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2/22/2016

A ballet that celebrates Tamil - Delta - The Hindu

A ballet that celebrates Tamil - Delta - The Hindu » TODAY'S PAPER » EDITORIAL FEATURES

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February 22, 2016

A ballet that celebrates Tamil

Rama Kausalya gives us a glimpse of the tradition of Kuravanji Natakas

gives us a glimpse of the tradition of Kuravanji Natakas The Kumbesar Kuravanji Natakam is a

The Kumbesar Kuravanji Natakam is a great production and a significant contribution of Muthamizh Kaviraja Sekara Papanasa Mudaliar due to its literary beauty.FILE PHOTO

Kuravanji Natakam is a dance ballet in Tamil. It is a combination of Muthamizh, all the three branches of Tamizh — Eyal, Isai, and Natakam.

The story of Kuravanji Natakas revolves around a woman falling in love with the deity of the local temple or a king or a noble of the locality who comes in a procession (Bhavani). Among more than 100 Kuravanjis, Kumbesar Kuravanji is noteworthy and unique.

The author of the Kumbesar Kuravanji is Muthamizh Kaviraja Sekara Papanasa Mudaliar of Nadamadithirindha (Kamboji), Mugathaikkatti (Bhairavi), and Perum Nalla Thyagar (Purvi Kalyani) fame. His Mudra “Papanasa” is found in this work.

Apart from his Svanama Mudra, he has used various other Mudra varieties such as Sthala Mudra, Kshetra Mudra, Devatha Mudra, Raja Mudra, Poshaka Mudra, and Prabandha Mudra without disturbing the meaning.

From the documentary evidence, we come to know that he stayed in Kumbakonam for many years. Since he praises the Maratha ruler of Thanjavur, Ekoji (1676 - 1683 AD), we can infer that he might have lived during that period.

Kopu Nataraja Chettiar of Kumbakonam Pettai Nagar, a philanthropist, dharmakartha of Kumbeswarar Temple for many years and the son of Kopu Kumara Bhoopan, used to arrange the staging of this Kuravanji Natakam every year on Masi Maham day by professional dancers.

According to Prof. Sambamurthy, this Kuravanji was enacted at Sulamangalam village of Bhagavatha Mela fame every year, during the fourth day of the annual Vasanthotsavam. In 1967, the Bharatanatyam guru, Sri Dandayudhapani Pillai choreographed this Kuravanji and staged it in Chennai Tamizh Isai Sangam. The music was set by M.L. Vasanthakumari and she herself sang the Kuravanji during the staging of this Kuravanji.

The first edition of the Kuravanji was brought out from the palm leaf manuscript collections of Dr. U. Ve. Saminatha Iyer by his son Sri Kalyanasundaram Iyer as the third publication of Adayar U Ve Sa Library in 1944.

Rukmani Devi, head of the library then, took charge of this publication. The second edition was in 1961. In 2002, the library published the third edition under the editorship of Dr M. Ve. Pasupathy, Ira. Mekala, and Ka. Sairam.

The hero of the play is Kumbeswarar (presiding deity of the Kumbeswarar temple) and the heroine is Jaganmohini. Saki (the friend), Kurathi (gypsy woman), Kuravan, and Kuluvan are the other central characters around whom the Kuravanji revolves. As a customary practice, Vinayagar and Kattiyakkaran appear at the beginning of the Natakam. The Kurathi is a strong character and has more scope to perform than Jaganmohini.

The play starts with usual invocations, Thodayam and Mangalam.

Vinayagar was the first character to enter followed by Kattiyakkaran who announces the arrival of Jaganmohini. The beautiful damsel Jaganmohini stands on the western bank of Potramarai Pond. She falls in love with Kumbesar who comes in a procession. Her love pranks are revealed by the songs in scintillating words and music.

He hates and scolds Manmatha (Cupid), Thendral (the breeze), and Nilavu (the moon). Saki enters. She praises Kumbesar. The long Agaval by the Saki extols the glory of the Lord, of Kumbakonam, its prosperity and beauty.

The Kurathi, on her part, gives a vivid description of how prosperous the land of Kumbesar is. At the invitation of Saki, Kurathi enters. With her native charm and smart articulation, she makes the play lighter and more entertaining. She reads the palm of Jaganmohini and tells that it is Kumbesar in her mind and in all fluency, describes his physical appearance. The Kurathi asks her to tell the name of a zodiac sign and a

2/22/2016

A ballet that celebrates Tamil - Delta - The Hindu

number within 108. Pat replies Jaganmohini “Kumbha rasi (zodiac) and 12 (number)”.

She concludes with the forecast of His arrival. Having said so, the Kurathi is bestowed with gifts liberally. The second part is occupied by the Kurathi, the Kuravan and Kuluvan, his aid. At the end Kumbesar, with his consort, comes in procession to bless everyone. The Kuravanji concludes with benediction.

The composer has employed Keerthanas with Pallavi, Anupallavi, and Charanam or Pallavi and Charanams or just mere Charanas, besides Tamil verse varieties such as “Asiria Viruthams”, “Agaval”, “Virutham”, “Venba”, “Kalithurai”, and “Kattalai Kalippa”.

The style of language differs from character to character. Kumbesar is majestically described in words and the songs related to Kurathi and Kuravan are kept very simple. The author has generously made use of Sanskrit words.

He uses Telugu in the song depicting the entry of the characters Kattiyakaran, Jaganmohini, and Kurathi, thereby showcasing his mastery over many languages. Raga names are found for 28 out of 44 musical compositions.

Throughout the entire work, no Tala name is mentioned. As a dance drama, Jatis are present in appropriate places.

The drama gives room for both Nritta and Nritya due to the strong story, the distinctive characterisation and different moods arising out of different situations. The music and dance compete with one another beautifully composed Kuravanji and have equal scope to excel. Classical and folk music find their respective places according to the nature of the characters. Papanasa Mudalaiar, a staunch devotee of Lord Siva, has chosen the subject to speak His glory, more specifically, of Kumbesar and to reveal his love for the temple city of Kumbakonam. Through the voice of Saki and Kurathi, he describes the appearance of Siva and His greatness, drawing anecdotes from epics and puranas. The entire nataka is dipped in Bhakti.

The Kumbesar Kuravanji Natakam is a great production and a significant contribution of Muthamizh Kaviraja Sekara Papanasa Mudaliar due to its literary beauty.

(The writer is a Musicologist)

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2/22/2016

A ballet that celebrates Tamil - Delta - The Hindu