The early morning walkers around the Kaikondrahalli Lake in Bengaluru were greeted by the chant like strains of the Malahari Geetham “Kereya Neeranu Kerege Challi” sung by Sumitra Nitin. This was the opening of the Kere Habba, the dawn to dusk Lake Festival and Sumitra made the theme of her presentation that morning as, you guessed it, WATER.
There was every reason to celebrate the Lake Festival, for it is the first lake in Bengaluru to be revived through the efforts of Citizens. In 2009 the lake was but a marshland and Priya Ramasubban, a resident nearby took the initiative along with others like Ramesh Sivaram and formed the association MAPSAS (Mahadevapura Parisara Samrakshane Mattu Abhivrudhi Samiti) to revive the lake. The citizen’s group raised funds to clean up the surroundings, plant more than 1000 trees around and took care of the upkeep of the lake. The volunteer group have their hands full trying to maintain the grounds, provide security, arrange for deweeding, arrange for organic manure, make sure there is no sewage inflow, deal with miscreants, chase after officials to get pending work done and so on. Inspired by their example efforts are on by citizen groups to protect other lakes in and around Bengaluru.
In order to draw the residents around the lake and to create an awareness about its preservation the Association holds activities around Kaikondrahalli lake such as the Kere Habba. For the first time they organized a musical morning by Sumitra Nitin on 9th January, 2016 at the amphitheatre on the lake shore. As they did not want to scare away the birds in and around the lake the amplification was kept low and there were no accompaniments. On that cold, misty morning there were a good number of walkers of all age groups who sat down to listen to this concert with a difference.
Sumitra Nitin commenced with the Malahari Gitam, composed by Sangita Pithamaha Purandara Dasa, which is one of the first lessons learnt by a student of Carnatic music. The song may be simple but the meaning is profound. It says that the learned ones scoop water from the lake and pour it back in a ritual when they offer their prayers to the Lord. Similarly our life given to us with compassion by Hari is surrendered back to him.
She followed this with the Thiruppavai “Ongi ulagalanda” in Arabhi. Here Andal, the Vaishnavite Saint poet describes the purpose of the penance Pavai Nonbu as praying for rains thrice a month so that the land may be fertile and prosperous.
Next came Tyagaraja’s description of the river Yamuna in his opera Nauka Charitram. The song “Choodare chelulara” in Pantuvarali describes the beauty of the river and the flora and fauna on its banks. Sumitra followed this with two Tharangams of Naryana Thirtha’s Krishna Lila Tharangini. The first in Punnagavarali with the refrain Bhavaye Hridayaaravinde has the description of the overpowering of Kaliya, the snake, who poisoned Yamuna river. The context of the next song Govardhana Giridhara in Darbari Kanada is the incessant spell of rain sent by Indra and Krishna’s lifting of the mountain to protect the humans and animals from the deluge.
A Vachana by Basavanna on Kudala Sangama Deva in the ragam Durga was the next number. Kudala Sangama Deva is enshrined at the confluence of the rivers Malaprabha and Krishna. In this Vachana Basavanna compares the Vibhuti adorning the devotees to the beauty added by the waterlily to the river and the waves to the ocean.
Having presented a song on havoc by rain Sumitra now rendered one with a prayer for rain in the kriti Anandaamritakarshini in the ragam Amritavarshini by Muthuswamy Dikshitar. He had prayed to the Goddess to bring on the rains to the parched arid landscape around Ettayapuram. “Varshaya varshaya varshaya” he pleaded and the Goddess is said to have showered her compassion as welcome showers.
The major kriti that followed was Jambupathe in Yaman Kalyani by Muthuswami Dikshitar, composed on Siva at Thiruvanaikkaval. One of the Panchabutha sthalams of Siva, the Lingam in the sanctum sanctorum is surrounded by water, signifying the element of water.
Sumitra concluded the musical event with the Meera Bhajan “Chalo mana Ganga Jamuna theera”
The concert with no accompaniments other than the Sruti contained brief alapana, and each song was preceded by a description of the song, its context, meaning, significance and was connected to the present day environment.
Filled with the feast of music and fervent hopes for clean water, the audience left with the song on their lips,
“Ganga Jamuna nirmal pani
Sheetal hotha Sareer
Chalo mana Ganga Jamuna theera”
“The pristine waters of Ganga and Jamuna cool our body.
O mind ! let us go to the banks of Ganga and Jamuna”
Report by a correspondent