In the history of every art including literature, it is found that there are certain periods during which art has flourished and reached heights of excellence. In the case of carnatic music, it was during the second half of the 18 th century and the first half of the 19th century that masters like Thyagaraja, Dikshitar Syama Sastry, Swati Thirunal Govinda Marar, Arunachala Kavi and others lived. Dikshitar was a rich ‘flower’ who ‘blossomed’ during this heritage and his father Ramaswami Dikshitar was a leading, versatile, masterly composer and also a great lakshana vidwan. Muthu Swami Dikshitar did not reach glory at a time when there was no musical achievements, but it was a high point in the field of his musical creativity.
It was interesting to hear Asha, the Sanskrit scholar and author, while addressing a gathering under the auspices of Saraswathi Vaggeyakara Trust recently on Deepanam, which means expressions and their import. Asha brought out how Dikshitar kritis have a wealth of beauty and meaning hidden in them, touching upon how his expressions reveal layers of beauty. “When we limit our understanding to a superficial level, we are losing out on the real essence of his excellence, experiences and expressions, which is something unrivalled,” said Asha, giving emphasis on his spontaneous outpour of some of the most mystical expressions.
What was Dikshitar’s motivation?
Pure undiluted compassion for all of us. His kritis, on one level, are capable of showering all material benefits, like in the kriti Brihaspathae in Raga Atana, Puthrakaraka Deena Bandho and Harihara Puthram Sastharam in Raga Vasantha. Sankaram Abhirami Manoharam, could be chanted for well being, she said. The speaker lucidly emphasised how these kritis could yield manifold benefits, even if merely chanted.
Dikshitar certainly distilled the essence of vedanta and upasana, wanting us to follow the calling of the upanishads and break out of illusion. This would help to embark upon the quest of our true nature. As a master of word and meaning, he brought out philosophy through poetry and effectively used poetic ideas to convey profound philosophical concepts.
Dikshitar was a great advaitin. Some of his kritis incorporate materials from iconography, mythology, literature, mantra sastras and local sampradayas. It is relevant to note that sahitya was not an end in itself, but an indispensable framework of the music, for Dikshitar. As an ardent Sri vidya upasaka, he relied more on the power of incantation, rather than on its emotional content. His sahityas are, in effect, dhyana slokas rather than lyrics.
Dikshitar scaled new heights in the harmony of sangitham and sahityam with the aesthetic beauty.