Chola Naadu Articles

Songs of a forgotten genius

O ne of India's few traditions that is still going strong is Carnatic music. It cannot be disputed that Carnatic music as we know it today, owes it to Thanjavur for its birth and Chennai for its current day sustenance. Since the16th century, Thanjavur was the place where the rules of this music were created. It is therefore only to be expected that the finest music was also created in one of India's grandest and most erudite courts. A worthy successor to the Nayak patronage of music was the...

Life beyond the vault

As travellers most of us are aware of the Pyramids of Egypt, the tombs of New Delhi and Agra. But what about the tombs of Tamil Nadu? Among the many monuments that don’t make it to the itinerary of tourists is the Kailasa Mahal or Raja Gori in Thanjavur. Even local guides have little knowledge about it. For those who would like to know of Thanjavur beyond the Brihadeeswara temple, the mausoleum complex of the Marathas are fascinating structures of brick and stucco that take one back in...

From a bygone era

The Brihadeeswara temple built by Raja Raja Chola (985-1014AD) in Thanjavur is one of world’s most famous monuments. Most people believe its claim to fame is its magnificent size and intricate craftsmanship. What is less known is the fact that the temple has the best preserved Chola period murals that date from the time of the construction of the temple. Hidden from view by Nayak paintings that were painted over them in the 17th century, the murals were discovered in the 1930s and since...

Encapsulating the beauty of Rajagopala

(Beginning this week, we travel to four outstanding temples in Tamil Nadu, which are immortalised in songs that are rendered in concerts even today.) Many songs have attained special status just for the way M.S. rendered them. Among the gems is the ‘Viribhoni’ varnam in Bhairavi by Pacchimiriam Adaiyappa. The varnam is a short piece with Muktayi swaram and several rounds of chittaiswarams that capture the essence of the raga. Deceptively simple, they were probably placed in the...

Speaks of sringara and devotion

(This is the third part of the music series that throws light on the Padam composed by Kshetrayya on Varadaraja Swami of Kanchipuram.) Relegated to the tail-end and paired with tukkadas, if ever sung, the Padam continues to hold sway among dancers. Padams are longer songs with a pallavi, anupallavi and several charanams where the singer “speaks” of love and devotion to God. It could be in happiness of the love being fulfilled, sadness that it is delayed and or not...

It was the pinnacle of fine arts

(This is the last of the four-part series on music and temples.) “Last but not the least,” is a phrase that may have been coined for the thillana! Everyone will love a thillana for its brisk, literally foot tapping beat and melody. Scholars believe the first thillana came in the 18th century and was composed by Melatur Verabadrayya. Maha Vaidyanatha Iyer’s composition ‘Gauri Nayaka’ is considered one of the most complex. Thillanas quickly became popular among...

Raja Raja and his Leadership Values

There’s an old proverb that says fools never learn from their mistakes, clever people do and the wise learn from the mistakes of others. Undoubtedly the best place to learn from others’ mistakes is history, provided we are also able to grasp it in our context. Sadly, our history lessons are often just reams of irrelevant lists of dates that have little bearing on the issues and challenges we face daily. A thousand years ago, the Chola king Raja Raja I built the Brihadeeswara Temple...

Sanctuaries of times past

Long before management gurus spoke volumes about the need for leaders of organisations to do their bit for social development as an obligation to “give back”, kings in various parts of the country did their mite to contribute to charity thanks to an Indian tradition of revering hospitality as a virtue. Different kings have different track records. Among the better ones are the Maratha kings who ruled Thanjavur from 1676 to 1855. They established chathrams or rest houses in different...

Storehouse of information

T hanjavur has been the cradle of arts for several Centuries. Be it painting, music, dance, drama, crafts or cuisine, Thanjavur has made a mark. ‘Thanjavur - A Cultural History,' a book authored by Pradeep Chakravarthy with photos by Vikram Sathyanathan, deals with the cultural contributions of Thanjavur from the Chola period to the present. The book in 220 pages with 174 photographs (many of them archival and never before printed) and five maps traces not only the cultural history but...

A fort and an epic

I f the history of India is made up of battles, then our forts surely deserve more attention. Tucked away on the Thanjavur–Mannargudi Road in Tiruvarur district, Tamil Nadu, Mahadevapatnam is but a blip on the map. The village may always choose to be like that but it has a tourist and historian's treasure waiting for the world to discover. Sakthi and I felt like intrepid explorers. We had a line of reference from an old book about the possibility of a mint from the Maratha times existing...