Ode to a rich musical legacy

ANNUAL FESTIVAL

Ode to a rich musical legacy

Say Rudrapatna and many people would wonder where this place is.  Well, this is a small village on the banks of River Cauvery in Arkalgud taluk of Hassan district and has the record of producing the most number of Carnatic musicians in the country. Yes, you read that right. And in order to recognise this feat, an annual music festival is being organised here for the past 15 years. 

Euphonies of life

Carnatic vocalist and renowned artiste, R K Padmanabha, who is the main organiser of the festival says, “I have seen several great musicians perform here. In fact, the musicians here devoted most of their time in research and creating compositions, but they did not come out of Rudrapatna. Some of them migrated to Sengottai in Tirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu and came back to Rudrapatna. In fact, I started my music career at the age of 25, much after I migrated to Bengaluru.” In fact, as the managing trustee of the Rudrapatna Sangeetotsava Samiti Trust, he has taken it upon himself to ensure that the musical flag of this place flies high.

Rudrapatna’s rich musical legacy can be witnessed in the innumerable musicians who have come from there, including  R S Keshavamurthy, R K Ramanathan, R K Srikantan, R K Srinivasamurthy, R K Suryanarayana, R N Thyagarajan and R N Tharanathan (Rudrapatnam Brothers), R K Raghavan, R K Prakash, R K Prasanna Kumar, R K Padmanabha, R S Ramakanth, R N Sreelatha and Rathnamala Prakash. With its rich musical heritage, Rudrapatna is quite similar to Thiruvayyar in Tamil Nadu and is said to be an abode of Veda-Nada-Taranga with close to 60% of the Carnatic musicians hailing from here.

“In 2002, I decided we need to do something here and a group of friends gathered. To be honest, we did not know what to do. But after that, we decided to do things more seriously and started doing the concerts in a big way at the State level,” says R K Padmanabha. 

It was in 2008 when the seventh concert was held that things started to change as the trust decided it was time to elevate Rudrapatna to the level of Thiruvayyar. In order to achieve this, the idea of having a musically-connected temple was conceived. Music has no barriers of caste and creed and has the power to attract people from all walks of life. Hence, a temple in the shape of a tambura was conceptualised. Spread over 14,000 square feet and set amidst trees, gardens and fountains, this temple was envisioned to be something spectacular.

“I was clear that there should be no regular rituals involved and that everything must be connected to music. So, keeping the musical notes (Sa, Re, Ga, Ma, Pa, Da, Ni) in mind, I have composed seven namavalis on each God and we do pujas through music — Sa is Goddess Saraswati,  Re is Purandara Dasa, Ga is Vadiraja, Ma is Kanaka Dasa, Pa is Thyagaraja, Da is Muthuswami Dikshitar and Ni is Syama Sastri.”

Known as the Saptaswara Temple, the theme here revolves around the number 7. Consequently, the temple has 7 corners, 7 steps that lead to the main door, 7 compartments in the gopura, 7 deities and the best part is that the structure was completed in 7 months! The tambura on the exterior is 70 feet tall and there are 72 melas (collection of fundamental ragas) of Carnatic music represented by stars — 36 on each side. There are also 72 trees on the opposite side of the road, each representing a major Carnatic raga. The annual music programme happens in the adjoining Ram Mandira.

Music by the river

Listening to the strains of the music against the flow of the Cauvery is nothing short of a mystical experience and musicians, music lovers and students from neighbouring states take part in this festival. This year’s music festival will be held from May 19-22. Connoisseurs of art, who arrive from different parts of Karnataka meet on the banks of River Cauvery in the morning of the inaugural day. Women perform the traditional Cauvery puja and all villagers come to witness the same.

The theppotsava (the procession of the deity) on the boat is a ritual that is a delight to watch with thousands of lamps floating in the river and there are fire crackers as well. This year, the festival will see a jugalbandi between Hindustani and Carnatic music, where the violin and sitar will be played.

“Hindustani music is not popular in these parts and I want everybody to experience it at least once,” says R K Padmanabha.

The trust has instituted an award in honour of Nacharamma (a woman leader who led a group of Sanketi Brahmins out of Sengottai, Tamil Nadu to Rudrapatna) to recognise musicians and literary personalities.

Vocalist Veena Mohan, a senior student of R K Padmanabha, says, “The idols of Rama and Shiva are carried on one boat and there are more than 50 musicians who will be singing Pancharathna Krithis together on the banks of River Cauvery during the theppotsava. Many maestros will be present in the audience and it would be an honour to perform in front of them.”

Likewise, ace violinist Mysore Manjunath is looking forward to a unique jugalbandi with sitarist Chhote Rahimat Khan. “I have performed in places like the Sydney Opera House and Royal Albert House in London, but performing in the natural environs of Rudrapatna is something else.”  Here’s hoping this rich musical legacy lives on forever.

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