Melattur Bhagavatha Mela

MELATTUR, a small village 18 km from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, witnesses a spurt of activity every midsummer during the Bhagavatha Mela Natya Nataka Utsav inaugurated on the Narasimha Jayanthi day. The festival falls on the Swathi Nakshatram in the waxing fortnight of Chittirai masam, in May. It was on this day, some mythical aeons ago, that Vishnu assumed Narasimha avatar to save his devotee Prahalada from his father Hiranyakashyap.” (Hindu) Here is an interview with Mr. Vijay Madhavan, a regular participant in this event.

Mr. Vijay Madhavan is a familiar face – yes he is the JayaTV face icon of morning melody, the Bharathiyar song ‘senthamizh nadenum pothinilae’. He is a regular performer in Bhagavata Mela Natya Natakam. The awards to his credit include the Yuva Kala Bharti by Bharat Kalachar, Best Dancer award from Indian Fine Arts Society and the Vasanthalakshmi Narasimhachari Endowment award .Vijay is a senior disciple of Padmashri Smt. Chitra Visweswaran . He has made his mark as a dedicated and committed performer, choreographer and teacher. At his institute RECHITA NRUTHYALAYA, he trains students who demonstrate exemplary devotion and passion towards Bharathanatyam. Academically he holds a Masters in Molecular Biology. He has brought out a DVD titled “Bharatiyil Shanmatam” which features his students presenting his choreographies.

The Melattur Bhagavatyha Mela (MBM)- In your Words

Vijay : It is actually 250 year old tradition, and it was patronised by the Nayaks who ruled the region of Tanjore. Due to several mishaps, we are probably performing the revived tradition which is barely 67 year old tradition, which in itself is remarkable. Thanks to the family of Sri Ganeshan and Mr. Natarajan, who are keeping this art form alive. Predominantly the scripts are in Telugu. Bhagavatha mela had been in practice in several villages Theperumanallur, Oothukadu, Soolamangalam, Saliamangalam, Melattur amongst others. But sadly there are only few villages which still cherish and continue the effort of keeping the tradition alive.

The Melattur natakams were composed by Sri Venkatrama Sastry, who was a contemplory to Saint Tyagaraja of Tiruvaiyaru. Venkatrama Shastry and several others from Melattur village have contributed innumerous compositions even to current day Bharathanatyam repertoire, the popular Sabdam of Melattur and few Padams like ‘Indendu vachhiti vi ra’ in Sruti were compositions of Melattur Kasinatha ayya. So the village being donated for artists by Achuttapa nayakan, comes to be no surprise. There is a special mention of when the Bhagavatha mela need to be performed in Melattur particularly, in the famous Pattabisheka Sabdam of Prahlada. This drama is considered very sacred and reflects the rich cultural heritage of the country.

Melattur apart from its Byhagavatha Mela dance compositions is also famous for its music- melattur ghanta and melattur ahiri are unique, and are employed in the drama, to bring out the rasa.

Infact we can trace lot of Margam style repertoire to Melattur drama. Apart from various dharus which were prevelant earlier, like Samvada dharu, prashnottara dharu, Pravesha dharu we have the Padavarnams, Thillanas, Jathiswarams, Padams etc. It would be a critical point to note that the Tanjore Quartet have chiseled the existing item list, not the sole creator of the current day repertoire. History holds that all the artists traveled from the Telugu region and settled in this place.

How is it different from a normal dance drama?
Vijay :MBM has story lines based on Bhagavatham, and were ideally performed before the sanctum of Varadaraja shrine. It was a Bhakti cult which stressed on the fact that God is the masculine principle and the rest, feminine energy. So the characters of female too are donned by the males. There is a penned story line, and authorship that is unique -no assorted composers ;this gives MBM a unique advantage or charm. We have 13 plays, which are authentic Venkatrama Shastry works.

But you can see the participation of entire village in drama. And also to mention the village has another drama during a different time interval- the Iravaan kalabali, in the temple of Goddess, with the verses in Tamil. This also has the musical influences of MBM natakams.

Is being trained in Bharathanatyam an added advantage for you to perform in the MBM?

Vijay : Indeed dance is advantage, but the traditional MBM dancers, also do similar adavus, but it may miss some refinement. But their hasta prayogam are fantastic and deserves mention. Few hasta vinyoka are extremely Melattur, you cant see them in bharathnatyam.

But sad thing to note is few critics hold an opinion that current day classical dancers have made a loss to Melattur original style of dancing. They associate Melattur with coarse dancing, which is not true, (and using trained Bharathanatyam dancers) this came up as stop gap to hold on to the tradition. The history of legends in Melattur (Veerbadrayya) who have challenged dancers and performers would not have been true, if their dance styles have been coarse.

How is the current response to MBM?
Vija y : People from various parts of the country flow through. There is an “ok” response from the Sangeet Natak Academy, Tamilnadu Iyal Esai Nataka manram, and from various Telugu universities, however they barely cover the annual expense or the entire cost. Our chairman, Sri Natrajan and the rest in the crew support with their collections from various organisations and well wishers – rest of it from the pocket, with the noble intent of serving Sri. Nrisimhmar.
Today MBM is gaining a lot of spectators, but we need more consolidated minds not just to see, rather make it happen through financial support.
This year the MBM begins on the the 18th of May, 2008. Here is a copy of the invitation and program schedule for this year
Invitation

MELATTUR
SRI LAKSHMI NARASIMHA JAYANTI
BHAGAVATA MELA NATYA NATAKA SANGAM
(Estd. 1938 )
63-64, SOUTH STREET, MELATTUR 614 301, THANJAVUR DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU
Grams: BAGVATMELA E-mail: bhagavatamela@excite.com Tel: 04374-273445
68th Year
BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKA MAHOTSAV
INVITATION
The Bhagavata Mela tradition, a rare temple/theatre art in a unique blend of Bhakti, music, dance & drama in vogue for the last 455 years, is the only surviving link today in Tamil Nadu that connects us with the ancient Sanskrit theatre.
The Bhagavata Mela natakams, composed by Melattur Venkatarama Sastry (1743-1809 AD) are performed annually,
in adherence to Natya Veda, in the sannidhi of Lord Sri Varadaraja, the presiding deity of Melattur village as part of
Sri Narasimha Jayanti Vasantotsav
Members of SLNJ Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam, residents of Melattur and the sponsors
cordially invite you and your family for the
BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKA MAHOTSAV – 2008
VENUE : Sri Varadaraja Perumal Sannidhi, Melattur DATE: On & from the 18th May, 2008
PROGRAMME
18 May, 08 7.30 p.m Mangala Isai – Nadaswaram by Thirukkarugavoor Brothers
. Sri T.K. Ramanan & Sri T.K. Saravanan
9.15 p.m. Inaugural functon (Invitations printed separate)
BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKAM PRAHLADA CHARITAM
19 May, 08 7.30 p.m Ramjhi’s “Bakthi Mazhalai” Abhilash & Vaishnavi accompanied by
(popular classical & devotional songs) by Anandhi – Keyboard &
. Akshay Ram – Mrudangam
9.30 p.m. Sri Raja Rajeshwari Kala Niketan, Bangalore presents Kuchipudi by Guru Veena Murthy Vijay & disciples Shama Sanjay & Hema Gautam
.
20 May, 08 9.30 p.m. BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKAM USHA PARINAYAM
21 May, 08 7.30 p.m. Bharata Natyam by Smt. Priya Venkataraman, Gurgaon
9.00 p.m. Bharata Natyam by “Yuva Kala Bharati”
Uma Nambboodripad Sathyanarayanan
(disciple of Smt. Chitra Visweswaran)
22 May, 08 9.30 p.m. BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKAM HARISCHANDRA – Part I
23 May, 08 9.30 p.m. BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKAM HARISCHANDRA – Part II
24 May, 08 7.30 p.m. Bharata Natyam by Kum. K L Krithika
(disciple of Smt. Jayanthi Thyagarajan)
8.30 p.m. Bharata Natyam by Smt. Rupa Ramkumar
9.30 p.m. Bharata Natyam by Kum. Iyshwarya Balasubrahmanian & Kum. Kavitha Ananthasubrahmanian
25 May, 08 9.30 p.m. BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKAM SEETHA KALYANAM
26 May, 08 9.30 p.m. Tamil Opera (composed by eminent Tamil scholars) VALLI THIRUMANAM
27 May, 08 7.00 p.m. onwards Sri Anjaneya Aradhana & concluding rituals “Namasankirtan” by Udayalur Sri Balakrishna Bhagavatar & Bhagavata Mela artists.
Procession of Lord Sri Nrusimha with His Consorts.
ALL ARE WELCOME
BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKA MAHOTSAV – 2008
Key Sponsors
Sangeet Natak Akademi • Dept. of Culture / Govt. of India • South Zone Cultural Centre • City Union Bank Ltd. •
Indian Overseas Bank • P.S.Telugu University • “Pragnya” • Sri Sarvaraya Sugars Ltd. •
Sri Ramani Guruji • Dr. (Sri) “Nalli” Kuppuswami Chetty • Sri Prakash Challa •
Co-sponsors
Tamil Nadu Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram • BSNL • SIDVIM Foundation • Integrated Enterprises •
Shemaroo Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. • Manickbag Automobiles • Sree Auto Accessories •
Smt. & Sri Ramakrishnan • Smt & Sri K N Nagendra • Smt. C. Kantha & Family • a Host of Well Wishers
&
Bhagavata Mela Foundation
Supported by
Dept. of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu
An Appeal
Conduct of the annual Bhagavata Mela Nataka Utsav and implementation of projects including management of BHAGAVATA MELA VIDYALAYA that imparts systematic training to younger generation to preserve, protect and promote the great Bhagavata Mela tradition need huge funds. We appeal to connoisseurs and patrons of music, dance and other performing arts, and the ardent devotees to contribute their mite for the cause of the divine art-form and be a recepient of bountiful blessings of Lord Sri Lakshmi Nrusimha.
Your donation may kindly be sent to:
The Secretary, Sri L.N.J. Bhagavata Mela N.N. Sangam, 63-64, South St., Melattur 614 301, Thanjavur District by DD or Cheque or M.O. drawn in favour of Sri LNJ Bhagavata Mela, Melattur.
Donations to Bhagavata Mela Foundation are allowed deduction u/s 80G of IT Act. Cheques drawn in favour of BMF may please be sent to the address above. For acknowledgement & receipt, please provide your postal address at the back of the instrument.
For those interested in more reading on Bhagavatha Natakams – Link (a downloadable PDF file)
Credits: I am thankful to Mr. Rajendra Kumar for his guidance in editing this interview.
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8 responses to “Melattur Bhagavatha Mela

  1. It would be extremely helpful if you can include in this page, the route map to reach melattur from Kumbakonam and Thanjavur, the transport facilities availabale, the facilities available for stay and food in melattur village itself or in the nearby town, so that those like me who are eager to attend the Bhagavatha Mela will use your authentic information and attend the Mela.

    Dear sir,
    I will try to find the information for you. But looks like though you may have no special or grand boarding available, community kitchens and paying guest accommodations welcome travelers.
    This link may give you additional information http://www.outlooktraveller.com/issuecontent.aspx?id=111
    You could also contact the Chariaman at
    SRI LAKSHMI NARASIMHA JAYANTI
    BHAGAVATA MELA NATYA NATAKA SANGAM
    63-64, SOUTH STREET, MELATTUR 614 301, THANJAVUR DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU
    Grams: BAGVATMELA
    E-mail: bhagavatamela@excite.com
    Tel: +91-4374-2734
    and request them for information.
    Regards,
    Sangeetha

  2. Hello Sir,

    I am part of Chitra centre of perfroming Arts, we participated in the 68th Bagavatha Mela in the name of (Kum. K L Krithika & group (disciple of Smt. Jayanthi Thyagarajan)). We request you to send a CD copy of the program, which we feel as one of our best performances. Hence, kindly request you send the same ASAP.

    Thanks for giving us an opportunity.

    Our address is as under
    N.Ramachandran
    #103, Lakeside residency
    Next to Ajanta Theatre
    Bangalore – 560 042
    9740544114

  3. Dear Mr. Ramachandran,
    I publish Bharathanatyam events in the blog and am in no way connected to the organizers. So please contact the organizers directly. I have furnished the address in the main post.
    Regards,
    Sangeetha

  4. Dear Sir/Madam,

    I have attended the Festivals in the mid/end of fifties(1950-1960): References: Moon-Draam-Shetthi-Kanukkupillai Sri Mahalinga Iyer; his son Sri Ramachandran…
    My father sri R. Rajagopaln, born 1913, was brought up in Melattur.
    I enjoyed the festivals very much…
    Thanks to all organizers for maintaining the traditions… Regards Ramani
    Dear Sir,

    It is an honour to have had you visit this blog and read this interview with a very dedicated Bharathanatyam dancer, a Melattur Bhagavatha mela participant and a personal friend of mine, Mr. Vijay Madhavan.
    Regards,
    Sangeetha

  5. Dear Sir,

    I heard that renovation is going on at Varadharaja Temple at Melattuer. We want to visit that temple.
    When Kumbabishekam? We will visit during sunday only

    Regards
    Vijay

    Hi!
    I am not sure about this. Will check this out for you… meanwhile you can contact the Nataka sangam at the address given above and get the info…
    Regards,
    sangeetha

  6. Pingback: Bhagavata Mela Nataka Mahotsav 2009 « Rechita Nruthyalaya·

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