The fourth pair that we are featuring in the Navarathiri Navasakthi is the couple from Chidambaram, Viswanathan – Vijayalakshmi.
Vdushi Vijayalakshmi hails from the famous Thiruvarur legacy. Her grandfather TS Meenakshisundaram Pillai had the distinction of serving as the Asthana Vidwan in the Thiruvarur temple. Her father TSM Krishnamoorthy is currently the Asthana Vidwan in Kondathu Kaliamman temple. Her father was her first guru, and later she fine-tuned her skills in Thiruvarur music college under the guidance of Vidwans such as Injikudi E M Subramaniam and Sikkal S P Uthrapthi. She had performed widely along with her father before her wedding.
Vidwan Viswanathan also comes from a family of nagaswara vidwans. His grandfather Vidwan Chidambaram S Chidambaram Pillai, was the Asthana Vidwan at the Thillai Kaliamman Temple. Viswanathan started learning from Vidwan Thirupananthaal Mohandas. Thereafter, he studied at Annamalai University for four years under the able guidance of Vidwan Sembanaarkoil SRD Sivaraj. Later, he also honed his skills under Chidambaram Natarajar Temple’s Asthana Vidwan Aachaalpuram Chinnathambi in the gurukulam mode of learning. Besides Telugu and Tamil keerthanas, he has a penchant for including Thevara hymns in his concert repertoire.
Viswanathan married Vijayalakshmi while he was working in Singapore as a nagaswaram artiste. Vijayalakshmi had a temporary halt in her music journey soon after the marriage. But the couple started to perform together soon after Viswanathan returned to India. They have been performing as a duo for the past two years.
Sharing the challenges that women nagaswara artists encounter, Vijayalakshmi said “It has always been a male-dominated field. There was a myth that only they could perform Nagaswaram, so it was a challenge if women had to pursue their interest in this field. When you begin to learn the art, comparatively it is difficult to hold the breath to perform, but with hardwork and motivation women too can prosper in this field. My journey is a testimony to this.”
My father has been a source of inspiration and motivation for me. I also owe it to my gurus. When women perform there is always a mixed reaction. If we focus on the art and set our goals to achieve, we can definitely achieve at par.
My husband continues to motivate me. With two kids, I had stopped performance post-marriage, but he was particular that what I had learned over the years shouldn’t go wasted. It was due to his insistence that I took up the performance again.
We both come from very different schools of nagaswaram playing. It took us sometime to iron out the differences and synchronize our playing.
She further added “Initiatives like Parivadini Navasakthi Series will go a long way in bringing women artists to the fore. I would like to teach traditional art to my children too. I sincerely appeal to other artists in this field to ensure that they pass on the legacy to the next generation.”
The couple will have KSK Manikandan and P Venkatesh as accompaniment on thavil in the upcoming Navarathiri Navasakthi Nagaswara concert.