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Anugraham festival premiere 2024
- Chandra Anand
Photos: ST Amudham, Photic

May 23, 2024

Recently a festival 'Anugraham' was curated by Nrithyodaya, The Academy of Performing Arts, Mumbai, which is dedicated to the Vaggeyakaras and kavis (poets and playwrights) who have enriched Indian literature, music, dance, theatre, painting and sculpture. This is to be an annual festival of classical music and dance to remind ourselves about the contribution of outstanding persons who have made notable contributions in music and dance traditions of India.

This first event held on March 24, 2024 at Mahakavi Kalidas Natya Mandir, Mumbai, was dedicated to Muthuswamy Dikshitar, who has done amazing contribution to the repertoire of classical Carnatic music with innovative musical pieces and new ragas. He was instrumental in introducing violin into Carnatic music concert arena and also his musical impact on the Tanjavur Quartet, as their teacher of music, perhaps resulted in him being catalyst to the present structure of the Bharatanatyam Margam. His student Vadivelu, one of the Quartet who learnt violin from him, introduced it in the Travancore court. And then as we know, now the violin has always been the most important support instrument of the Carnatic vocalists and dance presentations.

Anugraham festival premiere 2024

The function started with the lighting of lamp by dignitaries like Alamelu Mani, Vijaylakshmi Nathan and the Malladi brothers. Then the day's presentations commenced with the Nritya natika titled 'Deekshita Daakshinyam', tracing the life story of Dikshitar through his own compositions in the Bharata Nrityam style by the artistes of Nrithyodaya Mumbai under the direction of Dr.Jayashree Rajagopalan (the head of the institution and well known as the senior most student of Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam) and Aishwarya Harish, who scripted it.

The performance commenced with a pushpanjali, Sri Rama Saraswati (Nasamani, adi) ending the item with a purvangam ¬Bharata Nrityam style wherein the intent of the festival of the dance drama presentation was expressed. The first scene presented Ramaswamy Dikshitar praying for a progeny to Goddess Balambika. The Goddess appears in his dream and blesses him by presenting him a pearl necklace. Hence, when a son was born, Ramaswamy Dikshitar named him as Muthukumaraswami Dikshitar. The nurturing of baby Muthuswamy, as he came to be known as, was shown with the song "Bhajare chita balambika" (Kalyani, misra chapu) which can be regarded as an allusion to the advent of his birth. The expressions conveying meaning of the literature of the song was performed by the senior students.

Anugraham festival premiere 2024

The boyhood of Muthuswamy was steeped in Veda adyayayan, Sanskrit language, learning of music as Ramaswamy Dikshitar himself was a concert musician, and understanding the theoretical knowledge of music. The next scene was of Chidambaranatha yogi, a Devi Upasakar, coming to visit his student Ramaswamy Dikshitar. He took Muthuswamy Dikshitar with him and taught him the spiritual ways of life and for 6 years trained him in his music, also taught him Hindustani music and the tantric rituals of the Devi. The song "Gange mam pahi" (Shenchuruti, kanda eka) showed the story of Muthuswamy acquiring the veena in the Ganges and his Guru leaving his mortal life in the Ganges. The young students of the institute performed to the song extolling the greatness of the Ganges.

Then, the story moved forward with Dikshitar going to Tiruttani to pray to lord Muruga, his Guru's ishta devata. There he finds an old man placing a candy in his mouth which gave him immense knowledge. Realizing the old man was none other than Muruga himself he breaks into his first song "Srinathadi guruguho" in ragam Mayamalavagowlai and set to adi talam. From Tiruttani, Dikshitar visited a number of famous temples, composing some wonderful masterpieces.

Next was Muthuswamy visiting Tirupati where he composed "Sheshachala nayakam" (Varali, rupakam). This item was performed by Nagaraj Shetty who took over from Vedant Harish as the senior Muthuswamy. Then in Chidambaram, the song "Ananda natana prakasam" (Kedaram, misra chapu) was composed by him. The pallavi was performed by Nagaraj Shetty. At Srirangam, Muthuswamy Dikshitar was inspired to sing, "Rangapuravihara" (Brindavanasaranga, rupakam).

Anugraham festival premiere 2024

Dikshitar now moved back to his hometown of Thiruvarur. In the largest temple complex of Thyageswarar in Thiruvarur, he created his largest body of compositions on the several deities of this place. Referring to Thiruvarur as Chamatkara Pura, Dikshitar relates the miraculous historic event of Nami Nandi Adigal, who was blessed to have lit water lamps by the grace of the Lord after being mocked by the Jaina monks who refused to give oil for the same - "Sadachaleshwaram" (Bhupalam, adi). This story was performed by Aishwarya Harish with aplomb.

Next, kriti "Vatapi Ganapatim bhajeham" (Hamsadwani, adi) was performed by the young students. This song refers to the Vasari Ganapati idol of Narasimhavarma Pallava of Badami. This idol is placed in a tritons or a triangle at the temple, suggesting the centre point of the Sri yantram. In this song, Lord Ganesha is referred to as the sustainer of the universe and the creator of the panacha bhootas. Also, the story of Agastya's worship to the elephant faced god is mentioned in the song. This composition of Dikshitar becomes special as it is in the Hamsadhwani ragam, a ragam evolved by his father Ramaswamy Dikshitar.

Anugraham festival premiere 2024

As a principle, Dikshitar strongly abhorred writing personal eulogies of mortal men. Therefore, though he declined the request of his patron Vaidyalinga Mudaliyar, the Mirasdar of Kulikarai, to write a eulogy on him, when he composed his magnum opus in 14 ragas - "Sri Vishwanatham bhaje" - the Chaturdasha Ragamalika on the main deity Sri Vishveshwara of Garthathirtha, in the concluding verse referred to Vaidyalinga Mudaliyar as the Bhupati of the place and prays to the lord for his well-being. This item was performed by the seniors of the institute describing each verse and performing sancharis at appropriate places. This was the longest piece of the nritya natika.

While in Thiruvarur, Dikshitar's student Kamalam, who was a hereditary artiste, had to perform her arangetram and Dikshitar was given the task of composing songs for that. He accepted it saying he would compose only songs that were dedicated to gods. Among the songs he composed and sang for her, is a daru in Telugu, "Nee saati deivamu ledani" (Sriranjani, rupakam), which was performed in the Bharatanatyam style of dance. The Tanjore Quartet being witness to this recital was extremely impressed and eager to learn under Dikshitar. They requested him to come to stay at Thanjavur and teach them. Dikshitar agreed.

Anugraham festival premiere 2024

Dikshitar's soulful compositions are transcendental causing supernatural and divine events. Just as Lakshmi appeared when he sang "Hiranmayeem Lakshmim" (ragam Lalita, adi talam), the Goddess of Rain could not resist his call when he visited the drought stricken region of Etayapuram, where he had gone in search of his younger brother and settled there with him till the end of his days. He prayed to Devi with the song "Anandamrita karshini" (Amritavarshini, adi), a ragam unknown till then - and that is the birth of the Amritavarshini ragam. This item was performed by all students with the end showing the rains falling by the artistes and in the background photography too.

On Chaturdashi day preceding Diwali in the year 1834, after going through his yogic practices, Dikshitar went to take a bath. There, he had a vision of Sri Kashi Annapurneshwari and while he was gazing on it, it vanished. Immediately he remembered that Chidambaranatha yogi had said to him in the Annapurneshwari temple at Kasi, "She would nurture you in this life and also give Moksha". He sensed that she was calling him back. He called his shishyas close and asked them to sing "Meenakshi memudam dehi" (Gamakakriya, adi); when Minalochini Pashamochani was sung, Dikshitar peacefully became one with the divine mother. This last scene was very touching. A burning flame was symbolically shown in the background to show his soul parting towards the divine goddess.

The orchestra that ably supported included Harish Venkateswara G - vocal, Aditya Rajagopalan - mridangam, Balasubramaniam - violin, Shyamala Sajnani - veena and Shankarnarayan Ramachandran - morsing. This was followed by the felicitation of the Chief Guest Guru Alamelu Mani and honouring of Vijayalakshmi Nathan with the title of Sanmargadarshi and a purse.

Anugraham festival premiere 2024

Thereafter, the Carnatic music concert of Dikshitar kritis by The Malladi Brothers - Sriram and Ravi Kumar - accompanied by Embar Kannan on violin, Rohit Prasad on mridangam and Swaminathan on ghatam followed, where again songs composed by Muthuswamy Dikshitar were sung.

Chandra Anand
Chandra Anand is a Bharatanatyam artiste and teacher. She has an MA in Bharatanatyam from Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, and her series on 'Education in spiritual values through Bharatanatyam' is featured in

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