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Sudha Ragunathan

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Sudha Ragunathan
Sudha Ragunathan at Music Academy, Chennai, 2010
Ragunathan at Music Academy, Chennai
Born (1956-04-30) 30 April 1956 (age 68)
Madras (present-day Chennai), Tamil Nadu, India
Alma materEthiraj College for Women (PG in Economics)
Occupation(s)Singer, composer
(m. 1982)
  • Venkatraman
  • Choodamani
Musical career
Instrument(s)Vocals, veena

Sudha Ragunathan is an Indian Carnatic vocalist, singer and composer. She was conferred the Kalaimamani award by the Government of Tamil Nadu in 1994, Padma Shri (2004) and Padma Bhushan (2015) by the Government of India, and Sangeetha Kalanidhi by Madras Music Academy in 2013.[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Sudha Ragunathan (née Sudha Venkatraman) was born in Chennai on 30 April 1956 and later shifted to Bangalore.[3] She did her schooling in Good Shepherd Convent, Chennai. She studied at Ethiraj College, and obtained a postgraduate degree in economics.[4]

Musical career[edit]


Sudha Ragunathan received her initial training in Carnatic music from her mother V. Choodamani. From the age of three, she began to learn bhajans, Hindu devotional songs. Her tutelage continued under B. V. Lakshman. In 1977, she received an Indian government scholarship to study music under a doyenne of Carnatic music, Dr. M.L Vasantha Kumari, whose student she remained for thirteen years.[5]

Trained under Dr. ML Vasanthakumari in the gurukula style, it involved considerable amounts of listening to the teacher and other practitioners to absorb their style and oeuvre. Part of her duties involved the accompaniment on the tanpura of her teacher during concerts,[6] and also accompanying her during concerts.[3][5] In her own words,[7] "A period of 13 years from 1977 to 1990, a phase of complete absorption and internalisation! There was no teaching in a formal atmosphere. We learnt while being with her during the katcheris (concerts). We would record her singing in our minds and then replay it while learning the intricacies. It was a very challenging and different experience and as I had begun learning very early from her, my mind was like a sponge and absorbed whatever I heard".

As of January 2015, she was preparing to debut in Kollywood as a music director with the upcoming Tamil film Thanneer, based on a novel published in 2009 by Ashoka Mitran.[8]

Performances and critical reception[edit]

Ragunathan has performed at the Madras Music Season every year since 1990, the year in which her guru Dr. ML Vasanthakumari died.[9] She is considered one of India's leading Carnatic performers.[10] In 2013 she was awarded the Sangita Kalanidhi of the Madras Music Academy.[4] She was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India's third-highest civilian honor, in January 2015.

On 2 October 2016, the United Nations released a stamp to honour India's Carnatic music artist Bharat Ratna Dr.M S Subbulakshmi. This stamp was presented to Raghunathan to honour her performance at the United Nations on 2 October 2016.[11]

Concert performances[edit]

Ragunathan has performed and collaborated with other artists all over the world. She has performed at the United Nations[12] and the Théâtre de la Ville, Paris. She performed at the Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Centre, at New York Broadway to commemorate 50 years of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. She is the only Indian vocalist to have participated in the Global Vocal Meeting organized by the Burghof, an Academy of Music and Arts at Lorrach, Germany and produced by Stimmen Voices International Vocal Festival.

Other music[edit]

Ragunathan has also performed as a playback singer in Tamil cinema.[13] She got her first break as a playback singer under Illayaraja in the movie Ivan, performing the song "Enna Enna Sethai". Besides the Carnatic repertoire, Raghunathan has also explored the world music scene, in particular fusion music.[14]


Following Carnatic musicians, Ragunathan has also taught the tradition to her students.[15] She launched her own school, Sudhaarnava Academy for Musical Excellence, on the day of Vijayadashami in 2017. The school has a faculty of her students along with Ragunathan herself and has conducted lec demonstrations and workshops in many venues across the globe.

Personal life[edit]

She is married and has two children.

Charitable works[edit]

Ragunathan is known for her charitable works, and launched the Samudhaaya Foundation in 1999, of which she is the founder and managing trustee. The foundation has assisted the underprivileged in the areas of child healthcare, infrastructural aid for homes, and heart surgeries for children.[3] The foundation has raised funds for victims of the Gujarat earthquake and cyclone relief in Orissa.[14]


Year Song Album Music Co-singers
2012 "Koniyada tharame"[16] Thrahimam 2 Pranam Kamlakar Roopa Revathi
"Sannuthinthumo Prabho"[16] Thrahimam 2 Pranam Kamlakar


  • Sangeet Natak Akademi Award from Sangeet Natak Akademi (2021)
  • Padma Bhushan award in 2015
  • Sangita Kalanidhi from Madras Music Academy (2013)[4]
  • Padma Shri award in 2004[17]
  • Sangeetha Choodamani, from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai (1997)
  • Kalaimamani award from the state government of Tamil Nadu, India (1993)
  • Bharat Jyothi from Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, New York (1988)
  • Sangeetha Kalasarathy from Parthasarathy Swami Sabha, Chennai, from Shri Jayendra Saraswathi of Kanchi Mutt
  • Sangeeta Saraswathi from The Mahasannidanam of Sringeri
  • Gana kuyil from Valmiki Manram, Chennai
  • Isai Peroli and VST Award from Karthik Fine Arts, Chennai
  • Sangita Kokila from Tamil Sangam Navi Mumbai
  • "Rama Gana Kalacharya National Award" from Sree Ramaseva Mandali in 2017
  • Sama Gana Mathanga National Award from Bharatiya Sama Gana Sabha in 2017
  • "Sangeetha Ratnakara" from Sri Surabharathi Sanskrit and Cultural Foundation, Bengaluru
  • "Gaana Padhmam" from Brahma Gana Sabha, Chennai
  • MLV Platinum Jubilee Award 2003 from Dr. MLV Cultural Trust, Chennai
  • Rashtriya Ekta Award at the 57th birth anniversary celebrations of Rajiv Gandhi in recognition of achievements and contribution to fine arts
  • Outstanding National Citizen Award 2001 from the National Citizen's Guild, New Delhi
  • Gem of India Award 2001 at the All India Achiever's conference in the category of fine arts and culture.
  • "Seva Ratna Award" 2001 from The Centenarian Trust, Chennai
  • "Swara Raga Laya Ratna" from Academy of Indian Music, Melbourne
  • "Isai Chelvam" in 2000 from Muthamizh Peravai from Kalaingar Dr. M.Karunanidhi
  • "Sivan Isai Selvi" from Papanasam Sivan Rasika Sangam
  • "Rasika Kala Ratna" from Rasikapriya, Sydney
  • "Gana Sudha Amrithavarshini" from Sree Kanchi Kamakotti Peetam
  • "Thennisai Thilakam" from the Federation Tamil Sangams of North America and the Tamil Nadu Foundation, USA
  • "Ugaadi Puraskar Award" from Telugu Academy
  • "Youth Excellence Award" from Sri Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer Trust
  • "Woman of Golden Substance 1998-1999" from Rotary Club, Chennai
  • "Sangeeta Kala Sironmani" from Nungabakkam Cultural Academy Trust, Chennai
  • Ragunathan received the title of "Nadha Kalanidhi" from Sri Shanmukhananda Sangeetha Sabha, New Delhi in February, 2005.
  • Padma Sarangapani Cultural Academy honoured her with the Padma Sadhana award on 24 December 2005.
  • The Tamil Brahmin Association (THAMBRAAS) at Chennai presented Ragunathan with the 'Award of Excellence' at the Silver Jubilee of State Conference on 25 December 2005.
  • The Rotary Club of Trichirapalli Fort, Trichy presented Ragunathan with the 'VOCATIONAL EXCELLENCE Award' on 8 March 2006.
  • 'Vani Kala Sudhakara' from the Thyaga Brahma Gana Sabha on 9 December 2005
  • 'Sangeetha Mamani' from the Sri Rama Bhaktha Jana Samaj, K.K.Nagar, Chennai
  • 'Nadha Ratnakala' from the Universal Fine Arts, on 21 December 2005
  • 'Nadha Kavidha' on 26 December 2005, under the aegis of the music journal Nadha Brahmam
  • "Arsha Kala Bhushanam" from Pujyasri Swami Dayananda Saraswati, organized by Arsha Vidya Gurukulam


  1. ^ Ragunathan, Sudha. "Padma Awards". Ministry of Home Affairs (Govt. of India). Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  2. ^ Ragunathan, Sudha. "Padma Awards". Ministry of Home Affairs (Govt. of India). Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  3. ^ a b c Ranjani Govind (15 March 2013). "Holding the new wave". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  4. ^ a b c B. Kolappan (29 July 2013). "Sangita Kalanidhi for Sudha Ragunathan". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  5. ^ a b Deepa Ganesh (13 September 2013). "In the flow of things". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  6. ^ Shobha Warrier (4 February 2011). "Wanted to be a doctor, became Carnatic star". Rediff.com. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  7. ^ "Simplify Carnatic music so it reaches a larger audience, says renowned singer Sudha Raghunathan | Latest News & Updates at Daily News & Analysis". dna. 31 October 2015. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  8. ^ Sudha Raghunathan Debut as Music Director with film version of Ashoka Mitran's novel 'Thanneer'
  9. ^ Ranjani Govind (22 December 2006). "For a song". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  10. ^ M. Balaganessin (18 March 2006). "A saga of magic". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  11. ^ "United Nations issues stamp to honourcarnatic music artist M S Subbulakshmi". 3 October 2016.
  12. ^ "Looking beyond the summit". The Hindu. Retrieved 29 January 2017.
  13. ^ Sreedhar Pillai (14 September 2007). "Shhh... He's back". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  14. ^ a b Ranjani Govind (21 August 2007). "Sudha is doing her bit for society". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  15. ^ G. Swaminathan (31 August 2007). "In the footsteps of her guru". The Hindu. Retrieved 8 November 2013.
  16. ^ a b "Thrahimam 2 by Various Artists on Apple Music". iTunes. 19 April 2013.
  17. ^ "Padma Awards" (PDF). Ministry of Home Affairs, Government of India. 2015. Retrieved 21 July 2015.

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