After a long hiatus I have decided to finally resume writing. However, I have decided to concentrate on History, Art, Culture and its conservation.
The last week of November usually marks the start of the Music season in Chennai with small sabhas from across the city beginning their programs. Karthik Fine Arts functions in four different sabhas successfully. Many of the small sabhas usually function in kalyana mandapas, hotel and school premises. Naradha Ghana Sabha and the Music Academy start their programs mid December.
Today, I attended a lecture demonstration at the Music Academy by Sangeeta Kalanidhi Shri Nedanuri Krishnamurthy on Sankeertanams of Annamacharya.
The prayer song, Durga devi samrakhamam was sung by Smitha Madhav.
The day of celebrations at the Music Academy was dedicated to the memory of Andhra Harikatha Pitamaha Shri Ajjada Adibhatla Narayana Das. Dr. Pappu Venugopal Rao gave a brief outline on this great pandit’s life. Pandit Narayana Das was born on 31st August, 1864 in the village of Ajjada in the Vijayaanagaram district, Andhra Pradesh, India. He was a poet, musician, dancer, linguist and philosopher. His works ranged from children’s literature to philosophical treatises. He has also authored over a 100 books in Telugu and Sanskrit. Pandit Narayana Das felt that Edward Fitzgerald’s English translations did not do justice to the Persian poet Omar Khaiyam’s poetry. In order to demonstrate his viewpoint he translated both the original Quatrains of Omar Khaiyam and Edward Fitzgerald’s English translation into two languages – Sanskrit and Atcha Telugu (Telugu unmixed of Sanskrit) in different metres. He was also one to do a comparitive study of Shakespeare and Kalidasa. Entitled Nava Rasa Tarangini (1922) the book annotates passages consisting of the nine rasas or moods from the dramas of both the dramatists by translating them into Telugu. His two volume philosophical work named Jagad Jothi records his views on various Indian philosophies, even accommodating atheist viewpoints.
It was during the time of Pandit Narayana Das that the king of the Vijayanagara Kingdom established the Music College in order to honour the Pandit and encourage people to learn the art of music from him. The college was among the first few in South India. Padit Narayana Das was the frist principal of the college. He breathed his last on the 2nd of January, 1945.
Dr. Pappu Venugopal Rao then briefly took us through the life of Annamacharya. Shri Annamacharya’s life spanned the years between 1408 to 1503. In his life, he composed around 32000 compositions which were inscribed in copper plates by his descendants. These incriptions however was later found in the 1830s by Archibald D Campbell who dismissed them by stating that they were just “lyrics in praise of the Lord.” According to Dr. Pappu, Annamaya was of the view that any one song of his could speak for his love and devotion to Lord Venkateshwara. In fact he has also mentioned this in one of his compostions. Thanks largely to scholars such as Vetture Prabhakara Shastri and Rallapalli Ananthakrishna Sharma these songs were brought out again. It was in 1949, when the first Annamacharya Vardhanti was observes. Books containing the songs have been brought out by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam. As of today, only 1500 songs have been set to tune by the Dr Sripada Pinakapani, followed by his disciples Voleti Venkateshawarulu, Nedanuri Krishnamurthy, Malladi Suribabu, Shrirangam Goplalratnam and the next generation of Balakrishna Prasad. Nedanuri himself has set to tune 108 compositions of Annamaya. It was then over to Nedanuri.
Nedanuri described Annamaya as “Mahaan Bhavadu.” He explained that Annamaya’s compositions contained the essence of scriptures such as the Upanishads, Ramayanam, and the Bhagavatam. Nedanuri stated that it was in the Shri Venkateshwara College in Tirupathi where he was made principal, that he started setting the compositions to tune. To express the greatness of Annamaya, he said that though Lord Venkateshwara had may celestials sing for him, he chose Annamaya alone to sing him his lullaby, a tradition which is still followed in Tirumalla.
Nedanuri then elaborated upon the structure of the compositions. He described them as Sankeertanms (these compositions are known to have a pallavi, followed by three charanams). He also mentioned that it was only due to the rendering done by M.S Subhalakshmi that the compositions and songs were made famous. He also recalled that it was Sangeeta Kalanidi Shri Semmangudi Shrinivas Iyer who had proposed his name for the title of the Sangeeta Kalanidhi award and that it was seconded by M.S.
Emo Chiguru, was the first composition which was set to tune by Neranudi. The first song to be presented however was Sakala Shanthi Karamu set to Bahudari raagam. The song contained the message of complete devotion to the Lord and was a song on peace, which he stated was not present in today’s world. The second piece that was rendered was Purushotama muda nevu, in Revagupti. “You are the supreme being, I am an ordinary man” was the message of this song. Emo Chiguru was the third piece.
This was followed by parts of songs such as Okapari okapari, Sadanamu Sarveshwarini and Poleti Javanamu to display the various facets of the raagam Karaharapriya. He also shared that Sangeeta Kalanidi Semmangudi Shrinivas Iyer’s rendering of this raagam continues to remain unmatched.
Avatara Raghupati and Kolilona mulu (Kamas) followed in a similar manner. The next set of songs included Ramachandradu ethudu (Dwijawanti), Telisite Mokshamu (Hamsanandam), and Nanati Bratuku (Revati).
A sense of humor was present right through the presentation. The relationship between the Malladi Brothers and their Master was seen to be filled with a lot of affection and devotion to one another.
Questions at today’s lecdem was posed by Dr. N. Ramanathan, and Dr. Pappu. Dr. N. Ramanathan had two questions, one from the view of a composer and the other from that of a rasika. He brought to attention the first song rendered, Sakala shanthi, and said that it had an Anupallavi. He was corrected later by Prof. S.R Janakiraman and the concept of Upa pallavi was explained. The second question that Dr. Ramanathan posed was of the singing of Annamaya’s compositions in concerts as opposed to the compositions of Swati Tirunal, Purandaradasa etc.
Nedanuri explained then that the system of concert singing has always been to expand and improvise on raagams, which is not possible to a large extent with Annamaya’s sankeertanams.
Dr. Pappu asked if Nedanuri composed Annamaya’s pieces in the raagam that was mentioned in the composition. Nedanuri answered that Annamaya used only 89 raagas. 500 compositions of his were in Guntapriya. He said that he used raagams more appropriate to the feel of the compositions.
Sangeeta Kalanidi T.K. Govind Rao spoke for a while before Dr. Pappu decided to wind up the meeting.