(Our “Artist of the month”, Sri.Vijay Siva has provided his soulful tribute to his eminent guru Sri.D K Jayaraman. He would be sharing his views on learning and music this month with us. For more details about Sri.Vijay Siva Click here .)

When Radha Parthasarathy came into music class as a little girl, no one could have imagined her becoming a Carnatic musician some day… she used to sing well and observe things keenly. Somewhere deep within her was a sensitivity for the art and our guru D K Jayaraman was responsible for bringing that sensitivity to the fore. His teaching was firm – there was no room for straying away from tradition, but he was gentle in correcting and shaping Radha’s art. He has made a remarkable musician out of her. Today Radha sings without ever swerving from the path of tradition, her music is sure to move listeners to tears. Someone who heard Radha sing would compliment DKJ for it. His response was always a silent smile! How did DKJ transform a good singer into a consummate musician? That is a mystery not that no one can unravel!

Many teachers seem to treat music class as a break between chores of every day life. But DKJ lived his life in the time that was left to spare after all the music lessons he gave each day! Disciples would flock to his home starting quite early in the morning – at times even before he had brushed his teeth. If his hands were brushing, his ears were free and listening intently to the music! DKJ would listen to his students sing as he sat in the hall warming up to his first dose of coffee. He would remember all the slips his students had made until then, and take to correcting them systematically as soon as he settled down. In the middle of a music class, DKJ would let himself be distracted for a few seconds – perhaps over the cricket scores, taking a shot of insulin, attending to a telephone call, or to issue a quick command to either his sons or daughter, a chat with his wife about matters pertaining to the family, or a daily greeting from guru & older sister D K Pattammal. What a variety of distractions, but he would never get angry at being interrupted, neither would he lose concentration. He would resume class as though there had been no interruption.

DKJ approached people with warmth and cheer; students were captivated when introduced to his good-natured warmth, and an attitude that was friendly and devoid of pride. If he began the day with a music class early in the morning at 6 am dressed in a simple lungi and seated on his sofa, one could see him there taking classes until 9 in the evening!


One of our classmates was not Indian by birth and none of us in the student group could control our giggles when we heard him sing. But DKJ never slighted this student or disregard him. On the contrary, DKJ deeply appreciated the enthusiasm which brought a student across the seas, away from home. We used to wonder just how DKJ managed to keep a straight face. When this student sang the pronunciation would be hilarious. But he would only say “That student would feel hurt. I cannot spoil his enthusiasm by laughing at him!” Our guru never once calculated that he was wasting his time by teaching someone who clearly would not fit well into our mainstream.

Almost all of DKJ’s students can distinctly recall his characteristic demeanour while singing, and particularly remember having seen him with his arms raised as he sang “Hiranmayeem Lakshmeem.” At such times when DKJ was deeply involved in his music, his pet dog Caesar would run upto him and sink into his lap; occasionally Caesar would even wet DKJ’s lungi! Caesar must have gathered sound knowledge of music while being conveniently seated on DKJ’s lap. And soon enough Caesar grew into a big dog, no longer able to fit into our guru’s lap. But Caesar refused to leave the music room! DKJ had no option but to leave him chained by the verandah right outside the music hall. Caesar’s leash was just long enough to permit him to reach the doorway to the music hall and rest his face comfortably at the entrance. He never budged from his spot; students who entered or left music class had to mark their movements with the ever watchful Caesar! Anytime Caesar saw DKJ or any of his disciples, he would be overjoyed and rush up to greet them. Caesar was a staunch witness to all that we learnt and to all that we have been unable to grasp! With such constant attention to the goings-on of the music room, and if such a thing was physically possible then Caesar could easily have joined in the ‘pinpaatu’ of any song..

There was a time when DKJ had decided to teach the Kamalamba Navaavarana kritis of Muthuswami Dikshitar to all his disciples. Every evening the class would last about two hours and we used to meet at 6 pm to begin our session. We were 22 disciples in all… a huge group. All of us had to sing as one, enunciating the sahitya clearly and not refer to a book or tape for guidance. Our music had to be perfectly in sync with the shruti and adhere to the raga and tala as warranted by the kriti. What a task! DKJ trained us rigorously. People who are familiar with the format and the intricacy of the Navaavarana kritis can appreciate the difficulty of this project. Our guru wanted to give us this rare and special treasure, and he was taking great pains to accomplish the task … and we wanted to reward him adequately, well beyond the nominal and usual guru dakshina that each of us used to give. Without DKJ’s knowledge, we students got together and began discussing what would be a befitting reward for our guru. But even before we reached a consensus, DKJ sent word to us saying that he needed a special guru dakshina for this project and told us the specifics about individual contribution. Each of us readily gave the specified sum which was yet much less than what we planned to give. DKJ donated part of that dakshina to the Kamalamba temple at Tiruvarur, and the rest he spent on the welfare of a few students who were in need of assistance.

There were no limits to the concern that DKJ showed in grooming his disciples. I was learning ‘Tulasidala Mulache’. I was leaving after class and had reached the gate of his house. He called me back and said “Sing that sangati one more time.” He let me go only after making sure that I could sing that specific sangati to his expectation! DKJ was also very quick to appreciate his students. When any of his disciples sang well, he would rush to make a phone call to that student’s home and convey his joy to the parents even before the student reached home from class!

One of his disciples, T G Badri Narayanan, was employed with the Government and sometimes would travel long distances on work. There would be many days when Badri was unable to attend class. DKJ would call him up and ask him to come over: “Oi Badri! It’s fine if you’re unable to make it to class, but why don’t you drop in to say hello? And when you do, please bring puliyodarai, and also some roasted peanuts from Gandhi Stores!” Even a disciple who was lax in attending class regularly had nothing to fear from DKJ; he always welcomed his students with a warm smile. DKJ accepted not only his disciples but also their families! He readily helped his disciples in all matters – financial assistance, school admission, a job opportunity, medical help … why, he even was ready to guide some of his disciples in their love lives! At the same time DKJ would never breathe a word about the help he had extended to someone in need.

DKJ’s sense of humor used to continually lighten up our classes. This sense of humor was his constant companion, and didn’t leave him even until the very last days. The senior most of DKJ’s disciples is V Sundaresan aka Sundu Mama. Sundu Mama traveled all the way from Tambaram to Alwarpet for class, every day! The day before DKJ passed away (January 25th, 1991), Sundu Mama was in a hurry to leave for home and insisted on leaving early. DKJ chided him saying: “Hey, why can’t you wait a little longer? Stop behaving as if you were a newly married man!” All of us who were present including Sundu Mama burst into laughter at such teasing! Our classes used to always be filled with fun and frolic. Often, after classes were over, DKJ would engage in miming games, and would fondly mimic each of his students. Some of us would then take turns to imitate him, and these sessions became riotous fun. DKJ would thoroughly enjoy all our attempts to mimic him!

Though the music that DKJ taught was strictly bound by tradition, the methods of teaching were novel. In the early days he had banned the use of tape recorders in the classroom. Later on, he understood the need and benefits of the tape recorder. Not only did he permit the use of one but he continually advised us to store the tapes from class sessions with good care. While DKJ was teaching us one part of a song we’d have recorded the session. Soon he’d shout out a command “Push!” In his vocabulary, ‘push’ meant ‘rewind.’ Not knowing the precise meaning, Manoj once attempted to literally push and move the small table on which the tape recorder was kept! DKJ was totally amused and had a hearty laugh, exclaiming at Manoj’s innocent and spontaneous interpretation of ‘push’. Thats DKJ. His sensitivity for music was combined with a good sense of humor, a sense of appreciation and humaneness. One could see a stern teacher in him, and at the same time you experienced the comfort of having a good friend around you. Qualities that complemented one another continued to enrich DKJ’s life. And DKJ unhesitatingly passed on all the wisdom he gained through his experience of life. That’s why even after all these years of DKJ’s passing, the bonding between his disciples continues to remain strong. Adequately equipped with the foundations laid by DKJ, his students can now go on stage and perform concerts together as a group.

Even today, DK Pattammal speaks with pride when she speaks of her younger brother and disciple Jayaraman: “His mind was razor sharp. I haven’t seen another disciple like him.” The confidence that DKP reposes in her brother’s talent used to be reciprocated by DKJ. He would refer to Pattammal as “the pinnacle of patience.” That unique bonding between brother and sister still guide us in our lives and music.