A detailed exposition on ‘Women composers in Carnatic music’ by sangeetha vidwan Alamelu Ramakrishnan gives a good account of the role of women in musical compositions in the last few centuries. “It is a pity that the life and contribution of a large number of such composers have not been brought to light. Hence I have taken this project as a dedication to them,” says Alamelu Ramakrishnan who has authored books on communication skills for school students. She is also a director of Vidya Vriksha, a voluntary body engaged in imparting computer skills to the visually challenged.
The presentation includes composers like Karaikkal Ammaiyar (6-8th century), Andal (9th century), Tarigonda Venkamamba and Sengottai Avudai Akka (10th century). It was interesting to learn that Karaikkal Ammaiyar gave up her human form and pleaded that she take the shape of demoness to sing god’s glory. Lord Siva was moved by her devotion and addressed her as ammaye (mother). On His command, she went to Thiruvalangadu and composed the Mootha Padhigam. We infer that Moovar Thevaram is modeled on her pathigams and that is the reason why her writings are called Nootha Pathigam literally meaning ‘earlier’.
Andal is a household name in Tamil Nadu, her Thiruppavai and Nachiyar Thirumozhi are narrations of her intense love for Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam. In the well known song Varanamayiram, she describes her dream relating to her marriage to the Lord. Avudai Akka, a child widow who got the blessings of Thiruvisainallur Ayyaval, a great poet and saint and became a prolific composer in Tamil. She was known for gnana rasa kirtanas.
Andavan Pichai, another woman composer, could not even speak without a lisp (speech defect). She is said to have got the vision of Lord Muruga when she was 9-year-old. After this, she composed poems and rich music, thanks to her fertile mind.
The ongoing project of Alamelu Ramakrishnan with the assistance of the Ministry of Culture brought out women composers who are not known prominently to the world and hence, her efforts need to be appreciated.