– Dr Meera Rajaram Pranesh
Once a musician from different state came to the Court of Mysore, boasting that he could play shatkāla pallavi on Jaltarang and asked the King to bestow the winning certificate on him.The King accepting it as a challenge, replied that he could certify him only after he defeated his court musicians. One of the Court musicians immediately played on Veena a pallavi in the raga Natakuranji. He also sang the pallavi in trikala set to one gati, maintaining the tala in another gati. When the visiting musician was asked to play in 4th speed, he could neither sing nor play on Jaltarang. Accepting his defeat the musician left the palace. The court musician was honoured by the King for keeping up the prestige of the state. This great musician was none other than Veena Shamanna.
Shamanna was born to Rama Bhagavatar in the year 1832 A.D. His ancestors were under the patronage of Tanjore Kings. When famine struck in those areas, the brothers Rama Bhagavatar and Lakshmana Bhagavatar left Tanjore and settled at Gopichettypalyam. Later with the ambition of receiving patronage from Wodeyars the rulers of Mysore, they traveled towards Mysore. During the journey, Lakshmana Bhagavatar died and Rama Bhagavatar alone with his family came to Mysore somewhere between 1845–1850 A.D. Mummadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar pleased by the knowledge of Rama Bhagavatar, gave him a respectable job of performing on festivals and other important days in Kote Varahaswamy and Trinayaneshwara temples, which were situated in the Palace premises.
Shamanna learnt Veena from his father and gradually became an ace Veena player. Chamaraja Wodeyar IX, the King of Mysore appointed him as his Court musician, and this continued till the end of his life, even during Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar’s reign.
Shamanna popularly known as Tāla Brahma was not only a Vainika but also well versed in playing Violin, Ghatam and Swarabath. He was very conservative and strictly adhered to the shastras or theoretical aspects of music. He had composed few Swarajathis and a Varna.
Shamanna’s house was a center of Cultural activities. Many great musicians like Parameshwara Bhagavatar, Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer, Pallavi Shesha Iyer, Poochi Srinivasa Iyengar, Tirukkodikaval Krishna Iyer and others visited his house. Shamanna was the first music teacher of Krishnaraja Wodeyar IV and his sisters. The royal family’s respect towards him was so high that, a street in Mysore was named after Veena Shamanna and he was presented seven houses in that lane.
Many are the laurels and awards to his credit. Among them a silver medal engraved with Peacock was awarded at Madras in the year 1880. Many come under the shishya parampara of Veena Shamanna. Apart from his children Veena Ramanna and Veena Subramanya Iyer, his nephew Subbarayaru, Veena Padmanabiah, Sundara Shastry and Karoor Krishnarao were prominent disciples.
It is believed that Shamanna knew his end. When he was informed about his friend Avadhani’s death, Shamanna calmly replied “today is Avadhani’s death and tomorrow is Shamanna’s”. As said Shamanna passed away very next day on 1st of February 1908, after serving the royal palace for 32 years. The then ruler Nalwadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar himself came to pay his last tributes.