Some historical snippets of Bharatanatyam – Part 3

Brahma Utsavamoorthy dancer and party

Company painting depicting Utsavamoorthy of Jamboonathaswamy. Dated 1850. Notice the procession is lead by the devadasi and her troupe of musicians. This picture comes from a set of 75 mica paintings in four albums. They depict Hindu deities and festival processions with decorated cars. They are mounted on paper with an 1851 watermark and appeared at the Great Exhibition of 1851 held in Hyde Park, London. These works come under the category of Company Paintings (named after the East India Company). Can you identify the musical instruments used? (Image courtesy: Rare Book Society of India)

This is a continuation of our previous posts part1 and part2. This is another essay by the title “Compositions of Tanjore Quartette” by the Bharatanatyam Gurus K. P. Kittappa Pillai and K. P. Sivanandam. This was published in 1974 issue of Journal of the Madras Music Academy.

Disclaimer: I have attached the the link to the pdf of the essay as part of this post. I am not really quite sure of the copyright, although the website had no mention of it anywhere. So, I will remove the document if anyone points to any copyright infringement.

In this essay they describe the various compositions that the Tanjore Quartet/Quartette (The french form of Quartet is Quartette, usage is obsolete) have composed for the Margam format of Bharatanatyam. If one reads the essay (It is in Tamizh) it is clear that this was a documentation of a lecture demonstration at the Music Academy. Some interesting points in the essay are:

  1. Another purpose of Jatiswaram was to ingrain the Swara and Jati knowledge to a student. Some Jatiswaram had Sahityam as well! (As far as I recollect, I have not come across any Jatiswaram with Sahityam, if any readers have come across such they can share it with us.)
  2. The Tana varnams composed by them are well suited for dance. They have composed it on their Guru, on their clan deities (kuladevathai), on their kings, and on the ministers as well. These tana varnams are filled with Ragabhava. Their structure was as follows: Pallavi, anupallavi and Charanam. After Anupallavi, mukhthaiswaram comes, which has sollukattu, sahityam, and swaram. At the end of the swaram “tat dhin gina tom” is placed and pallavi starts again. There are 3 to 4 chittai swarams as well.
  3. The pada varnam or chowka varnam is in the chowka madhyama tempo. The chittai swarams have sahityam in this. The sahityam is meant to invoke the Sringara rasa. In the training of a disciple, these varnams are taught after the tanavarnams have been mastered. This is emphasize the raga bhava and the laya in these compositions.
  4. Padam were composed on Gods, Kings and Philanthropists/patrons of art. They are majorily composed in Tishra Triputa talam, and sung in Vilamba tempo. At this juncture, the authors demonstrate the padam “Ther Selluthuvai” to the audience. (I have not heard this padam, nor does the essay describe it in detail as to the Ragam and Talam. Again, if any reader knows this, please share).

At the end of this essay is a list of compositions that were sung (not sure if danced) to the audience. They are as follows:

  1. “Maya teetha swaroopini” in Mayamalavagaula Ragam, Roopaka Talam. Watch the youtube link to the song.
  2. The gurustuthi “Sarasaakshi” in SailaDesakshi Ragam, Adi Talam.
  3. The gurustuthi “Shree Guruguha Moorthy” in Binna Shadjam Ragam, Roopaka Talam.
  4. “Diinarakshaka” in Aahiri Ragam, Roopaka Talam. Composed on Shri Ranganatha swamy.
  5. Jatiswaram in Shakarabharanam Ragam, Roopaka Talam.
  6. The Swarajati “Sarojaakshi” in Yadukulakambodi Ragam, Roopaka Talam. Composed on Tanjai Brihadeeshwara swamy.
  7. The padavarnam “Niisaadi thora” in Bhairavi Ragam, Roopaka Talam. Composed on Tanjai Brihadeeshwara swamy.
  8. The Javali “ThaaniBhodana” in Sruti Ragam, Adi Talam. Composed on Tanjai Brihadeeshwara swamy.
  9. Thillana in Bhilahari Ragam, Roopaka Talam. Composed on Tanjai Brihadeeshwara swamy.

Apart from this essay, the 1974 issue contains a composition by Tanjore Vadivelu, K. P. Sivanandam and Maharaja Swati Tirunal. The Composition is a Chowka Varnam “Saami unnaiye Naan migavum nambinen”, in Kalyani Ragam and Adi Talam. Here is the Padam link.

Honestly, I have not come across many of the above mentioned compositions (except for 1, 5, and 9). So, my question to readers is how many of you have listened/know/remember any of the above mentioned compositions?

In our next post we will see an article by Smt. Vyjayanthimala Bali on some rare compositions in Bharatanatyam.

Happy reading!!!

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2 responses to “Some historical snippets of Bharatanatyam – Part 3

  1. Thank you so much for this treasure trove of info Ragothaman. I can’t get enough of this! I am getting to learn so much about the TQ school

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