His period was September 26, 1890 – October 10, 1973 was a prominent composer of Carnatic music and a singer.
A famous composer, Sivan was also known as Tamil Thyagayya. Using Classical South Indian as a base, Sivan created numerous hits popularised by M. K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar andM. S. Subbulakshmi.
Papanasam Sivan’s early years were spent in the Travancore area of Kerala where the kings patronised fine arts. He was born at Polagam Village in the district of Thanjavur, which was home to the illustrious musical trinity of Carnatic music. His given name was Ramaiya. In 1897, when Ramaiya was just 7, his father died. His mother Yogambal, along with her sons, left Thanjavur and moved to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala, where her brother-in-law was a Ramayana Sastri in the renowned Padmanabha Swamy Temple.
At Thiruvananthapuam, Ramaiya learned Malayalam and Sanskrit and later earned a degree in grammar.
Ramaiya was very religious, and with death of his mother in Yogambal when he was 20, became even more so. He wandered from place to place visiting temples and singing devotional songs. Ramaiya used to be an active participant in the devotional music sessions at the home of Neelakandasivan in Thiruvananthapuram. Thus he learned many of the musical compositions of Neelakandasivan. In this period, his wanderings would take him regularly to the temple at Papanasam, where he would smear bhasma all over his body. Hence people began to refer him as Papanasam Sivan, the name by which he was to become well known later.
He picked up his first music lessons from Noorani Mahadeva Bhagavatar, son of Parameswara Bhagavatar. Later he became the disciple of Konerirajapuram Vaidyanath Iyer, a well-known musician, under whose tutelage Sivan blossomed into a consummate artiste that he was.
In spite of his deep knowledge of music, Papanasam Sivan was more interested in the devotional aspect of music. He preferred to sing devotional songs and encouraged other singers take part in sessions of devotional music with him. Papanasam Sivan was a regular in all the major temple festivals in South India with his devotional songs.
Ramaiya (Papanasam Sivan) has a daughter Dr.Rukmani Ramani who is a leading Carnatic Musician in Chennai. Ashok Ramani who is his grandson is also a successful Carnatic Musician. Another daughter by name Nila Ramamurthy also composes Carnatic music. He had a brother Rajagopal Iyer whose daughter V.N.Janaki was an actress and wife of former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. Rajagopal Iyer also had a son P.Narayanan who was a great educationist in Chennai.
Sri Papansam Kumjumani Bhagavathar, Sri Papanasam Ramani Bhagavathar , Smt Radha Kalyanaraman (Vocalist), Sri Papanasam Kumar (Mrudangist), Master Sankaranarayanan R (Mrudangist), Master Gokul Kumar (Violinist), Kum. Anita Sivaraman (Dancer) are noted artists who are grand/great-grandsons and grand/great-grand daughters of Sri Rajagopala Iyer.