The 14th edition of the four-day Kalpathy Bhajanotsavam in Palakkad, which featured continuous namasankeertanam by stalwarts and promising youngsters, was a rousing success that attracted hundreds of devotees every day.

Kalpathy Bhajanotsavam, held to commemorate the jayanthi of Paramacharya Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswathi Swamigal, the 68th Acharya of Kanchi Kamakoti peetam, has become one of the most popular annual events in Palakkad. Continuous namasankeertanam by famous exponents of bhajans and promising youngsters, along with the wholehearted participation of devotees, has made this event memorable. This year was the 14th year of the festival. This year too the fete attracted a large number of devotees from near and far, who thronged the Mahaganapathi Kalyanamandapam, Kalpathy, the venue of the fete, on all the days.

As a prelude to the bhajanotsavam, a musical discourse on ‘Bhaktha Vijayam’ by bhagavatars Viji and Balaji was held for three days. They narrated the story of Meera brilliantly, interspersed with enchanting Meera bhajans. On the third day, Kanpur Mahadeva Bhagavathar and party rendered guru kirtanas.

Veda chanting by leading pundits and students of Veda Paatasala at Ramanathapuram was an aural delight.

The Bhajanotsavam commenced with a magnificent recital of Geetha Govinda Mahakavyam – Ashtapadhi – by Thanjavur Thyagaraja Bhagavathar. Ashtapadhi, consisting of 24 songs composed by Jayadeva, occupies a prime slot in bhajan programmes. With his excellent Carnatic music background, Thyagaraja Bhagavathar has become an expert in rendering Ashtapadhi. He captured the attention of the listeners with his scintillating naamaavalis.

Led by sisters Shantha and Raji, the members of Suvasini Bhajan Mandali rendered with cohesion a number of devotional songs, bhajans and naamaavalis. The sisters showcased their classical erudition in their energetic presentations, marked by melody and clarity.

Endowed with a powerful voice, Vizhuppuram Jeya Theertha excelled in singing several compositions of Purandaradaasa. Songs in Brindavana saranga, Mohanam, and other ragas were soaked in soulful melody.

The second day’s proceedings started with the chanting of ‘Narayaneeyam’ by members of Mahila Samajam, Kalpathy. Amibikapuram Harihara Bhagavathar’s performance was bhakti and bhava personified. He unfolded the emotive content of the songs with his appealing presentations. His soulful renditions of ‘Govinda Ninna’ ‘Smaravaaram Vaaram’, ‘Bhajore Bhaiya’ and so on were delightful.

Students of Sri Sankara Vidyalaya Matriculation School, Urapakkam, Chennai, established a fine rapport with the audience with their spirited portrayals of abhangs and naamaavalis.

Kolkatta Balu Bhagavathar and his brother Ramanatha Bhagavathar maintained a fine tempo throughout their concert. Their bhajans were steeped in aesthetic bhava. Their songs and naamaavalis on Ayyappa left an indelible impression on the listeners. Ganesh Kumar from Mumbai impressed listeners with his moving rendition of abhangs and other bhajans.

Divyanaamasankeertanam by members of Aradhana Mahotsava committee led by Tondukulam Ramu and Saji Ananthanarayanan was absorbing. They sparkled in their beautiful rendition of slokas, bhajans and naamavalis. The presence of bhajan stalwarts Delhi Subbarama Bhagavathar and Kanpur Mahadeva Bhagavathar gave their concert a boost.

Manjapra Mohan enjoys a special status in the field of naamasankeertanam. Endowed with a resonant, mesmerising voice, he carried the audience with his scintillating bhajans and naamaavalis, on the third day. His viruthams and songs on Muruga, Ayyappa and so on made a deep impact. The children of Brindavan Society, Thane, well trained by Babu, acquitted themselves creditably in rendering bhajans and naamaavalis.

Kalpana Venkat, a talented violinist, proved her mettle as an able vocalist, with a variety of devotional songs and bhajans, which included songs on Kanchi Acharya, Devi Lalithambika and abhangs.

Senkottai Hariharasubramanyan, a famous bhajan exponent with a strong Carnatic music background, regaled the audience with a sterling recital of Namasankeertanam. Starting with Todaya Mangalam, he dwelt at length on Guru Dhyanam. His songs in praise of Adi Sankara, Kanchi Acharya and so on and abhangs dedicated to Marathi gurus were soaked in rich melody. He presented Ashtapadhi, Tarangam, Meera bhajan and so on and a cluster of Naamaavalis in his own inimitable style.

Divya Namam by Mayavaram Muthukrishna Bhagavathar was superb. He presented it elaborately, as per the Tanjavur Sampradaya. He rendered Tarangam, and kritis of Tyagaraja, Vijayagopalaswamy, Bhadrachala Ramadas and others.

The concluding day’s proceedings commenced with ‘Unchavrithi’, led by Delhi Subbarama Bhagavathar. O.S. Sundar, a renowned Namasankeertanam artiste, conducted ‘Seetha Kalyanam’ (in bhajan sampradaya). Starting with Todayamangalam followed by slokas, songs on gurus, Kalyana Ashtapadhi and 23rd Ashtapadhi, he proceeded to ‘Sita Kalyanam’ and presented it excellently, stage by stage, rendering the prescribed songs and verses.

It is customary to conduct ‘Vasanthotsavam’ on the day Sita Kalyanam is rendered. A.V.K. Rajasimha Bhagavathar did full justice to it, in his admirable presentation, interspersed with narrations, at each stage. In the ‘Vasanthotsavam’, the Lord is given a grand ‘Sayana Sevai’, which means a lullaby with all ‘Upacharas’. The Upachara is offered with a feast of devotional songs in different ragas and talas.

The festival concluded with Anjaneya Utsavam. The supporting vocalists, coordinating with the main bhagavathars, made a significant contribution. Harmonium artistes such as Trichur Manikantan, Nurni Ganesh, Muthuswamy and Palakkad Ayyappan did an excellent job; they brought out the quintessence of the ragas, in their solo versions.

Guruvayur Rajamani’s violin accompaniment for Ganesh Kumar’s abhang concert was rich in tonal purity and sweet melody. Mridangam artistes such as Vishnupuram Harisundar, Trichur Ganesh, Chennai Bharath Krishnan, Erode Srinivasan, Arvind, Karthik and Sai Prasad from Palakkad embellished the bhajan concerts with their spirited display. Trichur Ganesh’s taniavartanam after Manjapra Mohan’s concert deserves special mention. Seasoned tabla artiste Embar Vagulabaranam made a notable contribution with his dexterous strokes on the tabla.