Saturday, 25 January 2014

Thyagaraja aradhana 2014

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The pancharatna kritis morn; on the sidelines

We chose to cover the aradhana in parts on Tuesday morning. One of us went into the streets to look around and came back with a small collection of photos of rangolis of Thyagaraja.

One doesn't miss the two rangolis that the simple households opposite the main gate design for this occasion.

The mallari during the procession of the image of the saint composer from the memorial to the pandal was great and by 8a.m. the panda was full and even pass holders had to retreat.

It had drizzled in the morn; adding to the heavy dew but when the sun came up it was fierce and sharp.

But the diehard rasikas squatted on the campus, pulled out the printed lyrics circulated by Tamil newspapers and joined the gosti singing of the pancharatna kritis, said to be the jewels of Thyagaraja's compositions.

Only a few well known artistes made it to the singing this year; so rasikas who lined up the exit after the singing were disappointed.

At the dining hall of the sabha that manages the aradhana, the lunch was free today and the crowds surged in for a nice meal.

Hungry at 10.30 p.m..

The town is till not ready to play host to the aradhana traveller yet.

Those who come from Bangalore or Andhra Pradesh tend to book into hotels in Thanjavur ( 12 mms away), the middle class folks checking into dinghy lodges here. Some chathrams also offer space and wash facilities.

But all food shops are shut after 10 p.m. On Monday night, the swathes of rasikas who streamed out of the pandal after the string of concerts by famous artistes grabbed the food they could on the main road.

Dosas and parotta was all that some shops offered and that too ran out in 30minutes. The famed shop for Asokha Halwa keeps open till midnight.

The local police though have diverted the heavy traffic that runs the town; it roars after 10 p.m

The big evening; Srinivas, Palanivel, Sudha and Yesudoss

Monday was a really big evening at the aradhana.
The crowd was so massive that many chose to move out only after 11 p.m.

Though it was a working day, people seem to have to come in by the hundreds for the big line-up of concerts - Mandolin Srinivas with Aridwaramangalam Palanivel, Sudha Ragunathan and K J Yesudoss.

The nadaswaram brigade was all around the stage when Palanivel launched the recital; in a high voltage show the team was indeed the main attraction of the aradhana.

Sudha though kept it simple and straight and it needed a team of cadets and police to escort Yesudoss out of his car, to the saniddhi and then backstage.

He still has legions of fans. In the crowd stood schoolgirls Harshini and Bharathi; one with a book to get autographs and the other with a smartphone to capture the artistes.

Yesudoss also kept it simple and straight ( Ganesh Kumaresh, the violinists duo though gave theirs a dash of fusion) but the concert went on and on.

When the nadaswaram began, as per tradition it was close to 11 p.m. on Monday.

Monday, 20 January 2014

To Grand Anaicut. And to the monument for a great Chozhan

The morning was for a destination we had postponed yesterday. To the Grand Anaicut.
If the road to this world famous space is scenic, the anaicut environs allow for long walks - perhaps best done after 4 p.m. in a forgiving sun on the other side.

The waters were being let into the Vennar and in the Coleroon and early couples were finding some nice spots in the islands of green.

On one flank of this dam rises the brand new monument paid for by the present AIADMK government; a tribute to Karikala Chozhan, the man credited with having built the engineering marvel across the great Cauvery. The Grand Anaicut.

The spotless white monument, in its final stage draws busts and signposts that credit the Englishmen who added to the dam in the late 19th century.

We check out the place casually, and are greeted by a massive cast bronze elephant sitting in a lorry and about to be unloaded and set up inside the monument.

The Chozhan raja statue lies on the floor, packed; to be mounted on the elephant. ( A similar image but in cement stands in a island closely).

And then we have a surprise - the statue is the work of the well known Nagappa of Madras; now in its 4th generation. Kishore is here to supervise the work. And we go down memory lane. For,  old timers of the city are familiar with the Nagappas since their Narasingapuram ( off Mount Road) days.

The road holds many surprises; make sure you step off the main when you can!

All sorts are in the pandal . .

Last evening was also time to catch up with people and make new friends, Sunday that it was.

There was this group which was armed with dismantible chairs, still and movie cameras and even a set of binoculars - to catch a close view of the artistes on stage.

And a family from Mannargudi, visiting friends in the town and adjourning to the pandal. The teenager boy was curious with our online blogging, shared his own experiences with the tech stuff and then took his dad's Samsung phone to shoot some visuals so he could edit and post a one-minute film online of the aradhana.

His little sister  created a sundal-like cone paper pack and packed sand in it at one end and deposited it at another, laughing at her intermittent amusement.

At about 9.30 was time for the All India Radio engineers ( who stay put on all days beside the stage) to link up two concerts on the national network. Those of Priya Sisters and of flutist B Vijayagopal.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

On the fringe of the pandal . .

Sunday evening is pleasant here. And the crowd will begin to stream in to the panda in large numbers.

Time to walk around the pandal.

In the river, men are brushing their teeth, washing clothes, wading and having a bath. This is a 'no go' zone for women; you get a better view of the river and the dipping sun if you walk along the pandal, than behind it.

The real market of stalls flourishes behind the pandal. Books, bhel, feet relaxation pads, agarbathis, music, health drinks and 'Only Coffee'.

It is on this pathway, that the gate to the samadhi lies, the engraved name stones in tact.

On the road . . .

Thiruvaiyaru presents many destinations to explore. In case you want to break away from the music at the aradhana.

This Sunday we chose to hit the road alongside the river and head to Thirukattupali. 

Patches of water keep the river alive - just enough for local people to wash and paddle.

The countryside though is green, rolling rice fields, green and yellow as far as the eye can see on our right side.

Rising from that green and yellow swathe are the spires of a church. That is our first destination.

The basilica dedicated to Mother Mary of Poondi. This is a big destination for the faithful, including non Christians. And this campus is huge by church standards! Lodging rooms, halls, depots and even spaces for birds. So you can plan a pilgrimage picnic and tent here for a sit on sand and eat lunch.

The massive church impresses; the interior does not. The vintage parts have been stripped for granite, wood and steel.

Behind the main altar, is the core shrine - where people are lost in prayer. And enclosed in a monstrance is a sliver of what is claimed to be a piece of the cross.

We choose to spend time gazing at the river. 'Swimming here is Danger', says a board.

The Grand Anaicut was on our plan. We are hungry, so we adjourn for lunch at Thirukattupalli, feel heavy and return.

Sunday morning likes . .

We wake up to a wizened woman drawing a kolam at our doorstep. This creative ritual has been long over at other doorsteps in the agraharam. The bath reminds us how we have been banished to bathe in hard water in our cities - made a mistake to apply shampoo here. Foolish us!

I must attend to my Sunday must - Holy Mass. We head to the church in Thiruvaiyaru dedicated to the madha ( Mary) where the recitation of the rosary is drowned in the honks, grinding tyres and impatient swerves of the lorries - this small town stands bang in the criss-cross of heavy, goods and passenger-ladden traffic.

Youths inside the church make an effort to strap a white screen across casuarina poles beside the altar. When the Mass begins I realize the reason for this effort - flash the lyrics of the Mass songs on a screen to coax the congregation to sing together.

The nadaswaram music floats in a tad after 9 a.m. from the aradhana pandal, 800 mts away. Start of Day 3 at the aradhana.

It is a lazy Sunday here. Slots of juniors, some sing off key some on but then this is just a tribute; and it is all in the spirit.

A pad in Thillasthanam . . .

Time for change. Skip a hotel room in Thanjavur and stay in the village of Thillasthanam, some 2 kms from Thiruvaiyaru. Our 
host here is Prof. Kausalya, retired Head of College of Music here and a scholar and now promoter of the Marabu Foundation.

Kausalya has rented a vintage house in this quiet agraharam, just off the riverside to run Marabu's activities.

She also rents a few rooms to those who wish to upgrade their music/dance skills in these quiet environs.

It is back to the old times; bathe around the well and in the open, sleep on the floor or on an old bed, and let the small fan whir you to sleep.

Fests on river beds . .

We, the second part of the KutcheriBuzz Team hit the road on Saturday evening. To Thiruvaiyaru.

Off the highway south, celebrations greeted us. Festivals on river beds and around. The buzz remained till we swung left into Ariyalur - a horrible 5 kms and a bit of the same in between but a newly-laid road thence, to our destination.

The mandolin's music - of U P Raju and wife Nagamani welcomed us. The accompanying tavil piercing the 9 p.m. night.

As T N S Krishna paid his tribute on stage we were convinced that the audio was too loud, the floodlights too sharp. Listening to the concerts away from the panda arena was a better experience.

Banks competed with each other in welcoming guests. City Union Bank though is and has been the lead sponsor.

The nadaswaram-tavil artistes took over at 10 p.m. and we walked down, the post-Pournami moon presenting a soothing visual to a long day.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Keeping vigil at the pandal

While the Police take care of the security at the entrance and around the pandal, the smart Scouts team keeps an eye on the people inside the pandal.

Nagarajan, the senior among the team regulates the movement near the performance dais.

The young students Parthiban and Alfa, from the Railway Scouts run around the pandal briskly and help the organisers in crowd management.

Volunteers have a huge role to play in such events and these men in grey do their job well.