The queens and the kings came to listen to her. But she sang only for herself, tuned to the essence of bhakti in all that is art and creative. M.S. Subbulakshmi stood head and shoulder above her equally or even better bestowed contemporaries because of the piety in her singing, devotion to her husband and mentor and commitment to the societal causes. She is perhaps the only artiste to contribute the larger part of her income to social work.
Subbulakshmi had several firsts to her credit. She was the first woman to be honoured with the title Sangita Kalanidhi, the first woman artiste to sing at the UN. She introduced Carnatic music at the Edinburgh festival in the 1960s, sang at the Royal Albert Hall in London, at Carnegie Hall at New York and at Kremlin Palace in Moscow. She was being showered with so many awards that once Rukmini Devi Arundale told her, ?you must leave some for others!?
Subbulakshmi was a disciplined person. She would not miss her practice daily, in her puja room, for two hours. Without fail, she would be ready with water to wash the feet when her husband Sadashivam came back home. She was an ardent devotee of the Pujaneeya Pramacharya of Kanchi Mutt. She kept the shawl the Paramacharya had presented to her years ago as his blessings. This shawl was draped on her on her last journey.
She married Sadashivam when she was 24. He was a widower and had two daughters and a niece and nephew, wholly dependent on him. Subbulakshmi took them all in her lap and nurtured them with her love, affection and attention. The elder daughter Radha was her accompanying singer, when she grew up. Subbulakshmi was a nationalist, lending financial and moral support to her husband when he was working to launch a nationalist magazine, Kalki. After Sadashivam'sdeath, she gave up public singing and moved out of her house only a couple of times, once to receive the Bharat Ratna in 1998.
The Organiser pays its tributes to a great artiste and a great woman.