Geetha Rajagopal's volume is the result of extensive research in temple tradition.
Born into a Vaishnavite family, Geetha Rajagopal, Director of Sampradaya, was familiar with the pasurams of the Azhwars and Andal's Thriruppavai even as a child. However, it never occurred to her to explore how music was used for worship in temples, until she began work on a documentary titled ‘A Tryst with Trinity.' It was a documentary on the compositions of the musical Trinity, and involved visits to many temples.
Geetha was struck by the use of rare instruments like the Panchamukha vadyam in temple worship, and also noticed the difference in the musical traditions of Saivite and Vaishnavite temples. That was when she decided to explore the theme further, and with the help of a Fellowship from the Sangeet Natak Akademi, she spent two years documenting the musical traditions of South Indian temples. The result was the book “Music Rituals in the Temples of South India,” the first volume of which was released in a programme organised jointly by Sampradaya and Rukmini Arts and Music Trust, at Kasturi Srinivasan auditorium, the Music Academy, on November 28.
P.R. Shampath, Commissioner, HR& CE, released the book, the first copy of which was received by Bharatanatyam exponent Vyjayantimala Bali. Shampath spoke of the work his department was doing to renovate temples, without spoiling the period look. He suggested that Geetha's book be translated into Tamil, so that it would be of use in temples in Tamil Nadu. He promised to buy copies of the translated work for the temples under his control.
Vyjayanthimala recalled her own experience of growing up in a Sri Vaishnava family, and of how her early exposure to the works of the Azhwars inspired her to do a dance recital of Andal's Tiruppavai quite early on in her career. More recently she also did a thematic presentation of Thriumangai Azhwar's Siriya Thirumadal.
Mangala's choice of Thirumangai Azhwar's emotionally charged Thriuvengadam pasuram “Theriyaen Baalakanai pala theemaigal seiduvittaen' for the invocation was most appropriate, as Thirumangai Azhvar was the Azhwar who visited the maximum number of temples, and was immersed in worship of the Archa form of Lord Narayana. Geetha's book is available in leading bookstores in the city.
The second half of the programme was a presentation of Muthuswamy Dikshitar's Ekaika raga raga that has only one composition in it) kritis. Five youngsters and a senior disciple of Dr. S. R. Janakiraman rendered the compositions. They had all been trained by Dr. Janakiraman in a workshop conceived by Sampradaya and sponsored by Rukmini Arts and Music Trust. The workshop was followed up with practice sessions, in which the musicologist ensured that the students further perfected the rendering of the kritis.
Dr. Janakiraman gave a brief introduction to each raga. The kritis presented were ‘Sweta Ganapatim' (Ragachoodamani), ‘Sringaradi' (Davalangam), ‘Mangala Devate' (Margadesi), ‘Sri Gurunatha' (Paadi), ‘Navaratnavilasam' (Navaratnavilasam) ‘Sri Gururguha moorthe' (Udayaravichandrika), Kalavati (Kalavati) and ‘Guruguhabhava' (Chaturanjini.
Ritvik Raja, Vignesh, Sweta, Nandita Ravi, Rajashree and Mangala sang the kritis. Harini on the violin and A.S. Ranganathan on the mridangam lent them support. A.S. Ranganathan was honoured on the occasion. Dr. Janakiraman's explanations on the ragas were enlightening. He said the raga Paadi had been extensively used by Annamacharya, and that Marga Desi was an ancient raga that had fallen into disuse but had been resurrected by Dikshitar. The Ekaika raga kritis of Dikshitar are seldom heard in concerts, and the aim of training these students of music, was to popularise the kritis, said Geetha.