on 15-11-1877, Muthiah Bhagavathar came under the tutelage of his
maternal uncle, Mahamahopadhyaya Lakshman Suri, in Harikesanallur having
lost his father at the tender age of six. Though sent by his uncle
to do Veda Adhyayanam, music drew him like a magnet. Giving up vedic
studies, he turned to music and studied under Vidwan Sambasiva Iyer &
Sabesa Iyer, who were of the sishya parampara of Thayagaraja. Muthiah
Bhagavathar had a rich and sonorous voice and devoted a lot of time
to voice culture, which enabled him to sing with full throated ease. Tanam-singing
was his forte and in that he was unrivalled. This is evident in his
compositions and only a well trained voice can do full justice to them.
He also trained in Harikatha Kalashepam, his towering personality and feel
for the dramatics, being a great asset. In his time none could hold
a candle to him in this art form.
Composing songs for his Harikathas, was but a mere step to composing full fledged Krithis in the classical format. His compositions, in the form of Varnams, darus, tillanas, kirtanas and ragamalikas had a lilting quality with scintillating flights of swara passages, often leaving both listener & performer, breathless with their sheer beauty. He brought out from the dark unfathomed caves, ragas, as yet unheard of, and composed kritis in them, each a gem.
On a visit to Benares, he heard the Raag Sohini (of the Hindustani Music System) and was so captivated by its haunting beauty, that he wished to adopt it to the Carnatic System. On omitting the occasional panchama prayoga, he found its lakshana agreed with that given in our music books. Thus was born Hamsanandi, in a beautiful song Needu Mahima Pokada, an instant hit, which took South India by storm & was taken up by all musicians of the south. Similarly he made popular ragams like Mohanakalyani, Valaji, Budha Manohari, Gauda Malhar to name but a few.
He was the asthana vidwan of the Mysore and Tiruvananthapuram Samasthanams. His Devi & Siva Ashtothara Kritis have songs in a variety of ragams, each one a beauty. While at Tiruvananthapuram, at the behest of Rani Sethu Parvati Bai, herself a no mean Vainika, Muthiah Bhagavathar set up the Swati Tirunal Music Academy and was at its helm for 7 years. During that period he unearthed and brought to light many of Swati Tirunal's compositions.
Titles - Gayikashikhamani, Sangita Kalanidhi etc. came his way, as a matter of routine. He was the first musician/ Composer to be conferred a Doctorate. This was done by the University of Travancore. He wrote & published a book in Tamil on the theory of music titled Sangeeta Kalpadruma. He passed away on 30.6.1945, leaving behind a rich legacy to Carnatic music.