Compositions to cherish

Neelakanta Sivan .

Neelakanta Sivan .  

Tribute The 35th edition of the Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Aradhana focusses on the work of Neelakanta Sivan. S. Vinaya Kumar

T he 35th Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Aradhana festival, conducted under the auspices of Sri Neelakanta Sivan Sangeetha Sabha of Thiruvananthapuram, will be on from August 1 to August 8. On the eight days, rasikas will be treated to no less than 12 Carnatic music concerts, apart from renderings of Tiruppugazh and other devotional songs. The festival commemorates the 110th Samadhi year of the great composer who lived and died in Karamana, Thiruvananthapuram.

Memorable concerts

The Neelakanta Sivan Sabha is actively engaged in promoting the work of Neelakanta Sivan. Ever since its inception in 1975 thanks to the initiative of the late Venuganam Janardana Iyer, the annual Aradhana has contributed many a memorable evening to lovers of Carnatic music. Today, it continues to grow from strength to strength owing to the efforts of the founder's friends, musicians and the patronage of the rasikas.

Neelakanta Sivan was born in 1839 in a village called Vadiveeswaram in Nagercoil and he grew up within the precincts of Fort Padmanabhapuram, both located in the Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu. Subramanya, as he was then called, showed a mystical inclination in his childhood, and appeared to be not quite cut out for the worldly life. Eventually, when still an adolescent, he was pressured into marrying the daughter of one Thanu Iyer, a wealthy man who lived at Karamana. Thus began his association with Karamana and Thiruvananthapuram, which continued till his death on Pradosham day in the Tamil month of Aadi in 1900.

It is said that when he was living in Karamana, Subramanya officiated as a village magistrate for 15 years but abandoned the job, sickened by the corruption he encountered everywhere, and once again devoted his time to piety and meditation.

In the course of his lifetime, he is believed to have composed around 2,000 kirtanas, most of them in Tamil and in the Saivite tradition, in adoration of Lord Siva, the presiding deity of Fort Padmanabhapuram's majestic Neelakanta Swami temple. And his devotion to this deity earned him the appellation of Sri Neelakanta Sivan. Thanu Iyer was less than sympathetic to the other-worldliness of his son-in-law who, he hoped, would change his ways and engage himself in some money-making venture instead of ‘wasting time and resources' in devotional composition.

In a fit of temper, he is supposed to have destroyed quite a number of the composer's songs. Given the richness of what has come down to us, one can only wonder at the immensity of the loss that Thanu Iyer's act of wanton destruction has perpetrated on posterity. In contrast to the work of many composers of the past and the present, Neelakanta Sivan's compositions do not stop with mere extolment of divine grandeur.

They are, on the contrary, poetic in form, reflective in tone and philosophical in substance. In consequence, his admirers look upon him as the ‘Tamil Tyagaraja.'

This year's Aradhana

This year's Aradhana begins with a vocal recital by Sanjay Subrahmanyam and ends on the eighth day with a vocal concert by Ranjini-Gayatri.

In between, there are many concerts by eminent artists. Particularly noteworthy is the second day's main concert by Chitraveena Ravi Kiran..

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