Venkatamakhin also known as Venkateshwara, was a prominent musicologist and composer of Carnatic music. He is renowned for his Chaturdandi Prakashika in which he explicates the melakarta system of classifying ragas. Venkatamakhin composed geethams and prabandhas, as well as 24 ashtapadis in praise of Lord Thyagaraja of Tiruvarur.
Born in a family of seven brothers and sisters, Venkatamakhin or Venkateswara Dikshitar was the son of the great scholar, administrator and musicologist, Govinda Dikshitar, a Kannada Brahmin from Mysore, who served as a Minister in the Kingdom of Tanjavur. He had his training in music under his elder brother, Yagnanarayana Dikshitar and later under Danappachariar, alias Venkata Sarma, in praise of whom he composed the Gita ‘Gandharva Janata’ (Arabhi). Vijayaraghava Bhoopala was the ruler who encouraged Venkatamakhin in his pursuits in musicology. Venkatamakhin also composed twenty four Ashtapadis on Lord Tyagaraja, the presiding deity of Tiruvarur. Apart from this, very little is known about the life of this great musicologist.
The epoch-making work ‘Chaturdandi Prakasika’ was a landmark in the annals of Carnatic music. It had been in circulation only in manuscript form until it was taken up for print early last century. This immortal work gives a systematic and scientific classification of Mela ragas based on swaras. The name itself means ‘Exposition orillumination of the four channels through which a raga manifests itself’. Out of the ten chapters, the last and part of the ninth are said to be missing. Twelve hundred and odd couplets available are in simple, elegant Sanskrit. His grandson, Muddu Venkatamakhi, added a supplement to the work.
Father, Govinda Dikshitar and son, Venkatamakhin, were erudite scholars, geniuses in musicology and have carved out for themselves a lofty place in the history of Carnatic music. Govinda Dikshitar and Venkatamakhin are to musicology what Ramaswamy Dikshitar and Muthuswamy Dikshitar are to musical compositions.
It is said that Venkatamakhin freed himself from thieves by singing ‘Hare Nipidakantaka Dushpradesa’ (Lalita). He cared for his people too and freed them from the order of the ruler to get the symbols of conch and wheel tattooed by singing ‘Sankha Chakranganatyachara re’ (Ritigowla). He has also composed Lakshya Gitas and Prabandhas in Bandira Bhasha.
- Subramaniam, L. (1999). "The reinvention of a tradition: Nationalism, Carnatic music and the Madras Music Academy, 1900-1947". Indian Economic & Social History Review. 36 (2): 131–163. doi:10.1177/001946469903600201.
- The Cultural Setting of South Indian Music, Raymond E. Ries, Asian Music, Vol. 1, No. 2. (Autumn, 1969), p 4
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