Monthly Archives: April 2016

Gautamiputra Film & Video

SatakarniPoster

By now, most of you know about the fantastic new film by Krish on Gautamiputra Satakarni. Starring Balayya himself, and set to release in 2017, it promises to be an outstanding follow up to our current stretch of Telugu Historical & Fantasy Blockbusters.

While Magadheera was first to the mark, it is Baahubali that inaugurated the current run, with a solid follow up in Rudhramadevi. Of course, Kanche too is in the same league, though it was more modern history and less sandals & swords.

But Gautamiputra Satakarni promises all that and so much more. Without a doubt, the greatest ruler among the Ancient Andhras, he was an Emperor par Excellence, Defender of Dharma, and destroyer of the Sakas (Scythians) and Pahlavas (Parthians). With his rule stretching as far East as Pataliputra and well into Rajasthan in the North, he was the greatest Indian ruler of his era.

And yet, there has been so little written or filmed about him…til now. It may be a long wait for the NBK blockbuster, but an NRI and proud Andhraite has painstakingly put together a lovely movie based on the popular history behind the Satavahanas.

The talented Bhavani Chowdhary gaaru has filmed and edited a nice video summarising the Satavahana king for the mamidi manishi. 

source: http://bhavanichowdhary33.blogspot.com

Here is the inspiration behind it in her own words:

Video is made to catch attention of many lay readers (as a blogger I know how difficult is that ) thanks to the curiosity due to NBK film. It was painful to see many scoops, teasers, versions around but none with historical facts. Wondering and failing to fit this in a blog of  less than 700 words, I attempted to do a small clip using picasa.
It consumed 4 days from story, script, cinematography, background music, editing and all…thanks to Moviemaker that made a simple blogger—a movie maker…Music and editing was THE painful part.
It was made for an all-India audience, as Gautamiputra was Emperor of 4 states at that time. I am an NRI ,but heart & soul with my Motherland.

She also recently published a slideshow based on it over at Speaking Tree. You can  read her original post and follow her on her personal blog.

Enjoy the video and let us and her know what you think below!


Disclaimer: This video represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Personalities: Jaya Senapati

Jayappa

From the realm of Sangeeta (music), we move on to the world of Nrtya (Dance). The next installment of our Series on Andhra Personalities is on the great Jaya Senapati, master of warfare and…dance.

Background

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Jayana, Jayasena, Jayappa Nayudu, he is known by many names, but above all, Jaya Senapati. A general, a feudal baron, of royal background, he was a narthaka, nayaka, and Natyacharya par excellence.

Despite his exploits both on and off the battlefield, he was humble by nature, and paid due reverence or made reference to the great masters who came before him: first and foremost, Bharatamuni, but also Matanga, Kohala, Tamburu, Somesvara, and Abhinavagupta. Indeed, due to his contributions to Andhra culture and Indic civilization, he now takes his place alongside them.

Jayana belongs to the Ayyana dynasty. His ancestors hail from Velanadu area, Kroyyuru.” [1,x] His family is said to have been subordinate rulers of the Telugu Cholas, who reigned in Velanadu from their capital, Chandavolu.

Jayappa’s grandfather, Narayana Nayaka, is credited with constructing a municipality on an island on the Krishna Delta, very near the coast. His father Pinnachoda Nayaka was ruling the island when Kakatiya Ganapati Deva conquered it, but reinstated the family.

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As a token of good relations, Ganapati Deva married both of Narayana Nayaka’s daughters Naramaamba and Peramaamba.

Queen Naramaamba

So close was the bond between the families, that the Kakatiya King himself took Jayana under his care as a small boy and had him educated. He appointed the latter as Nayaka of Taamarapuri, per a 1213 CE inscription.

Preksya prajnaamatisayavateem svaamibhaktim ca harsaad

Aakaumaaraad ganapatinrpo jaayanam yam samarcya |

Gundaamaatye sakalasumanas sevyamaane jayantam

Vaacaam patyau haririva kalaaslaaghaneeyam vyanaiseet ||

He in whom Ganapatibhoopaala noted great talent and loyalty (towards patron) and entrusted him to the care of the much sought after Gundamaatya, just as Indra entrusted Jayanta to Brhaspati and had the meritorious art taught. [1,x]

Jayana therefore learned the arts from Gundamatya. The Royal Narthakis of the time learned from brahmana acharyas, hence the Nattuva mela was known as Brahmana mela. [2, 67] Jayasena later refers to himself as gajasaadhanika and senapati (that is elephant corps commander and general). He subsequently served under Maharani Rudhrama Devi as well.

Gajabetakaara
Rudhrama Devi on elephant-back

He is said to have accompanied the rulers of the dynasty on their many campaigns, and played an important role in their success against neighbouring rival kingdoms.

That is what makes his background so interesting. Despite being a high level field commander, nayaka, and general, Jaya Senapati was also Jayacharya, learned authority on the art of dance and song. If the great God Siva is the literal “Lord of the Dance”, then as a nayaka, Jaya Senapati was “[l]ord of the Dance”, small L. That a feudal lord or baron was a maestro of dance and a scholar of sangeeta in his own right, only goes to show the level of culture not only in the Kakatiya Rajya or the Ancient Andhra desa, but Indic Civilization itself.

An inscription refers to young Jayana as “very gentle, humble, polite, confident, graceful and valorous”[1, xi]. It is no wonder he was a warrior dancer in the Perini Thandava tradition. In one account, he is said to have dismounted from his elephant and danced the Thandava to boost the morale of his troops. One can only imagine his performance as being something akin to this.

Nrtta (Pure Rhythmic Dance) in Action

Per Jayasena’s own record, he composed the Nrtta Ratnavali as follows:

Kalau yaate tu varsesu bhoota baana agni saagaraih|

Mitesvaanandasamjne bde jagadaananda daayini||

Sasvat kuvalayollaasiyasah praaleyarocisi|

Prataapatapana praudhi taapitaaraati maanase ||

Now, in Bharatavarsa, the period of vaivasvata manvantara, Kaliyuga, after 4355 years during this period, in the year Aananda which gives joy to the world. [1,xiii]

This corresponds to 1253 C.E. [1,xiii] Interestingly, the Ramappa temple, constructed in 1213 CE by Recherla Rudradeva, Army Chief and minister of Ganapati Deva, is said by some scholars to have inspired General Jayasena. The sculptures are absolutely beautiful, and can be found today in the modern state of Telangana, just outside of Warangal.

Achievements

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Despite the passage of time, and the destruction of the Kakatiya Empire, many of Jaya Senapati’s numerous accomplishments have come down to us.

He authored the Geeta Ratnavali, the lesser known counterpart and predecessor to his famous Nrtta Ratnavali.

He codified the various Andhra Desi dance traditions all while stating and preserving the strictures of Margi. Contrary to foreign and foreign-sponsored revisionists, this demonstrates the integral unity of the tradition. [5] Indeed, he held Bharatamuni in great reverence, and specifically notes that his “text is the result of repeated study of Bharata’s literary work, tedious delving into the depths of many commentaries, debating with well-disposed people adhering to the tradition of seeking from a guru, Lord Siva’s grace and unravelling of the secrets in the Sastras.” [1, 6]

He described the various dances of the Devadasis who performed on the Natya Mandapa of various temples. Jayasena, in fact, consecrated 300 of them to the Chebrole temple in Divi taluk. [2,67] He composed dances for not only Devadasis but also Raja-narthakis, that is, the dancers of the Royal Court. They enacted yakshaganas, a dramatic style of dance that portrayed episodes from Puranas, but with all characters performed by a single dancer.

Nevertheless, his magnum opus and most famous accomplishment remains the text that will forever be associated with him. The Nrtta Ratnavali is held in high esteem, mentioned along side neighboring Seuna Kingdom’s  Sangeeta-Ratnakara by Sarngadeva, and behind only the Natya Sastra itself.

Composed in Sanskrit verse, this artistic and literary gem of Andhra is chock full of wisdom, along with dance technique and principle. Jayana held nrtta (pure rhythmic dance) above all. For this reason he does not expound upon the other aspects of nrtya and natya in much detail, and so aptly titled the work Nrtta Ratnavali.

He describes not only Lasya, that is the delicate dance of the Lady, but also Thandava, the vigorous dance of the male. In fact, Perini is described in great detail. One can only imagine the depth of study Sri Nataraja Ramakrishna must have engaged in to revive this tradition via Jayasena’s text. Not only does it delve into the intricacies of footwork, rhythm, and musical accompaniment, but also describes the regional tradition of dance, instruments, and orchestral accompaniment. Clearly this was the work of a master of both theory and practice. It is a balance of the musical and the spiritual.

This great treatise of Dance and treasure of all true Telugus, has come down to us today due to the efforts of traditional scholars. Whether you are a dancer of Perini or an admirer of Kuchipudi or simply a collector of books, here is one “must have” to any respectable collection of Andhra literary works.

nrttaratnavali
Click here to buy the book today!!!

Legacy

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The legacy of General Jayasena is one that has stood the test of time and against the test of rubble and decay. Though the Kakatiya Samraajya and its greatest king, Ganapati Deva, are long gone, the legacy of not only his patron, but the man himself remains intact. Jaya Senapati’s contributions to dance trenchantly demonstrate the integral unity of the Indic tradition. Unlike Bharata muni, Jayasena was neither a brahmin nor a man of the north, yet still composed his work in veneration of Bharata, was directly influenced by his theories, and communicated his composition in sanskrit verse.

And yet, the Nrtta-Ratnavali is an eminent work of Andhra literature in the truest sense of our tradition. Jayappa careful wove the Desi (local folk tradition) with the Marga (the spiritual great tradition). As Sri Nataraja Ramakrishna would show 700 years later, the true Telugu is very much also a true Indian, and local and regional can and must be given patronage alongside the national and civilizational.

Historically the Aandhra region has always been endowed with various ancient traditional dances not always based on the treatises…Jayana gets the credit for codifying and presenting the regional forms of Aandhra dance in this treatise.”1, p. xxi

JayappaLegacy

We findJayana’s integrity, sincerity and commitment to this subject, respect or the earlier writers, loyalty to patron and confidence in himself as significant qualities. [1, xxi]

A true aesthete, he was a sahrdaya par excellence. The embodiment of balance that our modern elite should aspire toward, he was neither a brute ruffian nor a pretentious fop, but possessed the qualities of manliness and refinement in equal balance. A General and a Dance maestro of great repute, his life demonstrates how a life of culture and a regimen of vigour on the dance floor also inspires vigour on the battlefield.

Jai Jaya Senapati! Jai Andhra Pradesh/Telangana! Jai Telugu Talli! Jai Bharat Mata!

 

References:

  1. Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Nrtta Ratnavali of Jaya Senapati. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2013.
  2. Devi, Ragini. Dance Dialects of India. Delhi: MLBD.2002.p.76

Happy Sri Rama Navami (2016)

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Photo Credit: naveengfx.com

Sri Rama Navami Subhakaankshalu! Happy Sri Rama Navami to all of our Readers!

Today we celebrate the birth, marriage, and return of Sri Rama to Ayodhya. Our great composers such as Ramadasu and Thyagayya were great Bhaktas of Rama. Their music celebrates his Avatara.

Here are some good threads (one, two, three) on twitter regarding this sacred day and how the Telugu language has celebrated the life and legacy of Rama.

sitaramakalyanam

Jai Sri Rama!

Personalities: Syama Sastri

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Continuing our Series on great Andhra Personalities, is one who is often not recognised as an Andhraite, and yet, remains one of the highly honoured Trinity of Carnatic Music. Sri Syama Sastri is one such figure, who, like Veerapandya Kattabomman is shared by Telugus and Tamils alike.

As we’ll discover in this story, the beauty of the ancient Andhra desa is not only in its own inherent greatness, but in the Samskruthi it shares with the rest of South India, and indeed, the rest of Bharatavarsha itself. Here is one such Ratna of Bharata and an immortal in the realm of music.

Background

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Syama Sastri was born in Thiruvarur on the second day of this month (April), in the year 1762 . His father was Visvanatha Iyer and grandfather was Venkatadri Iyer. They were of the Gautama gotra and attached to the Baudhayana Sutra. Despite no authentic biography existing, small accounts have been found here and there by Professor Sambamurthy in works such as the Gayaka Siddhanjanam, and others.

He hailed from the Vadamar community in Tamil Nadu, which traces its ancestry to Kambam in  Kurnool District, Andhra Pradesh. Being Smartha Brahmanas, they are considered Andhras by heritage, the word Vadamar itself meaning “Northerner” [i.e. Telugu]. His vamsam specialised in scholarship and were in fact not originally archakas  by profession, but later followed that occupation through the annointment of Adi Sankaracharya himself.

The story of the family’s migration South is one that is part legend and part adventure. During the noontide of the Rayas, they were in Kanchi. The sack of Vijayanagari caused them to flee Kanchi, and they wandered the forests for 28 years. They reached Gingee in 1594. After 15 years, they shifted to Udayarpalayam. The Zamindar (Paleyagar?) of the place invited them to settle, and they did so for 70 years. However, they eventually felt slighted, as only one family of archakas was receiving patronage. From there, they went to Kanchipuram (Conjeevaram) for 15 years. With the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, however, Kanchi came under threat from the depradations of Golkonda and Bijapur sultanates. They then fled to Vijayapuram for another 5 years, before finally settling down in Thiruvarur. Here they resided for 45 years.

Thiruvarur was a famous and indeed blessed municipality in Tamil Nadu, as the other two jewels of the Carnatic Trinity also took birth there, and were, indeed, contemporaries. In fact, Syama Sastri was a good friend and frequent converser with Thyagaraja, and was even the guru of Muthuswami Dikshitar…such is the serendipitous, and indeed, transcendental connection amongst the Carnatic Trinity.

From the point of view of rasabhava Tyagaraja’s composition might be compared to the draksha (grapes), Muttuswamy Dikshitar’s to the nalikera (cocoanut), whose pulp can be eaten only after the shell is broken and Syama Sastri’s to the kadali (plantain fruit), to eat which we have only to peel off the thin skin. [1,25]

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Sri Syama Sastri, third from Left

Nevertheless, the family would later migrate again, due the the politics, disorder, and depradations by foreign invaders of the time, and their descendants.

In the year 1781 when there was the fear of an impending invasion and devastation of the whole place by Hyder Ali and his men, our hero’s father Visvanatha …interviewed Raja Tulakaki (1765-1787), the then ruler of Tanjore and obtained his consent to come and stay with his family within the walls of the Tanjore fortress [1,10]

The Maratha Raja of Thanjavur (Tanjore) gave Syama Sastri’s father large estates, an agraharam and cultivable lands, along with a temple. This mandiram dedicated to Sri Kamakshi Amma is (as of 1934) served by an Archaka named Natesa Sastri, himself the great grandson of our Great Personality.

Syama Sastri was given a sound, traditional education in Sanskrit and Telugu, and learnt basic music from his uncle. Despite not coming from a family of musicians, Syama Sastri (called Syama Krishna by his loved ones, this later became his ankitam (signature))was a naturally gifted performer and composer of Sangeeta. At the age of 18, he (along with his family) shifted to Thanjavur. He had a sweet and melodious voice, but did not receive formal training until the myserious Sangeeta Swami initiated him. This was similar to the backstory of Thyagaraja Swami being presented with the work swararnava by Narada muni and Muthuswami Dikshitar being initiated by Chidambaranatha Yoga in Nija Sangeeta (true music). [1]

Sangeeta Swami was also an Andhra Brahmin, and he performed narthana (dance) for Sri Visveshwara in Varanasi. After coming to Tanjore, he noticed Syama Krishna’s talents, and informed his father of his wish to train him, predicting the son’s great destiny in music.

With his sound education in Sanskrit, Telugu, & traditional branches of knowledge, and complemented by his impressive intellect, Syama was an ideal student for Sangeeta.

His wife was known to be particularly virtuous, and devoted to her husband, rejoicing in his success and fame. Being a sumangali, she passed on before him. Such was Syama Sastri’s love for her that, rather than be sad, he smiled saying in Tamil : “Saga anjunal; setta arunal“. This meant he was happy that he only had to live 5 more days before joining her. This was particularly poignant, as Syama Sastri (like the other two members of the Trinity) was skilled at Jyotisha (astrology) and was said to be able to predict a person’s future merely by looking a his or her face. There were a number of anecdotes where his prophecies were literally proven to be true.

He passed away in the year 1827 C.E. His legacy passed on to his two sons Panju Sastri (a temple Archaka) and Subbaraya Sastri. The eldest son of Panju Sastri is (as of 1934) the archaka of the Tanjore Kamakshi Temple. Subbaraya Sastri is considered the inheritor of Syama Sastri’s musical legacy and trained not only under his father, but also under Thyagaraja. He later became a vaggeyakara (composer) of repute, with krithis such as “Nannu brochutaku” and “Sri Kamalambana” (in Todi and Desya Todi respectively).

Principle disciples of Syama Sastri, aside from his younger son, were Porambur Krishnayya, Alasur Krishnayya, Sangita Swami, and Dasari.

Achievements

Syama Sastri’s achievements are numerous. He was an highly accomplished scholar and musician of the highest order. The Sangeeta Trimurtis (Carnatic Trinity) made their stamp on an already ancient tradition, and provided the shape we know it in today.

They were born musicians and were kings in their own realm. They had the composer’s technique in them. Their kritis are raga crystals and for the polished nature of their music and the beauty of their language, their compositions will forever remain unsurpassed. [1, 1-2]

Syama Sastri’s contribution to this cannot be minimised. Despite being the least documented of the three, he had many accomplishments to his name, even though he took on only a few disciples who could spread his work:

  • Wrote over 300 Compositions, primarily krithis and swarajathis, in his distinct style
  • These musical works are scholarly in nature and have highly intricate time-measures
  • Personally created valuable manuscripts detailing the various prastaras in the tala system
  • Composed 9 Krithis (Navaratna-malika)  in Praise of Goddess Meenakshi (Madurai)
  • Exemplar of Nija Sangeeta (“True Music”)
  • Humbled the hitherto undefeated musician Kesavayya of Bobbili in a contest
  • Defeated the nattuvan (hereditary dance teacher) of Negapattam in a music contest
  • Gave upadesam to Muthuswami Dikshitar
  • Never deigned to engage in Nara-stuthi (praise of men), reserving his talents only to offer praise to God.

Like Thyagayya, Syama Krishna is said to have disdained royal patronage, and famously refused to go to Mysore to receive a Kanakabhisheka by the Maharaja. While Thyagaraja’s popularity is credited to his elegant but simple works that are accessible to the appreciation of the common person, Syama Sastri is considered an uncompromising exemplar, with scholarly krithis of great musical sophistication. Strong understanding of Classical Indic Music is required to gain and appreciation for his genius.

His compositions in apurva ragas like Manji, Kalagada and Chintamani stand as monu-mental proofs of his rare genius and originality in discovering ne forms in fields which to others were barren [1,22]

He is considered the midpoint between Thyagaraja’s simplicity and Muthuswami’s complexity. Famous compositions include 8 of the Navaratna-mallika:

“Devi Minanetri” (Sankarabharanam), “Nannu Brovu Lalita” (Lalita), “Marivere Gati” (Ananda Bhairavi), “Mayamma” (Ahiri), “Minalochana” (Dhanyasi), “Rave Parvatarajakumari” (Kalyani), “Devi Ni Pada Sarasa” (Khambo[j]i) and “Sarojadalanetri” (Sankarabharanam). [3]

Other notables are “Himachala Tanaya”, the Swarajathi “Kamakshi ni” and the famous krithi “Devi Brova Samayam idhe“. He is said to have defeated the conceited Kesavayya with this.

Legacy

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Click to buy this CD today!

The musical trinity of Carnatic Music has certainly indicated that music is not a profession, but is an offering to god.[2]

We are all aware that the songs of Shyama Sastri are noted for their intricate thala subtleties, while compositions of Thyagaraja are rich in bhava and the songs of Dikshitar highlight Raga Swaroopas. It is certainly remarkable that the basic features reflect the three vital aspects of music. [2]

If Thyagaraja was a great Rama Bhakta, Syama Sastri was a dedicated devotee of Durga. The various forms of Shakti were the inti devatas of the family, most notably, Goddess Kamakshi. This was reflected in his brilliant krithis. He is known to have had a special love for raga Anandabhairavi.

His famous defeats of Appukutti (Nattuvan of Negapattam) and Kesavayya are a testament to his talents. In the first case, the singer Syama defeated the dancer Appukutti in his understanding of music. In the second, he defended the court of Thanjavur from humiliation by a musician from Bobbili. In the case of Kesavayya, it was a defeat of manava music by the adhyatmika music and nija sangeeta of Syama Krishna.

He is said to have a had a fondness for chewing betel leaves. For this reason, he is frequently portrayed with them.

Ultimately, though not as well known, Syama Sastri’s contributions to Carnatic Music and Andhra Culture cannot be minimised. He brought a rare balance between simplicity and complexity, and a wonderful appreciation for both scholarship and devotion that is all too rare today. Despite his impressive intellect, he was not consumed with the quest of proving his knowledge, but rather, viewed one’s talents with the humility one should: as a gift from and offering to God. His music is proof of it.

Syama Sastri’s descendants are amongst us today, and indeed, much like our High Culture, are in a state of penury. Those great businessmen and captains of Industry who are the modern Vanijyas and Nayakas of today have a responsibility to give patronage to such cultured families, and restore them and our culture to former greatness.

References:

  1. Sambamurthy, P. (Professor of Musicology). Syama Sastri—And Other Famous Figures of South Indian Music. Sri Mahendhra Graphics: Chennai. 1999
  2. http://www.newindianexpress.com/cities/chennai/article574103.ece
  3. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article1253106.ece
  4. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/history-and-culture/syama-sastry-did-travel/article5410501.ece
*A special acknowledgment should be made to the author of the above stated book. It is often difficult to assemble primary sources documenting the lives of our great personalities. The diligent and often selfless work of traditional pandits, modern historians, and self-driven biographers should be acknowledged. In this case, Professor P.Sambamurthy, Musicologist, deserves recognition for his work on Syama Sastri, bringing out many minute details for the benefit of posterity, making this Post possible. Dhanyavadam.

Happy Ugadi (2016)

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From all of us at ACP, in this Durmukhi Nama Samvatsara we wish you a happy and prosperous (Telugu) New Year.  Ugadi Subakaankshalu!

Ugadi comes from the Sanskrit term Yuga Adi, or new era.

Typical greetings include: Nutana Samvatsara Subhakaankshalu or Ugadi Subhakaankshalu.

Today we celebrate the arrival of the year 5118 (Kali Yuga reckoning), which is named  Durmukhi (last year was Manmatha), in this 28th Chaturyuga of the 7th Manvantara (Vaivasvata) in Sveta Varaha Kalpa.

Here is our Post from 2014 explaining the Festival and its Traditions in detail.

As the name suggests, Durmukhi will be a year of changes, requiring a resolute face in the wake of the bhayanika. Many have turned from the path of Dharma, especially many who claim to support it. Therefore, mankind too must be prepared for the days ahead to move away from materialism and pettiness and remember spirituality and common goodness.

As you read in our post above, it is customary for Telugu families to hear and review their astrological chart for the year. Click below to learn more.

Thanks to all our loyal and regular readers for your interest, comments, and support. We look forward to another great year of Preserving and Passing on our wonderful common Culture and Tradition.దుర్ముఖి నామ సంవత్సర శుభాకాంకషాలు! Happy Ugadi!

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