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Notes of tradition


Rudrapatna, in Hassan district of Karnataka, has made unique contributions to Carnatic music over the centuries.

Photo: S.R. Raghunathan.

Proud heritage: A concert by the Rudrapatnam Brothers, R.N. Taranath (left) and R.N. Tyagarajan.

AS you step in to this tranquil village of 2,000 people, you will experience a tranquillity as you listen to the Cauvery as it flows whispering by. Most of the houses in this village have stories to tell, of musicians and Vedic experts, if you care to listen. This is Rudrapatna, a small sleepy village on the banks of Cauvery in Arkalgud taluk of Hassan district in Karnataka.

The village, with its rich musical heritage, can well be compared to Thiruvaiyaru of Thanjavur district in Tamil Nadu. The village was an abode of "Veda, nada, taranga", according to the renowned Carnatic vocalist, R.K. Padmanabhan. Though Chintanapalli in Kolar district and Rudrapatna in Hassan district are two villages in Karnataka known for their contributions to Carnatic music, Rudrapatna stands apart as it has the honour of having contributed many artistes to Carnatic music.

Rich history

Noted musicians such as R.K. Suryanarayana, R.N. Tyagarajan and R.N. Taranath (popularly known as Rudrapatnam brothers), R.K. Shekar, R.K. Srikantan, R.K. Raghava, R.K. Prakash, R.K. Padmanabha, R.S. Ramakanth, R.S. Keshavamurthy, Rathnamala Prakash (a famous light music artist also), R.N. Sreelatha, all of whom hail from this village, have carved a niche for themselves in Carnatic music. As Mr. Padmanabhan claims, nearly 60 per cent of the currently performing Carnatic musicians in Karnataka are from Rudrapatna.

R.K. Krishna Shastry, a noted vocalist and Harikatha Vidwan was also from Rudrapatna, His children, R.K. Venkatarama Shastry, R.K. Ramanathan, R.K. Srikantan, and R.K. Narayana Swamy, who were trained by him, have attained a high degree of proficiency and popularity through their performances. Venkataramiah, popularly known as Thimmappa was a veena vidwan. He was a composer of kritis and his "Veeraboni Varna" in Kedaragowla raga won him several laurels. Shathavadhani Venkataraya was also a veena vidwan. R.K. Keshava Murthy, who was a disciple of Veene Subbanna, Veene Shamanna, Shrikantaiah and Veena Ranganath are also from Rudrapatna. "The village has produced several musicians and scholars, including Veena Rangashastry, who have occupied the position of court musicians at the Mysore palace," says music critic, Mysore V. Subrahmanya.

Another authority on the history of Rudrapatna, Mr. Bhaskar Avadhani, says, "this place is the confluence of Veda Brahma and Nada Brahma. The people of the village migrated from Sengottai in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. They came in two groups. While one group settled down in Koushika village in Hassan taluk, another came to Rudrapatna. Known as `Sanketis', they practised Veda and Music. While Dixitars and Somayajis performed Yajna and Yaga, others spent most of their time learning Shathavadhana, chanting of Veda and music. It was a place of Ghanapaathi, Shathavadhani, Asthavadahani and musicians. The Channakeshava Temple of this village is more than one thousand year old."

Neglected sites

Visitors to the village can see the houses of great musicians in a dilapidated condition. "Thottimane", where musicians including Venkataramiah lived, stands as a mute witness to the past glory of the village. Thotti Thammiah, a musician, lived and taught Carnatic music to his disciples in this house. Ramanavami Utsava, celebrated on a grand scale with many musicians from South India participating, is performed here. It looks as though people have forgotten the village which was once attracting musicians from various parts of the country. However, Rudrapatna Sangeethotsava Samithi, an organisation formed to revive the great musical tradition of the village, is making efforts to restore it to its past glory.

Mr. R.K. Padmanabha, who is the convener of the Samithi, says, "While other musicians aspired for `Rajashraya' (patronage of the king), those from Rudrapatna refused to capitalise on music for their livelihood. Following an outbreak of plague most of them deserted the village."

Mr. Padmanabha, who is striving to rebuild the great tradition, has been conducting workshops on music at Rudrapatna and people, irrespective of caste, creed or culture, have been learning music in the classes conducted in Thottimane. Those attending the classes will perform during the Sangeethotsava, conducted every year in May. Mr. Padmanabha has been conducting this music festival for the past three years, which is becoming a mega musical event as musicians from across the country participate in the event.

Visual treat

Connoisseurs of art, who arrive from different parts of Karnataka, assemble on the banks of the river on the morning of the inaugural day. Women perform the traditional Cauvery puja. "Thottimane", an abode of music and a natural auditorium, will host the music festival, as it is spacious with a vast central hall. "Theppotsava" (the procession of the deity) on the boat, is a ritual that is a treat to watch, as hundreds of people gather to light lamps.

Mr. Padmanabha has made several appeals to the Government for converting "Thottimane" into a monument, on the lines of the houses of Kuvempu and Da. Ra. Bendre (great poets of Kannada literature), but has failed to get any response. "Interestingly, the Department of Kannada and Culture is not aware of Rudrapatna," he says with regret.

India Beats features stories of the unusual, the exotic and the extraordinary.

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