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Kolkata Roundup

‘The Highest Worship’ with Carnatic Aroma


The 248th jayanti of Muthuswami Dikshitar was celebrated by Sri Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya with soulful music and veneration spread over two days. This also marked the Vidyalaya’s 80th year of glorious presence in Kolkata. The festival was organised by Guruguha Sangeet Sammelan, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan and Accolade Studios, co-powered by State Bank of India and partnered on the radio by Friends FM. Guru Srividya Anantharaman, Principal, Sri Guruguha Gana Vidyalaya, conceptualised themes and took care of its flawless execution on both days.


Sankara Guruguham, the uniquely designed theme, brought together Adi Sankaracharya and Muthuswami Dikshitar on the grounds of their philosophical journeys, beginning from Kasi. This was presented by two youngsters - vocalist Vivek Sadasivam and Vinay Varanasi, analytical interpreter/painter.  One was happy to note that Vivek’s career-graph has come a long way during the last one decade. His selection of kritis followed the story-line. Most of them, such as Sree Dakshinamurte (Sankarabharanam), Annapurne vishalakshi (Sama) or Sree Rajarajeshwari (Purnachandrika) are very familiar; but the Ganga-stotra, set to Gangeshwari, was a pleasant surprise. One rarely hears this raga created by sitar legend Ravi Shankar.    


Vivek’s mellifluous rendition of the kritis were complemented by Vinay’s enthralling stories related to two greats born across different times yet similar in many ways, such as their admiration of Kasipati and devotion to His consort, their style of expressing complicated philosophies like Advaita through simple works. Vaibhav Ramani’s support on the violin was exceptional and so was Adamya Ramanand’s mridangam. By the time the melodic session came to tani, its penultimate item, Vinay, who was painting a portrait of the Goddess simultaneously, completed it. Indisputably, this icing on the cake, steeped in the hues of spirituality and melody, was stunning!


Well-attended on both the days by the esteemed members of music fraternity, the first evening was inaugurated by Debashish Kumar, MLA, while the second evening was inaugurated by veteran vocalist Ajoy Chakrabarty.   


The opening day’s theme Pravah, meaning, flow was a confluence of Western and Carnatic classical music that showcased thirty five nottuswarams composed by Dikshitar. A skit depicting an idea of how Dikshitar would have come by composing these nottuswarams, was presented to give a deeper insight. The young students of the vidyalaya, along with five Western counterparts from amongst the members of Calcutta Chamber Orchestra, sang them. Supported by S Venkatraman’s mridangam and Sagnik Sammadar’s on the keyboard, the children were spectacular in their rendition. The actors, aided by apt visuals, were successful in etching the story with superb clarity.



 Ritachhanda Festival



Going by the present trend, Carnatic music is gaining popularity in Kolkata. This season most of the soirees included at least one Carnatic item in their itinerary with great hope of attracting people from all walks of life. SNB Foundation’s 9th Ritachhanda Festival at Uttam Mancha was no exception.


The word Ritachhanda embodies the pulse of cosmic truth - the word Rit from Rig Veda and chhanda stands for a particular gait of any rhythm. Rit also denotes truth. Guided by its beacon Sri Sri Sourendranath Brahmachari, the Foundation strives to serve the cause of Indian Culture and Arts rooted in spirituality through Ritachhanda. That their effort bears fruit was evident during the daylong festival. Debashish Kumar (MLA) and renowned dancer Alokananda Roy blessed it with their presence in the auditorium.

 As the penultimate artist of the day vainika Nirmala Rajshekhar commenced with Ganapati namo nama (Hamsadhwani, roopakam) with a few passages of kalpana swaras. A rich kriti of Muthuswami Dikshitar set to a rare version of Kalavati, extolling goddess Saraswati (Kalavati Kamalasana yuvati, Adi tala) followed next. A unique composition of instrumental pallavi (Keeravani Adi tala) trailed after a short ragam-tanam to accommodate the much awaited tani avartanam, but not before striking a melody-rhythm based dialogue with her very supportive co-artists N Shankar (mridangam), Somnath Roy (ghatam), and Shubhashish Bhattacharya whose tabla lent a whiff of Hindustani music.


In the same spirit, eminent flautist Pravin Godkhindi staged the grand finale with Carnatic aroma. Flanked by Shubhashish (base tabla) and Somnath (ghatam) he played a soulful aochar of Puria Kalyan; and following the gayaki anga, introduced by the legendary master Pannalal Ghosh, he developed the raga delicately within the cycles of slow Ek taal. After reaching the upper tonic the movements picked up speed when ghatam joined in. They all moved on to taan-encrusted fast Teen taal with ghatam’s sharp tone adding a different dimension to the recital. He chose Rageshri to showcase the tantrakari anga of flute playing as popularised by maestro Hariprasad Chaurasia. Replete with dexterous laya-chhandakari-based elaboration and taans, it climaxed in jhala and closed with a tihai at a very high speed.         


Earlier, in the afternoon session Sahana Banerjee, a brilliant sitar virtuoso belonging to Seni Rampur Gharana, played Multani, a raga sporting similar notes and mournful mood as Miyan ki Todi but having entirely different gaits and belonging to different time zones, both are capable of emanating heart-wrenching melody. Creating such a mood is Sahana’s forte. Her portrayal of the raga (alap-jod-jhala, gatkaris in slow jhaptal and fast teental) reminded one of Tagore’s take which describes Multani as a thirsting desert’s agony. Ably assisted by popular tabla player Soumen Sarkar, the succeeding Pilu dhun transported one to a melodious oasis and seemed to quench thirst, appease anguish and inject ecstasy of a renewed life.


Bhimpalasi, a raga of homecoming after a day’s work, was chosen by the vocalist duo Anol Chatterjee and Brajeshwar Mukherjee. In the caring company of Bivash Sanghai’s majestic broad-faced base tabla and Gourab Chatterjee’s insightful harmonium, the raga elaboration with the lyrics of a slow Ek taal bandish composed by guru Jnan Prakash Ghosh (Karam karo morey saai) peaked in piety. Conversely, the exuberance of skillful taans in Ja-ja re apane mandirawa set to fast Teen taal was contagious enough for tabla and harmonium to display their delighting prowess. The concluding Meera bhajan in Mand had a calming effect.


 PC: Shilpi Ravi