Pithukuli Murugadas is an eminent religious singer from Tamil Nadu. He is best known for his compositions on the Hindu deity Murugan. As a boy, while playing with friends, Murugadas threw a stone at a person who was passing by. With a bleeding forehead the person said, “Muruga! Hey Pithukuli, one day you are going to become like me. You are a Pithukuli.” The boy later learnt that it was none other than Guruji Brahmananda Paradesiyar. With a desire to become his disciple, Murugadas started his journey, on foot, to all temples in South India, singing in praise of the presiding deity of each temple. Crowds thronged to hear him sing.
He has been using his mellifluous voice for a charitable cause for the past several decades. Age does not deter the noted singer of devotional songs ‘Pithukuli’ Murugadas in keeping the audience vibrant all through his recital in his unique style_ playing on the harmonium in high pitch.
His arduous padayatra through the length and breadth of the country for decades in the early part of his life was marked by a purpose – spreading devotion among the masses by singing devotional songs. He fondly recalls his association with seers who had inspired him. Rigorous meditation in caves at places including Marudamalai and Palani, without taking food for days together, has blessed him with both spiritual and physical fitness, he says.
Sri Brahmananda Paradesi, Sri Ramana Maharishi, Swami Sivananda, Swami Ramadas and Swami Abhayadananda were some who guided him towards the right spiritual path. “It was Sri Brahmananda Paradesi who called me ‘Pithukuli’ whom I had injured while playing during my boyhood. He had rightly predicted the services which I was to render during my life.
His spiritual services were more directed towards the have-nots, the physically-challenged, the Harijans and the less privileged. In the early years of his concerts, he politely denied any remuneration but asked the organisers to arrange for free distribution of food. His wife, Devi Saroja Murugadas, shares his view that service to humanity is service to the Almighty. He had participated in the freedom struggle and was imprisoned at Bangalore for about six months.
Those were the days when cassettes had just entered the scene and CDs were unheard of. Thus AIR’s Isai Amudham was eagerly looked forward to by music lovers and Murugadas’s devotional songs such as ‘Kaarthikeya Kaliyugavarada’ and ‘Om Endrolikudhu’ were among the favourites. One amazing aspect about ‘Muruga’ as he is affectionately called by his devotees and fans is his voice that is untouched by time. It has almost been the same for over several decades.
Childhood in Coimbatore was not easy for Murugadas. Dropping out of school after his eighth class, he commenced his spiritual yatra by walking to Palani hills. After spending a few years there, he shifted to Marudamalai and lived in a cave.
Later, returning to Coimbatore, he stayed with friends doing odd jobs such as repairing piston engines. He shared his earnings with the poor. “Have a thought for fellow human beings,” he always says. In fact, he has earmarked a large portion of his earnings for orphanages and shelters for the destitute. In 1995, he was invited to sing devotional songs in seven languages at the World Hindu Conference in Durban, South Africa. Sharing the dais with Nelson Mandela remains a cherished moment of his life.