Dr. Rama Kausalya discovered the abundant scope of social media recently. “I’m not on Facebook or any such platform. Frankly, I steer clear of them. Having seen young people spending time on these sites, I didn’t feel inclined to get hooked, “ says the former Principal of the Tiruvaiyaru Music College and founder, Marabu Foundation. The pandemic and the extended lockdown opened her eyes to the positive side of Facebook, through which she hosted two homage concerts — to Syama Sastry and Tyagarajaswamy.
It is not surprising that Kausalya, a descendant of the Thillaisthanam lineage, weaves music into her projects, making them catchy and melodious. Celebration of landmark occasions are prominent on the calendar of Marabu Foundation, which is doing phenomenal work at Thillaisthanam, engaging the village children. Location on the banks of the Cauvery lends her initiatives a rustic charm. Through classes and field trips, the young inhabitants learn all about the priceless heritage of this country, customs and habits, which make the land of Tamils so unique. .
With the said homage concerts falling in the same week — April 25 (Syama Sastri) and April 30 (Tyagarajaswamy) — Kausalya was challenged by the extraordinary situation. “Tyagaraja’s ghana raga Pancharatna kritis are well-known but his bouquet of five songs each on the deities of some kshetras are not so famous. The plan was to render those songs — Lalgudi, Kovur, Srirangam and Tiruvotriyur — in front of the Sitarama Vigraha, which Tyagaraja worshipped and are still there in Varagappaiyar Lane, Thanjavur. But the Lockdown changed everything and I was disappointed. A casual query about accessing YouTube triggered intense research among the young students, who chose Facebook. Living in different places, they said they could join at a given time and render the songs. They organised everything,” reveals Kausalya.
Then it occurred to the group to do something similar for Syama Sastri. Every year, on Sastri's jayanti Marabu Foundation arranges a concert of his compositions at his ancestral house in Thanjavur. This time, technology came to their rescue. “Having put everything in place for Tyagaraja, we decided to do it for Syama Sastri also. Sangeethanjali took place on April 25. Students trained in the Foundation’s workshops rendered some of his compositions. The hiccups we faced on that day were ironed out on April 30, the Pancharatnam rendition – a nearly three-hour programme – went off like clockwork, thanks to the resourceful young team. Lalgudi Pancharatnam, not easy to negotiate, was sung very well by Madhuvanti,” says Kausalya.
The link was circulated and many were online to enjoy the musical offering. “We had encouraging feedback,” informs Rama Kausalya. Personally I’m happy and proud that based in this Thanjavur village of Thillaisthanam, Marabu Foundation was able to keep its date with both divine composers,” she says.
A point acknowledged by Kunchitapadam, Mudhradikari of Bangaru Kamakshi temple, at whose altar Syama Sastri poured out all those soulful lyrics, addressing the Goddess, like a child would its Mother. “This year, I thought we had to be satisfied with a floral offering to the goddess but Ambal designed it in such a way that the homage not only happened but merged with the Universe to spread positive vibrations.”
An enthusiastic Rama Kausalya is now busy putting together online classes to teach Thevaram, one a day, and music, one raga a day. More is on the anvil. “Good thoughts and deeds will take themselves forward. Soon humanity will be out of this crisis. Until then we’ll stay connected through waves of musical sounds,” says this rural warrior of Marabu Foundation, which is also reaching out to the underprivileged society during these stressful times.