October 8th, 2010 is the first day of Navaratri of this year. Navaratri signifies the conquest of the evil by the good.  In the old Mysore region of Karnataka,  Navaratri has been celebrated as a state festival for several centuries. Things such as the doll displays at homes, and  music concerts at temples make this festival make it more of a celebration than a mere ritual.

Thiruvananthapuram is another  city known for it’s special celebration of Navaratri. The  music festival at the Navartri Mandapam, next to the Padmanabhaswamy temple is unique, for its adherence to some traditional practices such as lighting up the place only with traditional oil lamps. During this festival, each night one composition from the Navaratri Kriti series of Maharaja Swathi Tirunal is rendered as the main item in the concert here at Navaratri Mandapam.

The kriti sung during the concert on first day of Navaratri at Navaratri Mandapam is “dEvi jagajjanani” in Shankarabharana rAga. Listen to this composition here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LCqZN8p4kFg

Since various forms of dEvi are worshipped during Navaratri, listening to a composition or two that praise some form of dEvi each day, and writing a few lines about it during this Navaratri would not be a bad idea. So, here I go!

For the first day, my choice is Tyagaraja’s composition in Kalyani, “Sundari nee divya roopamunu”. Tyagaraja lived in Tiruvayyaru, near Tanjavoor in central part of today’s Tamizh Nadu. He visited Chennapattanam (today’s Chennai) on his desciple Veena Kuppaiyars invitation. During his stay at Chennapattinam, he visited the shrine of Tripurasundari at Tiruvottriyur (now in the northern part of Chennai). Tyagaraja composed five compositions on Goddess Tripurasundari at this shrine, which go by the name ‘Tiruvottriyur Pancharatna’.  This Kalyani composition is one of this set.

Goddess Tripura Sundari

Image source : http://neivedhyam.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/04/lalitha-tripura-sundari1.jpg )

Kalyani raga came into Karnataka sangeetha sometime during early 15th century, but somehow it did not make it’s deep mark felt for quite sometime. Haridasas of Karnataka (~1400 – ~1600 AD) have mentioned Kalyani raga by name in their compositions. However lakshanakAra Venkatamakhi (~1650 AD) says Kalyani is not fit for composing geeta or thaaya and says the rAga is liked by “Turushka”s indicating it’s relation with uttaraadi and Persian music.

However Kalyani took firm roots in Karnataka sangeetha and became the darling of many composers of later days. Tyagaraja has composed more than 30 kritis in Kalyani, of which Sundari nee is a very fine specimen. The composition is set to Adi tAla, and the sAhitya is in Telugu. Tyagaraja compares his opportunity to see Goddess Tripurasundari to a poor and distraught man begetting a fortune.

Now for a fabulous rendition of this composition, by none other than the mastero Balamuralikrishna:

Tomorrow, hopefully I’ll be back with some ramble about another composition!

-neelanjana