Friday, 19 April 2013

Namasankeertanam - In the wilderness…

Man is closest to God when with his creation, when with nature and when with music. What to say of the divine experience he gets when all of this is put together! One such experience is what we get when we go a remote, serene place in the midst of thick vegetation of Malnad; a place about 20 kms from the temple town of Shringeri called ‘Naibhi’. This place, consisting of about 13 families, is home to a unique and one of its kind Bhajana Sampradaya which was started 53 years ago by a great bhakta Sri Subbannayya, now being organized and led by an elderly person Sri Sheshayya.
This tradition involves a bhajan by all the natives of the village on every Saturday plus a special 11 day long bhajan during the Vasantha Navaratri which begins on the Ugadi Padya and concludes on the Ekadashi day, the 9th day being Ramanavami. It is a gathering of about 40-50 men, women and children who sing to the accompaniment of a harmonium and a mridangam. Prominent among them are Sri Subramanya, Sri Ravi, Sri Nagesh, Sri Nagabhushan, Sri Venkatesh, Sri Achyuta, Sri Ganeshayya and Sri Krishnamurthy. The weekly bhajan will be hosted by all the families of the village turn by turn, where as the 11 day Ramotsava Bhajan by Sri Nagesh. A particular paddati or format is followed which involves a few dhyana shlokas in the beginning followed by songs on Ganapathi, Durga, Shiva, Saraswathi, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Krishna and Rama; which is followed by Nama Ramayanam, certain special namavalis, pundalikas, arathi song, laali (lullaby) song and finally a mangalam. The whole format takes about 4 hours to complete during the regular Saturday bhajan. However, the Ramotsava bhajan involves certain added features like Deepa Pradakshina, Ashtavadhana Seva and an Utsava where the idol of Lord Rama is carried with all the festivities and the all the people go up singing “Rama Rama Jaya Raja Rama…” to an Aditya Panchayatana Temple on top of a small hill, perform pooja and come back singing. The Ramanavami day features a 24 hour Akhanda bhajan and the last day (i.e., ekadashi) ends with a Hanumotsava. The passion and the dedication of these people to keep the tradition alive and to engage themselves in Namasankeertanam, keeping aside all the individual differences and all the difficulties of a countryside living, is something extraordinary.
We have been a part of this grand tradition for many years now. When we want to lose our sense of time and space, when we want to go into the silence of nature and the depth of devotion, we make some time in the midst of our busy professions to experience this out of the world feeling of oneness with divinity. The people there with all their innocence and sincerity, with immense love and respect for us, are always overwhelmed to have us participate in their bhajan. Special mention has to be made of the tasty, healthy and other-wordly desi food which is prepared by Smt. Susheela (wife of Sri Subramanya) along with daughters Swapna and Shruti; and the untiring outside support by Suneel (son of Sri Subramanya) and Subbu (whose is lovingly called Puttu).  We were there for 4 days during the Ramotsava and now back with memories that will keep us charged till we go there again after 3-4 months.
This time the group consisted of the two of us, that is my husband Mridangam Vidwan Arjun Kumar and I, renowed violinist Smt. Charulatha Ramanujam, vocalist Smt. Radhika Karanth, connoisseurs Sri S.J. Anand and Sri Hassan Kumarswamy with some of my husband’s prominent disciples Adamya Ramanand, Suneel Subramanya, Ghanashyam, Skanda and Skandaprasad. We sang, danced and played our instruments till we forgot ourselves, but always kept wanting for more. Naibhi bhajan has become an integral part of our lives. In the days to come, we wish to make this bhajan tradition more dynamic, effective, bright, lively and powerful with our active participation, support and contribution. We always pray to the Almighty that we get more and more of such great musical and devotional time at Naibhi…
“Rama Rama Jaya Raja Rama.. Rama Rama Jaya Seetha Rama.. Raghupathi Raghava Raja Rama.. Patita Pavana Seetha Rama..”

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