Acclaimed silk industrialist, Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar, popularly known as 'Nalli Chettiar', hails from the reputed Nalli family of weavers. He is a connoisseur and patron of fine arts, besides being a successful businessman and an award winning author of business management books. Born in Kancheepuram on Nov 9th 1940, he is a third generation entrepreneur managing the 'Nalli Chinnaswami Chetty' cloth stores founded by his grandfather in 1928.
An active protagonist of value education, he is on the governing body of his alma mater, The Ramakrishna Mission School and Vivekananda College. He is a liberal donor to religious, academic, cultural and social causes. Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar is also an avid reader and multi-linguist.
Nalli Chettiar has been a patron of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha from its very inception (even as early as 1958, the SKGS souvenir displays the advertisement by Nalli Chinnaswami Chetti). He has also played a major role, by his contributions, to the renovation of the 40 year old 'Gana Vihar' structure to bring it to its present beautiful form. As a recognition of his contributions and sustained support, the auditorium has been renamed as 'Dr. Nalli Gana Vihar'. He also sponsors the SKGS Nataka Choodamani cash and gold medallion award annually.
Dr. Nalli, who has been the president of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha since 1994, lends his support to the sabha in all its endeavors and is a true Samaya Sanjeevi.
Received the "Palkalai Puravalar" in 2015
Award for Multifaceted Personality Dr.Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti, Industialist, Philanthropist and Connoisseur of Arts received 'Palkalai Puravalar' award by Karnatic Music Forum from His Excellency Dr.K.Rosaiah, The Governor of Tamil Nadu at a function held in Sri Krishna Gana Sabha on 8th February 2015 .Dr.S.Sunder, Convenor, Karnatic Music Forum, Y.Prabhu, General Secy.SKGS and R.Venkateswaran look on.
Y. Prabhu - General Secretary
Mr. Prabhu having been a committee-member from 2001-02 and being a Joint Secretary for about 4 years, was unanimously nominated as General Secretary of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha by the Managing Committee in April 2007. He has taken on the mantle from his illustrious father and doyen among Sabha Nayakas, Sri R Yagnaraman.
A Chartered Accountant by profession, Mr Prabhu has been involved with the Sabha from a very young age having supported his father in various activities to do with institution's administration and development. He had been assisting Late Sri R. Yagnaraman in his activities of the sabha and had been instrumental in purchasing the property housing the Sabha.
Mr Prabhu is a serious lover of the classical arts and he is deeply committed to preserve and nurture the great Indian cultural tradition. Mr Prabhu has been involved in preservation and public release of many archival concert performances in aid of the Sabha Building Fund.
Even prior to his tenure of General Secretaryship, Mr. Prabhu had dynamically engaged in various activities and played a vital role in the renovation (in the year 2001-02) of the auditorium to its present grand, glorious and ethnic look and with modern amenities including air-conditioning. The renovation gave a classical Chettinad / Tanjore architectural flavor retaining the basic structure. The auditorium was renamed as “Dr Nalli Gana Vihar” in recognition of Dr Nalli's contributions to the fine arts.
Under his stewardship Kamakoti Hall has been renovated to have 200 seater capacity and made fully air-conditioned with excellent interior. In the last five years, the sabha’s lands which where partially under lease have been acquired and the entire 10.5 grounds are owned by the SKGS Trust.
The main agenda of the Sabha’s programme is celebration of four major festivals, ‘Gokulashtami Sangeetha Utsavam’, ‘Art & Dance festival’ & ‘Chithirai Nataka Vizha’ dedicated to Music, Dance & Drama respectively and the fourth one ‘Yagnaraman July Fest’ in remembrance of our then General Secretary Sri. R. Yagnaraman, apart from the monthly programmes for the rasikas.
The Sabha under the stewardship of Mr Prabhu has been organizing 300 programmes on an average per year for the last eight years, apart from conducting the long established festivals like ‘Gokulashtami Sangeetha Utsavam’ and ‘December festival’.
The programmes spread over various spheres of fine arts and the programmes conceived under ‘Yagnaraman July Fest’ celebrates the unity in diversity of Indian ethos and culture, by organizing various forms of dance & music from various regions of India and presenting them on the same platform. These efforts towards National Integrity have been well acclaimed by the rasikas & artists.
The Sabha also gives the due share of respect to the folk arts viz., Therukoothu, Bomallattam, etc. and stages such programmes every year to foster them and present them to the city audiences.
The Sabha has been a pioneer in organizing Nama Sankeerthan festivals which gives a link to the younger minds to get interested in listening to carnatic music. This Nama Sankeerthan festivals and Bhajans draw a huge crowd of youngsters and elders alike.
The Sabha has pioneered many literary discourses in the local language Tamil, English & Sanskrit and have taken up in depth exposition of various works of literature, great Epics such as Ramayana & Maha Bharatha and various works of saints of India like Sree Adi Shankarar’s works, Thiruvalluvar’s Thirukkural, Panniruthirumarai of four Saivite Saints, Thirupaavai & Thiruvenpaavai of Alwars & Nayanmars, etc.. These programmes educate the public about the rich heritage our unique country is enjoying for the past thousands of years.
Mr Prabhu had taken special interest in developing the artistes belonging to younger generation, identifying their merits and pairing them with doyens of violin & percussion accompanists, so that the artistes as well as rasikas find the potential of the artistes faster and accept them. Through this unique programme captioned as ‘Ilamayil Isai’ which he has been offering to the present day, merit-worthy younger musicians have been presented year after year with great success.
Mr Prabhu has revived about 40 old dramas, presented four decades back and presented to the younger generation to have a peep into the past of the drama field. This way, 40 unique dramas were given fresh lease of life to go around the Sabhas’ circuit under the caption “Andha Naal Nyabagam” .
The Sabha’s motto under the general secretaryship of Mr Prabhu is to give importance to up and coming meritorious artistes in the field of music and dance and also to inculcate and to draw young people to appreciate our heritage by presenting unique programmes of fine arts containing aesthetically good music and good dance.
In 2013 December, Mr Y Prabhu has been awarded Kartik Rajagopal Golden Jubilee Committee Award for the best cultural organizer by Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai.
People behind the Institution - Late Sri R. Yagnaraman, General Secretary (1956-2007)
'KGS - A Product of One Man's Vision and Mission'
by Lakshmi Devnath
“Krishna Gana Sabha is fifty years old,” announces, R. Yagnaraman, the eighty- years old secretary of the institution. He functions with an enthusiasm that masks his physical age. His foster child – the Krishna Gana Sabha also exhibits the same exuberant spirit with its gleaming, ethnic exteriors and an air-conditioned interior. The joint journey of this foster parent and his child commenced from the year 1957. But let us read their story right from the start.
It was the 1950’s. The up and coming musician Maharajapuram Santhanam, for various reasons, decided that his locality – T.Nagar needed a music sabha. At that time, sabhas in the city, were sparse and scattered at long distance. The thought crystallized. The Krishna Gana Sabha was born in 1954, at an auditorium in the premises of the Hindi Prachar Sabha, at Thyagaraya Nagar, Chennai. The choice of the name could not have been more appropriate. For like Lord Krishna, the Sabha, in its coming years, was to nurture both music and dance in equal measure. Maharajapuram Viswanatha Iyer took over as the first President of the Sabha and Santhanam became its Founder Secretary. The residents of the area joyfully welcomed the fledgling Sabha. They enrolled in large numbers. One of them was a music and dance crazy young man – R. Yagnaraman.
The history of Krishna Gana Sabha cannot be narrated without dwelling on the contribution of its General Secretary R. Yagnaraman to its growth. For, the stories of both the Sabha and its Secretary, for obvious reasons, are inextricably linked.
Pazhamaneri R. Yagnaraman came from a culturally rich family. He was a qualified lawyer but it was the fine arts that were in his veins. His enthusiasm in the arts was further spurred by his father’s words, “everybody earns money. Money is not the be all and end all of things. I want to see you make a mark in your chosen field. That is my desire.“ The father’s desire came true but unfortunately he was not alive to witness in his son’s success. Anyway, to resume the tale…
Yagnaraman’s participation in the Sabha’s activities must have impressed the Maharajapurams for within a short span of approximately three years, Yagnaraman was appointed as committee member. The demands of a successful concert career prevented Maharajapuram Santhanam from devoting adequate attention to the Sabha’s activities. In 1957, Yagnaraman was offered the post of Joint Secretary of the Sabha and in 1958 rose to become the General Secretary of the Sabha – a position he had held ever since. In the first three years of its inception, the Sabha did not even have a sheltered auditorium but functioned from an open-air auditorium at the Hindi Prachar Sabha and later on at the premises offered at the Thakkar Baba Vidyalaya – T.Nagar.
In 1957, when Yagnaraman took over the responsibility of managing the Sabha, he discovered that the Sabha’s finances were in doldrums. The administration was in a mess and as a consequence the Sabha’s membership was fast dwindling. Yagnaraman realized that it was time for concrete action. Such was his commitment to the arts that on his own personal undertaking, he negotiated a three-ground accommodation for a three-year lease in Nageswara Rao Road. Again on personal security, he obtained a loan, from the Melurkode Bank, of Rs.5000/- payable in installments. A thatched hut (kottagai) with a dais sprung up at the new locale. On Vinayaka Chaturthi the Sabha, in its new location, was inaugurated. The inaugural concert was by G.N. Balasubramaniam, with Lalgudi Jayaraman on the violin and Palani Subramania Pillai and his disciple Trichy Sankaran on the mridangams. It was a great start, which augured a promising future.
Stalwart musicians like Ariyakudi, Semmangudi, GNB, Alathur Brothers, Madurai Mani, Madurai Somu, DKP, MS, MLV and others, young geniuses of the time like Flute Mali, Lalgudi Jayaraman and so on, dancers of the caliber of Balasaraswati, Kamala, Vyjayanthimala to name a few, dramatists like the TKS brothers, S.V.Sahasranamam and thespian Sivaji Ganesan are but a sampling of the big names who enthusiastically participated in giving programmes at this venue. The demand for membership at the Sabha soared. The Sabha was now literally bursting at its seams. Added to this was the fact that the three-year lease was coming to an end.
Jubilant at the enthusiastic response to his endeavours, Yagnaraman took the initiative of locating a new premise for the Sabha. A ten and half ground plot was identified at Griffith Road – T.Nagar. The land was taken on a long lease and a semi permanent shed erected. A loan of Rs.30,000/- at an interest rate of 6% repayable in seven years, was raised as loans from members. In the ensuring years, Yagnaraman’s administrative skills ensured that the loan amount was repaid much ahead of the scheduled date. Five hundred steel chairs were arranged by the Sabha’s Vice President M.V. Venkataraman. The basic needs being taken care of the Sabha under the leadership of Yagnaraman was all set to embark upon the next phase of its journey.
In 1961, the new premise of the Sabha was inaugurated on Griffith Road. The inaugural concert was by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer and a dance drama based on Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda performed by the Kalakshetra troupe. Having provided for the basic infrastructure, Yagnaraman now turned his attention to organizing bountiful programmes that were marked by innovation and quality. In those days comprehensive festivals, for music or dance spanning a continuous period of time, were a rarity. In fact, Yagnaraman, himself, desirous of a sumptuous treat of music, would pedal on his bicycle to the distant Perambur Sangeetha Sabha to participate in its annual anniversary series of concerts. The sheer joy he derived from these events inspired him to start one on similar lines at his own Sabha.
The Gokulashtami Sangeetha Utsavam concerts took shape at Krishna Gana Sabha. The first year saw five concerts by different artists – Sheik Chinna Moulana (Nagaswara), Chitti Babu (Veenai), T.R. Mahalingam (Flute), M.S. Subbulakshmi and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. The successive years saw a gradual increase in the number of concerts featured in this series. In the year 2003, the total number of concerts featuring in these sessions have reached a mind boggling sixty performances that gets spread over two months. Over the years, the agenda of the Sabha’s programmes has also featured a delectable variety of programmes in different categories of the fine arts – music, exclusive Nagaswara festivals, drama, upanyasam, Namasankeerthanam, dance and a few others as well.
Today, the Sabha organizes three major festivals in a year. The first is dedicated to music, the second is held for music and dance and the third for drama. On the inaugural day of each of these festivals, an artist of recognition is honoured with Sangeetha Choodamani (music), Nritya Choodamani (dance) and Nadiga Choodamani (drama). In the year 2002, the Acharya Choodamani (teacher) award has also been instituted. The honours carries with them a cash award of Rs.25,000/- each and a gold medal. A noteworthy feature is that the festivals offer a good measure of classical music and dance from a variety of classical arts of India. Thus the Sabha has hosted music concerts by redoubtable ustads of the North like Bade Ghulam Ali Khan, Amir Khan, Parveen Sultan, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, Pandit Jasraj, Siddheswari Devi, Munwar Ali Khan, Vilayat Khan, Sivakumar Sharma and Amjad Ali Khan. It is noteworthy that in the month of December, while the rest of the Sabhas in the city concentrate on music programmes, Krishna Gana Sabha, for the last twenty two years, conducts a Natya Kala Conference where the year’s Nritha Choodamani awardee is giving the honour of convening the conference. Again, another exclusive feature of the Sabha’s festivals is that the awards are open to excellence in all systems of classical music and dances of India. Thus nearly twenty-six artistes from various fields of art, starting from the year 1976, have been recipients of this prestigious award.
The Sabha while it honours maestros and stalwarts does not lag behind in encouraging young talent as well. Talent promotion of young artistes both in music and dance has been the main agenda of the Sabha for over thirty-five years. The Pongal Dance Festival, conducted in the month of January, is organized primarily to encourage young and talented dancers and give them prizes for their performances in a bid to promote their interest in the art.
Realizing that providing education in the arts is the only step to create a future generation of artistes, Krishna Gana Sabha runs a Sangeetha Vidyalaya, which is as old as the Sabha itself. The school provides for training in Karnatic Vocal, Veena, Mridangam and Bharathanatyam. Today, more than one hundred and fifty students receive instructions in the art from this school. Another pioneering effort that this Sabha has taken is to open a school for those interested in learning Namasankeerthanam singing in the traditional way. For smaller programmes a mini hall has also been opened in the Sabha premises in the recent past.
With such enviable and noteworthy achievements to its credit, it is not surprising that the Krishna Gana Sabha has been selected by the Tamil Nadu Government as the best-run cultural institution and its General Secretary has been honoured with the title Kalaimamani. Just like the Sabha has many firsts to its credit, its chief leader also has many firsts to his credit. While the normal practice is to honour artistes, Yagnaraman is a rare example of a Sabha Secretary who has been recognized for his efforts. His laurels include his election as the executive members of the Iyal Isai Natakam and later on as its Vice Chairman as well. His music knowledge was recognised when he was requested to be on the audition panel of A.I.R. Admiration for his administrative skills came when he was elected as President of Federation of the Sabhas for five years. In this position he united the Sabhas of South and North Madras and organized music festivals in those Sabhas that, for various reasons, had been unable to organize them. In recognition of his untiring service to the cause of fine arts, Yagnaraman was honoured by the Seva Ratna award at the Cleveland Tyagaraja Festival organized at distant Ohio-USA.
Krishna Gana Sabha and its dynamic Secretary have certainly had an achievement – filled and eventful life. Now, in the year 2004, the Sabha is fifty years old and all set to celebrate its golden jubilee. Remarkably this fifty-year young sabha and its eighty year young secretary are like young steeds raring to scale greater heights.
Dr. Nalli Kuppuswami Chettiar - President
Sri R. Yagnaraman - Secretary (1956 - 2007)
Sri Y. Prabhu - General Secretary
Sri R. Ramakrishna Iyer - Chartered Accountant by profession, retired Director of Finance, Easun Engineering Group, Sri Ramakrishnan, has been associated with the sabha since 1958 in various capacities. He has lent his full participation to the sabha in all its endeavours and holds the office of Vice President at present.
Sri S. Ramasubramaniam - A Senior Advocate of repute, he has been associated with the sabha since 1958, tendering sound legal advice at all appropriate junctures. Sri Ramasubramaniam has been a continuous source of strength and direction through the sabha's difficult phases and holds the office of Joint Secretary at present.
Sri R. Venkateswaran - An ardent rasika of carnatic music, he has been associated with the day-to-day activities of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha since 1959. He holds the office of Joint Secretary and has rendered unstinted service to the organization.
Sri S. Radhakrishnan - Has been associated with SKGS since 1960 and is an ardent rasika of carnatic music. He has been a long-standing committee member lending support to day-to-day Sabha activities.
Sri R. Thyagarajan - A passionate lover of refined carnatic music, this statistician and financial wizard who heads the Shriram Group , has taken a deep and personal interest in helping maintain the very high standards set by SKGS. He has been a pillar of strength in steering the sabha through its difficult phases. Sri Thyagarajan has been instrumental in helping further the Nadaswaram tradition through his full fledged support for the Nadaswara Isai Vizha at SKGS for over 2 decades. He also sponsors the annual Sangeetha Choodamani and Acharya Choodamani cash awards. He holds the office of Treasurer and has been associated with the sabha since 1970.
Sri V. Devanathan - An avid rasika of carnatic music and a staunch participant in SKGS activities, he has been associated with SKGS since 1974. He is a member of the Sabha's managing committee at present.
Sri D. Gopalakrishnan - A technocrat formerly of the Pentafour Group, has been an involved participant in all of the sabha's activities. Sri Gopalkrishnan is very involved with Harinama Sankeertanam and Upanyasam and has deep interest in the fine arts. He has been on the Sabha's managing committee since 1996.
Sri V. V. Sundaram - This connoisseur of arts and philanthropist is an asset to the SKGS managing committee, with his wealth of experience in having conducted the unique and globally renowned Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival for over 2 decades. He has sponsored a block of the SKGS Trust premises. Sri Sundaram has been a committee member since 1999 and is its Vice-President at present.
Sri Ravi Appaswamy - Scion of the Appaswamy Real Estates business family, Sri Ravi provides youthful dynamism to the managing committee in all of the Sabha's endeavors since 2000.
Sri N. Kamakoti - This young banker, son of the illustrious 'CUB' Narayanan, is a passionate propagator of the Namasankeertanam tradition and the classical arts. He has been associated with the Sabha as committee member since 2000 providing youthful impetus to sabha activities.
Sri Y. Prabhu - A chartered accountant, and ardent lover of carnatic music and classical arts, is the son of Sri R. Yagnaraman. Sri Prabhu has been a committee member since 2000 and provides youthful vigor and dynamism to all sabha activities. He has also been instrumental in release of old sabha recordings for posterity, in aid of the Sabha Building Fund. He was actively involved in the design and implementation work during renovation of the Sabha premises in 2001.
Sri N. Venkatesh - A chartered accountant by profession, he is an ardent lover of carnatic music and is a young, dynamic participant in all of the Sabha's activities. Sri Venkatesh has been in the Sabha committee since 2000.
Smt. Girija Seshadri - A well known educationalist, Prinicipal of Jai Gopal Garodia Hindu Vidyalaya, is a lover of arts and is associated with the Sabha as committee member.
People behind the Institution - Patrons and Sponsors
Sri B.V.S.S Mani - Sri Bulusu Venkata Surya Subramanian, otherwise known as B.V.S.S Mani, was born on 25th October 1927 and was brought up by his maternal grandfather Kottha Suryanarayana Rao. He belonged to a zamindari, yet orthodox brahmin family, with profound faith in Vedic lore and adherence to Vedic values. Sri Mani had his initial training in commerce and mechanical engineering and passed out of the Madras Polytechnic and the Sanskrit College. In keeping with the legacy of the family, he emerged as a healthy amalgam of commerce,culture,tradition and modernity. Sri Mani was the President of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha for about 2 decades and was the Managing Trustee of SKGS Trust until his demise. During his presidency, he played a significant role in purchasing a large portion of the present Sabha premises, thus creating a valuable asset for the organization. Right from its inception, he has co-sponsored the Sabha's Natya Kala Conference and his spouse, Smt. Lalitha Ratnam, continues to provide sponsorship to the Conference to this day. Sri B.V.S.S Mani was a great lover of arts and was particularly fond of compositions of Saint Thayagaraja,Annamacharya and Badrachala Ramadoss for the bhakthi content of the lyrics and their poetic elegance.
Sri P. Obul Reddy - Well-known industrialist and avowed patron of the Indian Classical Fine Arts, has been a supporter of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in its endeavors for decades. He has been instrumental in establishing the annual "Mumoorthigal Festival" at SKGS through his Gnanambika P. Obul Reddy trust. He is also the sponsor of the annual Nritya Choodamani cash award.
Sri 'CUB' Narayanan - Illustrious banker, unfortunately no more with us, had been a great patron and devout lover of arts, especially the Bhajana Sampradayam. A regular patron to the Sabha during its festivals, he offered strong support and guidance, and was the principal sponsor of the Namasankeerthanam festival. This noble mantle has now fallen on the able shoulders of his son, Sri N. Kamakoti who is a member of the Sabha's managing committee.
Sri Appaswamy - Business tycoon, and head of Appaswamy Real Estates and Hotels has been a valued supporter of cultural activities of SKGS. He is a major sponsor of a block of the SKGS trust, named the Appaswamy block, that houses the Kamakoti Gana Mandir Mini A/C Hall.
Sri G. Rajendran - Jeweller non-pareil, hotelier, educationalist, and philanthropist has been a staunch patron of Sri Krishna Gana Sabha in its activities. He has sponsored a block of the SKGS trust housing the Sangeetha Vidyalaya at SKGS. He also sponsors the annual Nritya Choodamani award gold medallion.
Sri T.S. Sridhar (Marina)- Great playwright, cartoonist, author, former associate-editor of Ananda Vikatan and a pioneer in documenting the heritage value of numerous great temples of South India (under the pen name of "Bharanidharan"). This devout baktha of Kanchi Mahaswamigal is a good friend and well-wisher of SKGS. The nucleus of the concept for Chitirai Nataka Vizha at the Sabha was derived from a discussion with Sri Marina. He had been a committee member of the Sabha till recently.
Bhramara Trust - Sponsored by Sri YT (Y.T. Thathachari), the great bio-scientist and patron of fine arts who pioneered the US university concert circuit concept, and Mrs. Madhuri Thathachari, this trust lends generous support to the sciences and the fine arts. It also sponsors the annual Sangeetha Choodmani gold medallion at SKGS.
Lalgudi Trust - Instituted by the violin maestro, Sri Lalgudi Jayaraman, this body identifies young talents in the field of Carnatic music and provides encouragement and impetus for their musical endeavors. It co-sponsors the Talent promotion concerts during the annual SKGS Gokulashtami festival.
Vashihstadvaita trust - This trust has been rendering great service to the preservation of cultural and heritage values. It co-sponsors the religious/literary discourses conducted by SKGS annually.
People Behind The Institution - Past Presidents
Sri Maharajapuram Vishwanatha Iyer(Founder -President)-1953 to 1954
Sri K.M.Subramaniam-1954 to 1964
Sri V.D. Swami-1964 to 1977
Sri S Ranganathan-1977 to 1981
Sri B.V.S.S. Mani-1981 to 1996