The Tamil Music Research Centre of the Thiagarajar College brought to fore the folk tradition of Kavadi Chinthu through a song and dance programme.

They twirled, swung from one side to the other and tapped their feet to the peppy numbers. The song and dance performances by different groups from Kalingapatti, Sennikulam and Karivalamvanthanallur Villages in Sankarankoil Taluk enlivened the audience.

The Tamil Music Research Centre of the Thiagarajar College organised the song and dance programme in celebration of folk art form Kavadi Chinthu. It follows the folk tradition where people carrying kavadis to the abodes of Lord Muruga sang Kavadi Chinthu to shed tiredness in their tedious journey.

The inherent rhythm is the highlight of this poetic form. Though this art is in existence for ages, it was popularised by Annamalai Reddiyar of Sennikulam. “Only 24 of his compositions are available now and are so catchy that they spread like wild fire to other places,” says N. Mammadhu, Tamil Music scholar.

Annamalai Reddiyar sung Kavadi Chinthu on Lord Muruga of Kazhugumalai when Ootrumalai zamindar Irudhayala Maruthappa Thevar went on a pilgrimage carrying kavadi to the temple. His songs overflow with rich descriptions. The imageries used in his songs transport the listener to a different world.

Tamil music was in existence even before Carnatic music came into being. “Some of the panns (ragas) of Tamil music have similar tunes in the Carnatic music. Harikambothi, Anantha Bhairavi, Senchurutti, etc, comes close to Chinthu tunes” says Mammadhu.

This art form is peppy that several Carnatic musicians like Nithyashree Mahadevan, Mahanadhi Shobana and Bombay Sisters C. Saroja and C. Lalitha have sung songs in this art form.

The subject matter ranges from land, wealth, city tour to love. “Vaa Vaa Gajamugane…,” K. Ramasamy from the Karivalamvanthanallur presented the purest form of Kavadi Chinthu with plenty of action. Having presented it in various places for more than 50 years, he did enough justice showcasing the essence of this art form. The aesthetics of Indian dance came to fore when he emoted to the lyrics of the songs.

What followed next was the Oyilkummi dance where the Kalingapatti Natarajan group performed oyilattam to the Chinthu songs. The coordination of the girls and their silky hand movements mesmerised the audience. They were equal to the task when the singers increased the tempo. It was treat to both eyes and ears.

The Tamil Music Research Centre at the Thiagarajar College is in the process of reviving old forms of Tamil music, says K. Gnanasambandan, coordinator for the centre. “We regularly organise music classes for our students and staff. We teach not only vocal but also instrument music. We also offer scholarship for Tamil music research,” he informs.

Kavadi Chinthu is best suited for the Kurinji landscape (mountainous region) as the God of this landscape according to Sangam Literature is Lord Muruga. “We wanted to introduce this art to our people. Though Annamalai Reddiyar died at the age of 26 years in 1891, his songs are popular and the people of Sennikulam Village keep this folk tradition alive by involving the younger generation,” says Gnanasambandan.