Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Music and dance graces Sivaratri on the coast, in small towns

Back in Chennai, the Association of Bharatanatyam Artistes ( ABHAI) curated its own anjali for Sivaratri at a Mylapore sabha hall.
It drew a generous audience.

The Sivaratri mood in Chenani isn't restricted only to Mylapore, the hub of classical music and dance. Though Arkay Centre has joined Bhavans to host concerts through the Sivaratri night.

Every Lord Shiva temple now encourages dancers of the area to perform. That adds to the mood of the campus.

As we travelled from Chennai to Chidambaram we spotted large illuminations of gods and goddesses, at the head of streets leading to the local temple. Off the Pondicherry bypass, the strains of dance music from a large temple greeted us.

The Natyanjali has become an integral part of Sivaratri.

The Natyanjali hospitality is warm but has to take cuts now

Hospitality has come to be a part of the Natyanjali circuit. A decade ago, when we parked ourselves in Chidambaram, we we treated to breakfast, lunch and dinner at a marriage hall. For free.

There was a small team of cooks who worked 5 am to 8 pm here and served the best traditional food of this zone. Idlis and gostu was a favourite.

Many other Natyanjali organizers followed suit. But the bills have zoomed; and when parents and relatives and policemen and drivers pile on at the dining table you can imagine the BP rate of the host's treasurer!

So the cuts have taken place. Some hosts pay a small sum per artiste for 'tiffin'; some hand food packs and some restrict the guests.

A volunteer at Sri Brihadeeswarar Temple treated us to sundal and ginger tea; which is given to all artistes and gurus after the recital. Great snack that made our evening.

The one and only B M Sundaram

There are some people who are embedded in the Natyanjali.
Musicologist Dr B M Sundaram is one.

He travels from his home in Puducherry ( Pondicherry) to Chidambaram on Sivaratri eve and spends five days here.

Sundaram used to emcee the Natyanjali Trust's festival; sitting in that small, fan-cooled enclosure hidden alongside the main stage, with a window to the stage, he would present the dancers and their pieces. He took time to elaborate on the dance pieces and the compositions; so if you lent Sundaram a ear there was much to learn.

The Trust team has documented much of all the dance pieces presented inside temple here at the festival and even published a book on the compositions suitable for the Natyanjali. "But many dancers go back to Bo..Shambho!..', Sundaram says with a shrug.

Today, Sundaram takes a back seat but spends all the five days with the Natyanjali Trust team as the dances roll at a private venue. He sprang a surprise this season when he sang some abhangs for dancer Deepak Mazumdar from Mumbai.

Where temple dancers performed . . .

Sri Aiyarappar Temple in Thiruvaiyaru is a familiar space to us.
The Sacred Music Festival hosted by Prakriti Foundation of Ranvir Shah is held at three great venues in this town every February.
The temple's spaces have always been chosen for a music concert.

I recall Aruna Sairam singing in the midst of hundreds of lamps one year.
The 2017 edition of the Festival just got over; chitravina Ravi Kiran performed one evening.

For some years, Gopalan and his small team have been hosting the Natyanjali here. Gopalan says that the circular space before the sanctum was where temple dancers offered their prayers in the form of dance ages ago.

This is a splendid space; radiating from the centre are amazing carved stone pillars. They dwarf the dancers this evening as the harsh floodlights pale us all.

If Gopalan's team can be inspired by the lighting that designer Victor Paulraj brings to the Sacred Music Fest, the ambience would be stunning here.