The annual festival of music and dance brought the veterans together on the same platform.

Renowned Odissi exponent Madhavi Mudgal presented an excellent sample of traditional odissi at the open-air Linga Bhairavi Courtyard, adjacent to the Dhyanalinga Temple, Coimbatore. She was performing for ‘Yaksha,’ the annual festival of music and dance hosted by Isha Foundation, Coimbatore. By including compositions from Kalidasa (sixth Century), Jayadeva (12th Century) and Sharngadeva (13th Century), the famous disciple of the legendary guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, proved that the appeal of these great poets remains intact across centuries. Her introduction to each piece was as beautiful as her performance.

The Mangalacharan invoking Lord Siva was from Sharngadeva’s ‘Sangeeta Ratnakar’ that described how Siva controls the rhythm of the universe with his ‘damru’ and portrayed the union of Siva-Parvati. ‘Pallavi,’ a typical Odissi item was presented next. Madhavi excelled with her lovely eye movements, deft footwork and subtle feminine grace. The statuesque postures that were interwoven in the choreography were a delight to watch.

She presented two ashtapadis together, one describing the angry Radha, who is upset about Krishna’s dalliance with other women and the other showing Krishna at his submissive best. Radha is so angry that she asks Krishna to just leave the place, ‘Yaahi Madhava, Yaahi Keshava.’ But the eternal charmer Krishna is able to placate her with the ultimate submission (Priye! Chaarusheele!), requesting her to keep her feet on his crown. The delicate beauty of the song was brought out with graphic details by the dancer.

‘Vasant’ from ‘Ritusamhara’ by Kalidasa appeared next. Blossoming flowers, flitting butterflies and flowing rivers emerged alive through her gestures and facial expressions. Madhavi concluded with ‘Moksha,’ a symbolic representation of the self becoming one with the Cosmic soul. She was supported by an excellent orchestra led by soulful singing.

The next day’s venue was shifted to the Adi-Yogi Alayam due to the threat of rain. The audience thoroughly enjoyed the performance of Hindustani vocalist Pt. Ulhas Kashalkar, a representative of the Gwalior, Jaipur and Agra gharanas. He began his recital with a lovely elaboration of Raga Kedar (in Carnatic paddhati, it is known as Hamir Kalyani) and presented ‘Jogi Rawala’ set to vilambit tilwada taal and ‘Tum Sugara Chatur Bhaiyya’ in ek taal. This was followed by a wonderful tarana in teen taal. The charming raga Malkauns (Hindolam in Carnatic paddhati) poured forth and he presented a vilambit composition ‘Sundar Badan Ke’ set to Jhap taal. Pt. Kashalkar concluded with ‘Aayo Phagun Maas,’ a composition in raga Bhairavi. The spontaneous applause from the audience was a fitting reward to the great artist. He was accompanied on the harmonium by Tanmay Deochake and on the tabla by Suresh Talwalkar.

Ustad Nishat Khan, the ace sitarist, mesmerised the audience with his sparkling recital. A scion of an unbroken family line of musicians for nearly four centuries, Nishat Khan elaborated rag Marwa, an evening raga that set a devotional mood. He began slowly, and gained momentum reaching great speed and heights. Even those who were listening to Hindustani music for the first time were charmed by his virtuosity. Tanmoy Bose on the tabla gave him energetic support and earned bursts of applause.

Acclaimed as one of the foremost exponents of Agra Gharana, Vidushi Shubra Guha charmed the audience with her hearty music and heartier attitude. She began with raga Chayanat with the bandish ‘Joban Mora Diye’ and followed it up with the faster number ‘Malaniya Goondh Lao Ri.’ After ‘Adi Siva Sankara,’ a dhrupad composition in praise of Siva, she presented a few variants of Malhar – the Monsoon raga. ‘Barkha Ritu Bairi Hamari’ described how the rainy season had become her enemy in the absence of her beloved. She sang a unique composition, in the ‘Adhar Bandh’ (closed lips) format where the lips do not touch each other. (‘Ae Sakhi Saiyyan Ki Suratiya Jiyara Hare’) One was reminded of a similar raga in Carnatic style, ‘Niroshta’ and the composition by Muthaiah Bhagavatar, ‘Raja Rajaaraadhite.’

‘Rang Daaroongii Nand Ke Laalan Pe,’ describing how Krishna and the gopikas played ‘Holi,’ gave a lively conclusion to the concert. Her disciple Sanjukta Biswas gave her excellent support with her stunning voice. Accompanists Tanmay Deochake on the harmonium and Yogesh Samsi on the tabla showed their expertise and made it an enjoyable experience.

T.M. Krishna’s inward journey into music on the final day pulled the audience along. With closed eyes and oblivious to the surroundings, he began at a slow pace with ‘Kaalai Thookki Nindraadum Deivame’ in Yadhukula Khambodi by Marimuthu Pillai. Krishna gave life to the song that was a verbal portrait of Nataraja in motion. ‘Jamboopathe Maampaahi,’ the Pancha Bhootha krithi dedicated to Jambulingam of Thiruvanaikka in Yamunakalyani was blissful. Even Krishna appeared to be visibly moved by the beauty of the kriti. After an intense portrayal of Bharavi he presented another jewel of a composition-Syama Sastri’s Swarajathi, ‘Kaamaakshi, Ambaa..’ And, the niraval for ‘Amba Shyama Krishna Sahodhari’! If some one pleads in such tuneful music, how can the Goddess refrain from granting her blessings?

The masters of percussion, Melakaveri Balaji on the mridangam and N. Guruprasad on the ghatam made their presence felt throughout the concert and packed all their skills in a three-minute capsule during the vibrant thani. ‘Eppo Varuvaaro’ in Jonpuri by Gopalakrishna Bharati was sung as it should be sung, bringing out the pain and longing in the heart of the devotee for a darshan of the Lord. ‘Sarvam Brahma Mayam’ by Sadasiva Brahmendral and the concluding virutham, ‘Pullaagi……’ were full of spiritual wisdom. R.K. Sriram Kumar proved a genius with his bow and presented some unforgettable music.

The Hindu was the media partner for this event.