The 237th Dikshitar Jayanti celebrations were held at this venue, organised by The Nadha Jyothi Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar Memorial Committee. The festival was well-attended, by people from across the State.

Ettayapuram, located 15 km from Kovilpatti en route Tuticorin, became the hub of activity for a couple of days recently. The 237th Dikshitar Jayanti celebrations were held at this venue, organised by The Nadha Jyothi Sri Muthuswami Dikshitar Memorial Committee. Less known yet devout musicians of all age groups paid their homage to this saint-composer, by rendering his kritis as a group and as single performers. This place has a mantapam, simple in design and appearance and the decoration was minimal for the occasion.

The “Temple of Dikshitar” has many of his songs painted on the walls with their meanings written in Tamil and each small room (kutil) is named after the relatives of Dikshitar.

The proceedings at the Jayanti began with a nagaswaram recital by Kovilpatti Subramaniam. Happily, it was a full-fledged concert instead of a curtailed recital that has become a norm these days. Inaugurating the Vizha, Nalli Kuppuswami Chetti said that visiting Ettayapuram was one of the greatest occasions in his life. He made a special mention of the audience who gathered in large numbers.

Dr. R. Natarajan, former Political Advisor, U.S. Consulate, who presided, reminded that if we still continue to sing Dikshitar’s kritis that by itself proclaims its value and significance. Rajagopal welcomed the gathering and traced the history of the present “Abode of Dikshitar” that had evolved through the work and worship of officials and philanthropists. The president, K.S. Raman, who has been the committee’s mainstay since 1974 serving it silently, was also present.

Sugandha Kalamegam who (vocal support - Ramya Kannan) presented the inaugural concert, chose Sankarabharanam (‘Sri Dakshinamurthe’) as her main raga. Her alapana here and more remarkably for Suratti (Lalitha Parameswari) had stately nuances which combined admirably well with her dulcet voice speaking of the high calibre of the artist. Her other songs were ‘Muraharena Mukundena’ (Suddha Mukhari), ‘Arunachala Nadam’ (Saranga), ‘Soundara Rajam’ (Brindavana Saranga) and ‘Dharmasamvardhanim’ (Madhyamavati).

The indefatigable Tiruvallur Parthasarathy provided violin support and Ramanathapuram Ramanathan added his fine and well-organised nadais and sollus while accompanying on the mridangam. A descendant of the Dikshitar family, Lakshmi sang a few Dikshitar kritis before this concert.

After this concert, it was an uninterrupted flow of the kritis of Dikshitar. While 35 persons participated as vocalists, the accompanists included four violinists, five mridangam vidwans, two ghatam vidwans and two on the ganjira. There was a violin duet and solos on the flute and the veena.

Palai Navaneethan compered well with his timely wise-cracks and quoted abundantly from scriptural hymns and modern poets - always appropriate to the context. The singers had come from across the country – Mumbai, Kerala, Karnataka, Tiruchi, Madurai, Kadayanallur, Pondicherry, and Valliyur and also from the nearby Kovilpatti, Tuticorin and Tirunelveli.

Initially the Pancha Booothalinga kritis, Navagraha Kritis and Navaavarana kritis were sung. While all performers had an overall capacity to render Dikshitar kritis retaining its gravity to a great extent, youngster Saranya from Trivandrum and octogenarian Madurai Saraswathi Lakshmanan (a disciple of Prof. S. Ramanathan) stood out.

The function was conducted as perfectly as it could be done and the office-bearers and their assistants deserve a word of praise. Available resources were put to best use. Said Rajagopal (secretary), “The idea is to give singers, both from the local area and from other places, a break by affording them this opportunity to sing. They may not be regular performers on stage but, as they render his kritis and get into the groove, they remember with awe the master composer and the range of his compositions. We have also observed that artists are well-equipped to sing Dikshitar kritis and also learn an extra kriti in the process.”

Said a “We, by default, associate Ettayapuram with Bharati and this kind of programmes reminds us of another eminent scholar-composer Dikshitar, who lived in this place more than 200 years ago.” In short, the festival succeeded in creating an impact on the people.

(sivakumar2004@gmail.com)