Muttuswami Dikshitr (1775/6-1835) Was the Youngest among the Carnatic Trinity. Born like his illustrious peers Tyagaraja and Syama Sastry at Tiruvarur, his life was marked by travels over long distances, during which he visited Several shrines,many of them famous and some of them very much off the beaten track of pilgrimages.
Thus even at a very early Stage in life, he was to come and live in Tiruvottriyur, a suburb of Madras. Manali Muttukrishna Mudaliar, a dubash of The East India Company, invited Muttuswami Dikshitar?s father Ramaswami Dikshitar to the then developing metropolis. The Dikshitar fsmily comprising parents Ramaswami and Subbammal and children Muttuswami, Chinnaswami, Baluswami and Balambal Were Witness to many musical performances by the Governor?s orchestra at the fort St George. The violin intrigued Muttuswami Dikshitar and his brothers and together ther adapted the instrument for use in Carnatic music concerts.
From Tirvottriyur, Muttuswami Dikshitar left for Kashi with his guru Chidambaranatha Yogi and returned from there in 1799. A miracle at the Tiruttani temple, when Lord Subrahmanya appearing in the guise of an old man, put a piece of candy into Dikshitar?s mouth, saw him bursting into song. From then on Dikshitar dedicated his life to peripatetic wandering. In the company of his tow wives and several disciples whom he took on without any consideration of sex, caste or creed, he visited several shrines all over South India. He composed at all these shrines leaving behind a unique set of compositions that are perhaps the first attempts at documenting several of our temples in the guise of songs. In his songs, one can see minute descriptions of the presiding deities, unique features of the temples? architecture, the legends behind the temples; descriptions of temple festivals and at times the names of local authorities. This apart, he also transports his listeners to the highest level of philosophy for at heart he was a vedantin who had transcended mundane existence.
Dikshitar worshipped the mother goddess. To him Devi was the embodiment of the Shri Chakra that lies at the core of Sri Vidya worship into which he was initiated early in life. His description of the Goddess in the form of the nine circles of the Sri Chakra is best represented in the Kamalamba Navavarana songs that he composed at Tiruvarur. But he also describes her in detail in several other compositions such as nAgagAndhAri ser in rAga nAgagAndhAri. Interestingly Dikshitar evolved a method of weaving into sAhitya (lyric) the name of the rAga in which he was setting the song. In this particular song, the very opening word is the rAga?s name.
During his travels, Muttuswami Dikswami Dikshitar visited and stayed at Mayuram, now called Mayiladuturai. His famil had powerful ties of devotion with the local Mayuranathaswami Temple. Muttuswami Dikshitar, during his stay here composed several songs on Lond Mayuranatha and his consort, Abhayamba.
The songs dedicated to Abhayamba are nine in number. The first eight are in the eight forms of address (vibhakti) in Sanskrit speech and the last one interestingly, is in shrl rAga and its lyrics are maNipravALa, a mixture of three languages namely Sanskrit, Tamizh and Telugu. The entire group is called the Abhayamba Vibhakti Kritis and sadAshrayE abhayAmbikE, set in rAga cAmara sEva saktE, meaning that the Goddess is served by Lakshmi and Saraswathi who wave fiywhisks for Her. The moden name for cAmarame for cAmaram is ShaNmukhapriya.
During his travels Dikshitar appears to have been fascinated by a Vinayaka temple on banks of the river Kaveri. It has been customary to identify the town as Mayuram though the song karikaLabhamukham (rAga sAvEri) does not explicitly State the name. In his song Dikshititar brings in the rAga mudra in the second line of the pallavi, namely kAvEri taTa sthitam, sAvErirAga nutam, meaning He who resides on the banks of the river Kaveri and is worshipped by rAga sAvEri.
Close to Mayuram is Swamimalai, one of the six great shrines of Lord Subrahmanya in South India. Dikshitar composed many songs on the deity in this shrine. Shrl bAlasubrahmaNyA in rAga bilahari is one such.
The kshEtra associated with the song kail AsanathEna (rAga kAmbOji) is given variously by scholars. Some attribute it to a temple in tirunelveli, while TL Venkatarama lyer,an authority on Dikshitar?s works attributes it to the famed architectural and rAga mudra is cleverly hidden between two words in the caraNam in the line sadgatidAyaka ambOjacaraNEna meaning one who has lotus like feet that grant salvation.
The song ardhanArlshvaram (rAga kumudakriya0is devoted to the concept of Shiva on Parvati into half of His body. Scholars have traditionally attributed this song to the famed Ardhanarishvara temple at Tiruchengode. But the song mentions several rishis (Atri ahd others) as having worshiped at the shrine and also specifically states that special worship is offered to the deity in the middle of the night. Both these attributes match the temple at Rishivandyam (South Arcot district) and it would appear that the song was composed there. This also matches with the route that Dikshitar took on his travels while Tiruchengode falls outside his traced orbit.
Dikshitar who had no fixed income and who eschewed seeking favours from mortals, lived and traveled on the credo of complete surrender unto go head. The word sadAshrayE (eternally seeking refuge) perhaps best sums up the philosophy of man who lived life on his own terms, left behind musical gems for posterity and visited places during extremely unsettled un settled times.