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Pioneering Musician Receives Bharat Ratna Recognition

First Musician To Get Bharat Ratna

The article explores the significant achievement of being the first musician to receive the prestigious Bharat Ratna award. This accolade holds immense importance in India, as it is the highest civilian honor bestowed upon individuals who have made exceptional contributions to various fields. By delving into this topic, we will gain insights into the remarkable journey and accomplishments of a musician who has been recognized for their outstanding impact on Indian music and culture.


Subbulakshmi, also known as Kunjamma within her family, was born on September 16th, 1916 in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Her parents were Shanmukavadiver Ammal and Subramania Iyer. It is worth mentioning that her grandmother Akkammal possessed exceptional skills as a violinist.

She commenced her musical journey at a young age and received training in Carnatic music from renowned mentors.

Her mother, from the community, was a music exponent and a regular stage performer, and Subbulakshmi grew up in an environment very conducive to musical learning. Her musical interests were also shaped by regular interactions with , Mazhavarayanendal Subbarama Bhagavathar and.

At the young age of eleven, Subbulakshmi showcased her musical talent to the public for the first time in 1927. The performance took place in the 100 pillar hall at , accompanied by Mysore Chowdiah on the violin and Dakshinamurthy Pillai on . This event was arranged by a prominent leader from Tiruchirappalli.

Relocating to Chennai

In 1936, Subbulakshmi relocated to what is now known as Chennai. Additionally, she ventured into the realm of cinema in 1938, marking her first appearance on the silver screen. Once again, her debut in the film industry was alongside…

First Musician to Receive Bharat Ratna

In 1938, there was a photograph taken of M.S. Subbulakshmi and S. Varalakshmi together.

Singing career

M.S. Subbulakshmi commenced her journey in Carnatic classical music by receiving training from her mother Shanmukhavadivu, and later she also learned Hindustani classical music under the guidance of Pandit Narayan Rao Vyas. At the young age of 10, Subbulakshmi released her initial recording.

At the age of 13, Subbulakshmi showcased her talent by giving a mesmerizing performance at a renowned institution in 1929. This was an exceptional opportunity for her as she became the first young girl to be invited as a prominent performer, breaking traditional norms. Her rendition of Hindu hymns captivated the audience and garnered immense praise from critics who hailed her as a musical prodigy. Following this remarkable debut, Subbulakshmi swiftly rose to become one of the most prominent figures in Carnatic vocal music.

At just seventeen years old, Subbulakshmi began performing solo concerts, which included notable appearances at prestigious venues.

She represented India as a cultural ambassador in various countries including London, New York, Canada, and the Far East. Her performances took place at prestigious venues such as the Royal Academy of Music and Drama in 1963, New York during UN day celebrations in 1966, London in 1982, and the Festival of India in Moscow in 1987.

In 1969, she visited Rameswaram with Advisor SN Venkata Rao and sang multiple songs in front of each deity. She had a friendly association with Sree Ramaseva Mandali Bengaluru and gave 36 concerts for them.

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Following the demise of her spouse in 1997, she ceased all public appearances. Her final show took place in 1997, marking her retirement from public concerts.

On 11th December 2004, M. S. Subbulakshmi passed away at her residence in Kotturpuram, Chennai.


M.S. also dabbled in acting during her early years and made her debut in the film industry with a movie called , which hit theaters on 2 May 1938. In this film, directed by , she shared the screen with who played the lead role opposite Subbulakshmi. The movie received positive reviews from critics and was well-received by audiences, establishing itself as both a critical and commercial success. A review published on 8 May 1938 praised the film for its merits.

We should always expect something from Subramaniam’s direction – for instance depiction of social ills. If we have to say only two words about this talkie based on Premchand’s story it is – Go see (it).

Sevasadanam stands out as one of the initial Tamil movies to portray a modern-day societal backdrop and promote progressive social ideologies.

The renowned Marxist leader has characterized Sevasadanam as an extraordinary film for its bold portrayal of the practice of young girls marrying elderly men, which was socially accepted at that time. He believes that the movie effectively depicted the suffering endured by the girl (played by M.S.) and the mental anguish experienced by her aged husband (portrayed by F.G. Natesa Iyer). In his book Thamizh Cinemavin Kathai (The Story of Tamil Cinema), Tamil film critic and historian Aranthai Narayanan asserts that Seva Sadhanam marked a significant turning point in Tamil cinema history. The climax scene, where the transformed aged husband disdainfully discards his sacred thread symbolizing Brahmin superiority, had a profound impact on orthodox Brahmins during that period.

MS Subbulakshmi also played the male role of in Savitri (1941) to raise money for launching , her husband’s nationalist Tamil weekly. Her title role of the saint-poetess in the eponymous 1945 gave her national prominence. This movie was re-made in Hindi in 1947.

In 1938, the musician played the role of Sumathi in a film produced by Madras United Artists Corporation. In 1940 and 1941, he appeared in Tamil films without specified roles or co-stars. The latter film was directed by Y.V. Rao and featured music composed by Papanasam Sivan, distributed by Royal Talkie Distributors. In 1945, he worked with director Ellis R. Dungan on another Tamil film produced by Chandraprabha Cinetone. Finally, in 1947, he portrayed Meerabai in a film directed by Ellis R. Dungan and featuring music composed by Dilip Kumar Roy under the banner of Chandraprabha Cinetone.

First musician to receive Bharat Ratna

In-depth Explanation:

Practical Advice:

Furthermore, it is crucial for budding musicians to actively participate in various platforms such as competitions or local events where they can showcase their talent and gain valuable experience performing before an audience.

Lastly, building a strong network within the industry is vital for career advancement. Collaborating with fellow musicians or joining professional organizations provides opportunities for exposure while fostering connections that may lead to future collaborations or mentorship possibilities.


For instance, a young vocalist who dreams of becoming an acclaimed Carnatic singer could enroll in music schools offering specialized training in this genre. By immersing themselves fully into learning classical techniques under expert guidance while also exploring other related forms of art such as dance or theater; they can develop a well-rounded musical foundation.

First Musician to be Awarded Bharat Ratna

M. S. Subbulakshmi donning a saree in the shade that has become inseparable from her identity – MS Blue.

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had this to say about M.S. Subbulakshmi- “Who am I, a mere Prime Minister before a Queen, a Queen of Music”. While called her Tapaswini (the Renunciate), termed her Suswaralakshmi (the goddess of the perfect note), and labelled her the ultimate eighth note or Aathuvaan Sur , which is above the seven notes basic to all music. The great national leader and poet called her “Nightingale of India”. Her many famous renditions of include the chanting of Pancharatnam, , (1000 names of ), and the (musical hymns to awaken Lord Balaji early in the morning).

She received numerous accolades, recognition, and prestigious awards. Some of the notable ones include:

  • in 1954
  • in 1956
  • in 1968
  • (often considered Asia’s Nobel Prize) in 1974
  • in 1975
  • in 1975 by The Indian Fine Arts Society, Chennai
  • in 1988
  • Indira Gandhi Award for National Integration in 1990
  • in 1998

M.S. Subbulakshmi, a renowned musician, was recognized for her contributions as an artist and honored by the Tirupati Urban Development Authority (TUDA). In the temple town, a bronze statue of M.S. Subbulakshmi was erected at the Poornakumbham circle. The unveiling ceremony took place on 28 May 2006 and was attended by the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh.

The shade of the Kancheepuram Saree called MS Blue was given its name in honor of her by Sri Muthu Chettiyar, a well-known member of the Congress party and philanthropist. This happened during a meeting at the residence of Sri R. Aiyadurai and Smt. Thangam Aiyadurai on Lady Desikachari Road in Madras, who were close friends of MS and Sadasivam.

On 18th December 2005, a special stamp was released in honor of her achievements.

The United Nations has announced its plan to release a commemorative stamp in honor of the 100th birth anniversary of M.S. Subbulakshmi, the first musician to receive the Bharat Ratna award.

She was bestowed with enormous prize moneys with these awards, most of which she donated to charity. She has given more than 200 charity concerts and raised well over Rs. 10,000,000. She was awarded honorary degrees from several Universities. She was an ardent devotee of and she rendered his composition “Maithreem Bhajatha” (O World! Cultivate peace) in her concert at the UN in 1966. She made a 20-minute recording of “Venkatesa Suprabhatam” for , the royalty from which goes to the Veda Patasala run by the Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam. She donated many of the royalties on several best sold records to many charity organisations.

First recipient of Bharat Ratna award


– Provision for posthumous awards added to Bharat Ratna statute in January 1966.

– First recipients of Bharat Ratna: Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Sir C.V. Raman, and Chakravarti Rajagopalachari (1954).

– Sachin Tendulkar is the first sportsperson and youngest recipient of Bharat Ratna Award.


Some books and articles have been written about M.S. Subbulakshmi, the first musician to receive the Bharat Ratna award. These include “M.S. Subbulaksmi, the Voice Divine” by V. Gangadhar, “MS – A Life in Music” published by HarperCollins in 2004, an article by Gowri Ramnarayan titled “MS & Radha – Saga of Steadfast Devotion,” and a book called “Of Gifted Voice: The Life and Art of M.S. Subbulakshmi” also published by Harper Collins.

The information is no longer available on the National Geographic Society website as of November 14, 2006.

First Indian musician to receive Rahman Magsa award

Subbulakshmi gained popularity through her soul-stirring renditions of devotional songs known as bhajans and keerthanas. Her melodious voice and emotive expressions captivated audiences across India and even internationally.

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Apart from her musical achievements, Subbulakshmi also dedicated herself to various social causes throughout her career. She actively supported organizations working towards education for underprivileged children, women empowerment initiatives, and promoting peace and harmony among different communities.

Her contributions to both music and society earned her numerous accolades during her lifetime. In addition to being awarded the Bharat Ratna by the Government of India, she also received several other prestigious honors such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service (1974) and Padma Bhushan (1954).

Which musical was the first to be honored with the Bharat Ratna award?

Born on September 16, 1916, MS Subbulakshmi began her musical journey at a young age. She displayed immense dedication and passion for Carnatic music, which eventually led her to become one of its most celebrated exponents. With her mesmerizing voice and impeccable technique, she captivated audiences not only in India but also across the globe.

Throughout her illustrious career spanning several decades, MS Subbulakshmi received numerous accolades for her remarkable contributions to music. However, it was in 1998 that she achieved an extraordinary milestone by becoming the first musician ever to be honored with the prestigious Bharat Ratna award. This recognition solidified her status as an unparalleled maestro and served as a testament to her immense impact on Indian classical music.

The Bharat Ratna is bestowed upon individuals who have made exceptional achievements in various fields such as art, literature, science or public service. By receiving this esteemed honor as a musician, MS Subbulakshmi not only elevated herself but also brought recognition and respectability to Carnatic music itself. Her influence extended beyond just performing; she actively worked towards promoting cultural harmony through music.

Number of Bharat Ratna recipients who are singers?

In 1998, Smt M. S. Subbalakshmi became the first musician to receive the prestigious Bharat Ratna award in India. This honor is given to individuals who have made exceptional contributions in various fields for the betterment of society. Following her, other renowned musicians were also recognized with this esteemed award.

Pandit Ravi Shankar was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1999 for his remarkable achievements as a sitar maestro and his significant contribution to Indian classical music on a global scale. In 2001, Utad Bismillah Khan and Sushri Lata Mangeshkar were honored with this recognition for their outstanding contributions to Hindustani classical music and playback singing respectively.

Lastly, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi received the Bharat Ratna in 2009 for his extraordinary skills as a vocalist and his immense dedication towards preserving and promoting Indian classical music.

Which individuals declined the Bharat Ratna?

Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the former Education Minister of India, declined to accept the Bharat Ratna award. He believed that it was not appropriate for serving members of the Union Cabinet to receive such prestigious honors. According to him, those in positions of power and authority should stay away from temptations and focus on their responsibilities.

However, Maulana Azad had reservations about accepting this award while being a part of the government. He believed that politicians should maintain distance from such accolades as they could potentially compromise their integrity or be seen as an attempt to gain popularity or favoritism.

Recipients of the initial three Bharat Ratna awards

The first three recipients of the Bharat Ratna award were C Rajagopalachari, CV Raman, and S Radhakrishnan. All three awardees hailed from Tamil Nadu. C Rajagopalachari was a prominent activist, statesman, and lawyer.