Tracing Avudai Akkal’s journey

In Tamil Nadu’s Tirunelvelli district, the tradition of singing Avudai Akkal’s songs during the oonjal ceremony in weddings (when the bride and groom sit on a swing) continues. Among the most commonly sung composition is, ‘Sadguru swami mel oonjal pada, Saraswatiyum Ganapatiyum, aadidu oonjal.’ The tune, with a folk flavour, is catchy and adds to the celebratory mood.

Vishaka Hari.

Vishaka Hari.  

Vishaka Hari spoke about this ritual in her discourse on the little-known woman saint, whose verses contain life’s philosophy and Vedanta’s essence.

Held at Rasika Ranjani Sabha, Vishaka as always peppered her insightful narrative with inspiring songs from Akkal’s repertoire, rendering them with bhava in ragas such as Nata, Ahiri and Kalyani.

Avudai Akkal (also known as Ammal) was born over 250 years ago in Chengkottai. The ups and downs of life led her to the path of Advaita. With her mother’s encouragement, she learnt Sanskrit and Tamil. Married and widowed at a young age, she understood the significance of gnana (knowledge) and bhakti under the guidance of Tirivisanallur Sridhar Venkatesa Iyavval. He introduced her to Vedanta and she, in turn, helped common women gain access to it.

In song after song, such as ‘Vedanta ammanai’, ‘Vedanta pallu’ and ‘Vedanta Kappal’ she exhorted women, especially widows, to break all kinds of shackles and seek true liberation. She used simple metaphors to refer to life’s greatest realities.

Nisha Rajagopalan.

Nisha Rajagopalan.  

The evening also featured Nisha Rajagopalan’s concert, who sang some of Akkal’s songs set to tune by violinist R.K. Shriramkumar, who once again proved his mettle as a composer.

The song ‘Brahmanandathai’ was in raga Hamirkalyani, while ‘Sachidananda’ was in Kanada, and ‘Ekanthamayirundhuo’ in Dwijavanti. Mridangist Arun Prakash’s playing kept in mind the mood of the compositions.

An emotive Varali raga alapana by Nisha inspired the violinist to take the raga to further heights in his reply preceding the keerthanam in Varali. Nisha packed the 75-minute concert expertly with nine songs, that had several swaraksharas. It was a commendable team effort.

The writer is a trained

classical musician.

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Printable version | Oct 18, 2021 3:59:10 AM |

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