Divine and disciplined
The Anantha Padmanabhaswamy temple at Thiruvananthapuram where concerts take place during Navaratri.
THE NAVARATRI Mandapam Trust held a nine-day long music festival from October 14 to 22 at the Navaratri Mandapam adjacent to the Anantha Padmanabha Swamy temple.
This mandapam has Goddess Saraswati as the presiding deity and is lit exquisitely by ornate Kerala oil lamps to the almost total exclusion of electric lighting and is a beautiful piece of Kerala architecture.
The concerts which were of three-hour duration in the evening started and concluded on time.
The artistes and male listeners were seated facing each other on the two sides of the mandapam in front of the sanctum sanctorum and were expected to be clad in veshti and angavastram only. And saris for ladies - no jeans, etc.
They were seated in a separate area. No entries and exits during the concerts. Pin-drop silence was observed and there was no applause since, so goes the theory, the songs are sung as offerings to the Gods. Unlike in most Sabha concerts, we did not find any demands from the artistes for louder and louder amplification of sound to the detriment of listening comfort and pleasure.
The audience had to squat on the floor and in the prakaram. And best of all, there were no speeches.
In short, the ambience was near-perfect for both the artistes and the audience. At the end of the concert, the temple bell was rung once and puja was performed to the Goddess to the accompaniment of nagaswaram.
Though this discipline is showing signs of somewhat fraying at the edges now, it is observed in practice to an astonishingly high degree.
The result is production of high quality music, and great listening pleasure. The ambience is such that the artistes are seen to deliver inspired music.
The artistes this year were T. N. Seshagopalan, T. V. Gopalakrishnan, Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma (veena), Malladi Brothers Trichur Ramachandran, Vechoor Shankar, Rudrapatnam Brothers, T. M. Krishna and Ranganatha Sarma. There was also a special vocal concert of Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma.
The accompanists included, among others, Mahadeva Sarma, M. A. Sundaresan, M. A. Krishnaswami, and T. K. Ramanujacharyalu, and Manjunath on the violen, Guruvayur Durai, Tiruvarur Bhaktavachalam and Mavelikara Krishnan Kutty Nair on the Mridangam and Karthik on ghatam.
The festival was exclusively devoted to Swathi Tirunal compositions. The highlight of each day was the Navaratri krithi special to the day in praise of Devi - ``Devi Jagajjanani" (Sankarabharanam), ``Pahimam Sri Vagadheeswari" (Kalyani), ``Devi Pavane" (Saveri), ``Bharathi Mamava" (Todi), ``Janani Mamavameye" (Bhairavi), ``Saroruhasanajaye" (Panthuvarali), ``Janani Pahi Sadha" (Suddhasaveri), ``Pahi Janani Sathatham" (Natakurinchi) and ``Pahi Parvathanandini" (Aarabhi).
An interesting and happy feature of all the concerts was the elaboration of the ragam and tanam prior to taking up the day's Navaratri krithi - all taking about an hour. Another unique feature was tanam was rendered to the accompaniment of percussion which produced an aesthetically pleasing experience. This has been a tradition since long.
It would be invidious to single out individual perforamances but special mention needs to be made of Seshagopalan's Sankarabharanam, Malladi Brothers' Todi, Trichur's Bhairavi, and T.M. Krishna's Natakurinji. Ramachandran's Bhairavi alapana was rendered in four parts in a manner reminiscent of his guru, the late GNB.
It was refreshing to see the accompanists playing their role in a subdued manner to suit the occasion. To sum up, the festival was an aurally and aesthetically rewarding experience.
We get to hear in Chennai but only a few kritis of Swathi Tirunal. At the festival, many rarely-heard kritis were sung. And how one wishes Chennai audiences - and artistes and Sabha authorities, too - follow the discipline one observed in Thiruvananthapuram!
G. SANKARAN and PARVATHY SANKARAN
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