"... A leading Disciple of the late Tiger Varadachariar, he has completely assimilated the three cardinal features of his master, namely, rare kalpana Swaras, Apoorva Sancharas and an inimitable technique of Tana Singing. Vinjamuri has the gift of a powerful voice, and, in addition to imbibing Tiger's matchless imagination and technique, irrigates his music with the emotion and devotion of Musiri and Semmangudi, regulates it with the steadiness and method of Ariyakudi and punctuates with the Tala sense of Chittoor with all its rigour and vigour. His Sahitya was flawless and he is equally at home in Telugu, Tamil and Kannada and Sanskrit. He rose to rare height and held the audience captivated for nearly three hours. He took them completely by surprise and one could hear them saying that it was the best performance of this place after Ariyakudi's concert two years ago. …"
Vinjamuri Varadaraja Iyengar, popularly known as "Vinjamuri" in the Music world, hailed from a Sri Vaishnavite Swayam Aacharya Purusha family, originally from Srivilliputtur in Tirunalveli district of Madras County. He was born on July 15, 1915 at Guntur, Andhra Pradesh. His Father, Vinjamuri Bhavana Chariar, was an advocate at Guntur, the chairman of the Guntur Municipality and a philanthropist. He was also a lover and a patron of Art and Music, who, at one time or the other, had, Tiger, Ariakudi, Veena Seshanna and other Great Musicians, and, Sarojini Naidu and other political figures as guests at his house. Vinjamuri's mother, Kanaka Valli, was a singer of some merit and was also an active participant in the freedom struggle of India. Vinjamuri was the youngest of 13 children. All his 5 brothers were Advocates of great repute and also well versed in Music and literature. His eldest brother V. Krishnamachari, was a Barrister from England in 1908. His second brother V. Ranga Chari was an advocate at High Court, Madras and also was a reputed scholar in Telugu and Sanskrit. He wrote a number of Kavyas in those languages. His third brother V. Anantha Chari, a Vainika, was an advocate too but spent most of his life in the freedom struggle. He lived with Gandhiji at Wardha Ashram, and, played Bhagavat Geetha and Vedas on the Veena for Gandhiji. He was a disciple of Veena Seshanna who presented him with his own Veena. The fourth brother V. Sreenivasa Chari, was a Flutist in addition to being an Advocate himself. He established Thyagabrahma Gana Sabha at Guntur and introduced a number of artists from south to Andhra Pradesh. The youngest of the older brothers, V. Parthasarathi Iyengar (96 - now lives in Washington DC), is also a Lawyer and a Violin player. All his sisters were educated in Music, in Sanskrit and other languages, along with formal education.
Vinjamuri, as a boy of three would crawl to the music teacher Piratla Sankara Sastri whenever he taught music to the girls of the family. Piratla Sankara Sastri was the court musician of Muthyala Samsthanam and he later moved to Guntur in order to tutor the daughter-in-law of the Rani of Chintalapalli, who lived there at that time. Sankara Sastri, a disciple of Tiruvattiyur Thyagaier, himself was a great Laksha, Lakshna Sastra Kovida, and also was a great poet and a composer. He served the Madras Music Academy for some years as an expert committee member and contributed enormously to the cause of Karnatic Music.
Unlike in the present times where, a person with a little more talent and a little more intelligence is called a prodigy and a genius, Sankara Sastri encouraged the young Vinjamuri just adequately, to continue listening to the music. But, he silently noted and admired the child's talent in differentiating the right from the wrong in Music, even at that young age. When he felt that the boy was ready, he started the formal musical education with the Ata Tala Varnam in the Ragam Reetigowla. After that, he taught him Ata Tala Varnams in Kalyani, Bhairavi, Kambhoji, and, started teaching Krits by starting with the Thyagaraja Kriti "Sambho Mahadeva" in the raga Kamavardhani.
Vinjamuri continued his Music lessons at home with great interest and enthusiasm, and was learning the Pancha Kavyas in Sanskrit from his schoolteacher, a Sanskrit scholar and a poet, Pallem Poornapragnya Sharma. That particular year, for the school day celebrations, Sharma was screening students for singing the prayer song. When Vinjamuri sang, his raga Gnyana and pronunciation astounded the teacher. He not only selected Vinjamuri for singing the prayer but also wrote the first Sloka of the "Ramayana Ashta Sloki" - Balakanda in Haswa Dhati, Which starts with "Rakshoganena Hridayakshobha Methya Nija" and ends with "Ikshvaku Vamsa Thilaka", to be sung as the prayer. He later completed the other seven Slokas.
Vinjamuri gave his first performance at the age of 7 in the presence of the famous Veena Seshanna, at Guntur. He finished high school and went on to study B.A, but continued his musical training under his Guru, Shankara Sastri.
Once, the teen aged Vinjamuri traveled to Muthyala Samsthanam with his Guru who was to give a performance there. But, unfortunately, the Guru fell ill and could not perform and he asked Maharaja to let the young Vinjamuri perform, instead. The Maharaja was skeptical about the young man's ability to replace the Palace Musician, but could not object due to his respect for Sankara Sastri. During the Kutcheri, Vinjamuri sang Thyagaraja kriti "Neechittamu Nirmalamu" in the raga Dhanyasi, with raaga Aalaapanam and Neraval at the charanam. His expression of true emotion and devotion while singing "Guruve Uttama Gathi, Aa Guruvu Neevanukonti" not only touched the hearts of the Maharaja and the audience, but moved his Guru so much that he overcame with emotion. While tears of joy rolled over his cheeks, he expressed his happiness and blessings for his Sishya by composing poems extempore, to the meaning, "is this Shankara (am I) your Guru or the Adi Shankara himself is your Guru?" Soon after, Vinjamuri again performed at Muthyala Maharaja's daughter's wedding, with Parur Sundaram Iyer on the Violin, Madras Venu Nayakar on the Mridangam and Bilvadri Iyer on the Ghatam. After a four-hour concert, the Maharajah felicitated him with Rs. 1116 and other court honours. On that occasion, Maharaja of Challapalli, who was present at that wedding, invited Vinjamuri to perform at the wedding of his brother, which took place the month after.
Vinjamuri Varaha Narasimha Chariar, former expert committee member of the Madras Music Academy, an authority in Musicology, founder secretary of Thyagaraja Gana Sabha, Cocanada, once commented about Vinjamuri's singing "Kadalevadu Kade, Ramudu", a Saint Thyagaraja Kriti in the raga Narayana Gowla. The very thought of talking about it made his eyes fill with tears, his throat was choked with emotion, as he said that one could feel the presence of Parabrahmam as they listened to that divine Music, and, the entire Hindu Philosophy was reflected in that voice in those few minutes of his singing. Vinjamuri's Music stirred up and brought-out the finest of human emotions.
It was a well know fact that, whether Vinjamuri sang Shyama Sastri's Kriti "Brovavamma" in the raga Manji or "Neelaayathakshi" in the raga Pharaz, or Muthiah Bhagavatar's "Kalaratri Swaroopini" in the raga Urmika, or Deekshitar's "Sri Raja Gopala" in the raga Saveri, he would invariably drive the audience, including children, to tears, even if they did not follow the lyrics. Someone once commented "Ragathilum Bhavamundu, Swarathilum Bhavamundu, Keertanathilum Bhavamundu, Appidi Bhavathodan Padum Iyengarval.. " about Ariyakudi's singing. That was definitely true with Vinjamuri's singing too.
After finishing B.A, Vinjmauri traveled to Madras and joined "Music Vidwan" Diploma course offered at Madras University under the guidance of the musical giant, Tiger Varadachariar, contrary to his Father's wish that he join Law college. Ever since he became Favourite Sishya to Tiger and Ekalavya Sishya to Ariyakudi.
Tiger had matchless imagination and high innovative powers. He was known for not repeating the Sangathis taught on one day even the very next day. The students had the pressure of learning the Sangathis the very same day. Tiger was against writing down the Swaras too. Since Vinjamuri was a "Eka Santhagrahi" (one who could remember by just listening once), Tiger would ask Vinjamuri to repeat his lessons until all the students grasped them.
Vinjamuri was married in the year 1935, to 12 year old Vimala Devi, who joined him at Madras in 1937. Tiger and his wife (who did not have children of their own) treated Vinjamuri as their own son. While Tiger addressed Vinjamuri as "Personality Iyengar", "Handsome Iyengar", "Zamindar Pullai" and "Kutti Tiger", they addressed and also introduced Vimala Devi as their "Mattu Ponnu" to every one.
Vinjamuri participated in 1935 Madras Music Academy competitions and won the gold medal. In the process of finalizing the gold medallist, the judges asked Vinjamuri to tune a new Tambura within a very short time, which he successfully did with extraordinary precision. Sir CV Raman's brother, CS Iyer, ICS, was in the audience at that time. He was so thrilled by the young Vinjamuri's extraordinary performance and the talent; he announced and presented him with a second gold medal.
Even at the age of 20, Vinjamuri became a well sought-after Musician. In 1935, Ariyakudi was to give a performance at Rasika Ranjani Sabha but just before the concert, he developed a severe cold. He asked Vinjamuri to take his place and perform. Such was Ariyakudi's confidence in Vinjamuri even at that young age! Young Vinjamuri performed with Kumbakkonam Rajamanikyam Pillai on the Violin and Pudukkottai Dakshinamurthy Pillai on the Mridangam. At the end of the concert, Ariyakudi and the accompanying stalwarts were full of praise for Vinjamuri's brilliant performance. Later in 1964, Ariyakudi commented to Chkravarthi IAS, who was posted at Guntur at that time, that "you must feel privileged to serve at Guntur as THAT place has produced Vinjamuri".
When Vinjamuri was about 22, Sringeri Peetam Swamy Shankaraacharya conferred on him, his very first title, the title of "Ganavidhya Visharada", and honoured him with a Sloka Mala.
Vinjamuri continued his training under Tiger even after obtaining the Music Diploma with First in First Class. In order to quench his thirst of Musical knowledge, Vinjamuri attended concerts of all famous musicians; he visited Veena Dhanammal's house regularly and attended her Friday concert sessions. Veena Dhanamma was very fond of young, handsome, talented and well-mannered Vinjamuri. As Vinjamuri entered her house, she would invariably ask some one to fetch him a glass of milk saying, "Vinjamuri is here, get him a big silver tumbler full of milk" (Telugu: "Vinjamuri Vacchinaru; Pedda Velli Tumbler ninda Palu Thendimee!"). Such was her motherly affection for Vinjamuri.
Vinjamuri attended every possible Kutcheri of Ariyakudi to learn the art and technique of platform singing. In fact, Vinjamuri was the only one whose singing reminded the listeners, the singing of Ariyakudi. Both being from the Sishya Paramapara of Sadguru Thyagaraja, their Banis were similar too. Both were famous as singers of weighty classicism. Thus, Vinjamuri was often referred to as "Kutti Ramanuja Iyengar" and later, by virtue of his living in Hyderabad for some time, and, giving hundreds of performances in Andhra, he was also called "Andhra Ariyakudi" by the press and the public.
In thirties, when Palladam Sanjeevarao, the famous Flutist, was the president of the Thyagaraja Aaraadhana Utsavam, Vinjamuri attended the function. One afternoon, Vinjamuri started singing Bhairavi ragam sitting in one corner of the room. No one else was in the room. As he was immersed in his singing, Palladam came in and stood there mesmerized by his singing. When Vinjamuri stopped, Palladam asked him who he was and where he learned to sing Bhairavi so well. (Tamil: "Romba arumayaga Bhairavi padreppa, nee! Enga kattunde? Yaaru unnoda Guru?") Vinjamuri replied that he was a student of Tiger. That evening, Palladam made room for Vinjamuri's Kutcheri in the festival. That was the beginning of his performances and participation in the Thyagaraja Aaraadhana at Thiruvaiyaru.
Vinjamuri, around 1938, was the Asthana Vidwan of Travancore Samsthanam. He performed at the Kowdiar palace in the presence of the Maharaja of Travancore, the late Sri Chitra Tirunal and her highness Maharani Sethuparvathi Bai. His superb rendering of Thodi at that performance earned him the title, "Thodi Varadaraja Iyengar".
Vinjamuri continued travelling with Tiger where-ever he went; to Annamalai University at Chidambaram and to Trivandrum etc. spending all his time and energy in learning from the Guru and accompanying him for his performances, while he himself was flooded with concerts of his own. Vinjamuri was known to have spent almost 15 to 18 hours a day in singing Music, whenever possible. He practiced a couple of hours of "Mouna Vratam" per day; he did "Akaara Saadhana" every day to strengthen his Gamakam, and would sing a single ragam for hours together to master its complete Swaroopam. Such was his devotion to Music and obsession for perfection. It is no wonder that his Nadam was described as "Nabhi Hrith Kanta Rasana Naadam".
Many lovers and patrons of Music noticed Vinjamuri's extraordinary talent. He performed at the celebration of the coronation of the Maharaja of Mysore, Late Jayachamarajendra Wodayar; he also performed at the wedding of the Maharaja of Vijayanagaram. Even, from mid thirties, Vinjamuri started giving Radio broadcasts as a top rank artist and also broadcast lectures on Music and Musicology. He joined hands with leading Musicians and Music lovers to promote Music and contributed his time and talent towards starting Music Sabhas in Madras and elsewhere. He was instrumental in establishing the Madras Sangeetha Vidwat Samajam in Mylapore. He supported many Gurukulams with his own money (even, at times, selling his gold medals and gold Rings!) until they obtained aid from the Central Government.
Vinjamuri was one of the first Musicians to perform abroad. Even in 1940s and early 1950s, he performed in places like Rangoon, Kaulalampur, Singapore, Colombo, Jafna and Candy. He visited USA in 1964, 1984 and in 1986, and he was honoured by various music associations of the country.
In 1945, famous Cine Director, Y. V. Rao decided to produce a Tamil Picture called "Lavangi" - Jagannatha Panditha Raya Charitram. Papanasam Sivan was appointed to write dialogues and songs, and also to produce Music. M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar was to play the hero's role. But, MKT and YVR had a difference of opinion and Thyagaraja Bhagavatar backed off in the last minute. By the recommendation of Papanasam Sivan, Vinjamuri was given the hero's role, the role of Jagannatha Panditha Rayalu. In that movie, Vinjamuri sang "Pavana Yamuna Theeram" in Behag and a Slokam "Eyam Sustha Neemastha…. - Lavangi, Kurangi, Drugangi Karothu" in Anandabhairavi. Though, Vinjamuri did not leave the friendship of Papanasam Sivan until his death, he left the movie industry, as he was afraid of the culture and habits of the industry.
At one time, Vinjamuri was to perform at Madras with Palani Subbudu on the Mridangam and Mysore Chowdiah on the Violin. For some unavoidable circumstance, Chowdiah could not reach the Kutcheri in time. It was getting late and the audiences were impatient. Noting the situation, Flute Mali, who was in the audience, asked Vinjamuri whether he would sing to the support of flute instead of Violin. Vinjamuri agreed most willingly and the concert was a grand success.
Flute Mali was a great admirer of Vinjamuri's Music. He stated many times that he had learnt a lot from Vinjamuri's Kutcheries. Once, Mali was to give a Radio concert. In those days, Radio concerts were broadcast Live and were not taped. The night before the concert, around mid night, Mali came to Vinjamuri's house and knocked on the door. Vinjamuri was surprised to see him at that hour. But, knowing Mali well, he invited him and asked him for the reason for his visit at that hour. Mali told him about his concert the next morning and said "Vinjamurival, you sing "Appaduduku lonaithini" in Khamas very well. I have that song as a piece to play tomorrow. I did not get to come to you before, could you please teach me now?" Vinjamuri was more than willing to teach him but expressed his doubt about his learning it and repeating it the very next morning. Vinjamuri was afraid that the Bhavam might not be reflected without adequate Saadhana. But, Mali insisted on learning; learnt that night, and, to everyone's surprise, reproduced the next morning, as exactly and as beautifully as Vinjamuri would have sung.
Vinjamuri was a very close friend of GNB. GNB and Vinjamuri often met and walked to the Marina beach together. At the beach, they would practice Music and exchange repertoire. When they talk of Vilamba Kala Kritis, GNB would comment "Vinjamuri, you could sing in both Vilamba Kala and Madhyama Kala with ease, but, I cannot sing in Vilamba Kala as well". Though, Vinjamuri was more than 5 years younger than him-self, GNB had the large heart to compliment Vinjamuri and learn from him. Such were the days!
Not just GNB; Musiri, Chittoor, Maharajapuram (Viswanatha Iyer), Mysore Vasudevachar, Harikesanallur, Madurai Mani and Ariyakudi, all the stalwarts of the time, who were (mostly) much older than Vinjamuri in age, respected him and treated him as their equal in Vidvat and encouraged him as a youngster, whenever necessary.
Vinjamuri could be called the personification of the definition of "Uttama Gayaka Lakshnam". He was a tall, fair and very handsome man with a prominent Nanam (Thiruchoorna namam) on his broad forehead. He was always well dressed in the traditional white or pattu cloths. He would wear almost a dozen rings on his eight fingers. He not only was a great Vidwan but also was a great platform singer. Added to his astonishing virtuosity, his natural feel for being on the stage made his concerts a lot more desirable. He had a certain glow about himself, a reflection of his Vidwat and confidence that, people often thought or mistook him to be a Maharaja of some Samsthanam or a Zamindar of some place. He had the Saareeram (voice) and Sarirum (body and looks) suitable for an outstanding Musician. He was also very affectionate, polite and pleasing in his conversations. His command over various languages made him all the more approachable to people from various parts of the country. He was especially respectful to ladies. One could not hear Vinjamuri call any lady with her name without adding "Amma" either in front of the name or at the back, including his own daughters.
They say, "Aakaara Pradrushya Pragnyaha; Pragnyaa Pradrushya Aagamanaha". That is, one should possess the talent suitable to looks and should possess the ability to exhibit that talent.
Vinjamuri had both Aakaram and Pragnya and he was capable of presenting it too. Added to that, he also had a great sense of humour.
Once, in a Kutcheri at Madras, Marungapuri Gopalakrishna Iyer was playing on the violin. Vinjamuri started singing Saint Thyagaraja's composition, "Sree kantha NeeYeda" in the ragam Bhavapriya in Madhyamakala, in an unusually fast tempo. Marungapuri tried to follow him and after a few seconds gave up. He silently put his violin down and started preparing his betel leaves and nuts in a very elaborate manner, not minding what was going on around him, as if he was not a part of the group. Vinjamuri finished the song and looked at Marungapuri in a manner, as if he was asking him, why he did not play to his singing. Marungapuri, who was very much older than Vinjamuri in age, replied, complaining like a child, "do you want me to play or not? You can twist your mouth so fast but I cannot twist my fingers at That speed". The audiences and the artists including Marungapuri burst into laughter.
Once, Vinjamuri attended a Kutcheri at Hyderabad. The program was anything but good; the artist was not good at all. Watching Vinjamuri sit through the program until the end, and, knowing Vinjamuri's standard in Music, a rasika asked him how "He" could tolerate the program. Vinjamuri replied, "He is my Guru, how could I not attend?" The rasika was confused as to how such a young man of questionable talent could become his Guru. Vinjamuri replied, "he is teaching me how NOT TO SING by singing and showing. That's why he is my Guru."
Vinjamuri continued giving performances at all major Sabhas and Samsthanams all through India, "Aa Sethu Himachalam". He continued giving lectures and broadcasts. He continued listening to the music of the Stalwarts of the time, learning all that was special and good in them. The commulative effect of listening so much to such refined music noticeably reflected in his own Music and Bani. Vinjamuri was one of very few who maintained the same high standard through out. Vinjamuri, like his Gurus, was a pure classicist. His RTPs were of outstanding quality. His rendering of Ragam Tanam Pallavi was a model to promising musicians. AIR often invited him for this type of programs. He was a master in Pallavi singing, in Rakthi Ragas like Bhairavi, Thodi, Shankarabharanam, Kambhoji, Kalyani, and also ragas like Bhavapriya, Varali, Saveri, Begada etc. To quote Vinjamuri from his essay on "The Art of Pallavi Singing", "Pallavi singing is the yard stick to gauge the depth of knowledge one possesses in the Ocean of Music. Be it vocal or stringed instrument, it is by itself a separate art in the whole." His RTP singing in Tiger's bani, full of vigour and rigour, and his inimitable style of Tanam singing, earned him the title "Kutti Tiger". When Vinjamuri sang, he was accompanied by some of the greatest artists like Kumbakkonam Rajamanikyam Pillai, Mysore T Chowdiah, and Parur Sundaram Iyer on the Violin, Phalghat Mani Iyer, Dakshinamurti Pilllai on the Mridangam and Bilvadri Iyer, Alangudi Ramachandran and others on the Ghatam. Being a graduate in Mathematics, Vinjamuri's calculations in Swarakalpana and in Pallavi singing were intricate and perfect. His RTPs were always a challenge to the accompanying artists. It was quite common that the accompanying artist would visit Vinjamuri's house before the concert to go over the list of items to sing and have a little practice session.
Vinjamuri's Music was known for its weighty classicism. He imbibed the best from the old masters. Endowed with a rich and clear voice, which effortlessly maneuvered in three octaves, he enthralled the audiences with his Manodharma Sangeetham with 4 to 5 hour performances. His rendering of any kriti in any raga had a lasting effect on the audiences. It is not an exaggeration to say that, if someone listened to Vinjamuri for once in his lifetime he would never forget it. Such was the power of his Music. His Music was full of brilliant creations. He had a vast repertoire that contained many kritis that became popular after his rendering them for the first time. Thyagaraja's "Sada Madin Thalathugadara" in Gambhiravani, "Kadalevadu Kaade, Ramudu" in Narayana Gowla, "Undedi Ramudokadu" in Harikambhoji are examples.
Vinjamuri was well versed in 8 languages that he could speak, read and write. (English, Telugu, Tamil, Sanskrit, Kannada, Malayalam, Urdu and Hindi). He studied Western Classical, Eastern Classical and also North Indian Classical Music systems but never adulterated his own Music with the other systems. Late Bade Gulam Ali Khan, Pandit Omkarnath Thakur, Hirabai Barodeka, giants of Hindusthani Music, were his friends with whom he corresponded regularly. He had a vast collection of manuscripts and material on all forms of Music. He possessed a collection of rare and ancient musical instruments that included a Tambura from Manambuchavadi Paramapara and a Veena of the late Bangalore Nagaratnamma. He had instruments from other countries too. He also could play Veena, Mridangam and Kanjeera. Vinjamuri performed weekly Aaradhana functions at home and encouraged youngsters' singing. Musicians, who visited the place for their public concerts, would also participate in them. On one such occasion, Flute Mali played at Vinjamuri's house for a Saturday Aaraadhana function and Vinjamuri accompanied him on the Kanjeera.
In the year 1952, Boorgula Ramakrishna Rao, the then Chief Minister of Hyderabad State, requested Vinjamuri to become the founder principal of the College of Carnatic Music, which Vinjamuri accepted, established the College, and, held the post for over a year. Later, once again in 1956, the higher authorities from Hyderabad requested Vinjamuri to take-up the position of Carnatic Music Producer of AIR, Hyderabad and promote Carnatic Music in that region. Vinjamuri held that post for over 8 years. During his stay at AIR, Vinjamuri had done enormous service to AIR and to the world of Music. He introduced new programs like Bhakthi Ranjani, Laya Vinyasam, Sangeetha Sikshana, Vadhya Brindam, Raga Lakshanam, RTP broadcasts and many others, which are continued even today. He produced, directed and broadcast many Musical Operas. He conducted live concerts with invited audience and broadcast them live. He invited and introduced Musicians from South to the Audiences and Sabhas in Andhra Pradesh. One of them was Maharajapuram Viswanath Iyer, who was invited to give a concert at the Jubilee Hall, in Public Gardens, Hyderabad, to be broadcast over AIR, in the year 1958. Maharajapuram, Phalghat Mani Iyer and Alangudi Ramachandran stayed with Vinjamuri, at his house. Vinjamuri was very big in Athidhi Satkaaram. He would treat guests like kings without crowns. His wife was an exceptional cook, who fed anyone who visited the house, at any odd hour, whole-heartedly and affectionately. Mahrajapuram was no exception. After eating a big meal, Maharajapuram, sitting on the swing in the hall of Vinjamuri's house, and chewing Vettalai Pakku, commented to Vinjamuri, "Enna Vinjamuri, if you feed me with such extraordinary Pulihodarai, Chakkra Pongal and Vadai, and, ask me to sing in the evening, how can I sing? My stomach is so full, I can hardly move." Such was the affection and hospitality that any one who visited Vinjamuri's house enjoyed.
Vinjamuri maintained the same high standard throughout his career of being a Musician. He never compromised. He never tried for name, fame or fortune. Service to music was his mission in life. Numerous awards and honours poured in on him. He held honorary posts as President of Music Sabhas consecutively. He was the chief-examiner of various Universities. He was invited to preside over various functions and festivals. He attended to all of them with patience and expertise. In-spite of all the honours and laurels, Vinjamuri was very humble, pious and religious. He accepted all with humility, attributing his success to Bhagavat Kataksham.
A quotation from Vinjamuri's lecture to visiting professors from American Universities in 1956, that reflects his philosophy of life and his devotion to Music, "Just a word about Music, the Divine Boon of The Almighty: Music is Sacred, Music is the Joy of humanity. It's study and practice gives Elegance, Grace, Charm, Gentleness and Refinement to man. It develops milky qualities of Human kindness and sympathy. Besides, Music is the refresher of the Mind and elevates the soul. Music is Divine. Music is worship. Music is the nearest path to Salvation."
Some of the titles that were conferred on him and some of the posts that he held are:
Vinjamuri gave concerts in the presence of most of the presidents of India. Presidents, Sarvepalli Radhakrishna, VV Giri, Babu Rajendra Prasad and others were very fond of his Music. Once, when Veena Chittibabu gave a concert in Madras, it was attended by the then Vice-President, VV Giri. During the recital, when Vinjamuri walked in, Chittibabu stopped playing, putdown the Veena and offered his Namaskarams to him. VVGiri rose from his seat and showed Vinjamuri, the seat next to him. Such was the respect that Vinjamuri commanded from the young and the old, alike.
On one occasion, when Vinjamuri performed at the Malleswaram Sabha, he came to know that Rt. Honourable Sreenivasa Sastry was in Bangalore, at his daughter's house. Vinjamuri went to pay his visit to him. As Vinjamuri reached their house, Sastry was sitting with an elderly man, talking. Sastry welcomed Vinjamuri very affectionately. Meanwhile, Sastry's daughter brought a plate of fruit and a glass of milk for the old man, not knowing about the arrival of Vinjamuri. Sastry took the plate and the glass of milk and offered to Vinjamuri, and, asked his daughter to fetch another plate for the old gentleman. The gentleman was amused at the act of Sastry and asked, "who is this young man that you respect so much that you gave him My fruit and milk?" Sastry gave a short introduction of Vinjamuri and his family and said; "don't underestimate the young man by his age. Talk to him for half hour, you will get university education". Vinjamuri was not only well versed in Music and Musicology; he was also thorough with anything that he took up. He had photographic memory of people and places. His charming personality, intelligent conversation, well mannered, pleasant and humble behaviour made people respect and adore him.
Vinjamuri could never quench his thirst for Music. He constantly searched for opportunities to learn new kritis. Once, when Vinjamuri performed a series of Kutcheries in and around Mysore, he came to know that Muthiah Bhagavatar was at Melkota and went to pay his respects to him. At that time Bhagavatar just finished composing the Kriti, "Kalaratri Swaroopini", in the raga Urmika. He asked whether Vinjamuri would be interested in hearing it. Vinjamuri not only was willing to listen to the song but also insisted that he learnt that kriti then and there. Bhagavatar was more than happy and taught the kriti to Vinjamuri. Vinjamuri was the first person to learn that kriti, soon after it's birth, and popularized the kriti by singing and teaching to many people. Vinjamuri had set to Music, kritis by a number of well-known and less-known composers. Learning and singing kritis that were already formulated is much easier than setting other's lyrics to Music, as, that requires not only expertise in the particular raga and understand the bhava, one must also have the ability to reflect the author's vision in the creation of that song. The list of compositions that he set to music includes the compositions of Annamaacharya, Purandara Dasa, Sadasiva Brahmendra, Andal (Thiruppavai), Toomu Narasimha Das, Alluri Venkatadri Swami, Cheyyur Chengalvaraya Sastri and others. He also set to music, some of the finest Bhagavat Sthothrams like Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Karavalambana Sthothram, Yadagiri Lakshmi Narasimha Suprabhatam and others, and, broadcast them regularly during Bhakthi Ranjani Programs of AIR.
Vinjamuri was a composer of highest caliber too. He composed Tana Varnams, Kritis, Tillanas and Javalis. His Ghanaraga Malika Varnam in the ragas Nata, Gowla, Aarabhi, Varali and Sree, is one of its kind, and, has rare and ancient prayogas of the ragas. He also composed Tana Varnams in rare ragas like Swararanjani and Sindhuramakriya. His kritis in Hemavathy, Kharaharapriya, Bhilahari and Sankaraabharanam are of outstanding musical value and lyrical content which, according to some well-known Musicians, comparable to Saint Thyagaraja's kritis. Vinjamuri had also written down the notations for some of his compositions, including the Tillanas in Hamir Kalyani, Hindolum and Sankari, and, the Javali in Manirangu, giving them the complete Swaroopam. His Tillanas are popular as dance numbers.
Vinjamuri trained several hundreds of pupils; many of them have become professional artists. Prominent amongst them who perform regularly on AIR are, Karlapalem Chandramouli, Principal, Government College of Music, Karnool, Radha Srihari, Y. Varalakshmi, Rajam Pushpavanam, A. Mrinalini, V. Padmasri, Swaminathan, Komandur Seshadri, Principal, SV College of Music, Tirupati, etc. A large number of currently well-known artists have learnt rare Kritis and also embellished and enhanced their music under him. Vinjamuri was a well-known authority in Pallavi singing in Tiger's Bani, who brought to light many ancient and intricate pallavis by singing them in concerts. Many expert artists, vocal as well as instrumental, approached Vinjamuri to learn difficult and rare prayogas in Pallavi singing in various ragas.
In July of 1962, Vinjamuri performed Akhanda Bhajana (non-stop 24-hour singing) at the Anjaneyar temple in Kachiguda, Hyderabad, in a very grand scale. On July 23, 1962, he went to Abid road post-office to send a telegram to the palace of Mysore, accepting the offer of a Kutcheri at the palace. While he walked on the sidewalk, he was thrown down by the over crowded bus and became unconscious. In-spite of all the medical attention, he remained in an unconscious state for 45 days, and, miraculously woke up one day with all his faculties, memory and Vidvat intact.
Vinjamuri was a true philosopher and a very religious man. He believed in God totally that he never questioned anything that happened in his life. He spent all his awakening hours in either in praying or in singing. He wrote crores of Rama Namam and did crores of Gayathri Japam too. Even when he was lying unconscious in the Hospital bed, to the doctors' surprise, Vinjamuri counted the fingers and uttered the Gayathri Manthram continuously.
He continued the AIR job till 1964 and moved back to Madras where his heart longed to live. He occasionally performed and gave AIR concerts until early 70s. He discontinued his performance as he felt that his voice was not as powerful as before, and being a perfectionist, he did not want to compromise his standard of performance for any benefit. Once, when a family member tried to pressure him into accepting a Kutcheri, he refused saying that he wants people to remember his music as it was before, as that of greatest quality, and he cannot bear the thought of people thinking that his Music had deteriorated, even the least.
The accident did not affect Vinjamuri's life's purpose. It was just, yet another incident in his life! He continued his Nadopasana, every morning, starting at 3.00 A.M. and sang till dawn, true to Saint Thyagaraja's "Vekuvajamuna Velayuchu Thambura Chekoni.." Performances, Name, Fame and Fortune were never his priorities, they were just incidental to him. He was a true devotee of God and Nadabrahmam. He was a true Karma Yogi as described in Simad Bhagavat Gita; he performed his duty and did not get affected by anything else. That was the real strength of his character that withstood the test of time!
Many are unaware of the fact that even after the accident and his quitting the AIR job, AIR still requested his expert opinion on Musicians' performance. He wrote listener's report on every classical music program that was broadcast from any station in India, which resulted in recognizing and promoting a number of deserved artists to a higher grade or in giving them the National Programs. He continued being the chief examiner of various universities. He wrote a number of articles and published them. People like Mudikondan Krishna Murthy (Mudikondan Venkatarama Iyer's son-in-law) and others would visit his house to learn Apoorva kritis and get their questions in Music and Musicology answered. Once, Mudikondan Krishna Murthy commented, "how much of knowledge and vidvat he has! How many Apoorva Kritis he knows! How I wish the younger generation will come to him and learn. He is a treasure of Musical knowledge". Prof. Bhanumurthy, the then Head of Ramanujam Institute of Advanced Studies in Mathematics, Madras, visited Vinjmuri one day, some time in 1974. He was doing some research on the existence of kritis mentioned in Thyagaraja Kritis, like Satha Raga Ratna Malika. He said to Vinjamuri "I am told that you are the authority in the field of research in Music and if you say that a particular kriti does not exist, in all likelihood it doesn't. So, I have come to discuss with you before I spend time on research". Vinjamuri was known as walking encyclopedia of theoretical and practical aspects of Music.
Vinjamuri had 11 children of his own. Five of his children are in USA and five are in India. One of his sons is a Mridanga Vidwan and a graduate of Central College of Carnatic Music, Madras. Vinjamuri lost a young son in 1988. In-spite of being a great philosopher, who, all his life totally surrendered to God's will, he could not handle that tragedy. Though he put-up a majestic front, as always, he started sinking inwardly.
The final day arrived, Friday the August 16. 1991. It was Aavani Masam, Swathi Nakshatram, Sukra Varam, and start of Godavari Pushkaras. Vinjamuri took a long bath, did his daily puja, refused to eat regular lunch but when forced by the family, he unusually asked his wife to feed him a piece of Idli. Asked to play the tape containing Ariyakudi's Kambhoji, Sri Subrahmanyaya Namasthe. Ordered every one not to disturb him till evening and lied down in the bed in the Sree Ranganathar's posture, asking the family to close the door. Time passed. Unaware of the meaning to his actions, the family awaited his awakening, confused and worried. At about 6.30 p.m., hearing the sign of his waking up, his family members rushed to the room only to find his eyes slowly closing and his soul reaching the lotus feet, literally in the hands of his eldest and favourite son. Miraculously, the watch on his wrist and the alarm clock that he used regularly, also stopped at that precise moment, as if, the time too was stunned at the happening. A Musical Era has ended! A Musical Institution was closed forever! "Jaathasya Maranam Druvam".