Shatkala Govinda Marar Fest Hails the Sopana Musician’s Spirit

Shatkala Govinda Sangeetholsavam, held virtually at Marar’s birthplace in Kerala, features music and dance programmes, celebrating Sopana sangeetam 

Together they sat cross-legged and sang Tyagaraja’s famed pancharatna compositions. The last in the set of five bore a special significance on the occasion: Shatkala Govindamarar  Sangeetholsavam at Ramamangalam.

For, the festival here is in memory of a Kerala icon who once left his illustrious Carnatic contemporary in awe. A good 200 years ago.  

The Tyagaraja kriti Endaro Mahanubhavulu salutes all the great souls of spiritual eminence. Set to the pious-sounding Sri raga, the popular lines and patterned swaras of Endaro reverberated across the banks of the river in Marar’s birthplace at Ramamangalam, 30 km east of Kochi.

Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi has been hosting the annual festival for 27 years now, associating with Shatkala Govindamarar Smaraka Kala Samithy

The latest edition, on November 15, organised  was virtual in tune with the Covid-19 protocol. 

Endaro, set to eight-beat Adi tala, capped the fifth and final of the pancharatna kritis. They came after a vocal recital by Oormana Rajendra Marar in the ethnic Sopana sangeetam.

The festival, inaugurated by former District Panchayat Vice-President KN Sugathan, also saw students of the Samithy giving a dance recital. The event concluded with a Carnatic concert by Nechur R Satheeshan.

Well-known scholar-critic George S Paul, who is president of Samithy, said the Sangeetholsavam has emerged to become one of India’s most noted music festivals. It features renowned artists from several fields of culture.

Started in 1993, the festival typically spans three days. This year, the pandemic forced the organisers to cut it short to one day. The event was telecast live on the Samithy’s Facebook page.

Govinda Marar (1798-1843) had perfected the art of singing compositions in six tempos . A contemporary of the Music trinity besides Swathithirunal , he customarily sang by the sanctum sanctorum of Sree Perumthrikkovil temple in Ramamangalam.

Marar travelled a lot, singing Sopana sangeetham at various temples across Travancore and finally reached the court of Swathithirunal, a great patron of artistes of all hues.

The Sopana musician then went to meet Tyagaraja to invite him to the Maharaja’s palace. The saint gently refused the invitation. Marar was invited to sing in front of Tyagaraja. He sang the Ashtapathy ‘Chandana Charchitha neela kalebhara’ in six tempos. Enthralled by the musician’s rare virtuosity,Thyagaraja asked his disciples to sing his composition ‘Endaro mahanubavulu’ in praise of the musician from Kerala.

 Shatkala Govindamarar Smaraka Kala Samithy was founded in 1980 to perpetuate the memory of the great musician . The organisation promotes the study and research of south India’s traditional music and temple arts.

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