Prema Rangarajan has just completed recording Adi Sankara’s ‘Chatussashti Upachara Puja’ for the Narayani (golden) temple at Sripuram. The opportunity had come to Carnatic musician Prema Rangarajan because of her skill in singing Sanskrit devotional verses, of which she had already done 14 recordings under the guidance of R. Thyagarajan, HOD Sanskrit Department, Presidency College, and Chennai.
Prema’s subject is Sanskrit, profession banking but her passion is music. Dr. Thyagarajan, advised her to do her doctorate in Sanskrit with ‘Sanskrit compositions in Carnatic music’. As her job as assistant manager in a nationalised bank did not allow her to pursue her passion, she gave it up without any qualms in 1997.
Prema studied the Sanskrit compositions of 25 composers from Annamacharya to M.D. Ramanathan including contemporary ones such as G.N.B., Mayavaram Viswanatha Sastri and N.S. Ramachandran. Her research was not much on the musical aspects but more on language and the comparative study of the styles of the composers, of words they have used, the grammatical aspects such as metaphors, similes, etc. and methods of handling the kritis. One chapter is devoted to how different composers have dealt with rhythm, rasas and ragabhavas in music.
In the process of her research Prema came across several interesting Sanskrit compositions of Badrachala Ramadas, Valajapet Venkataramana Bhagavatar and Mysore Sadasiva Rao. With a flair for learning new kritis, she learnt quite a few songs from various vaggeyakaras which were part of her research. She has been able to trace many songs which could be handled in concerts such as Vasudevachar’s compositions on Saint Tyagaraja and Muthuswamy Dikshitar.
Prema was able to locate the rare concept of ‘Chitrakavya,’ that is, pictorial representation in the kritis, such as ‘Shankabandha’ found in the Madhyamakala segments of most of Dikshitar’s compositions and ‘Sivalingabandha.’
Prema took initial music lessons from her paternal grandmother who was a disciple of Kanchipuram Nayana Pillai.0. When in Delhi she learnt from Ramabhadran, Kadayam Krishnamurthi and T.S. Raghavan of Delhi University. After moving to Chennai in 1978 she had the opportunity to continue her training under Prof. Balakrishnaiah, S. Rajam and Sulochana Pattabhiraman. Dr. Srivatsa taught her Dikshitar kritis, while she learnt the nuances of Ragam, Tanam, Pallavi from Chingleput Ranganathan.
Educational Qualification & Sports
Prema, who did her schooling in New Delhi, has a post graduate degree in Sanskrit from the Delhi University.