Friday Review

Musical offering to Tyagaraja

Recital of Pancharatna kritis at Tyagaraja Aaradhana.

Recital of Pancharatna kritis at Tyagaraja Aaradhana.   | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

Tyagaraja Aaradhana at Kalpathy has an enviable tradition of music mixed with devotion.

Over the years Kalpathy in Palakkad has developed into an important centre for Carnatic music because of the many music festivals organised and conducted there, namely the Tyagaraja Aaradhana festival, Kalpathy Sangeetholsavam in connection with the 'car festival' and Sri Rama Navami festival.

The Aaradhana, a musical obeisance to Tyagaraja, one of the Trinity of Carnatic music, is conducted every year at Thiruvaiyaru in Thanjavur where the saint composer died. The Aaradhana is also celebrated with equal vigour by musicians and music lovers in and around Kalpathy.

The beginning

An interesting incident occurred in 1924, which led to the beginning of the Tyagaraja Aaradhana at Kalpathy. Carnatic musician Palakkad Rama Bhagavathar and mridangam vidwan Chathapuram Subbayyar (guru of mridangam exponent Palakkad Mani Iyer) used to go to Thiruvaiyaru every year to participate in the Aaradhana celebrations.

In 1924, a railway bridge near Karur collapsed due to floods and all trains towards that direction were cancelled. Consequently they were not able to participate in the Aaradhana and returned from Palakkad railway station to Kalpathy greatly disappointed. They then decided to conduct the Aaradhana festival at Kalpathy itself.

Seshan Bhaghavathar (father of Palakkad Mani Iyer) and L.S. Viswanathan, yet another guru of Mani Iyer, concurred with the proposal. Thus, as a result of their initiative and enthusiasm, the Kalpathy Aaradhana festival commenced at Kalpathy Rama Dhyaana Madom in 1924. Incidentally, the venue itself is of great significance as the Madom, located at Kalpathy Hanuman temple, was established in the second half of 19th century by Rajaram Swamigal, a direct disciple of Saint Tyagaraja.

Since then the number of people who attend the Aaradhana has increased and almost all eminent Carnatic musicians have performed here. On the Aaradhana day, musicians sing Pancharathna kritis of Tyagaraja with great devotion.

The Gurupooja and Samaradhana are also witnessed by a large number of devotees. Flute Vidwan Krishna Iyer (popularly known as Flute Krishna Iyer of Kalpathy), who was the secretary of the Aaradhana committee for many years, recalls some of the landmarks in the history of Aaradhana festival. Mridangam maestro Palakkad Mani Iyer took over the reins of the festival during 1974-75 (approximately) and conducted it admirably for about three years.

Vidwan C.S. Krishna Iyer, who was also in Kalpathy, lent his support for the conduct of the festival. In January 1981, Flute Krishna Iyer assumed charge of the festival. For some years, mridangam vidwan T.R. Rajamani, son and disciple of Palakkad Mani Iyer, conducted the festival. During the period 1986 to 2002, C.S. Krishna Iyer functioned as the president of the Aaradhana committee and Flute Krishna Iyer became the secretary.

Since 1988, one full day of the festival has been set aside exclusively for the rendition of Tyagaraja kritis by devotees and students of music. Another remarkable feature of the Kalpathy Festival is Unchavrithi. It is conducted on two Sundays that precede the Aaradhana and also on the Aaradhana day itself.

In the Unchavrithi, kritis of the saint-composer are sung by all the musicians to the accompaniments of mridangam, ganjira, and so on. Namavalis are also rendered with devotion.

This year’s festival – the 168th Aaradhana celebrations – included Harikatha by Embar Sri Kasthuri and Carnatic vocal concerts of Mambalam Sisters, Palakkad Sreeram,Thiruvarur Girish, T.M. Krishna and a violin duet by Lalgudi duo, G.J.R. Krishnan and G.J.R. Vijayalakshmy. T.M. Krishna’s concert, though high on creativity and genius, deviated from the traditional pattern this time too. Trichy Sankaran’s splendid mridangam accompaniment, marked by dexterous touches, deserves special mention.

(With inputs from Flute Krishna Iyer and K. Ganapathi )

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2020 11:31:07 PM |

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