Thursday, September 25, 2014

Navarathri

Navarathri is huge especially in my household. I grew up typically looking forward to these nine days. The first excitement of course was getting all the golu bommais down from the attic. My dad was always insistent that they can come down only after the ‘padis’ were set up. The engineer that he was, he looked down on the pre fabricated steps and insisted on building them with whatever furniture we had at home. That was the challenge for the designer in him! I, being the eldest would be climbing up the lofts and bringing down everything, cursing my younger siblings for not contributing and generally playing the adult part. Preliminary inspection would reveal one or two broken and then my brother would be despatched to get Fevicol or Araldite from the nearby shop, Sandhi Stores/Jawahar Stores or whatever.

Sampling the sundal in every house in the street was primary. also the puttu served at the local temple as prasadam was another ritual. I would generally recycle the 3 or 4 varnams I knew to earn my sundal. One year my brother was dressed up as a girl to go and invite people for golu!

The biggest and most revered music festival during this period was and still is the Navarathri Mandapam Festival in Trivandrum. You grew up hearing stories of how there were no microphones, mrudangam accompanied the tan am singing, the main piece for each day was fixed, and the bell rang sharply at 8.30 and artistes had to finish. There was also this famous story of how KVN had finished Bhujaga sayino and there was still another 45 sec left and Palghat Mani Iyer finished it off with a short sweet mini tani. Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer once told me that he had sung at the Mandapam for 55 years continuously!

Prince Rama Varma on the Navarathri Mandapam Festival - Navarathri Mandapam Festival

Navarathri Mandapam Festival FAQ - Navarathri Mandapam Festival FAQs

All India Radio had a lot of special programmes during Navarathri as did Doordarshan. In the eighties a lot of us referred to a particular rendering of the Kamalamba Navavarnams by a group led by Seetha Rajan, Radha Wariar and others, specially trained by Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, and rendered on the radio, as the gold standard for learning them up. AIR chose different themes every year usually highlighting Devi compositions. Today one can go to Youtube and do a preliminary search and get some of the original Doordarshan programmes. This year I am as always looking forward to singing on the 28th at the Navarathri Mandapam in Trivandrum with the main kriti Janani mamava in Bhairavi.

Sanjay Subrahmanyan

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