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Thiruppavai: Seasonal melodies

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Artistes share their special connect with Thiruppavai songs that are rendered during the Dhanur maasam

Come Dhanur maasam, many temples, including the Srivari Temple in Tirumala, replace the morning rituals like the Suprabhatam with Thiruppavai renditions. An anthology of 30 short Tamil poems composed by the child saint/ goddess Andal or Kodhai in Srivilliputtur, Thiruppavai is composed by her while observing a 30-day vratam — one Paasuram (poem) each a day.

Bharatanatyam dancer and singer Smitha Madhav shares that even before she started learning dance and music, Thiruppavai was a fixture in the annual calendar at home. “No Margazhi (dhanur maasam) went by without all of us reciting Thiruppavai songs at the crack of dawn. The annual performance season at Chennai also happens during Margazhi, and so whenever we (my gurus and I) sat down to make a list of pieces to be performed at my vocal/ dance concerts, presenting a Paasuram from Thiruppavai seemed like the most appropriate thing to do.”

Noted Carnatic vocalist D K Pattamal’s senior disciple Bhavadhaarini Anantaraman, shares that Dhanur maasam is the only Hindu month, where there are no festivals so that one should think about the Lord on all 30 days. She says that in the 30 stanzas on Thiruppavai , the first five stanzas provide an introduction to the main theme, its principle and purpose. “In the next ten stanzas, Andal describes the importance of community participation. The next five stanzas describe her visit to the temple accompanied by her friends. The last nine stanzas are on the glories of the Lord,” Bhavadhaarini explains and adds, that she learnt many Thiruppavai paasurams from her mother Nalini and Pattammal as a kid. Today, she teaches her daughter Aadya Venkatesh, who during Margazhi this year has presented 10 paasurams at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Chennai. “I was given an opportunity to perform right from when I was seven years in my school, Valliammal Matriculation, my alma matar, everyday during Margazhi. “There is a practice to learn to recite Thiruppavai as a hymn which is called Saatthumarai and one version which is sung in tuneful ragas (as tuned by late Ariyakudi Ramanuja Ayyangar). I have learnt both the Sathumarai and singing in my childhood and I’m indebted to my mother who made this a practice,” Bhavadhaarini says.

“Growing up in a Vaishnavite household, my brother and I were taught various shlokas such as Vishnu Sahasranamam, Dashavatara Strotarm etc. However, Andal’s Thiruppavai was the most important of them all and my mother made sure that both of us learnt all 30 paasurams before we turned six or so,” recalls Smitha. In the same breath, she adds that the brother and sister duo participated in the Thiruppavai competitions held at Keyes High School in Secunderabad each year. “Our home is still filled with stainless steel dabbas that we won as prizes all those years ago,” she says with a smile.

Bhavadhaarini says that Thiruppavai can be chanted on all days, not just during Margazhi, although “Chanting Thiruppavai during Margazhi does have a distinct charm. It is indeed a blessing to be able to sing in temples early morning. I recite daily in the morning at my home during Margazhi and also teach my little daughter and other students,” she adds.

Many dance and music lovers would be aware that initially Smitha had brought all 30 stanzas to life for a Hyderabad-based TV and later for another electronic channel on a grander scale, where she spoke in English also, so that the younger members of the audience as well as the Indian diaspora could relate to the compositions. “The project was a huge effort since we shot the entire work (all 30 paasurams were sung, all 30 were danced to and all 30 were explained) in six days. These were telecast as 20-minute-long episodes over the 30 days of Margazhi, under the title ‘Hari Koluvu’, where eminent violinist Embar Kannan and dance guru Bhargavi Parameswaran lent me able support,” Smitha shares. Her rendition and presentation of all 30 paasurams are available on YouTube and various other social platforms. “It is my desire that as many people as possible hear these poems and fall in love with them just as I did,” she adds.

Bhavadhaarini who’s sung Thiruppavai for Arutperumjothi Audios had released the same this Margazhi through YouTube and the CD would be released shortly. Bhavadhaarini who skips one meal during Margazhi every day, reveals that she cooks quite a variety of Margazhi prasadams. “Most people prepare venn pongal on all 30 days, sarkarai pongal, daddojanam, puliyodharai, akkaara adisal on different days while unni appam and appam on the 30th day signifying the Aandal Kalyanam. I improvise at times with paayasam or carrot kheer or coconut burfi,” she says and quickly adds that another significance in Tamil homes is Margazhi kolams, where people draw very tough and intricate designs.

Smitha says that she also prepares various naivedyams on important days of Margazhi and observes the dos and don’t’s for the Maargazhi vratam to the best of her abilities.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 4:40:08 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/the-hindu-friday-review-telangana/article30469127.ece

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