Singing Pancharatna Kirthanais at Thiruvaiyaaru-Thyagaraja Aradhana

All the planning was done, the tickets were booked and accommodation was arranged. We were a group of 15 people from Chennai, all set to participate in the Thyagaraja Aradhana – 2013.

We had learnt the Pancharatna Kirthanais together from Mrs. Shyamala Krishnadas our Guru residing at West Mambalam. All sorts of rumours kept floating around about the time we had to assemble at the venue. Some said 7 am was enough, some others said, we had to be there by 4 am! Some of us were staying at a hotel in Thanjavur, 13 kms away. Thankfully we had a car and a driver who arrived at the crack of dawn and drove us to the holy place of Thiruvaiyaaru.

It was 5 AM and already so many people were queued up at various entrances. One was VIP Pass Q, one was Vidwan Pass Q, and one was for the men folk. Spirits were high even at that early hour! We were all dressed in our silks and were so excited to be there to sing the Pancharatnams along with the celebrities and other singers and rasikas. At about 6.30 our line of women singers were allowed into the enclosure. We had to squat on the sand and we were not allowed to leave space in between, to accommodate more people. We were literally jam packed with absolutely no space between lines or between people. But we did not mind at all. We all knew each other as we all learnt from the same Guru, Mrs Shyamala Krishnadas. There was great deal of camaraderie amongst us.

At about 7 am dry rotis were distributed by one resourceful mami. By then all of us were quite hungry since we hardly slept the previous night, what with all the chatter and excitement. At 7.30 am celebrities started trooping in. Sudha Raghunathan, Priya Sisters, O.S Arun, Sirgazhi Sivachidambaram, Violinist Chandrasekar…we could catch glimpses only of a few celebrities from our assigned place in the enclosure! At 8.30 the Nadhaswaram began. The Pooja for Sri Thyagaraja Swamigal had begun, but of course we could not see from our places. At 9 am sharp, the Pancharatnam began with JagadhaNandaKaraga the first one in Naatai ragam, the only one in Sanskrit. (The rest are in telugu) Full throated singing began only after the second line….people had to get comfortable with the pitch.

Our driver from Thanjavur was a jolly friendly man who knew his way in this town. He came to our place in the enclosure just to see whether all was well with us. I had already handed him my camera to click a picture of all us singing in the holy sands of Thiruvaiyaaru. (our mobile phones were not allowed inside the enclosure) He willingly obliged and went overboard clicking away quite a few.

Duduku came…and by then we were used to the pitch. Sadinjine was a favourite among all of us and we sang full throatedly. Kanakana the beautiful varali in slow tempo started next. Thoroughly enjoyed this piece and the grand finale came, Endharo Mahanubavulu. After the krithi, it was time for the pakka vadhyams to do a Thani avarthanam. Then it was all over. We all got up from our position after 3 hours.

After visiting the temple we sat on the sands and caught a few concerts. We had met two young girls (in the train to Tanjore)…from California who are second generation Indians and they had come all the way to sing at the 3 PM slot. They spoke perfect unaccented tamil. Only their english had an american accent. There was no elder accompanying them and they seemed very bold and brave. They invited me and my friend Radha for their 3 PM concert. So we decided to have lunch at a hotel nearby and be in time for their concert.

The lunch was traditional and absolutely amazing. Radha and I bought some Asoka Halwa which was very famous in this place and we went back to the concert venue on the sands. The girls were dressed beautifully in silk half saris and sang two keerthanais. They obviously had sung in several concerts back in USA. Was so happy to see such young girls from across the globe pursuing learning of this heavenly Carnatic Music. They said, “Aunty we are so happy and privileged to be here and most of all we are ecstatic as we saw our Guru in person after several years”.

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