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Gottuvadya Sakharama Rao

Sakharam Rao was born at Madhyarjanam (Tiruvadamarudur) in the Tanjore District. He was the eldest son of Gottu Vadya Srinivasa Rao, a famous player of the preceding generation from whom he learnt the Art. He was a Madhva Desastha Brahmin and a Rigvedi. He belonged to the family of Gavai Khamas Madhava Rao, the famous Musician in the days of the last Sivaji Maharaj.

His father, Srinivasa Rao was one of the earliest who learnt to play on the Violin in South India and became an expert. Later in his life he made some improvements, determined how the instruments were to be handled and became famous as a player on both the instruments. After he became the Adhina Vidwan of Tiruvaduthurai Mutt in the time of Sri La Sri Subramania Desikar, he moved from Tanjore and settled down at Tiruvadamarudur. He died when his son Sakharam Rao was quite young and had some little training in Music.

At that time, Venkoba Rao and Rama Rao, sons of his paternal uncle livd at Tanjore. They had attained great proficiency in three musical instruments – the Violin, Jalatarang and Mridang. Sakharam Rao had a good training under the elder brother, Venkoba Rao and was bent on attaining immortal fame in the field of Music. Owing to the fruits of virtue in his previous birth, the hereditary gift in music and his ceaseless efforts, he held an unique position as a Gottu Vadya Player. His earnestness and untiring practice were praiseworthy. Every day, he continued to play even at dead of night. When asleep, he would suddenly rise from bed and begin to put into practice some particular idea in Music that had struck him.

His great achievement was that he brought to perfection the sound production of the instrument. He played the same with a piece of cylindrical roller made of Tamarind wood in his left hand and with the finger nails of the right hand (much more difficult than playing with the Nankhi as most players do). He was a versatile genius, being equally perfect in playing the Raga Alapana, Kriti or Tahnam. Perhaps amongst the Ragas he played he was most delicious in Sankarabharana, Kedaragowla, Bhairavi, Bilahari, Todi, Sri and Kalyani. The melodic beauty of each Raga shone in its richest colours at his hands. He may be regarded as eternally dedicated to ‘Nadopasana’. Unlike the mechanical musicians of the present age, he thoroughly enjoyed and was absorbed in his own music and his performances were out pourings of ecstasy. During the visit of Sir Edwin Montague to Madras in 1918, at an Evening Party given by the South Indian Zamindars in his honour, Sakharam Rao was invited to give his performance before the distinguished guest and the concert was very much appreciated.

Like his father, he had a good command of the Violin and he therefore trained his brother, Hari Rao, and made him attain a high degree of perfection. He, and Sakharam Rao’s son, Srinivasa Rao, named after the grandfather, continued his art with undiminished zeal at their ancestral house in Tiruvadamarudur.

Sakharam Rao was strong and well-built and had a dignified and commanding personality. He had many good qualities. From a child onwards, any one could move with him freely. He was always desirous of helping others and doing social service. When he was approached with a request to play on Gottu Vadya, even in the midst of other work, he would at once play on the instrument in good spirits. He never regarded wealth as the main object in life. But at the same time he kept up the status and dignity of the profession. He would not move out of his house before his minimum fee was paid and he stipulated before-hand that there should be absolute silence at the concert and the least  noise made him stop his playing on the instrument. As with Krishna Bhagavatar, absolute accuracy of Sruti Suddha was patent in Sakharam Rao’s concerts. He passed away in 1930 at the early age of 49.


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