SSI Golden Jubilee Foundation paid Shraddhanjali to Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer with a thematic presentation of Nava Vidha bhakti - Upaasana Trayam - through the medium of music, dance and painting. The Nine Pathways (lakshanas) of bhakti were judiciously apportioned among three groups, two of them musical, while the third belonged to dance. Besides these, there was an art show by Ilango, Thejo Menon and Lakshmi Srinath.

The musical section belonged to V. Subrahmanyam, who along with disciples of P.S. Narayanaswami, dwelled on three of these margas - Sravanam, keerthanam and vandanam. After the kriti ‘Mahaganapathe’ in Natanarayani, Sravanam was depicted through the songs ‘Bhavatheeya’ (Bhairavi, Swati Tirunal) and Tyagaraja’s ‘Ramakatha’ in Madhyamavati. ‘Tavakanaamani’ (Swati Tirunal, Kedaragowla) and Tyagaraja’s ‘Elavatara’ in Mukhari showed that singing such keerthanas can bring true liberation, and hence the concept of keerthanam. ‘Vandanamu’ (Sahana, Tyagaraja) together with ‘Vande Deva Deva’ in Begada by Swati Tirunal stood for Vandanam - prayer and prostration to the divine. The alapana for the song was provided by Sasidhar (flute) with an array of long and short phrases that brought out the stature of the raga in quick time. Vasanth Kumar and Jayalakshmi Sekhar accompanied on the veena.

Visalakshi, a senior disciple of Semmangudi, with a group of young disciples of PSN, took over. Smaranam, padasevanam and archanam were portrayed through a pair of songs – ‘Sathatham’ (Nilambari) and ‘Smarane Sukhamu’ (Janaranjani) for Smaranam; ‘Pankajaksha’ (Thodi) and ‘Sri Raghuvara’ (Devagandhari) for Padasevanam; ‘Aaradhayami’ (Bilahari) and ‘Namakusuma’ (Sri) for Archanam. The vaggeyakaras chosen alternated between Swati Tirunal and Tyagaraja. Jayalakshmi Sekhar gave an irresistible alapana of Nilambari.

Eloquent depiction

Dancer Roja Kannan, endowed with rasa-soaked eloquent eyes, depicted the remaining three - Dasyam, Sakhyam and Atmanivedanam. As Roja showed how Lord Rama resided in Anjaneya, Ilango intuitively drew the scene where Hanuman, the Dasan, makes his tryst with Sita at the Ashoka Vanam. Roja then made us visualise the bond of friendship (Sakhyam) that existed between Arjuna and Krishna and then followed it with the story of Mahabali.

Mahabali is made to shed his arrogance and the Lord bursts his ego by taking the most diminutive of avatars. Mahabali’s wonderment, excitement and state of liberation - all of this came as a single magnificent, dynamic gesture and body posture from Roja. Arms stretched wide, now realising the enormity of the Lord who has, in one stroke, dispelled the world of Maya that had surrounded him, tears of joy in his (her) eyes - Roja lived the role. Ilango - minutes were enough for him - merged and made us merge with the theme. A simple yet holistic sketch - the feet of the Lord on Mahabali’s siras thus accounting for the third measure of land - one could not have asked for more. (The kritis were ‘Paramapurusha,’ ‘Bhavathi Viswasomadeeya’ and ‘Deva Deva Kalayami’)

Cryptic sketch

Lakshmi Srinath and Thejo Meono filled their canvas with cryptic blue colours and what finally evolved was Padmanabhaswamy in divine recline (Thejo Menon) and a threesome coalescing combination of Brahma, Vishnu and Sivan (Lakshmi).

Kandadevi Vijayaraghavan (Violin) was at his best as he filled the spaces given to him by Roja as she indulged in her vivid portrayal of moods. Trichur Narendran (mridangam) accompanied the musicians lending soft touches. Nellai Kannan provided laya support to the dancer with his varying rounds. Nattuvangam was in the hands of Sharanya, with vocal rendering by the mellow-toned Hariprasad.

Conceptualised by V. Subrahmanyam, inspired perhaps by Semmangudi’s presentation of the 1970s, this event offered a fair feel of Navavidha Bakthi to many young minds. Aparna Ganesh (Jyothi) was the anchor and master of ceremonies. The event was held at Sivagami Petachi Auditorium.