A Carnatic Music Fan – Thyagaraja Park Rediscovered

[image1_left]Author: Mr R. Srinivasan

“Thyagaraja Park” – Rediscovered. Landmark Site Commemorating The Great Carnatic Music Composer, Saint Thyagaraja, In The Center Of The Busy Metropolis.

I am a Carnatic Music fan – not a performing artist, but a devoted listener and connoisseur of good music and melody.

Last June I was glued to TV – Jaya TV from Chennai – during their broadcast of excerpts from the world’s largest annual Indian Music Festival – great concerts by the top artists of Carnatic Music. That was the world famous Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana and Carnatic Music Festival held in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.

After that experience, I was wandering around with great Carnatic melodies ringing in my ears and at the back of my mind, whatever activity I might have been engaged in.

One day, I am walking around a busy neighborhood of Delhi, through a lush green park. Suddenly I hear a very well rendered classical Carnatic Music concert – all the songs are compositions of Saint Composer Thyagaraja of South India, who is considered as the senior member of the Trinity of Carnatic Music.

On closer scrutiny, a group of talented musicians – seniors, housewives, teachers, youth and even children in their ‘silk pavadai’ and sari clad ‘mamis’ – belting out in great unison, accompanied by a fine orchestra, the ‘Pancha Ratna (Five jewels)’ of Sri Thyagaraja’s compositions. It was spiritually uplifting and emotionally touching to see that event done so traditionally in the midst of the busy metropolis of the Capital Delhi.

Actually I had to pinch myself to make sure that it is a real live event happening right then and there and not the ‘continuing illusion’ as the result of watching that great TV broadcast!

At the end of the inspiring event (appropriately finished with the serving of delicious South Indian snacks) I started doing some research – the W’s (what, where and by Whom) this miracle happened in Delhi, so far away from the Mecca of Carnatic Music (Chennai). The answers I found were simply amazing and I am happy to share them below.

WHAT: The traditional celebration of paying homage to the greatest of the Composer of Carnatic Music – Saint Thyagaraja – otherwise known as the Immortal Bard of Thiruvaiyaru (a small town on the banks of river Kaveri in South India). Every year around mid-January, thousands of Carnatic Music fans – veteran and upcoming practitioners of music (singers, violinists, drummers, other instrumentalists) and hundreds of ordinary folks from all walks of life – gather for a week long Music Festival paying homage to Sage-composer Sri Thyagaraja. During the past five decades, the celebrations have spread to other centers in India and abroad. The most famous of the celebrations being held abroad is the Annual Cleveland Thyagaraja Aradhana, becoming the largest annual Indian music Festival held anywhere in the world outside India.

WHERE: The answer to this question brought out the most amazing information. The denizens of the Capital City are not familiar with a Great gem of a ‘green site’ – a lush-green oasis of a little park situated right in the middle of the busy metropolis. It is known as ‘Thyagaraja Park’ containing green lawn/grounds where people can gather and conduct a musical event in serene surroundings! To add authenticity to the event, there are seven ‘icons’ established in the park, each denoting one ‘Swara’ or the basic Note of Music ( Sa, Ri, Gha, Ma, Pa, Dha, Ni ). These seven notes form the building blocks of all Ragas or melodies of Music (Hindusthani and Carnatic or even the Western Music). The icons each carry significant messages from compositions of Thyagaraja (translated in English and Hindi).

By Whom: Smt. Mythili Raghavan and Sri Raghavan of South Delhi, great connoisseurs of Carnatic Music took upon themselves to make use of this wonderful and most appropriate site, to bring the traditional Thyagaraja Music Festival to Delhi. They invited the noted musician and teacher Sri Neyveli Santhanagopalan to come to Delhi and lead the group in the Aradhana singing. Mrs. Mythili Raghavan’s crisp and appropriate inaural and also the concluding speeach was very touching and well received. Prominent teachers like Mrs. Janaki Ramasubhan, Mrs. Saroja Raman and Mrs. Vasantha Sundaram from Mayur Vihar Delhi, along with their students participated in the group singing. Helping hand in organization was lent by well known Sabha personalities like Shri NA Ramachandran – President of the Gayatri Fine Arts and Mrs Rajeshwari Dinakar Rao from Rohini.

The most pleasantly surprising feature of the event was the absence of VIPs not directly connected with Carnatic Music taking away precious time in speeches and felicitations. The event started on time and finished on record time in a very pleasing orderly fashion, climaxed by the distribution of delicious snacks. The Thyagaraja Park provided the most appropriate background with fresh greenery and quite a few birds providing a soothing ‘accompanying background music’ to the spiritually uplifting traditional music belted out by the humans present. And wonder of wonders, there were even a couple of peacocks showing their majestic dancing in the cool morning.

I left the park at the end of the wonderful event wanting to shout to the denizens of the Capital, ‘Here is an oasis of serene niche for enjoying Carnatic Music at its best, situated right in the center of the busy city. Please take continuous interest in using the park and God willing, one day this park will put even your politically busy mega city on the map of Carnatic Music Centers of the world, even at par with Cleveland and Toronto and other venues of Thyagaraja Aradhana celebrations’.

I want to echo the words of our former president Sri Abdul Kalam (he quoted from the famous composition of Sri Thyagaraja during his inauguration address), ‘Entharo Mahanubhavolu, anthariki Vandanamu’ meaning ‘Salutations to all the Mahanubhavas – great souls’ – thanking all the great souls who brought the tradition to this small park in the Capital of India.

Note: The Annual Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival, which is the largest annual Indian Music Festival organized anywhere outside South India, has attained such an eminent stature that every Carnatic musician – veterans to students – aspires to be a participant considering it a great achievement in the music career. President Bush sent a congratulatory letter to Cleveland Aradhana on its 30th Anniversary (held in March 2007) praising it as the best international cultural event highlighting the great contributions made by the Indian Diaspora to life in North America.