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This garland will never fade

The `Garland' series of books authored by N. Rajagopalan is perhaps the only informative source material on Carnatic music that is available today. A look at what inspired the writer and his works...

`GARLAND' RAJAGOPALAN! Why `Garland'? What an unusual name! Well, N. Rajagopalan, retired Collector of South Arcot District, has been spending his entire time and mostly his own savings, writing and publishing a series of books on Carnatic music titled `Garland.' When he retired from service in the mid-1980s, Rajagopalan felt that he had to do something worthwhile that would live on even after his lifetime. But what? On a visit to the British Council Library, he came across a book, or more precisely a dictionary, which gave the biographical details of the composers of Western Music. This reminded him that there was no such publication available on Carnatic music. From then on he set out to seek details about Carnatic musicians, composers, musicologists and dancers. It was not an easy task. Many contemporary musicians discouraged him; and quite a few were not very cooperative even when it came to supplying him information about their lives and careers. But Rajagopalan persisted till he was able to gather all the details that he needed for his book. He also spent hours in the various libraries such as the Tamil Nadu Archives, the Connemara Library, the Adyar Library and The Hindu library. His first book, `A Garland ` - a biographical dictionary of composers, musicians and dancers' was published in 1990. This was followed by four more books — `Another Garland', `Yet Another Garland' `Fragrant Garland' and Melodic Garland.'

Rajagopalan has covered 1,500 persons connected with classical music, from ancient times till the present day The books contain, besides biographical details, also general matters pertaining to music. He even touches upon Hindustani musicians. These books are perhaps the only informative source material on Carnatic music as of now. Most of the buyers of his publications are outside Tamil Nadu and from abroad.

Rajagopalan shifted from State service to the IAS cadre and served in the Land Reforms and Prohibition Departments. But the interest he had in music since childhood never flagged. He had a good voice and was cast in the role of heroine in a school drama in his native village, T. Pazhur, near Kumbakonam.

His uncle Mandhai Sa Krishna Iyer was a patron of music with several books and articles on music to his credit.. He was running the Sri Krishna Bhajana Mandiram, where several leading musicians of the time used to sing. When Rajagopalan came to Chennai to stay with him to continue his education, he had the opportunity to learn under Papanasam Sivan, the renowned composer.

When he was working in Salem his Guru was Subbarama Bhagavatar and even recently he was under the tutelage of Trichy Sundarrajan.

He continued to act on stage right through college and even afterwards.

In those days one had to be good in singing to be able to act.

The well-researched articles in his books not only reveal his dedication, but also have been appreciated by scholars and musicians as being inspired works. The terms and expressions used are vivid and lucid. His article in the "Melodic Garland' on Manodharma can be cited as an example of his own Manodharma or fertile imagination. It is amazing that in "fulfilling his ambition and passion to accomplish something unique, authentic and indelible in the field of arts", he continues to sit at his computer writing another of his `Garlands', untiringly, even after having published five such tomes.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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