News & Notes


Harnessing technology to tradition 

Rama Kousalya

My father used to tell us “Never hate anything. If you do, you may have to live with it forever”. That said, I had to make peace with my contempt for social media and accept it with all the positives it has to offer, especially when it has the world tied up together during these testing times.

Every year, the janma nakshatras of Syama Sastry (1762-1827) and Tyagaraja (1767-1847) are important events at Marabu Foundation, Tillaisthanam. Since its inception, we at Marabu, have had the blessing of paying musical homage to the great saints in their houses. In the month of Chaitra, on the day of Kritika nakshatra (the birth star of Syama Sastry), Marabu Foundation has been presenting a special musical offering at his house in the morning, followed by a concert in the evening at the Tanjavur Bangaru Kamakshi Amman Temple. The celebration has always been preceded by a workshop to teach some of his priceless compositions in the usual gurukula pattern at the Marabu house, Tillasithanam, where the candidates are handpicked and taught free of cost by senior music teachers.

This year too I had elaborate plans in mind to celebrate Syama Sastry’s jayanti. I had planned a musical homage covering all the important sthalas pertinent to him like Kanchipuram, Tiruvarur, Tanjavur and Tiruvaiyaru, while depicting how Bangaru Kamakshi had travelled with the family for more than two centuries until the Maratha ruler brought them all to Tanjavur.

It is said that Syama Sastry’s ancestors were anointed to be the official pujakas of Bangaru Kamakshi Amman (then in Kanchipuram) by Adi Sankara, and fearing the invaders, they fled with the deity from Kanchipuram to several places. It was King Tulaja (1763- 1787), the Maratha ruler of Tanjavur, who brought the family and the deity to Tanjavur, by building the temple and presenting the family with a house and lands for comfortable living.

With regard to Tyagaraja, Marabu had conducted workshops on his kshetra kritis (Lalgudi, Tiruvottriyur, Srirangam and Kovur) four years ago which was facilitated by gurus Leelavathi Gopalakrishnan, Shyamala Venkateswaran, Prema Rangarajan and Bhushany Kalyanaraman. While his ghana raga pancharatnas are popular and widely sung, his kshetra pancharatnas are not sung as groups, although kritis like O Rangasayee, Dharini telusukonti, Ee vasudha andSambho Mahadeva are very popular. It was my keen desire to have these 20 kritis sung by the workshop participants on Tyagaraja’s janma nakshatra (Chaitra masa – Pushya nakshatra, which fell on 30 April 2020), in front of the Rama idol worshipped by Tyagaraja at Varagappaiyyar lane in Tanjavur.

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