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Ode to the Bard of Tiruvaiyaru

Thyagabrahma Gananjali recently organised the 62nd edition of its music festival. The ambience at the Sri Venugopalaswamy temple, Coimbatore, was charged with piety. The artists rendered the saint’s kritis as an offering, focussing on the kritis and ‘bhavas’ rather than on showcasing their own virtuosity.

A.S. Murali. Photo: S. Siva Saravanan

During the music festival, one got a glimpse of the myriad facets of Thyagaraja’s personality –– a passionate ‘bhakta’, a friend of the lord (who could take liberties with Him), a linguist, a poet, a music composer, and a socially alert citizen –– through the kritis chosen by the artists.

On the inaugural day, Gayathri Venkataraghavan propitiated the dancing Ganesha, with ‘Sri Ganapathini’ in Sowrashtram. ‘Naradamuni Vedalina’ in Pantuvarali described the Saint’s joy at seeing Narada. ‘Raghupathae Rama, Rakshasa Bheema’ in Sahana, was full of praise for the Lord. But, ‘Maanamu Laedhaa Tanavadani Abhi- (maanamu)’ in Hamir Kalyani was an outright rebuke asking Rama whether he has no sense of shame that he ignores him like this. However, before the completion of the line, he makes it ‘Abhimaanamu’ (affection), as he can’t be angry with his Rama for long. And the main kriti in Kharaharapriya ‘Chakkani Raja’ was an address to his own heart –– ‘what is the need to enter narrow lanes when there is a straight road in the form of Ramabhakthi?’

Gayathri delineated the ragas with great care. The niravals and swaraprastaras added more beauty. Her karvais and brigas were pleasing to the ears and her clarity of diction was an added asset. R.K. Shriram Kumar on the violin provided an excellent feast in the form of raga essays and lively swaraprastaras. N. Manoj Siva on the mridangam and S.V. Subramanian on the ganjira were a source of tremendous support, and their remarkable thani was a bonus.

N. Vijay Siva rendered a few rare compositions in the course of his wholesome presentation. The caressing Nilambari followed by ‘Maataadavaemi Naatho’ (‘Won’t you talk to me?’) was rendered with emotion. ‘Adigi Sukhamulevvaru Anubhavinchiriraa’ (who has ever enjoyed joy after asking you for it?) in Madhyamavati brought out the saint’s anger, but Vijay Siva’s style of rendition made it enjoyable. The soulful alapana and the lovely swaraprastaras after the niraval for the line, ‘Neekae Daya Buthi’ were heartening. After this kriti, the tone of the concert changed. There was only devotion and joy, with ‘Paramaathmudu Veligae’ in Bhagadheeswari and ‘Koluvamaregadha’ in Thodi (the main kriti). During his alapana, the raga phrases danced forth like the ripples in a brimming river. Vittal Ramamurthy’s swift, smooth and firm strokes on the violin were an uninterrupted treat. The lighter session continued with ‘Sallarae Ramachandrunipai,’ ‘Sri Rama Jaya Rama’ and concluded with the prayer, ‘Dasaratha Nandana Daanava Mardhana’. Bombay Balaji (mridangam) and V. Mohanram (ghatam) formed a lively team and wove enjoyable laya patterns.

Ramakrishnan Murthy sang on the aradhana day of the saint and began with the Varali Pancharatnam ‘Kana Kana Ruchi Raa’, rendering it with admirable clarity. He also sang a few rare kritis such as ‘Tholinaenu Jaesina’ (Kokiladhwani) and ‘Badalika Theera Pavvulinchave’ (Ritigowla) – from Utsava Sampradaya kritis. Kedaragowla (‘Venuganaloluni’) and Bhairavi ‘Upacharamulanu’ were rendered with elaborate alapana and swarakalpanas. His lighter session comprised ‘Sri Rama Jaya Raama’, ‘Haridasulu Vedalae’ and ‘Karuna Jaladhae.’ Ramakrishnan Murthy was supported by M. Rajeev on the violin and N.C. Bharadhwaj on the mridangam.

V. Sankaranarayanan began with ‘Eevasudhaa’ in Sahana and moved on to ‘Sobillu Sapthaswara’ and the rarely-heard ‘Yae Paapamu Jesithiraa’ in Atana. The miniscule alapana of Hindolam before ‘Samaja Vara Gamana’ was delightful and Nagai Sriram’s violin made it glisten with liveliness. The leisurely depiction of Khambodi for ‘O Rangasayee’ had depth. Nagai Sriram worked wonders with his violin. G. Prakash on the mridangam and A.S. Krishnan on the morsing presented an energetic thani, besides giving solid support throughout the concert.

The concerts of Aravind Bhargav (mandolin) and A.S. Murali (vocal) were featured on the other two days. On the penultimate day of the six-day utsavam, Tyagaraja aradhana was conducted with unchavrithi, bhajan, abishekam and group singing.

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