Tamil nad / Pondicherry Articles

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...

Rare kriti on a famous temple

  The kriti, being the main part of the concert, one is spoilt for choice especially among the compositions of the Trinity, who developed the kriti and kirtanai to a majestic form. Both have a Pallavi-Anupallavi-Charanam format. Dikshitar sometimes skipped the anupallavi and ended with a samashti charanam. (eg. kriti, ‘Sri Kantimatim,’ by Dikshitar, that ends with samashti charanam) Daru (e.g ‘Bhavayami’) is in a similar format but longer and more narrative in...

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...

An Irish-Indian connection

Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, to County Westmeath, Ireland, is about 115 hours by road, according to Google maps, 12451 km apart. The mind boggles at this distance today but back in the 17th century, Vere Henry Levinge made a longer journey and did so much for Kodaikanal that he deserves to be called the Father of Kodaikanal. Levinge is remembered by a Celtic cross in Kodaikanal; his grave is in a quiet spot in St. Georges, Madras. Levinge died just when he was going back to Ireland for good. His...

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...

Era of the opera

In ancient Tamil Nadu, dance, music and drama were closely intertwined and it is not always easy to separate these three art forms. Ancient Tamil literature mentions nadagam and koothu. Many of these references are from texts in the third and fourth centuries. In the Perumkathai, a work of the eighth century, there is a reference to the entry of the ‘Koil Nadaga Kuzhu' or the drama troupes of the temple. Inscriptions related to theatre and plays are rare in temples. The few there are...

Upholding rich legacy

A photo of many smiling children against a lovely house was my first introduction to Melaseval, a village an hour away from Tirunelveli. A few correspondences with the family members got me an invitation to the residence of Ramalingam Pillai, the pannaiyar of Melaseval. The home and the old couple were everything that is best of the hospitality of the Tirunelveli region. From the road, the house looked simple, the only curious feature being that the ground floor had just one window onto the...