A melodious hamlet

A melodious hamlet

Originally called Hunasenahalli, Chintalapalli is at the farthest end of Gauribidanur in Chikkaballapur district, barely four to five kilometres away from the Andhra Pradesh border.

 Its stamp of recognition, in contrast to all other villages in the area, has always been its tradition of music. While its history is said to begin with nothing but music, the features around Chintalapalli also stand  testimony to the fact that it is indeed a musical town. 

The Chintalapalli Cultural Trust members, who have set up office in the heart of the village, insist that the place is also the only known surviving heritage of music. They are still maintaining the music hall which is a memorial to court musician Vidwan Chintalapalli Venkatarao, the Chintalapalli Music Artistes’ Museum, and the Organised Music Gurukul, where classes are conducted for those interested in music. This is an active initiative to keep the musical heritage alive and kicking.

“The 800-year-old heritage of our village, which was born with a close relation to music is kept alive in many ways. Most native residents of the village, for instance, have been travelling to big cities like Bangalore to organise concerts. The greatest moment to experience the musical life of Chintalapalli, however, is when there is a mega musical festival. Then, the very look of the village has a musical touch to it,” H S Ashwatthanarayana Rao says.

“Earlier too, if there was any musical festival at any part of the district or even at state-level, the musicians of Chintalapalli were always invited to participate in it. The demand for the artistes increased during religious festivals and even local temple and village festivals. Many of them were farmers who used to work in the fields in the day and prepare themselves for the festivals by evening. Rehearsal for musical recitals was a common feature in every household of Chintalapalli,” he reminisces.

“Although we had about 40 families who had a musical tradition, we now have only a few such families, as most others have migrated to other parts of the country. Retaining the heritage with whoever is left in the village is a major aspiration of the Trust, whose members make sure they organise musical concerts on an annual, monthly or even weekly basis. For their part, the residents too enthusiastically participate in the programmes,” said Rao.

Karnataka Prantha Raitha Sangha leader N R Ravichandra Reddy says, “Chintalapalli is famous for not just music. We have also witnessed progressive movements, including those related to employment. With drought proving a hindrance to agricultural activities, many citizens in the village have gone across the border to Andhra Pradesh and are working in the factories there.”

Chintalapalli has given its share of music to the courts of the Gangas, Hoysalas, Vijayanagara, Bahamanis and the Mysore kings. Music, as a subject, was a part of the curriculum at the Lokapavana University established by Vyasaraya, the rajaguru or mentor of the Vijayanagara emperors. 

Following the battle of Talikota in 1565, Honnarasappanavar, the head of the Department of Music at the University, is known to have moved to Penugonda, the new capital of the Vijayanagara empire, while the teachers in the department are said to have returned to their respective native villages, taking the books on music with them.

Sangeetharaya Thimmannanavar, who was one such teacher who returned from the empire, was appreciated for knowledge of music by Nawab Ranadullah Khan, and given Chintalapalli and 16 other villages as Jagir. The musical heritage was continued after his era by Chintalapalli Venkataraya and all other music teachers, who settled in the village and converted their respective homes into gurukuls. The musicians of Chintalapalli have brought home more than 70 national and state awards.
(Translated by Chitra Phalguni)

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