Veenavaadhini Sampradaya Sangit Trust held a Muthuswami Dikshitar Jayanti Veenotsavam at
Arkay Convention Centre on 26 and 27 April, to celebrate the great Carnatic composer’s 439th
anniversary which fell earlier that month. The festival featured three veena concerts over the two
evenings. The veena being a divine instrument and Dikshitar himself being a ‘vainika gayaka’ (veena
player and singer), there could not have been a more apt choice of instrument to pay tribute to the
legend who is one-third of the famous Carnatic Music Trinity.
The festival was inaugurated by veteran veena vidwan Smt. Padmavathy Ananthagopalan, who later
praised Veenavaadhini’s efforts and the day’s artistes in a speech. The first concert was a recital by a
Veenavaadhini student, Kum. Veena Venkatramani. Her setlist consisted of many Dikshitar gems such as ‘Swaminathena’ in Brindavanasaranga and ‘Matangi Sri Rajarajeswari’ in Ramamanohari, rendered in their pristine form as handed down along the Dikshitar sishya parampara. The main piece of the concert was ‘Brihadeeswaraya’ in Sankarabharanam, again a Dikshitar masterpiece. It was preceded by a crisp ragam and tanam. The youngster truly lived up to her name by treating the rasikas assembled at the hall that evening to some quality music. She was skilfully supported on the mridangam by Sri R Ramkumar.
This was followed by a concert of accomplished veena vidwan P Vasanthkumar. He, too, filled his
concert with marvelous Dikshitar compositions, such as ‘Panchashat Peetharoopini’ in Devagandharam and ‘Paradevata’ in Dhanyasi. His choice of main piece was the famous ‘Sri Subrahmanyaya Namaste’ in Kambhoji. He concluded with Dikshitar’s Chaturdasa Ragamalika, a composition in 14 ragas, ‘Sri Viswanatham’. It is very beautiful but requires much skill to play or sing due to the rapid raga changes, and is hence seldom heard in concerts. The vidwan’s experience shone through in the whole concert and was established in the final number. The concert was enhanced by Sri K R Ganesh’s melodious mridangam.
The second day’s agenda had Veena duo Smt Jaysri Jeyaraaj Krishnan and Sri JT Jeyaraaj Krishnan
present their much-awaited annual thematic concert. This year, the theme was ‘Sri Krishna Charitram
through Dikshitar Kritis’. Earlier themes have included The Ramayana through Dikshitar Kritis and
Unique Names from the Lalita Sahasranamam found in Dikshitar Kritis, among others. The full house at Arkay Convention Centre was thrilled by nine rare Dikshitar Kritis on Lord Krishna. Ragas covered ranged from well-known Mohanam (Gopika Manoharam) and Kambhoji (Gopalakrishnaya Namaste) to rarely-heard Gopikavasantam (Balakrishnam Bhavayami) and Isamanohari (Ananta Balakrishna). The narration was by Smt Rajani Shankar, who introduced the Kritis and their meanings, explaining how they covered the whole story of Krishna from his birth and his pranks as a child, to his famed Rasalila with the Gopikas, to his becoming the king of Dwaraka and his expounding the Bhagavad Gita to Arjuna. The narration threw light on many stories referred to and on the choice of words and clever raga mudras used by the composer. It must be noted that the concert structure was not different from the concert format – the songs chosen just had a particular theme. The concert was a pleasing experience. Smt Jaysri sang the words along with the veena at specific points to demonstrate their flow, reinforcing Dikshitar’s credentials as a peerless Vaggeyakara (composer of both melody and lyric). In no way did the importance given to lyric mean compromise on the manodharma aspect of the concert – the alapanas were of a high calibre, including those of less-known ragas like Nasamani (followed by Sri Krishno Maam Rakshatu). The ragam and thanam in Kambhoji was one to remember and swarams in Mohanam flowed like the Yamuna with the Lord playing on its banks. The chief guest, Sri NV Subramaniam, had nothing but praise for the artistes. In all, the festival was an enjoyable one, proving that the veena’s popularity is in no danger and exposing listeners to a vast number of Dikshitar Kritis. One hopes for a similarly successful event next year.
REPORT BY APARNA SHANKAR.