“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.
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.
|SRI LAKSHMI NARASIMHA JAYANTI|
|BHAGAVATA MELA NATYA NATAKA SANGAM|
|(Estd. 1938 )|
|63-64, SOUTH STREET, MELATTUR 614 301, THANJAVUR DISTRICT, TAMIL NADU|
|BHAGAVATA MELA NATAKA MAHOTSAV|
|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|
|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|
|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 •|
|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|
|Dept. of Tourism, Government of Tamil Nadu|
|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.|