Kothavasal Venkatarama Aiyar has enriched Carnatic music with his beautiful varnams in the ragas Saveri, Hamswadhvani and Sama. He has also written compositions in nine other ragas: Kedaram, Sankarabharanam, Kalyani, Begada, Kambhoji, Yadukula Kambhoji, Bilahari, Mohanam and Sri ragams- all fused in to a unique Nava Raga Malika varnam. There is hardly a student of music who is unaware of these beautiful varnams. Yet, many of them have hardly heard of the composer, Kothavasal Venkatrama Aiyar.
Very little is known about his life. He was born in Kothavasal, a tiny village in Thanjavur district. His family seems to have settled there very early in the 19th century. With his keen desire to learn music, he was sent to Veena Kuppa Aiyar to further his music. He was a fast learner and soon mastered the nuances of Carnatic music. His interests expanded to Gottu Vadhyam too.
It is said that whenever Venkatarama Aiyar got the inspiration to compose, he would write them on the walls with a piece of chalk which would then be faithfully copied out by his disciples. The Saveri varnam, Sarasuda, is a standing example of the raga in all its beauty. Erroneously, some of his compositions are credited to Patnam Subrahmanya Aiyar as both have the same mudra-Venkatesa.
Compiled by Anandhi Sundar