Syama Sastri

Syama Sastri

Shyama Shastri ( _te. శ్యామా శాస్త్రి), _ta. ஷ்யாமா ஷாஸ்திரி, _sa. श्यामा शास्त्रि ) (1762-1827) is among the most renowned composers of Carnatic music; indeed, he was the senior-most of the Trinity of Carnatic music, along with Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar.

Early years

He was born to Venkatakrishna, in Tiruvarur (of Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu) on April 26, 1762, into the scholarly and priestly Tamil Brahmin family of Viswanatha Iyer; a family not particularly interested in music. Though Shyama Shastri attained scholarship in Telugu and Sanskrit at a young age, he got no further than the elementary stages in music education, in spite of his melodious voice. When he was eighteen years old, his family moved to Tanjore.

Although he did not compose as many "kriti-s" as his two prolific contemporaries, Shyama Shastri's compositions are equally well known. It is said that he has composed about three hundred pieces in all. He did not have too many disciples to propagate his compositions, nor was the printing press an easy convenience during his time! More importantly, the scholarly nature of his compositions was not appealing to the layperson; they needed to be studied to be savoured. He composed in Telugu, Sanskrit and Tamil and mostly on Goddess Devi. He has composed kritis, varnams and swarajatis with the ankita/mudra (signature) 'Shyama Krishna'. He is said to be the architect of the swarajati musical form. His set of three famous swarajatis is referred to as ratna trayam. These are in Bhairavi, Yadukulakamboji and Todi.


Syama Sastri's son was the illustrious Subbaraya Sastri who had the unique privilege of learning under each of the trinity. His "krithis" are known for encapsulating the entire structure of a "raga" in the form of a composition. Their musical lineage seems to have a tact for such compositions starting with Syama Sastri's own guru, Pachimiriyam Adiyappa who encapsulated Bhairavi in his famous varna, Viriboni to Syama Shastri's Marivere in Anandha Bhairavi.

External links

* [ Syama sastri - He sang paeans to the goddess. More info from Sri Thiyagaraja Temple]
* [ Shyama Sastri’s descendants live in penury]

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