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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

jewels of Triplicane ..... Kalaimamani Smt. G.P. Kamala

Thiruvallikkeni aka Triplicane is a famed land… The name “Triplicane”  pronounced Tiruvallikeni by natural laws of linguistics, was crudely rolled and twisted out of shape by the English tongue as Triplicane.  It is a place where religion, nationalistic fervour, patriotism, sports, education and the individual dignity have interspersed for the benefit of the State and the larger interests of the Nation. The place acquired its name from the famed temple pond ‘Kairavini’ – the pond of lilies – thus becoming ‘Thiru Allik Keni’ – the pond consisting of lily flowers.  Our lives dwell around the Great Sri Parthasarathi Swami Thirukovil  which has existed for thousands of years, sung by  Sri  PeyAzhwar, Thirumazhisai Azhwar and Tirumangai Azhwar ~ with inscriptions  of Pallava King - Thanthi Varman dating (779-830).

Triplicane was the seat of freedom struggle – Balagandhara Thilakar and very many patriotic leaders had delivered powerful lectures in Triplicane (Thilakar thidal at Marina beach)  and inspired people in the freedom struggle. Mahakavi Subrahmanya Bharathi lived in Triplicane and from this place freedom struggle germinated.   There are many houses which have a rich history behind them.  

There are also many famous people, some of whom live a simple life – with even neighbours not (caring to) knowing much.  Had earlier posted about Vai Mu Kothainayaki Ammal, a Tamil writer, novelist and journalist who is remembered as the first woman to occupy the editorial board of a Tamil magazine. The first female writer in Tamil to write a detective novel was  a multifarious personality and she excelled in fields like public speaking, social service, fiction writing and was a keen Freedom Fighter too. Born  in a devout Vaishnava family in the village of Nirvalur she excelled in many things.  To commemorate memory of Mahatma Gandhi,  she started an association called Mahatmaji Seva Sangam to help the poor and orphaned children which is in North Tank Square street, now with none residing in it. [I have some personal connection to this place and perhaps would make a post on it some day …]

This post is about a woman who fought adversity throughout her life, her competencies overshadowed by tearful occurrences, yet remaining composed having achieved things in life and having trained many women of Triplicane endowing them the chance to sing sweetly. That is the story of Kalaimamani G.P. Kamala [Gomadam Parthasarathi Kamala].  She is 80 now ….lives in TP Kovil Street, possibly, you would have seen her in Temple without ever realizing the fame and her achievements.  

Born in 1934,  Kamala learnt music in the traditional way becoming a bright achiever. In 1947 she rose to the level of  ‘B’ Grade artiste of All India Radio; at her young age she started singing accompaniment to famed exponents of  Baratha Natyam - Tmt Kamala Lakshmanan, KR Geetha and more.  She learnt the art of singing from Vai Mu Ko and thence from Needamangalam VV Subramaniam.  She passed out with good grade in Music from Saraswathi Gana Nilayam, another famed institution of Triplicane in Thoppu Street.

From 1952 onwards, she has done hundreds of concerts in various sabhas in nook and corners of the State.  She was the proud recipient of seven gold medals from acclaimed Sabhas like RR Sabha, Sri Parthasarathi Sabha, Purandaradasa sabha etc.,  She was associated with Panthanallur School and did great service to the art of Baratham.

Many decades ago, when foreign travel was so sparse, she toured Brazil, Belgrade, Russia accompanying famous Smt. Alarmel Valli performing in many concerts and winning hearts of people in far off places.  Accompanying Smt. Meenakshi Chitharanjan, she toured places including Paris, London, Rome, Yugoslavia (unsplit those days) Chechoslovakia, Holland, Belgium ….. when the Indians settled in USA organized concerts for raising funds for building temples over there, she was invited and she performed in many places in USA and in Canada too.  Heard that Thiruppavai sung mellifluously by her was  played in Sri Venkateswara Temple at Pittsburg daily in the mornings for many years continuously. She was destined to sing for many more stars including Tmt. Kamala Lakshman, Smt. Vaijayanthimala Bali, Smt. Kalanidhi Narayanan, Mrs Malavika Sarukkai.

One of the high points in her career was the special invitation from the King of Nepal – upon which she was to tour and sing in many concerts over there.  Many famous people have played accompaniments to her and that includes Thiru Karaikkudi Mani (who was her Guru too); Sri Vikku Vinayakram and more.  A few decades ago, daily scores of girl students used to line up at her home, learning music in pure form and that way she has shaped the lives of many women. 

Triplicane being the seat of freedom struggle, she had had a role in that too.  In those days of oppression, she sang in many Congress meets exuding patriotic fervor  and in some meetings presided  by persons like Rajaji.  It will be difficult to comprehend her achievements from today’s perspective… one need to understand the society of those days, the problems faced by women of those days and more to understand and appreciate the great service in Arts, the role in freedom struggle and in preserving our culture and heritage. She has carried on gamely dedicating to singing divine music – mostly in the concerts in Temples and to Lords ~ as she had the honour of singing  many times at the Holy Thirumala hills too.

She was to have a greater role in Mahatmaji Seva Sangh founded for propagating  the principles of Gandhiji, founded by women, of women and for women. Harikatha exponent C. Saraswati Bai was the president of the Sangam, Vai mu Kothainayaki was one of its secretaries and GP Kamala was its treasurer for many years. 

In 1989 she was conferred the title ‘Sangeetha Agnya’ by Bharathanatyam exponent Sri Dhananjayan.  Years later, in 2004 she was the proud recipient of ‘Kalaimamani’ and received the award from the Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa.  Recently, she was honoured in another forum by Smt. Alarmelvalli conferring title “Gana Vidyadhari”.. Valli  stated that she had sung for her arangetram too. 

The sad tinge in her life, was that she was married in her young age and lost her husband early in life. In those days, a women having lost her husband had to face many difficulties in the society and that had a greater impact on her profession too – she was sadly to be relegated to background singing – more for barathanatyam exponents rather than singing in the front, though in her young age, she used to win every competition competing and beating many other artistes who were to prosper so well in their lives.

This morning met Smt GP Kamala at her house and took these photos… just as any other complete person in life, she was not brooding over the lost opportunities, instead thanked God for all that she got in life and continues to live a pious live, being friendly to all. 

With regards – S. Sampathkumar

~ a long time resident of Triplicane and Secretary of SYMA


  1. she was married to my Mama Shri Srinivasan who was working in Railways. But he passedway within 3 years of her marriage. My moms elder brother. Me and my sis Hemamalini Rajagopal used to visit her before...but now we lost is shocking and surprising to see her. Thank you Ji....If you see her please pass on our enquiries and tell her that we are Jayam's daughters... Sevithathaga sollavum.

    1. I'm proud that I'm her relative too. Wish to get in touch with you. I'm her brother's granddaughter.

  2. Do you have the thiruppavai sung by her? I had it, but I lost my phone. So I'm looking for it again