By Ranjani Sivakumar Siddareddy
By Ranjani Sivakumar Siddareddy
Takkuvemi manaku ramundokkadunduvaraku!
This song will definitely find an important place in the nostalgia trips of those who grew up in the 1980s.Most of us then owned a copy of this Bhadrachala Ramadasu cassette; from which we netrue-ed them all, down until the musical interludes between their charanams. What many of us did not know back then, was that this prolific vageyyakara’s name was really Kancherla Gopanna.
We came across his name again, on our school trips to the Golconda Fort, in Hyderabad. And as we took a guided tour of the fort’s jail gleaning his story, our focus fell upon the verses of the songs we knew so well. The verses Ikshvaku kula tilaka ika naina balukavu ramachandra nannu rakshimpa kunnanu rakshaku levarinka Ramachandra took a whole new turn after this trip.
Those of us who continued our musical education learnt about the deep impact that this composer made on the life of Tyagaraja through kritis like Kaligiyunte kada which highlight Narada, Prahlada, Parasara and Rama Dasa as the great devotees of Rama. The lines Ramadasu valenaite Sita Bhama mandalinchunu nito “from Emi dova palkumayikanu ne and “Dhiruḍau Ramadasuni bandhamu dirchinadi vinnanura” from Ksheersagara sayana, lay more emphasis on this fact.
The commemorative five-day Bhakta Ramadasu jayanti - prayukta vageyyakara utsavam conducted from Feb 12-16, in Bhadrachalam, allows us to put all this learning into perspective. The date is set to coincide with his birth star - the Purvabhadra nakshatram of the Magha maasam.
Adigo Bhadradri Gautami, idigo choodandi
The festival begins at the crack of dawn with prayers being offered to the river Godavari.A processsion of bhaktas, pujaris, rasikas and musicians follow the pallaki of the portraits of Bhakta Ramadasu and the musical trinity, around this little town, their ears ringing with the Vedapathanam by children from the local Vedapathasala.The procession progresses with the nagara sangeetam and culminates in a grand abhishekam to the Ramadasu vigraham in the Sree Sita Ramachandra Swamy temple situated on a hillock.
With mangala vadyam, the Sita Rama kalyanotsava murtis are brought into the Chitrakoota Mandapam, lying at the foot of this hillock.The curtain raiser to the musical event, is the ghoshti ganam of the nava ratnams of this great composer which draws a huge crowd of musicians and devotees alike. The akhandam runs for five days with many eminent and enthusiastic musicians from all over India, singing the kritis of Bhadrachala Ramadasu and other vageyyakaras.
The meticulous way in which this festival is organised requires special mention: while the committed team caters to the food-stay and travel arrangements of all the artistes taking part in it, the website - http://ramadasu-jayanthi.in - clearly specifies the schedule and documents the whole event with photos/ audio and video recordings, which are then broadcast through popular music-bhakti channels.The website also provides notations in English, of the navaratna kritis of this composer, an initiative of the Malladi Brothers Sriramprasad and Ravikumar.
Now into its seventh year, this musical festival, led by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, has grown significantly, attracting a large number of rasikas and artistes.
Rama dasa mrudula hrudaya tamarasa nivasaya swami Bhadra girivaraya sarva mangalam
(The author is a young Carnatic vocalist).