July 18th happens to be the birthday of Jayachamarajendra Odeyar, the last ruler of Mysore. He was born on this day in 89 years ago (1919).

(Photo: From an article in Hindu written by Sriram Venkatakrishnan)

Jayachamarajendra Odeyar (JCW) is considered as one of the prominent composers of Karnataka Sangeetha in the 20th century. In addition, he was an accomplised exponent of Western classical music as well.

Here is a speech by well known musicologist (and Vainika) Prof R Satyanarayana. The original speech was in Kannada, and translated by yours truly. This is probably a speech from the late 1970s or 1980s. Even though it is not a word-to-word translation, I have tried to retain the original flavor of the speech.


Prof R Satyanarayana’s speech on Jayachamarajendra Odeyar:

It was JCW who conceived the idea of starting a music college at the University of Mysore.  When efforts were put in that direction for the first time, it had to be shelved because of the mutual jealousy of some musicians. Later, with the foresight for starting college of lalita kalA institution, JCW left a large sum of money as a donation (datti) to the Mysore University. That was the seed money from with this great institution was started from. There is a special relation between Mysore University and the Maharaja. It was indeed here where His Highness attended the classes just like a commoner, and got his degree. Mysore University should be congratulated and thanked for teaching a member from the royal family along with common people and make a scholar out of him.

Before considering him as a composer, let me tell a few things about his expertise in music. Even when he was very young, he took on interest in western music with his father’s influence. Many people may not know that JCW stood first in the extremely difficult music examinations from Cambridge and Trinity colleges in London. He was an excellent piano player. His sisters were also experts on the piano. JCW was invited to Europe and America several times not because he was a King, but because of his expertise on the piano, and his insight into Indian ‘darshana’s. He has performed on the piano at a large number of prestigious halls, and spoken in front of elite audience in many of these countries.

Apart from this, JCW’s vision and understanding of Indian music had a great depth and width. Before he was crowned, he did ‘shishyavritti’ with Sri Vasudevachar (in vocal music), and also with Veena Giriyappa (for Veena) for a short term. The music he learnt from these teacher-duo (even though it was for a very short time) flowered and bore wonderful fruits. We can see an example of his critical abilities and knowledge of music in his address at the Music Academy’s annual conference.  This inaugural address at the Music Academy’s annual conference, which he delivered in the year when Mysooru Chowdayya was the President of the conference proceedings, was so sparkling that it made all the earlier conference addresses seem very dull.  This showcased Maharaja’s internal vision into the shAsrta aspects, darshana, Vedanta aspects, and the expertise he had in lakshya. The examples and suggestions he gave to fellow musicians to reach their goals, was so inspiring then, and is so even now.

I can talk a lot more about him, but it is not the right time. I would now like to concentrate on the specialty of his vaggeyakaratva. Vaggeyakara is a technical term used to indicate a person is one who provides the mAtu, and rAGa and tALa (svara laya bandha) for a composition; there were two reasons for him to become a vaggeyakara. The first one was the breadth and depth of musical the practical experience viz the music which he had imbibed from his gurus like Venkatagiriyappa and Vasudevachar; the influence and exposure to hindustani music which he got from his uncle that can be seen in his compositions in rAgas like mAnd, and his practical and theoritical expertise in Western music.

When he started composing there was one more major influence in his compositions. If you look at the invitation you have received, in the first page, you can see it starts as “jayaratna jayachamarajendra oDeyar”, where it compares the great qualities of 9 great kings with that of JCW.  Many of these kings were from Karnataka. That’s why he is called navaratna jayachamaraja oDeyar. When I was writing this, I felt it would be just to add one more quality that is missing in the list here. I wanted to make it a list of 10 qualities.  There is one extremely rare quality which JCW had, and that wasn’t there in any other king before –That is his accomplishment in srIvidye. In addition to the background and inspiration from the sangIta, srIvidya was also instrumental in bringing out these compositons. These compositions were a just vehicle to express his inner spirit’s longing for mOkSha and the enormous effort it was going through in aligning it in that direction through the mode of musical expressions. While composing he took some suggestions from Vasudevachara, and sometimes from Venkatagiriyappa for appropriate suggestions, and he would give a final form to the compositions considering their inputs. Often he played the kritis on Piano and gave a final shape to a composition.

Let me tell you how he became Srividya upAsaka. Sri Siddhalingaswamy, who was a very known sculptor from Mysore initiated JCW to Srividye. Odeyar indicates Siddalingesha as the svagurunAma (Siddhalinga Swami). His guru, (Guru of Siddhalinga Swamy) was Odeyar’s parama guru nanjunda yOgIndra. Odeyars parameshTha guru was nAgalinga yatIndra (Guru of Nanjunda Yogindra). We can see JCW remembering these gurus in many of his kritis. JCW also indicates the influence of his father’s music on him by the word narakanThIrava. kanThIrava means lion. narakanThIrava means narasimha. Chitprabhanandanatha was his deeksha name given to Odeyar by his guru Siddhalingaswamy.  Normally JCW includes the name chitprabhanandanAtha along with his ankita Srividya. Getting a dIksha nAMa is the first step to initiation into Srividye.  He has used this name ‘chitprabhAnandanAtha’ in many kritis. I hope singers note this point while singing his kritis.

JCW made chamundi as the aradhya dEvi for Srividya upAsane. Chamundi was the kuladiava of Odeyars. However, in yaduvamsha, Chamundi wasn’t the only royal diety. They worshipped Shiva as well. If there ever was a royal dynasty that could be termed secular, it was the oDeyars of Maisooru. They were staunch followers of Brahmatantra parakAlaswamy, the Shankaracharya of Sringeri, and also of Veerashaiva mathas.In short, Odeyars pracitioners of ‘Sarva dharma samanvaya’- equality of all religions- principle. Even though his ancestors were shiva worshippers, JCW became an upasaka in the shaktipradhANa kAdi mArga  dakshiNAmoorti tradition of SrividyA upAsane.

One interesting fact about his compositions is that they are all are in Samskrita. They all follow the pattern, and style of muttuswAmi dIkshIta’s compositions, who was also a Srividya upAsaka. They use similar technicality of muttuswAmi dIkshita’s compositions on Srividya. Another notable feature of his compositions is that he has used as many as ragas as are his compositions. This is a very rare thing, and no other vaggeyakara has done this feat in the entire world of Indian music. In doing this he has used ragas like kOkilapriya, supradIpa, gambhIranATa, vijayavasanta, nIlavENi, kOkilabhAShaNi, mALavi, vagadhIshwari, pratApavarALi, nAmanArAyaNi, shuddha tODi, amrtavAnini, hamsavinOdini, bhogavasanta, nadabrahma etc – rAgas that are new, or rAgas that had only one or two earlier lakshya examples.  He created laksyha for ragas like amRutavAhini and pratApavarALi, which had only example from Tyagaraja. This is something we have to be proud of.

All the 94 or 96 kritis are about SrIvidye.  You may ask how I’d explain to say his compositions on Shiva and Ganesha. Even Ganesha and Shiva are considered as the dieties that open the door of Srividya. He made chAmunDi as srRmAte. In Chamunda is the seventh mAtRuka in the second chakra called trailokyamOhana chakra, in the prathamAvaraNa of Srividya worship. JCW often uses the word mAtRuka again and again in his kritis. There is shlEsha in that, I will take an example in a kriti and explain later.

JCW not only reached the pinnacle in musical capabilities. If we include his contribution to music, we have to invent a new word- Ounnatya shaTka–  ‘six fold-pinnacles’ to describe him, because he was an extra-ordinary man who reached the difficult-to-attain ‘ounnatya panchaka’ – the ‘five-fold pinnacles’. There are only a few, who have reached this ounnattya panchaka.

He attained kAyOnnati – Whoever had seen him can vouch for the truth of this fact. His tall stature, and build that indeed was befitting the golden throne he was occupying. Next one in the unnati panchaka is mAnOnnati. It does not just mean he was abhimAnashAli.It has a much deeper meening. ‘mAna’ means to measure; If you have to create a new measure to evaluate someone or something, that shows the greatness of the insights and personality of him or her. All of us develop measures according to our own capability. JCW created new units of measuring for evaluating all worldly qualities. In addition to his, he also had  manOnnati and vidyOnnati. He was a great scholar and a dArshanika. If you read his book, ‘D attatreya- A Study’ you can appreciate and understand his deep insight and scholarship in the darshanas. To top it all, he also reached  AtmOnnati, thus completing this unnati panchaka. When you add his sangItOnnati, it indeed becomes ‘unnati shaTka’.

JCW was thus a great soul who attained these pinnacles in contemporary times. But unfortunately, I feel sad that our generation does not seem remember and recognize contributions the kings of maisUru like mummaDi Krishnaraja Odeyar, nAlvaDi Krishnaraja Odeyar and Jayachamaraja Odeyar made specifically to our music and to our society in general.


(I’d like to thank Sri Rajachandra, who gave me the audio recording of this speech.)