& SRI LAKSHMI NARASIMHA JAYANTI
BHAGAVATA MELA NATYA NATAKA SANGAM
Every country in the world has its uniqueness & specialty. Subtle
culture, universal values & spirituality have been India's gift to
the world. Sadly today, most of our rich cultural heritage has been lost
due to migration of people from their native places to other cities and
countries. The remnant treasure also remains largely inaccessible due
to lack of time, language constraints and more so because we are unaware
of the worth of this legacy. Yet there are some thin fibres that still
connect us to our ancient culture we should be proud of.
The little village of Melattur,
18 kms from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu, considered to be the cradle of
Tamil culture rises a spurt of feverish activity every mid-summer during
the Bhagavata Mela Nataka Utsav organised in the sannidhi of Lord Sri Varadaraja, the presiding deity of the village, on the occasion of Sri Nrusimha Jayanti.
Indian art born in a land teeming with Gods and Legends is
intimately connected with religious, literary and mythological
traditions. A valid study of any form of Indian art - be it music,
dance, painting or folklore - could be undertaken only through learning
(perhaps one should say experiencing) the innumerable sources and
concepts of Indian culture, its rituals, legends, metaphors, its epochs,
dynasties, styles and the kaleidoscopic media through which the art
expresses itself. But when demonstrated in the form of natya natakam, as
in the case of Bhagavata Mela at Melattur, the entire complexity and
differences between the various forms of art vanish, and the lay man and
the connoisseur alike are transported to a new world, where there is no
distinction between the lover of art for its mere entertainment value
and the devout one yearning for spiritual solace. The viewers and the
actors lose their identity and all are converted as devotees surcharged
with emotion praying for the blessings of Lord Nrusimha
The Bhagavata Mela tradition, is believed to be in existence from
the 11th Century. The unique features of Melattur Bhagavata Mela
Ordained by HH Sri Paramacharya of Kanchi, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Jayanti
Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam had the unique opportunity of
performing at the "Vidvath Sadhas" convened by the sage at Ilayathangudi
(Tamil Nadu) in the year 1962. The troupe was blessed by the sage for a
repeat performance on the concluding day of the "sadhas".
- It is a pious art.
- This day, it is the only surviving link in Tamil Nadu that connects us with our ancient Sanskrit theatre.
- It came into being as result of Bhakti movement about 450 years ago. The tradition is still preserved in its pristine purity as a true temple art, in the worship Lord Vishnu.
- The natakams, dedicated to Lord Sri Vishnu, are performed annually with religious fervour in the sannidhi of Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple at Melattur on the occasion of Nrusimha Jayanti, as has been the practice for centuries.
- The sentiments of the natakams are expressed in classical music
of high-class carnatic tradition and, the dance and abhinaya in Bharata
Natya technique and, occasionally with poetic speeches, dialogues and
appropriate dramatic action too. Abhinaya are more elaborate and
incisive. Such a remarkable synchronisation of music, speech, dance and
abhinaya produces a high aesthetic appeal leading to rasa realisation
according to the conception of natya in the ancient treatises.
- The natakams are taken seriously and not as a pleasant pass-time. No libertinism or low sensuousness is allowed in the name of "art for art's sake."
At the same time, in the name of religious devotion no allowance is
made for a slip-shod art, because what art is exhibited as devotional
offering had to be of high aesthetic value without which no God of the
Hindu Pantheon would be pleased. Hence high technique and good mastery
thereof have been made a "sine-quo-non" in the exposition of this
temple-art. Thus this art is a unique blend of Bhakti, music, dance and drama.
- The utsav is a balance between true/pure devotion and aesthetic display of traditional art.
- Visit to Melattur to witness the Bhagavata Mela natakams in the
sannidhi of Lord Sri Varadaraja Perumal is considered a pilgrimage.
- Only male artists portray the female roles and
- All the dance-actors and the musicians are amateurs engaged in
different professions in different parts of India including abroad who
assemble at Melattur at their expense. Trained systematically in the
art, these amateurs raise the level of their performance to that
comparable with any professional troupe.
Again, the troupe was ordained by HH Sri Jayendra Saraswati
Swamigal to perform at the "Paramacharya's Athishtanam" in Kanchi on the
104th Jayanti of HH Paramacharya.
According to scholars, connoisseurs of music and dance, and the press in India and abroad, present day is acclaimed as the "Golden Era" for Bhagavata Mela tradition.
Top notch artists of Bhagavata Mela, namely, Guru Balu
Bhagavatar (late) K. Ramani Iyer (late) G. Swaminathan (late), G.
Krishnamoorthy Sarma, S. Natarajan (late), and his younger
brother, S. Kumar are rightly honoured by Paramacharya of Kanchi, the
Cultural Dept. of State and Central Govt. and a few cultural bodies.
Melattur Sri Lakshmi Narasimha Jayanti Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam earnestly solicit your gracious presence at Melattur during the Bhagavata Mela Nataka Mahotsav and experience the greatness and divinity of the tradition.