Shatkala Govinda Sangeetholsavam, being held at the Shadkala Govinda Marar’s birthplace in Kerala, features music and dance programmes, celebrating Sopana Sangeetam.
The mythological story of Surpanakha, the only sister of king Ravana is familiar to Indian dances. That said, when Kuchipudi exponent Sreelakshmy Govardhanan expressed the anger, frustration, shame, love, desire and the deep pain of Surpanakha in her bewitching choreography ‘Surpanakha’, the audience were bowled and their eyes were glued on dancer till the very end. Expressing the finer aspects of Shurpanahaka’s inner conflicts, Sreelakshmy who follows the Yakshagana tradition of the art form was performing on the concluding day of Shadkala Govinda Marar Sangeetholsavam at Ramamangalam on November 14.
The three day-long festival(Nov 12-13), held at the Shadkala Govindamarar Smarkara Kala Samithy at Ramamangalam in Ernakulam district, at the itinerant musician’s birthplace in Kerala, featured mohiniyattam recitals, thayambaka, sopana sangeetham, carnatic concert and Kuchipudi dance.
Associating with the Kala Samithy, Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi has been hosting the annual festival for 28 years now. The last edition of the festival was organised virtually in tune with the Covid-19 protocol and had to cut it short to one day.
The festival inaugurated by Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi vice-president Xavier Pulppat featured a Mohiniyattam performance by Kalamandalam Veni, a senior disciple of Mohiniyattam guru Kalamandalam Kshemavathy, on its first day. The Sangeetholsavam began with a Keli by Tazhedath Muralidhara Marar and team which was followed by a sopana sangeetham recital by Thrikkamburam Jayan.
The highlight of the second day was a vocal concert by Carnatic musician and playback singer B Arundhathi which featured a ragam-thanam-pallavi in Keeravani praising Shadkala Govinda Marar who had perfected the art of singing compositions in six tempos. A double thayambaka by Porur Unnikrishnan and Kalpathi Balakrishnan also enthralled the audience. There was a dance recital by students of the Kala Samithy.
Kerala Industries Minister P Rajeev who inaugurated the valedictory function praised the efforts of institutions such as Shatkala Govinda Marar Kalasamithi and Sangeetha Nataka Akademi in not only preserving the culture and artistry works of yesteryear legends but also promoting seasoned and emerging artists of the present generation. Prabhakaran Pazhassi, Secretary KSNA, said that the sangeetholsavam is one of the prominent programmes conducted by the Kerala Sangeetha Nataka Akademi and has a special place among the state’s art and cultural festivals. Well-known art critic George S Paul, who is the president of Samithy, said the Sangeetholsavam that features renowned artists from several fields of culture has now become one of India’s most noted music festivals.
Nechur Ratheesan and the team sang thyagaraja’s pancharatna kritis which was followed by a sopana sangeetham concert by Ellur Biju on the final day of the festival.
Govinda Marar who belonged to the community of temple musicians, was the principal musician at Sree Perumthrikkovil Temple in Ramamangalam. While the priest will be offering puja in the sanctum, Marar would be doing, ‘kottippadiseva’, singing ‘Thyaanis’, special hymns peculiar to the deity and beating on his instrument Edakka at the ‘Sopanam’, the steps leading to the sanctum.
Marar was a contemporary of the Music trinity besides Swathithirunal. He travelled a lot, singing Sopana sangeetham at various temples across Travancore and finally reached the court of Swathithirunal, a great patron of artists. The story goes like this. Maharaja asked Marar to sing raga Puraneeru and Marar recited a Krithi in the raga, playing the tambura strings with his right hand and with his left hand. Impressed by the recital, Swathi presented Marar with a flag which he tied to his tambura.
Soon Marar set off to Tiruvayyaru. Marar reached Thyagaraja’s abode as an emissary of Maharaja, to invite him to the palace. But the saint composer gently declined the request. However, 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.
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.