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Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma:A life Devoted To Music

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Submitted by UMAMAHESWARI on Tue, 2006-12-05 21:42. Other
Mavelikkara prabhakara varma
He is 77. But this makes no difference to his phenomenal musical prowess. Ask any thing about classical music. His adrenalin starts to flow with new vigor. That is Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma –the recipient of Swati Puraskaram -2005 instituted by the Government of Kerala. This maestro was in the city recently. In an interview he talks about his passion for music, how he miserably failed in studies and later became a Post Graduate, and about his disciples.

Prabhakara Varma hails from Mavelikkara Kottaram where his formative years were marked by an unbridled passion for music. Born in 1928 to Chandra Prabha [daughter of Kerala Panini A. R Raja Raja Varma] and Rama Varma of Kilimanoor Palace, Prabahkaran’s inspiration for music stemmed from the songs rendered by his maternal aunt Bhageerathi. The swaras and her tonal quality enthralled him. His thoughts were saturated with musical notes and obviously he was below average in his studies. ‘I always fail” laughs Prabhakara Varma who was affected by polio when he was in his mother’s womb.

Nothing stopped him from hearing the music even during examinations. Annual exams always coincide with the temple festival. Rajaratnam the nadaswaram wizard was performing at the temple. “I just could not jot down what little did I knew. The invigilator came, snatched my answer paper and said: “Go and listen to the music” I ran to the venue swiftly, to hear Rajaratnam. The family members often scolded Bhageerathi for spoiling me like this. Soon my cousin LPR Varma joined the Music Academy and I became restless. My father insisted that I should complete at least ESLC. To every body’s surprise I got through it in the first chance and that was news in the family circle” he said and continued:
“It was a golden period in the Academy. We had stalwarts like Semmnagudi, KS Narayana Swami and C S Krishna Iyer. Those were also the days of gramophones. I have heard many times the concerts of great masters like Ariyakkudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Mahahrajapuram Viswanatha Iyer and Rajaratnam Pillai. They created tremendous impact in me. All the kritis were indelibly etched in my memory. During my practical exam Semmangudi Sreenivasa Iyer asked me to render Hammer Kalyani-a Hindusthani raga rarely sung in those days. Swati Tirunal has composed a beautiful composition Gangeya vasana dhara in this raga. That was the least expected question. I rendered the raga briefly. I have heard Ariyakudi singing this tune. After my presentation he asked: “From where did you learn this?” I answered”.

In 1957 he joined the Academy as the Asst. Professor and retired as the Principal. Mean while he had to wipe off the stigma that he was not a bright student. So he appeared the University exams. For BA he took music as the main subject. The university issued a special order exempting him from under going the practical exam. But for the post graduation he had to. “Dr. Revamma asked me to render Narayana Gaula yet another rare raga. As an obedient student I rendered it” says Varma whose primary disciples include Dr. K. Omanakutti and Neyyatinkara Vasudevan.

Prabhakara Varma took the effort to notate the compositions of Thulasivanam. He had done a comparative study of Deekshithar and Swathi Tirunal. He humbly says that it takes more than a lifetime to mature as an artiste, and the fact that he is able to do so at this age is due to the blessings of the God, his teachers, the sadhana and the grace of Maharaja Swati Tirunal himself whose family he belongs to. “If you look at the genealogy he is my great grand uncle.” he said with folded hands. This chronic bachelor stays with his niece at Tripunithura
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happy about this
Submitted by Guest on Thu, 2007-09-27 17:34.

The account given is comprehensive and useful. Something embarassing me more is the fact that so many people have already read this account. Being the grand nephew of prabhakara varma with whom I live, I feel proud of my uncle who has created a space for himself in the Music fraternity, in spite of all his physical limitations. His life is entirely dedicated to music.
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