lived during the rule of the British East India
Company. Along with the British, various forms
of music from the European music repertoire arrived
in India. Amongst these were the British
National Anthem and other marches, waltzes, Celtic
jigs and reels, polkas and more.
Dikshitar lived in Manali near Chennai, he came in
contact with the bands of the British East India
company and the music played by them.
wrote lyrics in Sanskrit to many of the
Western melodies that he came in contact with. Thus
was born a new genre of music, known as
nottuswara sahitya. This new genre of
music is both Indian and western and at the same
time it is neither completely Indian nor completely
western. It is unique and special. This genre of
music represents a unique dimension of creativity
and is also a pointer to the relatively unknown
aspect of the cultural interaction between the East
and the West in the 1800s.
The nottuswara sahityas are thus a body of
compositions based on western original melodies
(largely of Irish/Scottish origin) and Sanskrit
text. These compositions are totally Indian from the
standpoint of the stotra literature-based lyrics
that constitute their body although the melody is
devoid of characteristic Indian ornamentation..
The beauty of this largely ’Indo Celtic’ genre of
music lies in the fact that the introduction of
Sanskrit lyrics into Western melodic themes has not
resulted in anything jarring or incongruous.
A study of the nottuswaras reveals the contrast
between the light-natured tunes and the classical
sahityas that adorn them. However, the heavier
compositions of Dikshitar and his
(listen to these tunes) addressed to the same
deities show interesting parallels in lyrics. It is
also of great significance to note that the nature
of the meticulousness that characterizes the lyrical
component of Dikshitar’s work also pervades the
That one of the
foremost masters of Indian classical music has
actually created a lighter genre of music is a
fascinating and a little known fact in Indian
To children, these compositions are a great way of
getting introduced to the Indian classical world.
Please follow this
link to an earlier article on
Please also read a
three part article summarizing the research
presented by Kanniks Kannikeswaran on this topic at
the Music Academy Madras.