The contribution of some of the most influential kings of south India will be highlighted at this year’s Natyarangam, on from July 28

The Vijayanagar rulers, Cholas, Pallavas, Thanjavur Marathas, Wodeyars and Kerala’s Varmas… these dynasties are the bedrock on which South Indian history and heritage has been shaped. The kings left an indelible mark on every sphere, be it administration, economy or culture.

Some historically significant names and their contributions will be highlighted at the 17 annual Bharatanatyam festival of Natyarangam, the dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha, from July 28 to August 2. Titled ‘Bhoopaala Bharatham: Kings as Protectors of the Land and People,’ the festival will see scholars and dancers revisit six dynasties.

Says Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, a committee member and one of the organisers of the festival, “We want to explore different subjects using the beautiful language of Bharatanatyam. This year, we have deliberately chosen to present the male-female dancer combination as the subject warrants it.” A book on the same theme will be released on Day 1 which will have, besides articles by scholars, treatises on governance culled out from the Tirukkural, the Mahabharata, the Ramayana and Arthasastra.

A peek at what each day will offer…

July 28:

Bhoopala:

Ganga Devi and Krishnadevaraya

Resource persons:

Dr. Prema Nandakumar and

Pappu Venugopala Rao.

Dancers:

Padma Subrahmanyam with

Vineeth R and Gayatri Kannan

The highlight will be poetess Ganga Devi’s Sanskrit war travelogue ‘Madura Vijayam,’ which describes how Bukka’s son and Ganga Devi’s husban,d Kumara Kampanna, defeated the Muslim rulers, recovered Madurai from them and reinstated Hinduism. As for Krishnadevaraya, he epitomised the dynasty, which reached heights of glory during his time. Verses from his ‘Amuktamalyada’ will find space in the second half of the performance.

July 29:

Bhoopala:

Mahendra Pallava and Narasimha Pallava

Resource person:

Dr. Chithra Madhavan

Dancers:

Bhavajan Kumar and Divya Shiva Sundar

The unique feature of this performance will be the verses, which have been directly taken from inscriptions and copper plates. Also to be featured will be stanzas from Appar’s Periya Puranam and scenes from the 7 century farcical play by Mahendra Pallava, ‘Matha Vilasa Prakasam,’ widely held to be a satire of the degenerate sects of his day. The establishment of a superior Navy by Narasimha Pallava and his invasion of Sri Lanka are other aspects to look out for.

July 30:

Bhoopala:

Raja Raja Chola and Rajendra Chola

Resource persons:

Dr. Kudavayil Balasubramanian

Dancers:

S. Divyasena and A. Lakshman

The mighty Cholas fought 21 wars, and this cannot be ignored. However, an aspect which not many are aware of is that Raja Raja Chola was a great patron of dance. He employed 400 outstanding dancers of that time to perform daily at the Big Temple. Not just that, he ensured that their every need was taken care, be it food or shelter. The dancers will not only showcase the valour and triumphant battles of the Cholas but also the Cholas’ contribution to the performing arts. ‘Silappadikaram,’ Meikeerthis (Raja Raja documented archives of his rule in the form of stone tablets and copper plates), Mudhal Aayiram and Kalvettus (epigraphs) have been used to denote all this. The construction of the Brihadeeshwara and Gangaikondacholapuram temples will feature prominently.

July 31:

Bhoopala:

Marthanda Varma and Swati Tirunal

Resource person:

Nanditha Krishna

Dancers:

Parvathy and Shijith Nambiar

The Travancore rajahs dedicated their country to and ruled in the name of the Lord Padmanabha. And so, the Lord became the ruler of the State. If Mahendra Varman was known for his bravery and astuteness (he was the first Indian ruler to defeat a foreign power - the Dutch), Swati Tirunal was compassion personified, a supporter of women’s causes and the first to introduce Allopathic medicines to the State. The dancers will touch upon these aspects using stanzas from The Gita, Nala Charitam, Kunjan Nambiar’s Ottanthullal and Ramapurathu Vanchi Paatu.

August 1:

Bhoopala:

Shahaji-II and Sarabhoji-II

Resource person:

V. Sriram

Dancers:

Madhusudhanan and Pritvija

The first ruling king and the last ruling king of Thanjavur’s Marathas will be touched upon in this performance. Thanjavur reached great efflorescence during Shahaji’s rule. ‘Pallaki Seva Prabhandham,’ the Telugu opera composed by Shahaji-II, which sings paeans to Lord Tyagesa, will be the main inspiration. Though Marathi by origin, these rulers blended into the local culture and encouraged the arts… Muthuswami Dikshitar came to Thanjavur during their reign as did Syama Sastri. Among Sarabhoji-II’s greatest contributions is the Sarasvati Mahal Library, a treasure trove of rare copper plates and manuscripts.

August 2:

Bhoopala:

The Wodeyars of Mysore

Resource person:

Vikram Sampath

Dancers:

Sathyanarayana Raju and Lakshmi Gopalaswamy

One of the longest reigning royal families (they ruled for over 600 years), the Wodeyars emerged as the supreme power in this region. Their contributions can be still seen in every sphere of Karnataka, be it the KRS Dam (second largest reservoir in the world), the Sivanasamudra hydro-electric project or the grand Dusserah celebrations of Mysore, which began in 1610 in the Vijayanagara tradition.

The scholars and dancers are unanimous in expressing the pertinence of this year’s theme for Natyarangam. “These kings laid the foundation on which modern South India has emerged. They have to be remembered, not just in history text books, but also in the way we try to shape our society. They led by setting an example. There are many lessons to be learnt from them even today.”

(The event will be webcast live on www.kalakendra.com)