The Festival of Sacred Music, Thiruvayaru


It was my pleasure and privilege to travel with the Prakriti Foundation last year to their Festival of Sacred Music, and I am delighted to have been able to do the same again just this past weekend.  This was published in today’s The New Indian Express.

The experience of travelling with the Prakriti Foundation to the Festival of Sacred Music at Thiruvayaru, now in its second year, is a multi-faceted one. The nights are electric with open air concerts in marvellous “found” locations in this muse-kissed small town; the days are filled with sightseeing to nearby monuments, discussions on aesthetic sensibility, genuine camaraderie and long scenic drives that cut through rural heartlands and Tamil sacred geography – the Cauvery river, the fields, the shrines in every grove.

This year’s Festival featured three incandescent concerts, beginning with Vidya Rao’s Hindustani thumri recital at the Husoor Palace. The soft-spoken Srimathi Rao shared an elegant series of thumris that spanned the gamut from Meera bhajans to Sufi poetry, taking pains to explain the lyrics to the audience. As with all the locations, the lighting and stage design was inspired, with diyas settled in the nooks of pigeon nesting towers.

The following night, contemporary-looking palm leaf floral arrangements hung upside down in the tent under which a jugalbandi showcasing the talents of Pandit Krishna Ram Choudary on shehnai and Pinnai Managar Shri. Dhakshinamurthi and K.M Uthirapathi on nadaswaram resounded at the Pushya Mahal Ghat. The competitive-collaborative dynamics of the jugalbandi format reached a crescendo with the solo performances by drummers on both sides, who stole the show with their prowess.

The Festival concluded on an incandescent note, with Aruna Sairam’s powerful voice rising under a glorious full moon at the Panchanatheeswara Temple. Srimathi Sairam selected her repertoire astutely, sharing both complex, rarely performed padams as well as livelier pieces chosen particularly for the many Carnatic music students in the audience. A certain darkness in her delivery greatly enhanced the phenomenal nature of this performance.

As with all Prakriti Foundation projects, the Festival of Sacred Music is founded on visionary principles: it is not kutcheris alone that are the objective, but also heritage preservation and rural tourism. To this end, Prakriti Foundation works in close collaboration with Dr Rama Kausalya’s Maribu Foundation and Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH), taking as a fulcrum the revival of and renewed respect for both the sites and the ethos that made this part of Tamil Nadu so culturally affluent. It is a labour of love that has already been many years in the making and will require much effort yet – but some of its rewards are immediately evident. The concerts themselves, of course, but also the sense of magic that hangs in the air for the duration of the Festival. For the second year running, I looked up at the stars after dinner as friends of the Prakriti Foundation shared poetry and songs at the intimate Husoor Palace, and whispered a thank you to the muses that continue to kiss this ancient land.

7 responses »

  1. good to know that these sort of things keep happening.but the whole unhappening kind of image chennai gets is because the organisers of such events dont communicate properly.if we know such events before they happen ,it would be nice to attend.if you could let know via this blog or facebook of such stuff it would be

  2. Two things: firstly, I am not one of the organizers. Secondly, Prakriti Foundation does have a Facebook group and this event was announced there, as are many of their events. If you want to be kept in the loop, you have to first connect with the loop. You can’t blame organizers for not communicating “properly” if you don’t make any effort on your own part.

  3. well to start with i dont even know of such a foundation till you wrote about it. if it atleast comes in the newspaper or something it would be nice.and the loop-thats the not able to get people who are in this loop.anyways free.

  4. Okay, I’m sorry if I sound offensive in any way, but Prakriti Foundation is CONSTANTLY in the papers and have a variety of events all year round. And that’s just one organization that does events in and around Chennai. I really don’t know where you are looking.

  5. yes my am finding more such org.but as in i used to look at the events and dint find much.and just now i found about the chennai madras local.did the second version happen?

  6. Thank you for letting us know of this .
    I stumbled on this when I was serching in the internet for events in sacred land Thiruvaiyaru
    sukanya shankar
    Greater Toronto Area

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