India Postal Service releases stamps commemorating Carnatic Musicians

By Dr. K Parameswaran
Assistant Director (M&C), Press Information Bureau, Madurai

Madurai, India, Dec 10, 2010 (Washington Bangla Radio / PIB-India) The month of Margazhi (roughly December – January) is a period where the climate is relatively very cool and comfortable in Tamil Nadu. The Classical treatise Thiruvempavai in Tamil, that praises Lord Shiva, whose celestial dance is supposed to be the movement from which the whole universe itself came into being, says in exquisitely chaste Tamil that “the Crescent Moon of the Margazhi month appears on the auspicious night when art, intelligence and expertise in all fields fill the very atmosphere itself” – “Margazhi thingal, mathi nirainda nannal”!

Margazhi is a period of “mellow music”, sprightly dance and all forms of colorful arts. The various music societies of Chennai, including the famous Music Academy hold their annual Carnatic Music and Dance festivals during this month. These exhibitions of the best in Classical Carnatic Music and Dance have attained international acclaim and the period is now treated as a tourism season in Chennai and its environs.

Commemorative Stamps

To commemorate the season, the Department of Posts, Ministry of Telecommunications, have released a set of three stamps picturing giants of Carnatic music. The stamps were officially released on December 3, 2010.

Musicians, whose picture grace the commemorative stamps are the famous Nadaswaram artist T N Rajarathinam Pillai, T Balasaraswathi, the renowned danseuse and Veena Dhanmmal, the illustrious genius who mesmerized a whole generation through her prowess on one of the most difficult musical instruments, the veena.

The Musicians

T N Rajarathinam Pillai was born on 27 August 1898 to Shri Kuppuswami Pillai and Smt. Govindamani in Thiruvaduthurai in Thanjavur District which is the cradle of culture in Tamil Nadu.  He learned music at very young age.  Later he learned to play Nadaswaram, a wind instrument from Shri Ammachatram Kannuswami Pillai, a vidwan (scholar) of great repute.  He became a great exponent of music.  His playing of Nadaswaram attracted people from all walks of life and held them spell bound.  This great music maestro passed away on 12 December 1956.

Veena Dhanammal was born in George Town, Chennai into a family of musicians and dancers in 1867.  Her great grandmother, grandfather, and her own mother were all accomplished musicians in their own right.  She learned veena and vocal music from renowned teachers.  She was supreme in playing the veena with refinement.  Her heritage, her pre-eminence, her personality and her life style evoked reverence and awe.  She passed away on 15th October 1938.

Balasaraswati was the great granddaughter of Veena Dhanammal. She was born on 15th May 1918 into a family of musicians.  Her mother Jayammal was a versatile singer and tabla player.  She blossomed into one of the greatest Bharatanatyam artists and she became a name synonymous with artistic brilliance.  Her mastery of ‘abhinaya’ was par excellence.  She was conferred Bharat Bhushan award in 1957.  This illustrious dancer passed away on 9th February 1984.


Philately is a delightful hobby that sharpens  and satisfies ones aesthetic tastes. It also expands knowledge and interaction with the world you live in. Stamps give interesting information on politics, history, prominent personalities, national and international events, geography, flora and fauna, agriculture, science, monuments, soldiers, warriors, scientists  etc. In addition, philately helps  one to make friends across boundaries and age limits.

Philatelic Bureaus function in Head Post Offices located in major towns. Philatelic Deposit Accounts can also be opened at these Bureaus. They   also provide a standard “First Day of Issue” cancellation on first day covers. Philatelic counters supply all philatelic items but are   not   authorized to issue the Special Cancellation that accompanies each commemorative stamp. Authorized   offices only sell commemorative/special stamps, blank first day covers and information brochures.

Commemorative stamps are issued, as the name suggests, to commemorate important events, prominent  personalities in various fields, aspects of nature, beautiful  or rare flora and fauna, environmental issues, agricultural activities, national/international issues, games   etc.   These   stamps   are   available only at Philatelic Bureaus and counters functioning in selected post offices. They are printed in limited quantities.

The Department of Posts has brought out 87 commemorative stamps this year. The stamps are noted for their artistic beauty and have caught the attentions of philatelists (stamp collectors) the world over.

(PIB Features)