Sri R (‘Salem’) Subramanian (better known today as Narayana Bhagavathar only because he brings forth to his lips the ubiquitous Narayana Naama with every breath he takes) was born in the year 1942, to the illustrious and pious couple, Smt. and Brahmasri G Ramachandra Sastrigal. He recalls how while still in his teens, he had a short stint of employment with Survey Dept. at Pudukkottai when the early interests on Sampradaya Bhajans got kindled listening to Sadguru Gopalakrishna Bhagavathaswamy in person performing Unchavrithi during Narasimha Jayanthi Utsavams. He reminisces how Sadguru moved Bhaktas to tears rendering the line “ennakala Prahlaada bhaktulu” pouring out the emotional content in all its glory! “In fact It was a visual treat to watch several of the bhagavatars including the famous Sri Chintamani Iyengar Swamy singing along with graceful movements letting the tears of joy flow unabashedly”, says he. After the function, while blessing all participants, the Sadguru had then, giving the ‘Akshatai’ fondly whispered, “Do keep them safe…” and since that interaction with Sadguru “my spiritual and other progress have all been in most favourable terms. Today I am proud to be one of the lead bhajan singers in the ‘Mahaswamigal-Mahajayanthi’ utsavams”, says an emotional ‘Salem’ Subramanian.
From the very early boyhood, he showed keen interest in participating with Namasankeertanam and Sampradaya Bhajans groups in and around his workplace. Amongst his early Gurunathars, Sri Ananthakrishna Bhagavathar had a significant role to play in shaping him to become a true exponent of Sampradaya Bhajan. He has been closely associated with eminent Bhagavatars and Bhajan exponents of repute, one well-known name being Sri Sanjeevi Bhagavatha Swamy (Anna). He recalls how in one of the sessions at Salem Sri V N Sundara Rajan’s place ‘Anna’ had brought alive Srikrishna’s ‘Kaaliya Madrasa’ for almost 5 minutes of ‘Taandavam’ performed to the tune of “Kripayaa maam uddhara Sri Krishnaa” when the line ‘Kaaliya sirasi’ was sung. Another unforgettable incident with Sri Sanjeevi Bhagavata Swamy (Anna) is recalled thus, “ I had just finished rendering a song ‘KaaveRi varathunuki’. “Anna” later while interacting with me personally , patted me on back saying, “KaaveDi” almost as if gently nudging, an event which is etched in my mind forever” The septuagenarian Sri ‘Narayana’ Bhagavathar’s interest in Sampradaya Bhajans, continues unabated, but he never fails to pay homage to the Sadguru for all that he has achieved and always remembers him with reverence and fondness.