The 5 Rupee commemorative postage stamp of M. S. Subbulakshmi, issued on 18 December 2005 by the Department of Posts. She was the first musician ever to be awarded the Bharat Ratna, India’s highest civilian honour. She will forever be a beloved idol of Carnatic Music with her lilting and distinguished voice.
The following is from the Information Folder issued by Indian Posts & Telegraph Department, Government of India
Madurai Shanmukhavadivu Subbulakshmi popularly known as M.S. was a renowned carnatic vocalist. She was one of the great woman artistes of India who had been able to move the hearts of millions and millions of men and women and was the most beloved idol of the public in the recent annals of Indian Music.
Subbulakshmi was born on September 16, 1916 at Madurai to Smt. Shanmukhavadivu, a celebrated veena artiste of her times. At the tender age of 13, she made her maiden public recital with her mother, who was also her Guru. She studied under Srinivasa Iyengar of Madurai who taught her upto the ‘varnam’ stage. In the later years she had the good fortune to learn from several great musicians like Musiri Subramanya Iyer and Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer. In 1940, she married T. Sadasivam, a freedom fighter and a film director. She gained in him a friend, philosopher and mentor.
Two events brought Subbulakshmi early into national prominence. The first was her participation in the All India Dance conference in Mumbai in 1944 where her performance created a great sensation. The second was her appearance in the lead-role in the film ‘Meera’ produced by her husband where she sang and acted, which brought her instant all-India-fame. So overwhelming was her music that Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru crowned her as “Queen of Song” and Sarojini Naidu, a poet and leader of our freedom movement praised her for the beauty of her voice and the magic of her personality.
Subbulakshmi known for her extraordinary vocal range never exceeded the demand of the composition of the song. She breathed music twenty-four hours a day and was also deeply religious. Her famous renditions include Bhajagovindam, Vishnu Sahasranamam and Venkateswara Suprabhatham. Gandhiji loved her rendition of North Indian Bhajans and requested her to sing some for his 78th birthday on October 2, 1947. Gandhiji particularly wanted to hear “Hari Tuma Haro” whose haunting refrain translates, “Oh Lord, take away the pain from mankind”. Not knowing this bhajan, she suggested another singer, but he refused, saying that he would rather listen her speak the words than another sing them. Such was the influence of the divine voice of Subbulakshmi.
She was India’s cultural ambassador. She has traveled widely to places like London, New York, Canada, the Far East to give concerts. In 1963, Subbulakshmi was invited to participate in the most popular event ‘Edinburgh Festival’. In October 1966, Subbulakshmi sang at United Nations as India’s representative on the occasion of United Nations Day celebrations. Hers was the inaugural concert at the Festival of India in London in 1982 and in the Soviet Union in 1987.
Subbulakshmi has rendered more than 200 benefit performances in aid of several national, social, religious and cultural causes and raised over a Crore rupees. She has received several titles and awards the world over. She was awarded ‘Padma Bhushan’ in 1954, when the National awards were first instituted. She was also honoured with title ‘Sangeetha Kalanidhi’. She was awarded Ramon Magsaysay.Award in the year 1974 and the entire amount of US $ 10,000 has been donated to the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, the V.H.S. Hospital etc. She was honoured with ‘Padma Vibhushan’ title in 1975. She was conferred Doctorate Degree “Desikbttama” by Visva Bharathi University, Shanthiniketan, in 1981. She was awarded ‘Bharath Ratna ‘, the highest civilian award of Govt. of India in the year 1998. In addition, she received many’ other awards conferred Doctorate, the list of which will be exhaustive.
Subbulakshmi’s music was unique in that it had universal appeal’ In addition to ‘its technical perfection, it was full of devotion to God. She had the ability to harmonize strict standards and popular appeal to do justice to the Music of South and the North. She used to point out that Ragas and Bhajans have been composed for the “purpose of directing the minds of the listeners towards God and his manifestations” and that “one’s singing comes through one’s own experience and it is this depth of feeling that enables one to communicate with the audience”.
M.S. Subbulakshmi gave lot of importance to mastering pronunciation, proper intonation. She always believed in hard work and that there was no short cut and advocated gurukula system of learning. Subbulakshmi advocated compulsory teaching of music at all level of education, from primary through University for she believed that just as the study of science leads to the growth of knowledge, the study of music would bring serenity of mind.
The great musician attained Lord’s abode on 11th December 2004.
The Department of Posts is proud to issue a commemorative postage stamp in honour of M.S. Subbulakshmi, who had mesmerized packed audiences the world over with her consummate mastery of carnatic music for almost six decades.