Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar
Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar - Profiles of Classical Singers

Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar was a Carnatic music singer from Palakkad (state of Kerala, India). Known by his village name Chembai, or simply as Bhagavatar. Chembai was noted for his powerful voice and majestic style of singing. His first public performance was in 1904, when he was nine. He was a recipient of several titles and honours.

He was known for his encouragement of upcoming musicians, and also for his ability to spot new talent. He was responsible for popularizing compositions like Rakshamam, Pavana Guru, among others. The music critic 'Aeolus' describes him as "the musician who has meant the most to Carnatic Music in the first fifty years of the 20th century".

Chembai learnt Carnatic music from his own father, from his third year, in the customary guru-sishya tradition, as a part of overall Vedic learning. Chembai also received violin and flute training in 1912. Chembai died on 16 October 1974, aged 78, of a cardiac arrest.

Shortly before that, he performed his last concert at a temple in Ottapalam (the venue of his first concert), and concluded the concert with his favourite song "Karunai Cheivan Endu Thamasam Krishna" (Why is there so much delay in conferring your mercy, Krishna?). His nephew said that he always said about easy death and thus he attained it in the magazine of Bhakthapriya in 2004.

Family Background

He was born on September 1,1896 to Anantha Bhagavatar and Parvati Ammal at Kottayi near Palakkad on Janmashtami day, with Bharani star in the month of Chingam. Vaidyanatha Bhagavatar's great-grandfather Subbier, had been the recipient of the title "Ghana Chakratanam" from a local Maharaja indicating his mastery of a special style of singing tanam.

Awards & Titles

"Gayana Gandharva" (a title bestowed by Kalki Krishnamurthy in 1940).
Sangeetha Kalanidhi (1951; highest accolade in Carnatic music).
Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (1958).
Padma Bhushan (1973; from the Government of India).
The Department of Posts, Govt of India released a special issue stamp on Chembai's birth centenary year (1996).