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Tiruvarur, Thanjavur district, Tamil Nadu
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A Lady Playing the Tanpura, c. 1735 (Rajasthan)
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Syama Sastri (also commonly transliterated as Shyama Shastri) (1762–1827) was a musician and composer of the Carnatic music tradition. He is the oldest among the Trinity of Carnatic music, Tyagaraja and Muthuswami Dikshitar being the other two.
Early life and career
Syama Sastri was born to Visvanathayya and Vengalakshmi on April 2, 1762. in a Telugu speaking family  .Visvanathayya and his forefathers were archakas (appointed ritual priests) in the temple of Goddess Bangaru Kamakshi, Thanjavur. Syama Sastri's actual name was Venkata Subrahmanya.
Although Śyāma Śastri did not compose as so many krithis as his two prolific contemporaries, his compositions are still well known due to the literary, melodic and rhythmic proficiency observed in them. It is said that he composed about three hundred pieces in all.
He did not have many disciples to propagate his compositions, nor was the printing press widely accessible during his time. More importantly, the scholarly nature of his compositions made them more appealing to the learned than to the lay. His compositions are far fewer in number than Tyagaraja or Dikshita. Additionally, they feature a more formal form of Telugu which borrows heavily from Sanskrit. In contrast, Tyagaraja composes in this form of Telugu but also resorts to a more colloquial dialect to which Syama Sastri does not.
He composed kritis, varṇa(s) and svarajati(s) with the ankita or mudra (signature) Śyāma Krishna. He was probably the first to compose in a new form of the svarajati musical genre, where the compositions could be rendered solely in a singing or instrumental manner. Prior to this, the svarajati was primarily a dance form, and was close in structure to the dance Varṇaṃ (padavarṇaṃ).
His set of three famous svarajati(s) are intended to be sung in concert rather than danced, and are sometimes referred to as "Ratnatrayam" (Three jewels). They are Kāmākṣhī Anudinamu, Kāmākṣhī Padayugamē, and Rāvē himagiri kumāri, composed in the ragas Bhairavi, Yadukula kambhoji and Todi respectively. The former two are set to Miśra Cāpu Tāḷa, while the third is set to Ādi Tāḷa.
He was known for his ability to compose in the most complex of Tāḷa(s). He was also widely revered for his voice and singing ability during his time.
Syama Sastri had a son named Subbaraya Sastri (1803–1862), who reportedly learnt music under each of the Carnatic music Trinity; this was considered, a rare privilege. His kritis, with the signature 'Kumara', are treated as dispositive references for those ragas in which they were composed. Syama Sastri's adopted grandson, Annasvami Shastri (1827–1900), was also a fine composer.
The below sections mention some of his compositions.
|Kāmākṣhī anudinamu maruvakanē
కామాక్షీ అనుదినము మరువకనే
|Kāmākṣhī padayugame sthiramaninē
|Rāvē himagiri kumāri
రావే హిమగిరి కుమారీ
|Śaṅkari Śaṃkuru candra mukhī
Sanskrit: शङ्करि शंकुरु चन्द्र मुखी
Telugu Script: శఙ్కరి శంకురు చన్ద్ర ముఖీ
|Sāvēri||Ādi – Tiśra Gati||Sanskrit|
|pAlayAshu mAM paradEvatE||Arabhi||Sanskrit|
|kanaka śaila vihāriṇī
Sanskrit: कनक शैल विहारिणी
Telugu Script: కనక శైల విహారిణీ
|Birāna varālicci brōvave
బిరాన వరాలిచ్చి బ్రోవవె
|Kaḷyāṇi||Ādi – Tiśra Gati||Telugu|
|Dēvī brōva samayamu
దేవీ బ్రోవ సమయము
|kAmAkSi lOka sAkSiNi||madhyamAvati||Sanskrit|
|Himādri sutē pāhimāṃ
హిమాద్రి సుతే పాహిమాం
|Māyammā yani nē pilacite
మాయమ్మా యని నే పిలచితె
|Mari vērē gati evvarammā
మరి వేరే గతి ఎవరమ్మా
|Nannu brōvu lalitā
నన్ను బ్రోవు లలితా
|O jagadambā nannu
ఓ జగదమ్బా నన్ను
|Pārvati ninu nē nera nammiti
పార్వతీ నిను నే నెర నమ్మితి
|Sarōja daḷa nētri himagiri putrī
సరోజ దళ నేత్రి హిమగిరి పుత్రీ
|Tallī ninnu nera namminānu vinavē
తల్లీ నిన్ను నెర నమ్మినాను వినవే
|Pāhi Srī Girirājasutē Karuṇākalitē||Anandabhairavī||Rūpakaṃ||Telugu-Sanskrit|
|Devī Nī Mīna Nētrī Brōva||Shankarabharanam||Adi||Telugu|
|Ennēramum un Nāmam
என்னேரமும் உன் நாமம்
|Ennēramum un Pāda Kamalam
என்னேரமும் உன் பாத கமலம்
- P. Sambamoorthy, Great Composers, pp69–94. (Madras: The Indian Music Publishing House)
- C. J. Fuller; Haripriya Narasimhan (11 November 2014). Tamil Brahmans: The Making of a Middle-Class Caste. University of Chicago Press. p. 201. ISBN 978-0-226-15288-2.
- Ruth M Stone; Alison Arnold (11 August 2018). The Garland Encyclopedia of World Music: South Asia : the Indian subcontinent. Folklore Institute and African Studies and Adjunct Professor School of Music . p. 390.
- name="Traditional Cultures "> (11 August 2018). Bulletin of the Institute of Traditional Cultures. University of Madras . p. 10. Missing
|last1=in Authors list (help)
- Gopal, Madan (1990). K.S. Gautam, ed. India through the ages. Publication Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India. p. 231.