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R Sathyanarayana's contributions

Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. R. Sathyanarayana, one of the foremost musicologists and dance research scholars of India, passed away on the 16 th of January 2020. He was born on 9 May 1927 in Mysuru. He was a teacher of Chemistry for many years (1949-84), but at the same time pursued his research in the performing arts and disseminated his knowledge through his writing and public interaction. He learnt music from his mother Varalakshmi, a disciple of Veena Sundara Shastri of the Mysore durbar. Through his study of ancient and medieval texts of music and dance, Prof. Sathyanarayana made wide-ranging contributions in these fields. His writings include critical editions of Samskrta treatises, original works on these subjects, including number of monographs, translations  and commentaries. His fundamental foundations in Indian shastras, informed his work that carried over into education, psychology, philosophy, and cultural anthropology. He authored more than 170 research papers on various aspects on music and dance presented at conferences, seminars, congresses etc., and others published in periodicals. More than 200 of his articles on music, dance, education, philosophy, yoga, tantra, mantra and other indic disciplines were published.

The article 'R.Sathyanarayana: The Sarvajña ṣi' which gives an insight into the personality and works of the great scholar can be accessed here

Brief survey of his contributions:

A bibliography of writings by Prof. R. Sathyanarayana can be accessed here 

Click here to watch a video which gives an overview of his contributions: 

A special issue of the magazine 'Surabhi Sinchana' dedicated to the life and works of Prof. Sathyanarayana can be accessed here 

Critical Edition of Samskrta Treatises on Music and Dance:

His critical editions of Samskṛta treatises include the following:  (This list includes both published and unpublished works):

Bṛhaddēśī of Śri Mataṅgamuni, Saṅgītaratnākara of Śārṅgadēva, Kohala matam, Kohala śikṣā, Kohala dattilam, Abhinava Bharata Sārasaṅgraha of Mummaḍi Cikkabhūpāla,  Saṅgītasudhākara of Haripāladeva,  Rāgaratnākara of Gandharvarāja, Sadrāgacandrodaya, Rāgamāla, Rāgamañjari, Nartananirṇaya of Paṇḍarīka Viṭhṭhala, Saṅgītasamayasāra, Hṛdayaprakāśa of Hṛdayanārayaṇadeva, Hṛdayakautukam,  Vivekacintāmaṇi [chapter on music] of Nijaguṇaśivayogi, Saṅgīta Samayasāra of Pārśvadeva, Hanumadbharatam, Sadāśivabharatam, Brahmabharatam,  Svaramelakalānidhi of Rāmāmātya, Caturdaṇḍīprakāśikā of Vēṅkaṭamakhī , Rāgalakṣaṇam of Muddu Vēṅkaṭamakhī, Vīṇalakṣaṇa of Parameśvara. These editions serve as examples for the application of the principles of textual criticism for a discerning students. He has translated Saṅgītaratnākara, Caturdaṇḍīprakāśikā and many other works into Kannada.

Commentaries and original works:

In addition to the above his commentaries on the treatises include Niḥśaṅka Hṛdaya on Saṅgītaratnākara [first three prakaraṇa-s of the first Chapter], Puṇḍarikamālā, Makhihṛdaya on Caturdaṇḍīprakāśikā, Saṅgītasudhākara, Nartananirṇaya. His musical knowledge combined with the wide knowledge of history, aesthetics, historiography, felicity in languages and shastra enabled him to effortlessly provide critical emendations, analysis and reconstruction missing chapters thus providing an insights into to the author's mind. 

Among the original works include śruti: The scalic foundation, Sūḷadi-s and Ugābhōga-s of Karnataka Music, Bhāratīya Saṅgītadalli Paribhāṣā Prayōga, Music of the Madhva monks of Karnataka,  Ele: ondu saṅgīta śāstrīya adhyayana, The Mela Triad of Venkatamakhin: A Critical Study, Studies in Indian Dance, Bharatanāṭya, Karnāta-saṅgīta-vāhinī and Kuḍumiyamalai Inscription on Music.

A review of the book 'Music of the Madhva Monks of Karnataka' can be found here

Some of his works that can be downloaded from this website along with the links have been listed at the end of this write-up. These also include:

a) the manuscript of the handwritten edited text of Saṅgītasamayasāra of Pārśvadēva that is still to be published.

b) the earlier handwritten manuscript versions of his commentaries on the Caturdaṇḍīprakāśikā of Vēṅkaṭamakhi and on the Rāgalakṣaṇam of Muddu Vēṅkaṭamakhī, authored in late 1980s, the printed publications of which were brought out by the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, in 2002 and 2010 respectively.

Music and Aesthetics: The scholar wrote extensively on ‘Meaning in music’ using several ideas from Indian śāstras and putting down the prevalent ideas that seek to explain musical aesthetics using theories evolved for other arts. He provides an overview of the idea both from the Western and Indian theories and then explains the relation between aesthetics of other art forms and that of music. His other work on this is 'Karnataka Music as Aesthetic Form'.

Compositions: He has recreated a 16th century raga by Paṇḍarīka Viṭhṭhala (conferred the title of Akabareeya Kalidasa by Emperor Akbar) from Karnataka. He has named this raga after the great musicologist and performer of 16th century in our nation. His kṛti 'Bhajare Mānasa' in this rāga can be heard here

Sathyanarayana has composed the lyrics that give a comprehensive description of Ganapati as an amnaya deity in Śrīvidyā.  He had also composed a kīrtana, ‘Śrī vīṇē namastē’, extolling the musical instrument Vīṇā which was tuned in Rāga Kalyāṇī by the famous Vīṇā artist S.Balachander. The text and notation of this composition can be seen at the end of his book 'vīnālakṣaṇa vimarśē'.

Works in other areas:

He has also worked on the Suryanamaskāra of Śrī Raghavendra Swamiji [Kannada],  Prāṇāyāma for Body and Soul [eng. & Kannada] Upanayana (Trans. of History of Dharma śāstras, P.V.Kane), Vivāha (Trans. of History of Dharma śastras, P.V.Kane), śrāddha Karma (Trans. of History of Dharma śāstras, P.V.Kane),  antyeṣṭhi (Trans. of History of Dharma śāstras, P.V.Kane ), works on ṣatkarmavidhi, angamardhana and works on yoga. His forays into these areas led to works such as Dhārmika Samskāragalalli Saṅgīta and enriched Saṅgīta. Another such work is his paper Rāmāyaṇadalli Saṅgīta. His research and understanding of śāstras such as mimāmsa, Bharatrhari's Vākyapadīya serves to enlighten several of his writings including the Makhīhrdaya and the paper on Matanga and the relationship between śruti and svara.

Tantra and Śrīvidyā:

He was a Śrīvidyā upāsaka and the founder director of Srividya Pratishthan, a foundation to preserve, perpetuate and disseminate the knowledge of Srividya tantra. This knowledge percolates his work everywhere including his observations on Matanga's dhyāna śloka and his observations on the identity of Matanga in the seminar on Matanga and his work Bṛhaddēśī. These are reflected in his compositions and also in his study and analysis of the compositions of Shri. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. An audio link to a lecture by Prof. Sathyanarayana on Wodeyar is given here

We are grateful to Sri K.V. Ramprasad for giving us information about this link.

Research and Education:

In addition to work on primary sources on music and his music writing, he has also worked on pedagogy and research. These include Studies in Music Education, History of Music in Karnataka, Research Problems in Karnataka Music, Music Criticism: Principles and Practice, Historiography of Indian Arts [Music and Dance]: Insights. 


He was a well-known public speaker on music, dance, philosophy, yoga, tantra, the Upanishads and related subjects. Prof. Sathyanarayana led several delegations of musicians and musicologists at international seminars and festivals. He was associated with learned institutions in India and other countries.


Prof.  Sathyanarayana was honoured with the Kamataka State Rajyotsava Award, the Karnataka Sangeetha Nrutya Academy Award, and honorary D. Litt of the Indira Kala Sangit Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh. He was awarded the D.Litt degree in Music by the Mysore University for his research work on Vīṇālakṣaṇa-vimarśē.

He received the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award for scholarship in the performing arts (2008), and was conferred the title of Rajya Sangit Vidwan by the Government of Karnataka (2011). Prof. Sathyanarayana was elected Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi in 2013 for his contribution to the study of Indian dance and music.

Prof. Sathyanarayana received numerous prestigious Fellowships in India and abroad, such as, FRAS, FASI and MSA. The latest and Prestigious Award is Indira Gandhi Memorial National Fellowship for ‘Investigation into Creativity in Indian Music’. He was awarded the Senior Fellowship by the Ministry of Culture, Government of India, New Delhi to do research on the ‘Pancharathna Kritis of St.Tyagaraja’.  He was also awarded many Doctoral Degrees, Honorific Titles and Honours from Universities, National Conferences, Learned bodies and Public Organisations in recognition of his accomplishments.  His international awards include Man of the Century, Man of International Achievement and Director of Board for Research.


Multiple Radiations: Bibliography of the writings of R Sathyanarayana 


Bharatiya Sangitadalli Paribhasha Prayoga 

Historiography Indian Arts Music Dance - Edited 

Karnataka Music As Aesthetic Form 

Karnataka Sangita Vahini 

Kudimiyamalai Inscription on Music v1 

Music of the Madhva Monks 

Studies in Indian Dance 

Suladis and Ugabhogas 

Vina-lakshana Vimarse 

Book Review

Review of the Book 'Shyama Shastry' by Vidya Shankar 


Art Experience 

Haridasas and Karnataka Music 


Meaning in Music 

Methodology of Institutionalised Teaching in Music 

Musical Experience: Integrated Approach 

Music and Myth 

Origin Modern Violin in Karnataka Music 

Pancharatna Kritis of Tyagaraja 

Percussive Instruments 

Raga Iconification 

Ramayanadalli SangIta 

Research Science and Humanism 


Singing Voice in Indian Music 

Speech Recognition in Samskrta 

Vina Keyboards 

Voice Training in Indian Music

Source Texts

Abhinavabharata Sarasangraha of Mummadi Cikkabhupala 

sangItaratnakara commentary Nihsankahrdaya 


Caturdandiprakasika of Venkatamakhi, Commentary by R Sathyanarayana 

Ragalakshanam of Muddu Venkatamakhi, Commentary by R Sathyanarayana 

Sangitasamayasara of Parsvadeva edited by R Sathyanarayana 1 

Sangitasamayasara of Parsvadeva edited by R Sathyanarayana 2 

Sangitasamayasara of Parsvadeva edited by R Sathyanarayana 3 

Sangitasamayasara of Parsvadeva edited by R Sathyanarayana 4