The Svanubhava festival was an eclectic package of fine art. Dance, vocal recitals, lecture demonstrations and drama coalesced into a rich experience for a new generation of rasikas and potential artists.

The final day of the three-day Svanubhava festival was an eclectic package of fine art. There was a vocal concert, a temple tradition and a dance drama, among other performances.

The day began with Vidushi Sangeetha Sivakumar’s Carnatic Vocal concert. She rendered Maate (Ragam Kamas, Talam Aadi) complying with her daughter’s request.

Raghuvara Nannu in Ragam Panthuvarali, Talam Aadi, Cheta Shri in Ragam Dvajavanthi, Talam Rupakam and Sevika Vendum aiyya in praise of Lord Chidambaranadar in Ragam Andolika, Talam Aadi followed. 

The main ragam was Kamboji (Tiruvadi sharanam) set to Aadi Talam. She concluded with Jagadhodharana in Kapi which received applause just as it began. 

In an interactive session, the artiste told the audience that rigorous riyaaz, especially during the initial years, is a pre-requirement for perfecting the art.

In response to another question, she said the electronic tanpura “has become as necessary as a cellphone, without which we feel empty even if we don’t need it!”

Violin support by R.K. Shriramkumar, mridangam by Melakkaveri K. Balaji and Ghatam by N. Guruprasad added to the energy of the concert.

“This is the first time we have come to Svanubhava. It was fun and we are waiting for more fun and surprises,” remarked Dhanya from Shankara School.

Ancient tradition

Slotted next was a Bhagavata Mela by the Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Sangam. This ancient temple tradition is a unique blend of chaste music and bharatanatyam and spirituality. It is a living link to ancient heritage of theatre as describe in the Natya Shastra.  The art form is said to be several centuries old.

In earlier days, they had the royal patronage of the Nayaks, Marathas and Cholas. The Sangam was revived in 1964 to preserve, develop and spread this valuable heritage of Bhagavata Mela. In the art world today, there is no lack of patronage, with Dr. Nalli Kuppuswamy Chetti present. 

Minister of Culture Kumari Selja made a special visit and said, “Our culture and art are kept alive by efforts both individual and institutional. Institutions like Kalakshetra and initiatives like Svanubhava provide the needed platform for the confluence of arts. Arts don’t merely survive in a closed room it needs young and genuinely interested audience to appreciate it. They form the link between our past and future shoulder the responsibility of preserving it.” 

The ‘Prahalada Charitram’ dance drama began with the Melaprapti setting the ambience followed by the Patra Praveshams; Ganapathi (Begada ragam), kattiyakaaran (Mohanam), Hiranyakashipu (Devagandhari), Leelavathi (Atana), Prhalada (Bhairavi) and Shukracharya (Kapi).

It was a feast for the senses.

The post-lunch session began with Pava Kathakali by Natana Kairali. Pava kathakali literally means ‘a play performed using hand-held puppets’. Inherited from the nomadic performances of Andipandarams of Kerala, this art form appears simple but is difficult to master. The performers use glove puppets weighing at least two kilograms, which they make themselves. The flowing, colorful garments and ‘face’ make-up akin to Kathakali dance make it a miniature Kathakali performance. They use just three fingers and a string attached to show quick dance movements, making this a particularly difficult form of puppetry.

Besides the singing that relays the whole story, there are sound and light effects by the puppeteers just like Kathakali. 

They presented Kalyana Saugandam where Bhima goes in search of the Saugandika flower to please his wife Draupati. On the way, he meets Hanuman, who quells his arrogance and helps him in his endevour. The next story presented was Duryodhanavadhom spanning scenes of Mahabharata from the game of dice to the killing of Duryodhan.  

The last concert of the day three was a Carnatic Violin duet by the Mysore Brothers, M. Nagaraj and Dr. M Manjunath. Trained under their illustrious father guru Prof. S Mahadevappa, the duo delivered a masterly concert, ably accompanied by Arjun Kumar on the Mridangam and Giridhar Udupa on the Ghatam. 

Akhilandeshrai in Dvijavanti, Marivere in Latangi, Lalithe in Bhairavi formed the repertoire of the violin kutcheri. It was a scintillating rhymic melody.  

T.M. Krishna concluded, “It was a fitting finale to the fifth edition of Svanubhava-Chennai.”