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Chittoor Subramaniam Pillai Carnatic Musician

Chittoor Subramanyam (Telugu: చిత్తూర్ సుబ్రహ్మణ్యం) was born to Shri Perayya and Smt Mogilamma, on 22 June 1898 in a village near Punganur town in Palamaner Taluk, Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. Shri Chittoor Subramanyam had his first lessons in Carnatic music from his own father Perayya and mother Mogilamma and later became a disciple of the legend Shri Kanjeevaram Nayana Pillai of Kancheepuram. Under Nayana Pillai’s tutelage, Subramanyam learnt and honed his musical genius by doing Gurukula seva to his Guru (teacher/master) for more than two decades.

Right from the age of 5 years, Subramnayam started performing Harikathas (musical rendition of mythology) and music performances. After his training under Shir Nayana Pillai, Chittoor Subramanyam started his major performances in his 20th year.

From humble beginnings, he went on to become one of the legendary Carnatic singers in South India, in an era which was devoid of any electronic media. He was an A High artiste of All India Radio.

Chittoor Subramanyam settled in Madras (now Chennai) and was giving innumerable concerts all over India. He was a leading Carnatic vocalist for more than half a century. He had been the Head of the Music Department, at Annamalai University, connected with the music boards and committees of various Universities in South India, State and Central Governments.

He was well known for his repertoire of Thyagaraja Keerthanas (compositions) and his mastery of Laya (rhythm). He had his own style called ‘Kancheepuram School’. He was popular in Swaraprasthanam and Kalapramanam, and noted for singing very rare Keerthanas of Thyagaraja, Muthuswamy Dikshitar and other legendary composers.

Chittoor Subramanyam, as a person, his generosity knew no bounds. He never commercialised his great art. He imparted his musical genius seriously and wholeheartedly to his disciples in his Gurukulam. He believed that Bhasha Dwesham (language differentiation), Kula Dwesham (caste differentiation) or Matha Dwesham (religious differentiations) should not come in the way of teaching and learning divine music.

Many of Shri Chittoor Subramanyam’s disciples became well-known Carnatic musicians. Noted among his disciples are – Shri Madurai Somasundaram (deceased), Shri Bombay S Ramachandran, Shri Chittoor Ramachandran (deceased), Smt T T Seetha, Shri Tadepalli Lokanatha Sarma, his daughter, now an eminent musician Smt Revathy Ratnaswamy etc.


A student of the great maestro Shri Nayana Pillai, a Carnatic musical legend from Kancheevaram, Chittoor Subramanyam apart from being a great performing artist, was a great messenger of Carnatic music.

His primary asset was his rich voice which has as much depth in it as width, lending to his music a great dimension profoundly marked with both scholarship and spiritualism. His forte was his command on laya and he proved himself an outstanding exponent in rendering Ragam, Thanam and Pallavi (an exquisite art, in the current generation, no one has been able to master it or perform).

At a time when the technology of recording was in an infant stage, the two Columbia Records he cut, containing his own compositions like – ‘Madhura Nagarilo Challanamma bonu…’, ‘Kulamulona golladana…’, ‘Mavallagadamma…’ etc., have proved him to be an original composer and lyricist.

He realised very early the need to spread the art and started transferring his musical genius to his disciples through the ‘Gurukulam’ tradition.

He held prestigious faculty positions at:

– Principal, The Annamalai University Music College, Chidambaram;

– Principal, Sri Venkatesware College of Music and Dance, Tirupathi;

– Professor of Music, The Central College of Music, Madras;

– Principal, The Raja’s College of Music, Thiruvayar;

– Principal, The Ramanathan Music Academy, Jaffna, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka)Chittoor Subramania Pillai

Professional career:-

While in Tirupathi, he composed music for a number of kirthanas of Saint Annamacharya. Noted among them are – ‘Ithadokade’, ‘Narayanathe’

Chittoor-ar, as he is fondly called in Carnatic music circles or more popularly known as Chittoor Subramanya Pillai, started the Saint Thyagaraja Utsavam (yearly music festival) in Tirupathi and started giving out the prestigious title of ‘Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwanmani’ to deserving exponents of Carnatic music. This Utssavam or celebration of music brought music culture to the people or Tirupathi. This Utsavam is currently being conducted every year by Tirumala Tirupathi Devasthanam.

The great legend breathed his last in the year 1975. To commemorate the birth centenary of the great maestro, Subramanya Sangeetha Kalakshetra was established and a three-day festival of music was held in Hyderabad.

Subramanya Sangeetha Kalakshetra’s committee consists of a number of dignitaries and conducts a yearly music festival on Chittoor-ar’s birthday.

Subramanya Sangeetha Kalakshetra, based in Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh is run by his daughter, Smt Revathy Ratnaswamy, a well-known Carnatic Musician in India. Currently, she is involved in perpetuating her father Chittoor Subramanayam’s dream of imparting music through Gurukulam. After retiring as a Lecturer of Music at the Government College of Music Hyderabad, she has been busy imparting music to her disciples and giving music concerts all over India and in countries like Hong Kong, Sri Lanka and Singapore.

Centenary Celebrations in Hyderabad:-

Centenary celebrations were celebrated in Hyderabad from 20 June 1998 to 22 June 1998. The Centenary Celebrations had the honour of the Governor of Andhra Pradesh, Dr. C. Rangarajan, presiding over the function.

Messages from celebrities:

Shri N. Chandra Babu Naidu, the then Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh:

“I am immensely pleased to know that a 3-day Musical Festival is being organised at Hyderabad synchronising with the birth centenary of Sangeetha Kalanidhi Chittoor Subramanyam under the auspices of Subramanya Sangeetha Kshetra, from 20th June 1996 and a souvenir is being brought out to commemorate the occasion. Late Chittoor Subramanyam is a great maestro and an apt connoisseur who rendered yeoman services in the field of Carnatic music. He is a source of inspiration in the classical art form and worthy of emulation for the young and upcoming artists for generations to come. Wish you all success and Godspeed in your noble endeavour.”

D. R. Karthikeyan I.P.S:

“Music is a Force which unites humanity the world over. Transgressing man-made barriers and frontiers, music sends the message of harmony, peace and brotherhood. Music is an art of the prophets, the only art that can calm the agitation of the soul. Music is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us. Music has a great soothing effect on the organs of the body. Music is a harmonising factor in today’s world, which is full of conflicts and tensions. Devotional music charges the spiritual battery in anyone who comes in contact with music. Music is a world in itself. it is a separate and universal language with its own immensely rich content and appeal. lt appeals directly to the fundamental human nature in and does not depend on words and thought processes. Among the luminaries in the world of Carnatic music, the name of Shri Chittoor Subramanyam stands out. He was a great master of the art and a giant. His selfless generosity to support other musicians and his disciples is too well known to be recounted here. Great artists of today including ‘Bharat Ratna’ Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi has learnt several compositions from him. Even in the words of M.S. he was not only a great Vidwan but also a master teacher. He was the founder and organiser of the Shri Thyagaraja Festival at Tirupathi. It is only befitting that on the occasion of his birth centenary, Sangeeta Kalanidhi Shri Chittoor Subrahmanyam Trust has thought it fit to organise a 3-day long centenary celebration. The best way to keep the memory of the stalwart alive is to spread not just his music but to perpetuate the cause of Carnatic music itself. I am happy to be associated with the centenary celebrations. I wish the celebrations all success.”

Carnatic Music Legend Late Smt. M.S. Subbulakshmi:

“Sangita Kalanidhi the late Sri Chittoor Subramaniam Pillai was not only a great vidwan but also a master teacher, I had the privilege of learning a few compositions of Saint Thyagaraja from hlm when I was a little girl of 16 years. He had a repertoire as vast as an ocean and his knowledge of music was quite deep. His contemporaries highly respected him for his Vidwat. It is quite befitting that his family members and admirers are planning to celebrate the centenary of the great master and I wish the function all success.”

Titles conferred on Chittoor Subramanyam:-

Chittoor Subramanyam was the recipient of a number of prestigious titles. Some of them are given below: “Sangeetha Kalanidhi”, in 1954, by Music Academy, Madras (now Chennai)

  • “Sangeet Natak Akademi Puraskar”, in 1964 by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India’s National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama
  • “Gana Kala Prapoorna”, by A.P.Sangeetha Nataka Academy
  • “Swara Chakravarthi”,
  • “Laya Brahma”,
  • “Isai Perarignar”, by Tamil Isai Sangam, Madras (now Chennai)
  • “Sapthagiri Sangeetha Vidwanmani”, by Thyagarja Utsavam Committe, Tirupathi
  • “Isai Mannar”

Well-known compositions:-

Chittoor Subramanyam also composed a number of songs in Telugu. Some of the most famous compositions of Chittoor Subramanyam are as follows:’ “Madhura Nagarilo Challanamma Bovu…” – Ragam: Ananda Bhairavi, Talam: Adi;

  • “Mavallagadamma, Devi Yashoda…” – Ragam: Mandu, Talam: Adi;
  • “Kulamulona Golladana, Vayasulona….” – Ragam: Hindu Bhairavi, Talam: Rupakam;
  • “Amma Yasodha Nee Koduku Duduku…” – Ragam: Mandu, Talam: Adi


Most noted of Chittoor Subramanyam’s contemporaries are:

  • Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar
  • Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagawathar
  • Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer
  • Musiri Subramanya Iyer
  • Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer

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