Saturday, July 18, 2009

DK Pattammal: A tribute

‘Aduvome pallu paduvome, Ananda sutantiram adaindu vittom enru…’

The song from many, many moons ago came rushing to my mind when I learned that DK Pattammal had died at Chennai yesterday (July 16). She had rendered much greater pieces of course, but this one was a favorite of mine during school days.

With the passing away of Pattammal, an era in Carnatic music has ended. It was an epoch of women power, a period when three glittering stars shone so brightly. These ladies – MS Subbalakshmi (1916-2004), DK Pattammal (1919-2009), and ML Vasanthakumari (1928-1990) - were known as the classical triumvirate.

All the three were great exponents of Carnatic music. But Pattammal was unique. She was a trail blazer. In the first half of the last century ladies from orthodox Brahmin families were not permitted to sing in public. When Columbia Records (?) wanted record little Alamelu’s songs (her pet name was Pattu and that became Pattammal later), her father refused. He was finally persuaded by friends and relatives to give consent. Pattambal was ten years old at that time.

Soon she was on the radio and at the age of fourteen gave her first public concert, at the Mahila Samaj at Egmore, Chennai. Then she went on to conquer the world, performing in many places in India, USA, Canada, France, Germany, Switzerland and other countries.

Perhaps the greatest achievement of Pattammal was that she broke into the then strictly male bastion of Ragam, Thanam, Pallavi, the most difficult portion to render in Carnatic music. She excelled in this area and came to be called ‘Pallavi Pattammal’.

Pattammal specialized in devotional and patriotic songs. Her rendering of Muthuswami Dikshitar and Subrahmanya Bharati compositions were soul and blood stirring. She was highly selective about singing in films – no romantic pieces or duets.

Many honours and awards came to DK Pattammal. Quite naturally. These included Padma Bhushan (1971) and Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honor (1998).

The singer is gone now, but her immortal songs remain.

The photo is from a disc cover of Tamil Movie USA. To see their Pattammal collection you can visit

Related post:

M.S. Subbalakshmi – The Queen of Song



A very nice tribute.

Kamini said...

This is a lovely tribute. I have also written one to DKP - I do hope you will visit my site to read it

Abraham Tharakan said...

Thank you Raji, Kamini.

Unnithan said...

This s bout the parade. I was thinking that this years French Parade was outsourced to India !