Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan’s concert was in keeping with the spirit of the venue – the Parthasarathy Swami temple.
The Parthasarathy temple in Tiruvallikeni is said to be the oldest temple in Chennai city. Tiruvellikeni itself finds mention as a village even in the times of the ancient Pallava dynasty. And in this temple, with all its authenticity and grandeur, was the Brahmotsavam festival grand finale concert of Madurai T.N. Seshagopalan.
The crowds that had thronged the temple festivities organically reorganised themselves to transform the space into a spiritual theatre. And thus began the concert.
It was common knowledge that TNS had returned from a long American musical tour barely twelve hours before his concert, in one of the hottest days of the year. There was natural curiosity of how he would cope with the circumstances. But as the concert progressed, it became obvious that TNS would not disappoint, since he would capture the traditional connection between Carnatic music and its original proscenium, the temple.
Even as the concert began with the Chalamela varnam (Nattakurunji) and unfolded into the Dikshitar composition Shankha Chakra (Purnachandrika), the concert had embedded itself in the universe of Parthasarathy. TNS enhanced the momentum with Ambujam Krishna's ‘Yenna Solli Azhaithai’ that was preceded by a supremely evocative elaboration of raga Kaanada followed by a thematic virutham. ‘Keechu Keechendrengum’ (Tiruppavai)inBhairavi was an apt inclusion of Andal.
The next composition was to connect inevitably with the spatial significance of the temple. The offering was a slokam ‘Sarva Dharmaan Parityajya’, the last of the Gitopadesam and is called Charamasloka, highlighting the surrender of the devotee to the higher force.
This was followed by the elaborate ‘Bhagayanayya’inChandrajyoti. This wholesome offering meandered from the raga elaboration to the niraval and kalpana swaram.
The line of the niraval improvisation ‘Phalamu Neeku thanaku Laedhani Chakkaga Paalanamu Seya Laedha’ refers to theGita sloka, (meaning, the action alone is your right and not the result). Even the anupallavi in the composition refers to the karmanyeva-adhikaarsthe maa phaleshu kadhaachan Gitopadesasloka (meaning, there is nothing to be done for me, or my own sake in all the three worlds). TNS could not have made a better offering to the philosophical symbolism of the presiding deity.
All the exquisite viruttams such as ‘Palliyil Othi Vanthadhor Siruvan’ (Thirumangai Azhwar Pasuram) about the Thiruvallikeni deity and ‘Shankha Chakra’ (Draupadi Maana Samrakshana slokam) were thematic to the metaphors of the temple. TNS chose to even conclude the concert with a thematic mangalam ‘Vijaya Gopala’ by Narayana Tirtha.
Vittal Ramamurthy on the violin and Ganapathy Raman on the mridangam harmonised faultlessly with the theme and texture of the concert.
The concert and its ambience transported even the average connoisseur (and perhaps even the non-believer!) to a world of yore when culture, spirituality and intellectual genius merged with organic ease. TNS demonstrated that he is a unique bearer of a musical tradition that can revitalise the transcended significance of a space called the temple.