The Navarathri festival was celebrated at the heritage Navarathri Mandapam with vocal concerts that showcased pristine Carnatic music.

Devotion was the key note of the nine-day music fete at the Navarathri Mandapam in Thiruvananthapuram as musicians, both veterans and up-and-coming, paid musical homage to the Goddess.

Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma's concert began the fiesta on a musical note. Beginning the concert with 'Sarasijanabha,' a varnam in Kamboji (Ata tala), he showed his grip on tala and laya as he sang the pallavi, anupallavi and chittaswaram in different speeds. A sonorous 'Paripalayamam' in Reethigowla was followed by a nuanced 'Parvathi Nayakam' in Bouli, 'Vihara Manasa Rame' in Kapi and 'Paramapurusham' in Lalithapanchamam. The main piece 'Devi Jaga Janani' in Sankarabharanam, the raga for the first day of the fete, was the piece-de-resistance of the concert.

Accompanists Vardarajan (violin), B. Harikumar (mridangam), Karthik (ghatam) and Payyanur Govinda Prasad (morsing) were at their best. 'Jalaja Bandhu' in Suruti and 'Japath Japath Hari Namam,' a raga malika in Mishra maand, Sushama, Behag and Sindhubharavi were the thukkadas.

His guru's bani

On the second day, Sreevalsan J. Menon's recital started with a pleasing 'Padmanabha Pahi' in Malayamarutham. 'Jaya Jaya Padmanabha' in Manirangu, and 'Daanisa,' a Thodi pada varnam followed. Sreevalsan's rendering reminded the listeners of his guru, the inimitable Neyyattinkara Vasudevan. The main 'Pahimam Sri Vageeswari' in Kalyani was followed by a melting padam 'Mullapoo malaramban' in Sahana, 'Saramaina' in Behag and a memorable 'Vishweshwara' in Sindhubhairavi. Sreevalsan was accompanied by the accompanists who played on the first day.

The third day had T.M. Krishna singing a well modulated concert that was in tune with the pristine ambience of the Mandapam. His recital was a little different as he concentrated on the main piece of the day, which was 'Devi Pavane' in Saveri, and the varnam 'Sarasijanabha' but it was no less melodious.

He was accompanied by R.K. Sriramkumar (violin) Poongulam Subramaniam (mridangam) and P.S.Purushothaman (ganjira). 'Pahitharakshu' in Anandabhairavi was sung softly with a lot of bhava. 'Smara Janaka' in Behag was followed by the Kamboji varnam 'Sarasijanabha' for which he sang a fairly long niraval. After the main Saveri was sung there was just time for a hurriedly sung 'Vishweshwara.'

Youngster Amrutha Venkatesh started with a sweet but stately Neelambari varnam 'Saarasa shara sundara' on the fourth day. She was accompanied by Avaneeswaram S. Vinu, Babu and Sudheer. 'Mamavasada Janani' in Kanada was followed by 'Paripahi' in Kalyani, and 'Bhogeendrashayinam' in Kuntalavarali. The main piece was 'Bharathi Mamava' in Thodi. The highlight of her concert was 'Aliveni,' 'Namasudharasa' and 'Japath Japath,' which were brilliantly sung in the latter half of her concert.

At his best

Sanjay Subrahmanyan, accompanied by Mahadeva Sharma (violin), Palakkad Maheshkumar (mridangam) and Manjoor Unnikrishnan (ghatam), gave a brilliant concert on the fifth day. 'Sadu Thada' in Vakulabharanam, tuned by Rama Varma, set the mood of the concert. 'Kalayami' in Kannada, 'Shaurey' in Durbar and 'Smarahari' were the delectable appetisers that led to the main 'Janani mamavameye' in Bhairavi. The thukkadas were 'Reenamadanutha,' in Behag, 'Sees ganga' and 'Bansivale' in Mohanam.

Thrissur V. Ramachandran ably assisted by M.A. Sundareswaran (violin), Prapancham Ravindran (mridangam) and Vaikom Gopalakrishnan (ghatam) held centre stage on the sixth day.

Voice of experience

He began with the Bouli piece 'Parvathi Nayaka.' 'Saroruhasana jaye' in Panthuvarali, the composition for day six, was handled with finesse. The Mohanakalyani composition 'Sevesrikantham' was a connoisseur's delight. Sundareshwaran on the violin was superb in essaying this 'ranjak' raga.

Among the other renditions of the evening, 'Narasimha mamava,' 'Sadara mava' and 'Kalayami raghurama' in Arabhi, Saraswathi and Begada respectively stood out.

'Janani pahi sada' was the main composition on the seventh day. This piece in Shudha Saveri was taken up for ragalapana, thanam, niraval and manodharma swaram by versatile vocalist T.V. Gopalakrishnan. 'Kalayami' in Kannada, 'Sarasasuvadana' in Kalyani and 'Sankarasrigiri' in Hamsanandi struck an immediate rapport with the audience.

Compositions such as 'Paripahi' in Saveri, 'Shambho satatam' in Varamu, 'Bhavayami' in Madhyamavathi and 'Paripalaya' in Kamavardhini added variety to the musical menu. Akkarai Subbalakshmi (violin), T.V. Vasan (mridangam) and V. Suresh (ghatam) accompanied the vocalist admirably.

It was the turn of Amritha Murali, a promising youngster, to display her calibre on the eighth day of the festival. 'Sava marusha,' a Chouka varnam in Kamas, was the opening piece. Hemalatha (violin), Nanjil Arul (mridangam) and Adichanalloor Anil Kumar (ghatam) gave coordinated accompaniment. 'Pahi janani' in Nattakurinji was the centre piece of the day. The singer was able to bring out the beauty of the raga by weaving intricate patterns. 'Gangeya vasana' in Hamirkalyani and 'Saramaina' in Behag captivated the audience.

Living legend

Parassala B. Ponnammal is a living legend of Carnatic music. The last day belonged to her and she made it memorable by singing the main composition 'Pahi Parvatha' in Arabhi. Accompanists Amritha Murali (violin), B. Ganapathi Raman (mridangam) and Udupi S. Sridhar (ghatam) came good in the concert.

'Kripayapalaya' in Charukeshi), 'Mamavasada' in Kanada), 'Samodam' in Ramapriya and 'Alarsara' in Surutti enchanted the audience. 'Kamalajasya,' a ragamalika that described the Dasavataras in ragas Bilahari, Dhanyasi, Saranga, Madhyamavathi, Attana, Nattakurinji, Darbar and Anandabhairavi was a special treat. 'Bhujagashayino' in Yadukulakamboji brought the concert and the festival to a close.

Inputs from Saraswathy Nagarajan

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