|Lawyers and people associated with the legal world have for long
been involved in the cultural, social, political and historical evolution of our nation.
The multi-faceted personalities of these individuals have enriched many spheres of our
life. Lawyers played a prominent role in the freedom struggle and made substantial
contributions to the evolution of the Indian democracy.
contribution of people connected with the legal profession, especially to the advancement
of Indian art and culture is very impressive. The legal fraternity has been involved in
Carnatic music for a long time, playing a multitude of roles. While there have been
several musicians, musicologists and critics on one hand, there have also been several
patrons and office-bearers of various organisations on the other. The intent of this
article is only to broadly outline the role of various legal personalities in fostering
Carnatic music, more particularly during the last century.
- V C Seshachariar:
Before the advent of Sabhas, including the Music Academy, concerts used to be held in
temples or in the residences of Maharajas or other art patrons. V C Seshachariar, founder
of the Law Weekly and an active legal practitioner, was a great connoisseur and patron of
music. It can be said without contradiction that Seshachariar was the precursor for the
advent of Sabhas including the Music Academy. A resident of North Mada Street, Mylapore,
Chennai, he owned 4 houses in a row and used to host all the musicians of his times. The
concerts would take place in a large, aesthetically built room in his house. He is
credited with launching many a top-notch musician of the 20th century. It is
said that there was no front-ranking musician who had not performed in his house.
- T V Subba Rao: Another practising Advocate, who
was an authority on Carnatic music, particularly the compositions of Tyagaraja. He was in
fact the first person from the legal world to be honoured with the coveted title of 'Sangeeta
Kalanidhi by the Music Academy.
- Justice T L
Venkatarama Iyer: He hailed from Tirunelveli and achieved the highest distinction that
most lawyers aspire for, by becoming a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. He was closely
related to Harikesanallur Muthaiah Bhagavatar and was a disciple of Muthuswami Dikshitar's
grand-nephew, Ambi Dikshitar. He was a member of the Experts Committee of Music Academy
and was an authority on the compositions of Dikshitar. He also authored the biography of
Dikshitar entitled The Life of Muthuswami Dikshitar. He had trained
several eminent musicians like Vidya Sankar, D K Pattammal, Kalpagam Swaminathan, S
Srinivasa Rao and Kannama Sharma.
- Koteeswara Iyer:
A great composer, Koteeswara Iyer was employed as a Bench Clerk and was a permanent part
of the Second court in the Madras High Court. He was a disciple of Poochi Srinivasa
Iyengar and Patnam Subramania Iyer and the grandson of yet anther great composer of the 19th
century, Kavi Kunjara Bharati. Koteeswara Iyer was responsible for composing songs in each
of the 72 melakartas besides other masterpieces, which are very popular today. Koteeswara
Iyer was born in 1870 and lived till 1936.
- T M Krishnaswamy
Iyer: Another great lawyer, T M Krishnaswamy Iyer, popularly known as Tiruppugazh
Mani was a great expert in rendering Tiruppugazhs. He used to be accompanied by another
advocate K R Venkatarama Sharma during such recitals. He was famous for his Tiruppugazh
renditions during Padi Utsavams in the Tiruttani temple. K R Venkatarama Sharma
played the leading role as Tyagaraja in the popular Tamil movie of the same name. He was
an ardent disciple of T M Krishnaswamy Iyer.
- Pammal Sambanda
Mudaliar: A name that immediately comes to the mind when one considers people from the
legal fraternity closely involved with drama and music. Pammal Sambanda Mudaliar composed
music for various plays and was famed for choosing the right Ragas for the right occasion
and the mood. He was a legal practitioner in Georgetown and later became judge of the
Small Causes Court.
- P N Appusamy:
Also known as Pena (pen), he used to write about music in Tamil. He
was a great research scholar associated with T P Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai,
Chidambaranatha Mudaliar, who was an authority on the Tamil poet Kamban and the late Kalki
Krishnamurthy. They used to meet regularly at his house in Chitrakulam in Mylapore and
discuss the different aspects of Panns (Ragas) in Tamil music, particularly in
Iyengar: A great exponent of the Vina, he was also a legal practitioner. He was
greatly enamoured with the music, values and style of Vina Dhanammal and has published
several books like, The History of South Indian Music. He was also responsible
for bringing out the largest collection of songs with notations, in a series of several
volumes known as Kritimanimalai.
- Radhakrishna Naidu:
An assistant in the Original Side office of the High Court, he was also an accomplished
harmonium player. He used to be accompanied by another office assistant, K Natarajan, on
- S Doraiswamy Iyer: Among
the lawyers of yesteryears, Doraiswamy Iyer was a good exponent of the Vina who encouraged
several Carnatic musicians and in particular, helped Vina Dhanammal in her last days.
- V V Srinivasa Iyengar: He
was a doyen of the Madras Bar and appeared in many important cases. He authored a book
called Dramatic Divertissements in 3 volumes and was the founder of the Suguna
S Sarangapani Iyengar: A junior of V V Srinivasa Iyengar, he was an authority on Natya
Sastra and Carnatic music and was responsible for bringing Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram
Pillai, the key figure in establishing the dance school at the Museum Theatre, to Madras.
Between 1930 and 1940, several dancers including Kausalya,
Pandanallur Jayalakshmi, Kalyana Sundaravalli, Lalita Sivaram were taught Bharatanatyam at
this school and they later left an indelible mark in the field. In fact, in those days,
during the December season Natya Kala conferences used to be conducted at the Museum
Theatre, Egmore, while Carnatic music concerts would simultaneously be held in the
- V C Gopal Ratnam: He
was an authority on the Nandanar Charitra Kritis of
Gopalakrishna Bharati and used to give marathon mono-acting (as Vediar) and singing performances at the
Cosmopolitan Club. His partner, as Nandanar, was Dr. A Srinivasa Raghavan, a Triplicane
resident and close associate of the eminent musicologist T S Parthasarathy. Incidentally,
Revati Krishna, a well-known Vina artiste of the present, is the granddaughter of Dr.
- V Seshadri: A
lawyer by profession, who was also the son-in-law of K Rajah Iyer, the former Advocate
General of Madras. He was a playwright and a dramatist well acquainted with Tamil drama
and Carnatic music. He was responsible for staging several plays in the Egmore Dramatic
Society and was also a keen music critic.
R Krishna Iyer: He was a great authority on music and Bharatanatyam and was a regular
contributor of articles and reviews in The Hindu and 'Swadesamitran'
in those days.
- Prof. P
Sambamoorthy: When one talks about legal personalities, one cannot fail to remember
Prof. Sambamoorthy, who, after having acquired his legal qualification, decided to switch
over to the field of Carnatic music and went on to become a Professor. He also qualified
himself in Western music with a diploma from Germany. He has authored numerous books in
both Tamil and English that include History of South Indian Music, Dictionary of South
Indian Music and Musicians, Great composers, Great Musicians etc. Most of these books
are used in the syllabi of almost all Universities and schools teaching Carnatic music. He
was also a great teacher and taught eminent personalities like S R Janakiraman and D K
Pattammal. He was responsible for establishing the Development Centre for Musical
Instruments, Sangeeta Vadyalaya, an institution that has been concentrating on
instrumental research and innovative designs.
- Justice M Anantanarayanan, ICS: A retired Chief Justice of Madras High
Court, he was another accomplished Vainika and was deeply involved in activities related
to music and art in Chennai.
Several distinguished legal personalities were closely
associated with the Music Academy, prominent among them being K V Krishnasamy Iyer, who
was the founder-Secretary of the Music Academy and various other Sabhas in Mylapore. In
fact, two members of the legal fraternity, A Seshadri and T R Srinivasa Iyengar, founded
the oldest Sabha in Madras, namely, Sri Parthasarathy Swamy Sabha. Members of T
Rangachari's family founded another old Sabha, the Egmore Sangeetha Sabha. Both the above
Sabhas were precursors to the Music Academy.