Tirumakudalu Chowdiah, who’s also known as T. Chowdiah, was a gifted violinist and was considered as a legend in the realm of Carnatic music. He was born in 1895 in a village named Tirumakudalu near Mysore. Chowdiah trained under renowned musician Ganavisharadha Shri Bidaram Krishnappa who used to play in the Mysore Royal Court from 1910 to 1918.
His Early Life and Training
Chowdiah used to play the four-stringed violin during his formative years. Soon by 1927, he became a famous accompanying violinist. During concerts, Chowdiah observed that people who sat in the back rows could not hear his recital properly and this was due to the fact that during his time, sound amplification devices were non-existent.
To overcome this shortcoming he developed an innovative idea and added three more strings to his four-stringed violin, and began to practice on it. From then onwards in all his concerts he used his improvised violin. His guru however was unaware about Chowdiah’s endeavour.
Eventually when his guru discovered his innovation, he was reportedly very angry. However on Veena Seshanna’s intervention his guru relented and later appreciated Chowdiah’s innovation.
His Career and Achievements
Chowdiah’s dedication and devotion towards Carnatic music made him a renowned violinist. Under the guidance of his guru, he reached great heights and became a respected figure amongst his contemporaries. As a violin accompanist, Chowdiah was much sought after.
Even Shri G.N. Balasubramanyam wanted to have Chowdiah as his violin accompanist during concerts. In fact Chowdiah was a great crowd puller and his performances attracted people from many parts of the country. His guru nurtured a wish to open a higher institute of music and in order to fulfill his guru’s wishes; Chowdiah established the Ayyanar College of Music with the help and support of Mr. K. Puttu Rao.
This college imparts extensive training on different musical instruments (including the violin) to numerous students. Even blind students are trained here, and the institute was successful in producing exceptional musicians.
Chowdiah is credited with having done 50 compositions in languages like Kannada, Telugu and Sanskrit. In 1957, the Madras Music Academy honored Chowdiah with the title Sangeetha Kalanidhi.
Tirumakudalu Chowdiah died at the age of 72 in 1967, leaving behind a legacy which is still enriching Carnatic Music. Chowdiah was not only a brilliant performer but also an intelligent innovator, a caring guru and a talented composer.
Connoisseurs of Carnatic music will always recall the contribution of this violinist. The unique violin shaped Chowdiah Memorial Hall in Bangalore stands in memory of this great personality.
Kannada film star, politician Ambareesh is the grandson of Chowdiah.