News & Notes

Shanmatam – An entire day of music

Shanmatam – An entire day of music

Arya Nagarajan 

The brainchild of vidushi Gayathri Girish, Chaitanyam, aimed at promoting Indian art and culture, saw its first in-person workshop, Shanmatam, on 13 November 2022, at the Lakshmi Giri Convention Hall in Mylapore, Chennai. Chaitanyam had organised three online workshops earlier, the first one on ragamalika kritis, the second on Oothukadu Venkata Kavi’s Kamakshi Navavarna kritis, and the third on Maharaja Swati Tirunal’s Navaratri kritis.

Adi Sankaracharya established and popularised the concept of 'Shanmatam' (six forms of worship) to resolve conflicts between various sub-faiths and sects of Sanatana Dharma. Eponymously, this workshop focused on six kritis, one each on Lord Ganesa, Lord Surya, Lord Vishnu, Goddess Sakthi, Lord Muruga, and Lord Siva.

Despite the heavy rains in the morning, every participant appeared with full enthusiasm. The programme started with the guest of honour for the inauguration, Sushama Ranganathan, CEO of Surang Studios, lighting the lamp. Gayathri Girish delivered the introductory address, in which she elaborated on the organisation and the workshop.

Starting the workshop, we learnt a beautiful Tamil composition written by Papanasam Sivan that talks about the greatness of Lord Ganesha – Sree Ganapathiye in Devamanohari, as mesmerising as the gentle morning breeze of Margazhi.

Adityam Devadi Devam in Mayamalavagaula musically resembles and elegantly describes the blaze of Lord Surya. Dedeepyamana tejasam (blazing shine), writes the composer, Harikesanallur Muthiah Bhagavathar. In the charanam, he also lauds Surya as the witness to the actions of all the movable and immovable things in the world.

The third kriti, Deenarakshaka, a beautifully woven yet extremely challenging composition by Ponnayya of the Tanjore Quartet, tuned in Ahiri, was a treat to the ears. Mananu ne kshanamaina (I will not give up even for a moment) was an encouraging line, given that this composition was a good exercise for the brain!

It would be unjust if the lunch break were not mentioned because it was so entertaining. The students and Gayathri Girish played musical games and had a fun-filled and heartening conversation. The dimension of art creeping into our everyday conversations and making them delightful is a lovely aspect of art itself.

The fourth session was the charming Amba sree rajarajeswari, written by Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. The lilting Bhogavasanta suffused the venue, but the lyrics were a bit of a tongue twister! Gayathri Girish demonstrated one to two rounds of niraval in the line Lambodarajanani kAmEshvari of the anupallavi. To get bonus tips was icing on the cake!

The penultimate session on Kartikeya was Asaveri from the kriti Nityananda Karthikeye, gracefully written by Maharaja Kumara Ettendra. The students saw a combination of Ahiri and Asaveri that day, which made them go, "Todi is the only one left!"

The final session had the participants trying hard not to mess up the Misra Jhampa tala; the evergreen Arabhi raga permeated the hall while everyone sang Marakoti koti lavanya, composed by Muthuswami Dikshitar. Here again, the kriti's lyrics were tongue twisters for the students. But maybe because of the familiarity of the raga, this final kriti was easy to grasp!

The valedictory function of the workshop was presided over by vidushi Nithyasree Mahadevan, whose cheerful presence brightened everyone's souls. A dear friend of Gayathri Girish, Nithyasree had gone through all the songs taught beforehand and said, "Leave alone having learnt these compositions; I have never even heard some of them." All the participants received their certificates from Nithyasree. The rarity of these compositions made learning even more joyful.

Gayathri Girish's patience and endurance should be acknowledged and emulated.  The effort behind preparing the notations, arranging the logistics and recordings of the workshop, and ensuring that the participants got a hold of the musical piece was very significant and highly commendable. At the same time, the teaching itself was extremely inspiring and motivating.  Vishruthi Girish (Gayathri's daughter) helped all the participants feel at home throughout the sessions making our experiences seamless.

It was a fulfilling day for each individual present at the workshop, and we felt grateful for being part of the fraternity of Chaitanyam.


(The author, a Carnatic vocalist and violinist, took part in the workshop.)