Taking pannisai abroad – Sami Dhandapani is an accomplished Carnatic vocalist too.


Sami Dhandapani is an accomplished Carnatic vocalist too.

Sami Dhandapani was visibly delighted and thankful to receive the title, “Pannisai Peraringar” from Tamil Isai Sangam, his alma mater. After having served the Sangam and its college, the expert in Saiva devotional music has been based in London for the past 15 years.

Dhandapani’s father, who was his first guru, served as “Pannisai Odhuvar” at the Tirukkadayur arulmigu Sri Abirami Amritaghateswarar temple.

At the age of eight, Dhandapani memorised all the 102 verses of “Sri Abhirami Andhadi” and sang in front of Dharmapuri Adheenam Guru Maha Sannidhanam” at the shrine of Sri Abirami. Declared winner of first prize in his maiden venture, Dhandapani involved himself in devotional music.

He joined “Sri Kapaleeswarar Tevara Patasalai” headed by T. Sundaresa Desikar. At the end of the five-year course, he was awarded the title, “Thevara Isai Mani.”

Keen on getting a degree, he joined the Chidambaram Annamalai University music college in 1971 and completed the four-course in vocal Carnatic music and he was awarded the title “Sangeetha Bhooshanam” in 1974.

Urge to learn more of Pannisai led him to T. Subramaniya Desikar, who taught Thevaram and Pannisai at the Tiruchi All India Radio station, and Dr. S. Ramanathan, from whom he learnt vocal Carnatic music.

He met the Dharmapuram Adheenam and joined the Chennai branch as Pannisai Odhuvar in 1977 and continued for 10 years. His students – Champa Kumar, Geetha Kuppan, Kamali Kumar, Bharathi Suryakumar, Seetha Raman and Thuriya formed a group called Aranarul Pannisai Padar Kuzhuvinar.

Sami Dhandapani was pannisai odhuvar at the Vadapalani temple for eight years from 1987. Moved by his rendition of Panchapuranam, composer Ilaiyaraja made him sing in Kaeladi Kanmani. The odhuvar also sang for the film ‘Thai Poosam.’

Visiting professor at the Tamil Nadu Government Music Ccollege, Chennai, he served as full-time music faculty member at the Tamil Isai Sangam Music college for two years teaching Carnatic music as well as Pannisai. He considers it a privilege that he spent two years from 1971 in gurukulavasam with veteran M.M. Dhandapani Desikar. He cherishes the blessings he received from Paramacharya in whose presence he sang Appar’s verse ‘Nilai Perumaru’ at the Kanchi Math, the occasion being commemoration of the acharya’s 80th peetarohanam.

Sami Dhandapani continued sing at temple festivals in the country and abroad. A turning point came in 1997. Listening to his performance at the Tamil Isai Sangam, N. Sachidhanandhan, former secretary of Sri Annamalaiyar temple (known as London Siva temple), Lewisham, took him there.

Sami Dhandapani has completed 15 years of service at the temple and as music teacher.

He started the Aranarul Trust in 2004 and is conducting an annual function every year in March for 12 days to recognise Pannisaivanargal and Tamil professors.

The Trust gives “Thirumurai Isaimamani” and “Thirumurai Uraimamani” titles and cash award of Rs10,000 each.

Sami Dhandapani has been honoured by the adheenams of Dharmapuri and Tiruvavaduturai and Sri Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam. His dream is to hear Pannisai at Carnatic music concerts presented by vidwans. Government music colleges should give importance to this genre of music, he says. Even the common man should cultivate an interest in Tirumurai, Thevaram and Tiruvachagame of singing Appar’s verse at the 80 peetarohanam (1984) of was gifted to sing in front of Sri Kanchi Maha Periyava, who blessed him with prasadam. in 80th Peetarohanam function of Sri Periyaval in 1984. He was seated very near to Sri Periyaval and sung “Nilai Perumaru” (Appar Dhevaram), which was most liked by Sri Periyaval and blessed him with prasadham

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