The Tirupamburam lineage traces its ancestry to a vocalist – Amritakavi Kuppiah Pillai, who had learnt music from Muthutandavar. His son Aiyan Pillai followed in his father’s footsteps but grandson Sesha Pillai became an exponent of the Saranda, a now extinct musical instrument.
Next was Swaminatha Pillai, who, born in 1840, chose to become a nagaswaram artist. His son Natarajasundaram, born in 1869, followed in his father’s footsteps and with his brother Sivasubramania Pillai, formed the first nagaswaram duo. Natarajasundaram Pillai is today better remembered for being the first to publish in the Tamil script Muthuswami Dikshitar kritis with notation.
Given the array of musical choice, it was perhaps no wonder that Natarajasundaram Pillai’s elder son Swaminatha Pillai chose a new line – that of a flautist. It was left to his brothers to continue the nagaswaram tradition.