CHENNAI: Well known devotional singer ‘Pithukuli’ Murugadas (96) passed away at his residence in Mylapore at 3.30 am on Tuesday. He was suffering from respiratory problems for a couple of months.
The final rites took place at the Krishnampet crematorium.
“Murugadas was born on a Thaipoosam day, the auspicious day for Lord Muruga and he passed away on Skanda Shasti day, again an auspicious day for Lord Muruga,” his family members reverentially recalled.
Born to Alamelu and Sundaram Iyer in Coimbatore on February 25, 1920, he studied up to Class VIII. While his parents named him Balasubramanian, his admirers fondly addressed him as ‘Muruga’.
Murugadas composed many songs in Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, Malayalam, Hindi and Marathi. He used to sing Marathi Abhangs with ease. Most of his compositions were on Goddess Devi, Lord Muruga, and Lord Krishna. He is known for spreading the verses of Arunagirinathar’s Thirupugazh, Kandhar Alankaram, Kandhar Anubhuthi, Vel Vaguppu, Devendra Sanga Vaguppu, etc. His wife Devi Saroja passed away in 2011.
Balasubramanian got the title ‘Pithukuli’ (insane or mad) from his spiritual master Nadayogi Brahmananda Paradesiyar. As a boy, while playing with friends, Balasubramanian threw a stone at Paradesiyar, who was passing by. The stone bloodied his forehead, but when Paradesiyar wiped it, the blood disappeared. Legend has it that Paradesiyar smiled and said: “Muruga! Hey Pithukuli, one day you are going to become like me. You are a Pithukuli.”
Many decades ago, at Bangalore, Swami Ramdas of Anandashram gave him the name Murugadas (a disciple of Lord Muruga).
At the age of seven, when he was taken to the sanctum sanctorum of Palani Dhandayuthapani Swami temple, the pooja offerings carried by an escort fell on him and he was immersed in vibhuthi (sacred ash). The escort uttered Saravana Bhava, one of the names of Lord Muruga, which eventually became his initiation into spiritual quest.
Attracted by the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi, he took part in the freedom struggle and got imprisoned for six months. While taking part in an agitation at Mysore, one of his eyes was damaged and from then on, he started wearing dark glasses.
In his pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, Murugadas came into contact with many spiritual giants like Rishikesh Swami Sivananda, Swami Chinmayananda, Ramana Maharshi, Swami Gnanananda Giri and Vallimalai Sachidananda Swamigal, Swami Suddhananda Bharathi, Swami Haridas Giri and many others.
Pithukuli Murugadass received the Kalaimamani award from former Chief Minister M G Ramachandran. He was a recipient of various other awards as well, including that of the Sangeet Natak Akademi. He had visited many a countries and rendered his songs.
The BBC described his voice as among the unique ones. He spent most of his earnings on charitable works without any fanfare.