When i heard the word “music” un knowingly or knowingly my mind will recal the name nusic nastro ilayaraja (daniel rajayya). A brief article about  my hero ilayaraja.

Date of Birth

2 June 1943, Pannaipuram, Madurai District, Tamil Nadu, India

Birth Name

Daniel Rajayya



Mini Biography

Born and brought up in an obscure village near Kambam in Southern Tamil Nadu, Ilayaraja became the first Asian to score a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra, besides scoring over 500 feature films in a period of 20 years. Raja, as he is popularly known and affectionately called, comes from a family of musicians. His mother, a huge repository of Tamil folk songs, seems to be a very strong influence in his music. He learned to play the harmonium, the typical musical instrument used in street performances. The team of the brothers, the eldest being Pavalar Varadharajan, a poet, worked as a group of musicians traveling across the state, accompanying theater artists. Raja picked up most of his acumen for audience tastes during this period.

In 1969, Raja migrated to the city of Madras, the Southern Movie capital, when he was 29 years old, looking for a break into music making for the public. He studied under Dhanraj Master, playing the guitar and piano in the Western style. He later earned a diploma in music from Trinity College in London. Ilayaraja’s break into music for films came with Annakili (1976). The film dealt with a village story, to which Ilayaraja composed great melodies. The songs offered simplicity and musicality typical of Tamil folk in an authentic way, and they offered new sounds–rich orchestration typical of Western music. The songs became an instant hit, the most popular being “Machchana Partheengala” sung by a female voice, S. Janaki. This was followed by a series of films that portrayed contemporary Tamil villages in an authentic way, against stylistic shallow portrayals before. For all of these films Raja created memorable songs. Most popular were the songs “Senthoorappove” and “Aatukkutti Mutaiyittu” from Pathinaru Vayathinile (1977), and “Samakkozhi” and “Oram Po” from Ponnu Oorukku Pudhusu (1979).

Raja soon proved his abilities in other styles as well. classical Karnatic melodies were used in Kannan Oru Kai Kuzhandhai (1978) (Rag Mohanam), Mayile Mayile (Ragam Hamsadhwani), and Chinna Kannan Azhaikiran (Reethi Gowlai). Raja’s grasp of Western classical structure became evident with his masterful use of the piano, guitar, and string ensembles. Some of the numbers that show his orchestral genius are “Pon malai Pozhudu” and “Poongadhave” from Nizhalgal (1980), Kanmaniye Kadhal from Aarilirindhu Aruvathu Varai (1979), “Ramanin Mohanam” from Netri Kann (1981), “En Iniya Pon nilave from Moodupani (1980), “Paruvame Pudhiya” from Nenjathai Killathe (1981), and “Edho Moham” from Kozhi Koovuthu (1982). These songs could literally be heard coming from every doorstep in Tamil Nadu state every day for at least a year after being released. Raja composed film music prolifically for the next fifteen years, at a rate of as many as three new songs a day. After a few years as a film composer, he could write all the parts to a score as they came to him, and his assistants would make fair copies, which would be recorded immediately.

Raja went for a trip abroad to Europe, partly to visit places where Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Johann Sebastian Bach, and Ludwig van Beethoven lived. They were his Manasika Gurus or non-physical teachers, he wrote once. He also met contemporary composers and arrangers including Paul Mauriat. His listeners were awestruck by the quality and quantity of his musical output. He also scored a few films abroad. Ilayaraja’s image grew to be a unique one in the history of Tamil cinema: stories, themes, and castes would be changed to fit his music, which swept away the minds of millions of Indians in hundreds of films.

Ilayaraja also recorded non-film albums, such as “How to Name It” and “Nothing But Wind,” which were well-received in India and abroad. In 1993, he wrote a symphony for the London Philharmonic Orchestra in an amazing one-month span. To many people who know him, Raja represents more than his music. He is a mark of great achievement that is possible by hard work, yet he is seen in most of his interviews as talking very philosophically. He is very much attracted by the philosophy of Ramana Maharishi of Thiruvanna Malai, who lived in the early 20th Century. Raja once referred to Ramana as “our Zen master.”


He won a gold medal from London’s Trinity College in the guitar category. His notable works include Nayakan (1987) (his 400th film) and Anjali (1990) (his 500th film). His other musical works include “Nothing But the Wind,” “How to Name It,” and “Singing Skylarks.” He also invented a new Carnatic raga known as Panchamukhi.

Personal Quotes

About 10 years ago I undertook to construct the principal towers of the Siva temple at Thiruvanamalai and the Vaishnavite temple at Srirangam; I spent my own money on the projects – I did not collect money from others. I could have completed Thiruvasagam also without financial assistance from others, but did not wish to do so. Because, when the project was conceived, I was reminded of a remark made by the late Kanchi Senior Acharya. He said that in the olden days, even if a king wanted to construct a temple tower, he would not do it with his own money, but collected finds from the people for the purpose. The idea was that there should be participation by the people. That was why I was keen that others should also join in this venture.

Give me half an hour and I can finish a film.

Western classical music is perspective – look at the number of people involved in a symphony! Our traditional music is lonely.

About Budapest: “For the last 3 years, I have been doing most of my recordings there. The artistes there are very talented – it’s a renowned organization with 100 years of experience and is among the world’s best orchestras. The conductor, Loslo Kovacs, has been very close to me – I find it easier to work with him than my own brother! Vienna is where most of the world’s greatest composers have worked. From the classical to the romantic periods, great figures like [Wolfgang Amadeus] Mozart, [Johann] Strauss, [Johann Sebastian] Bach and [Ludwig von] Beethoven had Vienna connections. Those veterans would have visited Hungary and conducted performances here. My attachment and respect for that soil have also influenced by decision in selecting the Budapest Symphony Orchestra for Thiruvasagam.”

About Thiruvasagam: “Like most Tamils, I have great admiration and reverence for Thiruvasagam. It is one of our great treasures. Its unique feature is its emotional appeal to readers. Manickavasagar sings the praise of Shiva and profusely thanks Him. While doing so he calls himself “meaner than a dog,” “man of evil deeds,” and so on. Manickvasagar, the prime minister of a Pandya king, should have overcome his ego before doing this. In moving, bone-melting words, he makes a sort of confession to God. Because of their very emotional nature, his poems reach the people. All his works are highly emotional and are bound to appeal to every reader. If his songs were mere statements of facts, without an appeal to your heart, they would have had no impact. Thiruvasagam, therefore, occupies a special place in Tamil literature. Hence the traditional saying: “Those who are not moved by Thiruvasagam will not be moved by any other work.” I started working on the project as early as 2000. When I approached big people for funds (I won’t mention any names), many could not even understand the concept or its significance – they did not realize that it would get a place in history later. They saw it only as scoring music for some devotional songs and wondered why it should be so expensive. They did not respond. More than their refusal to participate, I was hurt by the way they approached the project. Generally I do not go for such help.”



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