Navarathri Mandapam Concerts

The Navarathri Mandapam Concert series is of nine days duration culminating with Mahanavami. Navarathri is a festival of Devi or the mother Godess. She is worshipped as Saraswathi- the deity of all learning and arts, Lakshmi - the Godess of wealth and Durga - the embodiment of courage and power. Saint Kambar , the author of Kamba Ramayana is believed to have gifted the idol of goddess Saraswathi to the Chera King who was his disciple and made the King promise that the Devi will be worshipped during every Navarathri. This promise is being kept even today by the Travancore Royal House, the descendants of the Chera Kings. The Saraswathi idol is now kept at the temple inside the Padmanabhapuram Palace complex. Earlier, the Navarathri festival used to be conducted at Padmanabhapuram, now in the state of Tamilnadu. It was Swathi Thirunal who shifted the festival to Thiruvananthapuram from Padmanabhapuram. But the King made arrangements for the idol to be brought to the new capital during the Navarathri in a grand procession and returned after the festival.The dates in the Malayalam month of Kanni (between mid-September and mid-October, roughly) vary from year to year, like say Easter. The Navarathri concerts have been around for a long time. Nine Keerthanas specifically for each of the nine days of Navarathri have been composed by the Maharaja and these are rendered as the main pieces of the nine days. These main pieces are presented with full raga delineation, thanam with percussion accompaniment (perhaps a unique tradition), neraval, swara and the thani. During the first three days the Devi is worshipped as Saraswath, as Lakshmi during the next three days and as Durga on the last three days. On the first night Devi Jagajanani in Raga Sankarabharanam will be rendered. It is Pahimam Sri Vageeswari in Kalayani for the second night and Devi Pavane Seve in raga Saveri for the third night. Bharathi Mamava Kripaya is sung on the fourth night. It is composed in raga Thodi. Janani Mamavameye in Bhairavi and Saraoruhasanajaye in Panthuvarali are rendered on the fifth and sixth nights. The last three nights will have Janani Pahi in Sudha Saveri, Pahi Janani Santhatham in Nattakurinji and Pahi Parvatha Nandini in Arabhi in the same order. Preceeding the main concert, there is a 30 minute Thodaya mangalam recital by the traditional Mullamoodu Bhagavathars even today. They have a fixed repertoire of Swathi kritis : Jaya Devaki Kisora (Natai) and Pari Paahi Ganadhipa (Saveri) etc. They conclude with, curiously enough, a non-Swathi Kriti: Narayana the namo namo, composed by Annamacharya. It is believed that Swathi suggested this kriti for inclusion as a good specimen of Kritis other than his. This Annamacharya kriti is popular in kutcheri circuits and Dr. Balamuralikrishna has performed it in Behag, though it is rendered in Madhyamavathi in the Mandapam.Almost all major musicians have performed in the mandapam. Semangudi Srinivasa Iyer tops the list , having performed 59 times in the Mandapam. Palakkad K.V. Narayana Swamy, M.D. Ramanathan, G.N. Balasubramaniyam, Musuri, Dr. M. Balamurali Krishna, T.V. Gopalakrishnan, T.N. Seshagopalan, Maharajapuram Santhanam, T.K. Govinda Rao, T.V. Sankaranarayanan, Neyveli Santhana Gopalan, Neyyattinkara Vasudevan, Neyyattinkara Mohanachandran, R.K. Sreekantan, Sanjay Subramaniyam, Aswathi Thirunal Rama Varma, Trichur V. Ramachandran, O.S. Thyagarajan, P.S. Narayana Swami, T.M. Krishna, R. Venketaraman etc have all graced the Mandapam. Conspicuous by absence are Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar and his disciple Dr. K.J. Yesudas. The longing for Chembai’s magical music in the Mandapam is qunched by many by enjoying the popular Malayalam film song "Nakshatra Deepangal Thilangi" which mentions Chembai singing in the Mandapa. (See review of recent Navarathri concerts in Articles link of this site, by G. Harisundar, The Hindu.)Navarathri Mandapam is situated on the right side of the East Gopuram of the Padmanabha Swamy Temple. The Navarathri Mandapam is situated inside a beautiful wooden building. During the festival it is decorated with fresh flowers and fruits. The entire place is lit by oil lamps.Sandalwood and camphor are used as incense. It is a rare and divine experience to visit the Navarathri Mandapam and listen to the special concerts. Little or minimal amplification is given so that those sitting on the mandapam get the music as pure as possible. There is a battery of earthen pots hung from the ceiling their mouths facing downwards (these custom made pots are of varying sizes - one wonders whether they are of different temper too - but they are quite old and appear to be very delicate to experiment!!! ) an excellent device to produce sufficient amplification for even the most delicate note from a veena string. These earthen pots kept in place by means of coir ropes tied around the neck from one pot to another. The pots are not uniformly arranged, but kept in different angles. They could be very ingenious and indigenous way of providing Sound Reflectors. They also prevent echoes. The Sound Reflectors are arranged over the area where the musicians give their performances. In olden days, when modern acoustics were not their, these earthen ware pots ensured the even distribution of sound through the mandapa without the noise pollution of echoes. Since the Navarathri Mandapam assumes the role of a Kerala Temple, although temporarily, the traditions and codes of conduct are strictly adhered to. The admission to the Navarathri Mandapam concerts also, naturally are restricted to Hindus, as has been the practice in many of the temples in Kerala. Women are given seperate seating during the daily evening concerts . For the sake of women and those men who are not able to sit on the floor, there is a verandah around a courtyard where one could sit at a ledge, which could be used as an improvised bench. Concerts start at 6pm and end at 8.30pm sharp. Incidentally men must also stick to strict traditional dress codes of Kerala Temples viz. dhoti and should not wear a shirt or undershirt or anything else on top. Trousers/shorts/pajamas and of course foot-wear a strict "no no". For those who are not able to go in, there is a speaker kept outside and weather permitting one can see a crowd standing around/sitting on the steps leading to the Sreepadmanabhaswamy Temple. In addition the All India Radio (Aaakash Vani) Thiruvananthapuram broadcasts excerpts of the days' concerts generally from 9.30 to 11 pm. Of course the audience is expected to be quiet during the entire concert sessions and there is no applause! Devotees are welcome to render music/dance recitals as personal offerings in the mornings. However, prior arrangements/booking of time slots should be made with the Administrator, Navarathri Trust, Fort Palace Complex, Thiruvananthapuram - 695023 telephone +91-471-247 9245.

Provisional Plan for Navarathri 2003 at the Navarathri Mandapam

Fri Sep 26 Navarathri - 1 : ( Devi Jagajjanani - Sankarabharanam)
Vocal: K.N.Renganatha Sarma
Violin: T.H.Subramaniam
Mridangam: K.Velukutty Nair

Sat Sep 27 Navarathri - 2 : (Pahimam Sri - Kalyani)
Vocal: Sanjay Subrahmanyan
Violin: Mysore Nagraj
Mridangam: Mannargudi Eswaran

Sun Sep 28 Navarathri -3 : (Devi Pavane - Saveri)
Vocal: Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma
Violin:Attukal Balasubramaniam
Mridangam: B.Harikumar
Ghatam: Adichanallur Anil Kumar

Mon Sep 29 Navarathri -4 (Bharathi Mamava - Thodi)
Vocal: T.V.Gopalakrishnan
Violin: M.A.Krishnaswamy
Mridangam: Bangalore Praveen
10.00 am Special Concert offering : Veena : Aswathi Tirunal Rama Varma
Mridangam : T.V.Gopalakrishnan,
Ghatam : Udupi Sridhar

Tue Sep 30 Navarathri-5 (Janani Mamava - Bhairavi)
Vocal: P.S.Narayanaswamy
Violin: T.K.V.Ramanujacharlu
Mridangam: T.K.Moorthy

Wed Oct 01 Navarathri-6 (Saroruhasana Jaaye - Panthuvarali)
Veena: R.Venkatraman
Mridangam: R.Vaidyanathan
Ghatam: Udupi Sridhar
9.30pm Mohiniyattam: Gopika Varma

Thu Oct 02 Navarathri-7 (Janani Pahi Sada - Shuddhasaveri)
Vocal: Trichur V. Ramachandran
Violin: M.A.Sundaresan
Mridangam: K.V.Prasad
Ghatam: Vaikom Gopalakrishnan

Fri Oct 03 Navarathri-8 Durgashtami (Pahi Janani - Nattakurinji)
Vocal: Vechur Shankar
Violin: N.V.Babu Narayanan
Mridangam: Dr.G.Babu

Sat Oct 04 Navarathri-9 Mahanavami (Pahi Parvatha Nandini - Arabhi)
Vocal: T.M.Krishna
Violin: V.V.Ravi
Mridangam: R.Ananthakrishnan

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