Sree Swathi Tirunal Govt College of Music

-Preserving the heritage of Carnatic Music since 1939


Sree Swathi tirunal Govt College of Music, popularly and fondly known as Academy in Trivandrum, established in 1939, was initiated by the royal family of Travancore in memory of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal, to propagate his contribution in the field of Carnatic Music. The creations of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal, a multi-faceted genius were mostly neglected for almost 70years after his death, except for some court musicians performing them in royal palaces. This negligence started changing when in 1902, in the Srimoolam Praja sabha (The consultative Council of the Travancore kingdom) the younger generation started highlighting the golden age of art. They were able to influence public opinion by propagating their views through speeches and print media. These had some effect on the government which resulted in the inclusion of Maharaja’s compositions in the syllabus of Girls High Schools in Travancore. However due to lack of qualified teachers this programme didn’t make much impact and progress.


Sree Chithira Tirunal Maharaja, the last ruler of Travancore and Amma Maharani had done great service by enacting laws that were progressive and beneficial to the public. Along with this they were at the forefront of nurturing the art and culture, and popularizing the creations of Swathi Tirunal. To achieve this, in 1939, they took the momentous step of setting up the Music Academy in the name of the great Musician King Sree Swathi Tirunal and appointing Dr L Muthayya Bhagavathar, the then great Carnatic Music Icon as its first principal. The academy was inaugurated by the Diwan Sir CP Ramaswamy Iyer.


Dr Muthayya Bhagavathar, during his third tenure as the Principal of the academy, selected many of the musical compositions of Swathi Tirunal and made the students of academy perform. He also published a few of them and brought them to public attention. He successfully completed his service in 1942 and was succeeded by Dr Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, the doyen of Carnatic music.


Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer put in his best efforts to further develop the work initiated by his predecessor. He compiled and published the works of Swathi Tirunal, with the combined effort of Veena maestro Sri KS Narayanaswamy in musical aspects and Sanskrit scholars Sri KA Krishnamachary and Sri Ganesha Sharma in literary aspects. Sri Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer had to be away for three years because of an official posting in All India Radio, Madras and was substituted by Sri NV Narayana Bhagavathar who had a short but meaningful tenure. Semmangudi who continued his stint until he retired in 1963 was succeeded by Sri GN Balasubramaniam, the legend. The efforts he put in during his short time till he expired after two years had a profound impact on the institution, its faculty and students. In 1966 Sri KR Kumaraswamy Iyer was appointed the Principal after GNB.

The successful establishment and functioning of the academy led to the nurturing of many new talents in the field of Carnatic music and the preservation of the art form in Kerala. Many Doyens of Carnatic Music have been members of the faculty at the academy, like KV Kesava Bhagavathar, CS Krishna Iyer, Kallidaikurichi Harihara Bhagavathar, NG Seetharmayya, Nellai TV Krishnamoorthy, Parassala Ponammal, PN Kalyanikutty, Mavelikkara Prabhakara Varma, Vechur Hariharasubramania Iyer, and KR Kedarnathan.


The first courses offered at the academy were in carnatic vocal of three years duration and the students were awarded the title Gayaka (for men) and Gayika (for awomen) on successfully completing the course. This course was discontinued in the year 1947 and a course spanning 4 years- Ganabhooshanam Diploma Course in Carnatic vocal was started in its place. Courses in Sanskrit and Veena were added as sub courses to the main subject. The Veena courses were later upgraded and a separate full-fledged course was started.  Ganabhooshanam Diploma Course was started in 1950 when Veena exponent KS Narayanaswamy Iyer became the principal of the academy. A post diploma course titled Vidwan was started in 1952. Students who had completed Ganabhooshanam diploma course with first class in either of the specializations were eligible to apply for Vidwan course. A violin course was started in 1956 headed by Dr Chalakkudy Narayanaswamy, reputed Violin maestro.  Nadabhooshanam was started in 1957 with Sri Sankarankutty , the renowned dancer as its head. Courses in Mridangam were started in 1959 with Sri Mavelikkara Velukutty Nair, disciple of Palakkad Main Iyer, as its head

The academy was upgraded to Sree Swathi Tirunal College of Music in 1962 as per the recommendation of a special committee. At that time, three year courses in Vocal, Veena and Violin were introduced with the title of Ganapraveena (post diploma) being awarded to students who successfully completed three years of this course. Thus the Vidwan course was stopped.

A list of eminent alumni of the college extends from Parassala Ponnammal to Cherthala Gopalan Nair, Paravoor K Radhamani, TP Radhamani, S Ratnakaran, Veena Venitaraman, MG Radhakrishnan, Thiruvizha Jaisanker, Kaviyoor Revamma, Neyyatinkara Vasudevan, PR Kumarakerala Varma, KJ Yesudas, Palkulangara Ambikadevi, K Omanakutty, G Seethalakshmi, S Rugmini, Gomathy Chidambaram, Venitaraman potti etc. The alumni of this college are an asset to the cultural landscape of Kerala. Many of them adorned as members of faculty in the later years. Some of them have won prestigious National awards and Indian President’s Award.

Around 250 students learn music in this great institution every year becoming torch bearers of an 80 year long tradition. The students of this prestigious institution are regular participants in various events including the All India Radio competitions and have been prize winners right from the time of inception to the present day.

In 1999 the college was affiliated to the University of Kerala and Degree and PG courses were started. Degree course is named as Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA) and post graduation course as Master of Arts (MA).

The college has a well digitally organized Library that has more than 9000 books with almost all important literatures on music. The college library is a frequent spot for research scholars and eminent academicians.

The college also has a well equipped Recording studio with all latest technology, hardware and software. The studio is utilized for providing knowledge regarding Digital recording, and other studio disciplines to the students.

Various Academic programmes initiated by Govt of Kerala namely, Sadhana, Scholar in residence, Preserving Great masters are conducted annually providing opportunity for the students to interact with Performing artists of international eminence. All the performances are archived for future references.

The college organizes students to perform in diverse reputed venues, representing the college, with the noblest intention of propagating works of Swathi Tirunal and other great Kerala Composers.

An academic tour is organized by the College for the students to different places of musical significance annually.