi was upset to see the life of devadasisnear the temple. She died at a very young age of 32.
The demise of his sister was a great shock to Ramaswami. He was mentally disturbed and spent his time roaming on the streets like a “lunatic”. However, he was regular in cleaning the shrine of God Muthukumaraswamy. He used to make garlands for the deity. He was given food at the temple by the order of the pontiff.
Seerkazhi Narayanaswami, the renowned violinist, used tovisit VaideeswaranKoil to chat with Ramaswami Pillai about music. It is said that Narayanaswami Pillai had a special liking for Mohana raga. Inspired by the request of Naryanaswami, Ramaswami composed the famous Kriti “Jagadheesvari” in raga Mohanam.
Ramaswami died on 26th March 1852 at the age of fifty-three. His compositions in manuscripts came in possession of his close relatives in Thiruvarur. He is said to have composed fifty-twovarnas and Kritis. Some of the kritis can be heard in YouTube.