News & Notes

Guruguha Akhandam

Guruguha Akhandam

By Asmita Padmanabhan

As we approach the 249th birth anniversary of Muthuswami Dikshitar (24 March), several organisations organised akhandam singing in the last few days as a homage to the renowned composer. On 16 March 2024, the Kural Trust, Sukrtam Foundation and the Seethalakshmi Ramanathan Trust came together to organise a 12-hour akhandam of Dikshitar kritis at The ARTery. The akhandam gave the audience the opportunity to travel across Madurai, Tiruvarur, Tirumala, Tiruttani, Kanchipuram and several other sthalams through the kritis of Dikshitar.

A special mention goes to The ARTery for creating a serene atmosphere that perfectly blends traditional architecture with modern lighting and acoustics. It's not common to find spaces dedicated to the arts, particularly Carnatic Music, that are well-lit and equipped.

In the few hours I could attend, I heard a diverse range of artists. It was a wholesome presentation from Preethi Sethuraman's young school-going disciples who fittingly rendered Dikshitar's first kriti Sree Nathadi to well established musicians like Ashwath Narayanan and Vasudha Ravi.

Soumya Sree rendered Meenakshi Me Mudam Dehi. Any tribute to Dikshitar would be incomplete without this masterpiece. It's, after all, the composition that took him towards the ultimate enlightenment! Anuvratha Narasimhan, on the other hand, presented Ramachandran Bhavayami and Tyagarajaya Namaste in a pleasing tone. Yadushree rendered a soothing Sheshachala Nayakam and another Dikshitar masterpiece, Akshaya Linga Vibho.

Singer Anugraha Lakshman's performance was the standout. The Kamalamba Jayati in Ahiri was full of raga bhava and bhakti and held the audience in rapture. We then heard Aditya Rangan's Pahi mam Ratnachala Nayaka and Archana Murali's Sree Venkatagirisham Aalokaye, both of which were neatly presented.

Ashwath Narayanan sang Balagopalam in Bhairavi and a soulful Rama Rama Kali. It was a joy to hear Dikhitar handle a well-known raga in one composition and explore a new and rare raga in the next. Vasudha Ravi did a thematic presentation of Vinayaka kritis - Lambodharaya Namaste, Raktaganapathim Bhajeham and  Ganesa Kumara pahi mam. We then had Hiranmayee presenting Varalakshmim Bhajare and Guruguhaya Bhaktanugrahaya. Yours truly, too, was blessed with an opportunity to perform in the akhandam. Mridangist Arunprakash attended the event and commended the organisers for successfully arranging it.

The experience of continuously listening to so many kritis was indeed enlightening. I noticed that with each kriti, one went through a cycle of emotions and thoughts. When a composition is sung, one is immersed in the raga and the music. Whenever the word 'Guruguha' was sung, it was a subtle reminder of the legend himself. The kritis, though entirely in contrast with the others in terms of raga, context, deity and geographical location, all had one person in common - Dikshitar.

(The author is a freelance writer and a student of Carnatic music)