The Famed Pongal Festival of South India falls on the 15th of January 2012. Makara Sankranthi marks the transition of the Sun into Makara rashi* (Capricorn) on its celestial path. Traditionally, this has been one of many harvest days in India. Owing to the vast geography and diversity of culture in India, this festival is celebrated for innumerable reasons and in innumerable ways depending on the climate, agricultural environment, cultural background and location. In North India it is celebrated as Lohri. Call it by whatever name – it is the bonhomie spirit of the Indian community for celebrating the life cycles that gives us grain.
In Mayur Vihar, New Delhi, this festival was celebrated with a grand concert of Guruvayoor Dr.T.V.Manikandan who is an Associate Professor, Faculty of Music &Fine Arts, Delhi University.
This concert was hosted jointly by the Subha Sidhivinayak Temple of Mayur Vihar and the Avvai* Tamil Sangam*. This instance was also astutely utilized to host this event as a commemoration concert towards the memory of Madurai Mani Iyer during this Madurai Mani Iyer Centenary year (October 25, 1912 – 1968).
Madurai Mani Iyer was a consummate Carnatic music musician, who was famous for his unique style. He was one of the most highly celebrated Carnatic vocalists during the first half of the 20th century. He was renowned for his adept skills at singing kalpana* swarams*, neraval*, and raga alapana*. His music continues to be highly regarded even today with warm nostalgia.
The surprise element was the brief pre-concert vocal rendering by two outstanding students of Dr. T.V. Manikandan. The session started with Kum. Anaka, a 10 year young school student and an ardent learner of music, took the audience by surprise and made them sit up with her sparkling rendering of Sreemaha Ganapathe in raag Naattai followed by Manavinaala kimcharadate in Nalinakaanthi.
The streak of discovery of young talent was now found in Miss Nisha, a 1st year Undergraduate student Ms. Risha Raamachandran, who sang Siddivinaayakam in Shanmukhapriya, then Saamaja varagamana in Hindolam followed by Teeraatha vilayaattu pillay in a raga malikai*. Both of them evinced serious approach to the study of Carnatic music, a natural gifted voice and received the well-deserved applause.
The much awaited main concert was a hit from the start. Dr. Manikandan justified all the various titles received from various Music Organisations in India and abroad with a very mature and dignified concert which encompassed all that was expected.
Namely being an Avvai Tamil Sangam sponsored concert, justified with a focus on many Tamil Lyrics compositions and also covered other major composers like Thyagaraja and Purandaradasa. But also being the Madurai Mani Iyer centenary concert, stole the heart of the audience with typical kritis* associated with Madurai Mani.
The concert started with the traditional invocation to Lord Ganesha with the Tamil kriti – Gana nathane guna bodhane gaja maa mukh, gathi nee ayya in raag Saranga a composition of Periyasami Thooran. This was followed by a crisp Sobillu Sapthaswara – of Thyagarajar in Raag Jaganmohini.
The following rendering of raag Begada was very soft and well delineated. The alapana* was a fountain of melody and reflected the pedigree and erudition. The kriti rendered was Kadaikkan Vaittennai Alamma Gauri Rajaraeshvari, a kriti by Ramaswamy Shivan.
And in the same spirit the concert meandered on to rare compositions Saranagathi ena nambi vandhen – Raag Shubapanthuvarali; Balakrishnan Padamalar – Composer – Papanasan Sivan.
Then appeared the desert of the evening with an exquisite rendering of the Madurai Mani fame Majanaki – jata battag in Raag Kamboji, a composition of St. Thyagaraja. This sent waves of nostalgia in the hearts and minds of the senior members of the audience who went back in the time machine reminiscing the concert of Madurai Mani Iyer. Again kudos to the well rendered raga alapana and the apt niraval and imaginative swara prastaras.
The thrill was once again attained with the typical Mani Iyer’s western note piece. This was followed by a crisp Thani avartanam* on the mridangam by Mr Jayan Dass.Mr VSK Annadurai gave able support on the violin. The concert concluded with the traditional rendering of the Mangalam*.
Dr. T.V. Manikandan’s traditional approach with purity and classicism with his melodious and clear voice took the listeners to a divine world of peace and sheer enjoyment.
* Avvai – also Avvaiyar. Famous and important female poet of the Tamil canon
* Alapana – Alapana is a form of melodic improvisation that introduces and develops a raga (musical scale) in Indian classical music. As a term that is Sanskrit in language, alapana means “to speak, address, discourse, and communicate”. The flavor of the raga is outlined in the alapana by rendering the raga’s permitted notes in structures and phrases unique to the raga
* Kalpana – imaginative, inspired
* Kriti – a composition
* Niraval – Niraval also known as Neraval or Sahitya Vinyasa is considered to be one of the important features in the extempore improvisation aspect (Manodharma Sangita) of Carnatic music. Niraval is essentially the extempore construction, elaboration and improvisation of swaras for a particular line in the kriti,
* Raga malikai – Ragamalika, literally a garland of Ragas, is a very popular form of composition in Carnatic music. These are delightful compositions, where the various segments are set to different Ragas
* Rashi – zodiac star sign
* Sangam – gathering – organization
* swaram – The seven notes of the scale (swaras)