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The city of Atlanta may not have the equivalent of the Brahma Gana Sabha of Chennai or the Navaratri Mandapam of Travancore but we still celebrate Navaratri each year with a uniquely musical offering under the auspices of Shruthilaya, the academy of classical music founded Smt. Kala Vasudevan. This year’s Navaratri event was held on October 22, at the Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale, and as usual, exceeded all expectations.
The program set off to a most enchanting start with a mellifluous rendering of bhajans by small children, and an exposition of Nottuswarams; simple melodies which are inspired by western sources but have an entirely Indian lyrical content. This was followed by an impressive mini-concert where some of the most melodious songs in praise of Devi were sung. The concert was led by Smt. Kala Vasudevan who was ry capably assisted by Anuradha Rao, Meera Jandayala, Neha Madangarli, Sharadha Krishnappan, and Shridha Abayanathan. It started off with an Ashta Laxmi Stotram praising the eight manifestations of Sri Lakshmi. Following the Stotram the concert participants sang several compositions of Harikeshanallur Muthaiah Bhagavatar, who was an ardent devotee of Devi.
These included Shri Raja Mathangi (a varnam in sudha dhanyasi), Himagiritanaye (a kriti, also in shudha dhanyasi) and Raja Raja Radhite in Raga Niroshta (a janya raga of Shankarabharanam formed by the omission of Madhyamam and Panchamam, the two swaras that require the lips to close in order to be produced). Smt. Kala Vasudevan also sang Dikshitar’s composition Mamava Meenakshi in Varal. Ramya Ramakrishnan, who is a senior student of Kala Vasudevan, gave a magnificent rendering of Shri Tyagaraja’s Lalithe Shri Pravruthe in Bhairavi.
Following the mini-concert, the senior students of Shruthilaya rendered Devi Kritis from the stalwarts of karnatic music like Dikshitar (Panchasatpeetaroopini in Karnataka Devagandhari), Swati Tirunal (Mamavasada varadhe in Natakurinji), Shyamasastry (Himadri Sudhe in Kalyani) and Ramaswamy Sivan (Pahimam Raja Rajeshwari in Janaranjani).
A delightful item in the evening’s repertoire was an enchanting Kannada Folk song that described the Mysore Navaratri festival in exquisite melody. Rounding off the event, the adults sang a Ragamalika Srichakra Raja (an Agastyar ragamalika in chenchurutti, punnagavarali, nadanaamakriya, and sindhubhairavi) .This was followed with Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s Dhanaasri tillana (“Geet Dhun ki) which has been re-arranged by Dr. Lalgudi Jayaramam in the current form. The program concluded with the soulful rendition of Purandara Dasar’s Bhagyada laxmi baramma, an item in which everyone who performed in the Navaratri event participated.
The virtuoso performance of the accompanying artists (Papanasam Gokul on the violin, and Suresh Kodhandaraman and Arvind Narayanan on the Mridangam) added luster to a program that was already brilliant to begin with. The enthusiasm and dedication of the participants and the painstaking attention to detail and wholehearted effort on the part of Smt. Kala Vasudevan and her husband Sri. Vasudevan ensured that this year’s Navaratri event was, as always, a memory to be cherished. Let us hope that Atlanta can play host to many more such evenings!