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Mani Iyer

Final Years

Decline in Health

During 1944 Mani Iyer suffered from severe health problems. He was just 32 by then. Although he had some setbacks in health earlier, his youth-hood helped him ignore those setbacks. Mani Iyer was forced to stop giving musical concerts and was taken for treatment to various places. Many of his rasikas were disappointed by the news and rumours spread all over the country that Mani Iyer would never sing again. Most of the followers believed that Mani Iyer's life would come to an end just like his paternal uncle Pushpavanam Iyer, who died when he was just 32. But the almighty helped our Mani Iyer to recover soon to become an unparalleled maestro in the music world.

Mani Iyer did not perform for quiet a long period. His voice lost its original pitch. He could not reach the higher octaves as he did before. He practised very hard to get back his original pitch, but the attempts were only partially successful. Mani Iyer's sruthi was reduced to 1½ kattai. But this new voice gave his singing, a maturity which was at par with the elderly musicians such as Ariyakudi, Chembai and Tiger Varadachariar.

Mani Iyer, decided to remain a bachelor throughout his life and kept-up his decision. He got many voluntary proposal for marriage, but he had only one point to tell them back, "Music is all for me and it will accompany me till my end!". He remained a nadhayogi till his death and was highly respected for his purity in conduct and character, which also reflected in his divine music.

Mani Iyer gave a come back concert at the Parimala Ranganathar Temple in Mayavaram in 1945 during the festival. He sang the pallavi Parimala Rangapathe in Kambhoji, in praise of the presiding deity of the temple. The audiences were thrilled to listen to the fresh voice of Mani Iyer, which had the earlier magic along with a new majestic effect. He also changed his Aakaara style of raga singing to suite his voice adhering to Sruthi shudham and swarasthana shudham. Besides the Akaara singing, he introduced unusual syllables like ooo, eee, yee, while he reached higher octaves and La La in the middle and lower octaves. Critics who initially critised the style later went on to awe the purity in his music and his exposition of all the forms of music. They enjoyed the flow of his manodharma, which had the melodious synchronization of raga bhava and swarasthana shudham.

His fresh approach earned much popularity and the crowd for each of his concert increased overwhelmingly. He soon became an unconquered hero of the crowds and he remained so till the end.

Mani Iyer came back to Madras after the evacuation period and settled down in a house at the same Luz church Road. He gave many concerts at the temples of Mylapore and the fans of Madras were excited with the return of their master. The great accompanists of those days like Palani subramanya pillai, Rajamanikam pillai, Palghat Mani Iyer volunteered to accompany Mani Iyer. The concerts at various temples and religious functions got unusual responses. People thronged in the buildings, trees and walls to listen to Mani Iyer's magical music. Mani Iyer never failed to satisfy his rasikas with their favourite requests of Thukkada pieces - Eppo varuvaro, the English Note, Karpagame, Vellai thamarai, Maye, Ragamalikas etc.

'Sangeeta Kalanidhi'

Mani Iyer was awarded the 'Sangeetha Kalanidhi' Title by the MUSIC ACADEMY for the year 1959. Mani Iyer presided over the annual conference of 1959 and gave his expert views about the demonstrations which took place at the conference. The Vidwans who were members of the expert committee were delighted about Mani Iyer's extensive knowledge in various grammatical aspects of music. Prof P.Sambamurthy on the occasion of the proposal of electing the conference president, rightly pointed out that Mani Iyer could satisfy both the laymen as well as the learned alike with his music and knowledge. Sri Musiri Subramanya Iyer then proposed Vidwan Madurai Mani Iyer for the Presidentship of the Conference. In doing so, he said that Vidwan Mani Iyer richly deserved the honour since he came from a reputed parampara and had adhered to sampradaya.

Vidwan G.N.Balasubramanyam, President of the previous Conference, seconding the proposal, observed that Vidwan Mani Iyer enjoyed a unique distinction in the musical world and had certain qualities, which endeared him to all. Sangita Kalanidhis Dwaram Venkataswami Naidu, Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer, Thiruvizhimalai Subramania Pillai, Mudikondan Venkatrama Iyer and Vidwan T.K.Jayarama Iyer, further supported the proposal. Sri K.Chandrasekharan supporting the proposal on behalf of rasikas observed that Mani Iyer was one who was always the hero of the crowds. On behalf of the North Indian musicians, Pandit S.N.Ratanjankar supported the proposal. Mani Iyer was presented with mantrakshata received from His Holiness Sri Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetha.

Mani Iyer then gave his presidential address at the conference. On 03/01/1960 Madurai Mani Iyer was presented the title of Sangeetha Kalanidhi by the Union Minister Humayun Kabir who presided over the sadas. Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar and Justice Rajamannar paid rich tributes to Mani Iyer on the occasion.

'Rashtrapathi' Award

During March 1960, Sri Mani Iyer was awarded the 'Sangeeth Nataka Academy Award' instituted by the Central Govt. The President of India, Babu Rajendra Prasad presided over the function held at New Delhi, and presented the title to Shri Mani Iyer. On the occasion Mani Iyer gave a grand vocal concert attended by all the dignitaries including Babu Rajendra Prasad. Mani Iyer was accompanied by Lalgudi Jayaraman on the Violin and Palghat T.S.Mani Iyer on the Mridangam.

'Isai Perarignar'

Mani Iyer was awarded the 'Isai Perarignar' title by the Tamil Isai Sangam in 1963 complimenting his services for the Tamil Isai movement since its inception in 1939.

Last years

Poor health dominated during his last years. Mani Iyer lost his eye sight completely in 1964 and was often forced to bedrest for days together. His Disciple, Shri Vembu Iyer took ample care of his master and helped him to fight against his illness. He had to cancel many concerts on account of his ill health. But whenever he recovered from illness, Mani Iyer was much sought after for his concerts and the crowd for his concerts grew up as usual.

Mani Iyer did not miss any important occasions like the December season and also visited other states though not as frequent as his earlier days.

During 1968, Mani Iyer had a further decline in his health, he could not sing in the Ramanavami Series. Mani Iyer encouraged his disciple and nephew shri T.V.Sankaranarayanan (a law graduate) to give concerts during the Series, with his own accompanists, Shri T.N.Krishnan and Shri Vellore Ramabhadran. Shri TVS who was considered as the promising young musician of Mani Iyer school, worked hard and became an accomplished vocalist. Shri TVS fulfilled Mani Iyers long wish of a continuing tradition. Mani Iyer's other popular disciples include Sarvashri S.Rajam, T.S.Vembu Iyer (father of T.V.Sankaranarayanan), Thiruvengadu A.Jayaraman & Smt.Savithri Ganesan.

Mani Iyer gave a performance on March 31st, 1968 for Mylapore arts academy at the Music Academy hall with the accompaniment of Mayavaram Govindaraja Pillai and Vellore Ramabhadran, which happened to be one of his last concerts. He sang a Pallavi in the Raga Kanada in that concert, which was attended by a large gathering. Shri Alangudi Ramachandran the Ghatam Vidwan, Shri M.D.Ramanathan the great vocalist who attended the concert praised Mani Iyer for his strict adherence to Sruthi, laya and melody even during difficult health conditions and observed that the concert was one of his best. In his last concert, he is said to have rendered Nagumomu at the request of a Rasika, in spite of being very ill. /p>

He was about to sing during May 1968 at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club with his favourite accompanist Lalgudi Jayaraman, but destiny turned the other way. He was severely bed ridden on account of fever and thus the concert was changed to a solo performance of Lalgudi. Lalgudi paid rich tributes to Mani Iyer and played all the popular songs of Mani Iyer much to the delight of the audiences.

Mani Iyer's health declined further and the great master entered into eternity on June 8, 1968, leaving behind a great legacy of classical music. The whole music world was shocked to hear the news. Radio, Newspapers paid rich tributes to the great master on his music, his character, his simplicity and above all his sincerity.

His music still lingers in every rasika's ears in the form of his gramaphone records and private concert recordings. Mani Iyer stands as an exemplary Vidwan for Sruthi Bhakthi, Laya Bhakthi, and the original objectives of music 'sukham and sowkhya bhavam'.


with Disciple Vembu Iyer


Recieving Isai perignar award Music Academy 03-01-1960


Shri.TVS reading Mani Iyer's address at Music Academy Sadas


Delivering the Presidential address


colour potrait

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