The Artiste


R Sankara­narayanan is the younger son of Papanasam Sri Ramani Bha­ga­vathar, great-grandson of Brah­masri Papanasam Sri Rajagopala Iyer — elder brother of the illus­tri­ous com­poser and musi­cian Sangeetha Kalanidhi Papanasam Sivan. His father, Sri. Ramani Bha­ga­vathar is one of the direct dis­ci­ples of Papanasam sivan and an emi­nent Namasan­keerthanam expo­nent. In pozhichalur near

sankaranarayanan @ 1985pallavaram, a chen­nai sub­urb, Sankara­narayanan was born in a house rever­ber­at­ing with music which sowed the seed for his laya inter­est. His par­ents encour­aged his taste in rhythm.

Hum­ble beginnings 

Sankara­narayanan used to play with empty palm-oil tins at the age of three as the orig­i­nal mri­dan­gam was too big for his lit­tle hands to reach! He started accom­pa­ny­ing his father’s bha­jans and namasan­keerthanam pro­grammes from the age of five. For about three years, Sankara­narayanan played on the dholki, a north indian per­cus­sion instru­ment. By the time he was eight, he had been on an all India tour with the devo­tional singer Pithukuli Muru­ga­doss. And when he was nine years old he started accom­pa­ny­ing var­i­ous artistes for car­natic concerts.


Srimushnam Sri V RajaraoSankara­narayanan devel­oped a taste for rhythm and an inter­est in mri­dan­gam came by watch­ing mri­dan­gam vid­wans like Kum­bakonam Sri Gane­san, Mel­latur Sri Bal­a­sub­ra­man­ian, Pam­mal Sri Krish­namoor­thy and Papanasam Sri Kumar accom­pany his father for con­certs and namasan­keerthanam programmes.

He also had the ini­tial mri­dan­gam lessons from them for few months. At the age of eleven, Mri­dan­gam mae­stro Kalaima­mani Srimush­nam Sri V Rajarao spot­ted his tal­ent in his father’s namasan­keerthanam pro­gramme on the day of Saraswathi pooja and he grace­fully accepted to teach him from the very next day, the aus­pi­cious Vijayadasami. He learnt from his guru in the tra­di­tional guruku­lam way by being together with him for most part of the day, accom­pa­ny­ing him for con­certs, prac­tis­ing and tak­ing lessons from him. Instead of arange­tram as it hap­pens nowa­days Sankara­narayanan was intro­duced in the tra­di­tional way where he accom­pa­nied along with his guru Sri. Rajarao in a tem­ple con­cert that hap­pened in the Sana­to­rium Rama Anjaneya tem­ple dur­ing Vinayaka chathurthi fes­ti­val. He owes to his guru Sri. Rajarao the fin­ger­ing tech­niques, var­i­ous pat­terns, instrument’s intri­ca­cies, accom­pa­ny­ing nuances and all other per­form­ing aspects that he has learnt till date.


Sankara­narayanan com­pleted B.A and M.A in San­skrit from Vivekananda col­lege which is known to hone and encour­age musi­cians and artistes. He then took up M.Phil in the topic “Depic­tion of Mri­dan­gam in San­skrit lit­er­a­ture” and com­pleted that as the Uni­ver­sity topper.

He has pre­sented papers in a num­ber of con­fer­ences on var­i­ous top­ics like “Music instru­ments in Mahabaratha”, etc…

Some cher­ish­able moments…

Once he had the good for­tune of accom­pa­ny­ing the Para­macharya of Kanchi, Jagadguru Sri Chan­drasekara Saraswathi for the abhang “Sun­darathe Dhyana” and was blessed on his head with his holy hands and was given a gar­land of car­damom worn by the sage himself!

sankaranarayananA mem­o­rable moment was when for dou­ble mri­dan­gam he accom­pa­nied Sikkil Sis­ters along with his guru Srimush­nam Sri.V.Rajarao in the famous Tiru­pathi Thya­garaja Festival.

Other unfor­get­table mem­o­ries are of get­ting Mri­dan­gam as prize in con­tests from Sankaranarayanan’s inspi­ra­tion among the leg­ends, Padma Vibushan Umay­alpu­ram Sri.K.Sivaraman in Krishna Gana Sabha and Sangeetha Kalanidhi Pal­ghat Sri.Raghu in Shanti Arts Foun­da­tion and Endow­ment (SAFE)