Music remains an integral part of Navaratri

The sound of joie de vivre fills the air during Navaratri. It finds expression in classical music and art during the nine evenings of the fete, symbolising devotion to the mother Goddess. Music is an intrinsic part of Navaratri, and even if the wind of change has ushered in new trends and practices, music still remains an inevitable part of the festivities.

It is customary for people to sing when they visit the ‘bomma kolu.' Nowadays, though, there are groups of women in the city, who are invited to homes to sing Devi kirtanas in praise of the Goddess.

Sharing music

Carnatic music teacher Shobana Krishnamurthy explains that Navaratri is a time to “share music.”

“Tiny tots are introduced to music through small slokas in praise of the Goddess and are supposed to start lessons on Vijayadashami day,” she says.

Legend has it that the Goddess manifests herself in one of the dolls of the kolu on the nine days of the festival. The first three days are dedicated to the worship of Durga (considered as the destroyer of all evil in Hindu mythology), the next three to Lakshmi, Goddess of wealth and prosperity, and the last three to Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge.

No ritual on these days is complete without rendering stotrams such as Soundarya Lahiri, Lalita Sahasranamam, Sree Mahishasura Mardhini, Lalithambal Shobanam, Abhirami Andadi, to name a few. Says singer and musicologist Sudha Ganesh: “Navaratri music now encompasses different genres such as Hindustani, bhajans, semi-classical, light-classical and instrumental music, apart from traditional Carnatic music. It is the season to celebrate music and is an auspicious get-together, where ‘thamboolam' (a platter with betel leaves, betel nut, coconut, turmeric, kumkum) and sundal (made of channa and prepared for the evening ‘nivedyam') along with sweets and small gifts are given to women and children.”

Navaratri kirtanas

She recalls fond memories of listening to Navaratri kirtanas at the Navaratri Mandapam in the city, an annual musical offering to the Goddess Saraswati; a tradition that has been followed at the Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple for more than a century.

“The music for the Navaratri concerts as we hear them now was composed and codified by Swati Tirunal. He composed nine songs in the ragas Shankarabharanam, Kalyani, Saveri, Thodi, Bhairavi, Panthuvarali, Shuddha Saveri, Nattakurinji and Arabhi, respectively, to be sung as the main piece on each day. The concerts are more in the form of offerings to the Devi than performances. ‘Sravanam' and ‘Kirthanam' being the first two steps prescribed in the nine levels of worship,” adds Carnatic musician Aswati Tirunal Rama Varma.

Navavarna kirthanas of Muthuswami Dikshitar, which are tributes to Devi, are also sung during the fete. “Dikshitar's nine songs have excerpts from Lalita Sahasranamam and the Lalitha ashtothram. They expound the secret of Sri Vidya,” says veena artiste P. Harihara Iyer. “Navavarna or the Nav - avarnam (ornament) also describes the nine ornaments of the Goddess in praise of Her beauty, power and strength. Furthermore, music is perceived as an offering (‘sangeetharchana') to the Goddess to imbibe Her energy,” explains music teacher Hemalatha Rajaram. Let the music reign.

Maithri Srikant