09th June 2013 12:00 AM
Rudrapatna is a unique village. It has a sound. Given the name Sangeet Grama, the village of music, it beckons a visitor with the sound of the ancient Saraswati veena or a choral tribute being sung on the banks of River Cauvery in Karnataka, where it is situated. The three-day annual music festival at Rudrapatna which concluded recently, was a confluence of artistes of the Carnatic genre.
At the festival, it was none other than R K Raghavan, who hails from a reputed family of Veena players, plucking the Saraswati Veena soulfully before a rapt audience of villagers, students, musicians and music lovers.
Rudrapatna, earlier known as Hyagreevapura, has immensely contributed to Carnatic music in Karnataka. Here, music began as aradhana (invocation to the Gods). About 600 years ago, Sankethi Iyers migrated from Shenkottai in Tirunelveli, Tamil Nadu and settled down on the banks of the Cauvery at Hyagreevapura. Great music composers like Venkataramaiah, Ranga Shastry, Thoti Thammaiah and others never went out of their way to gain fame or royal patronage. Moreover, they never left the banks of the Cauvery.
"The village was the seat of great music composers 120 years ago. With every baby born in a family was born a violinist, or a vocalist or a veena artiste. The musicians used to go to Tanjore to get more knowledge of the shastras. Their knowledge was unparalleled. A varnam in Raga Nayaki and another in Kedaragowla composed by Venkataramaiah are popular even today,” elucidates R K Padmanabha, famous musician from this village and the brain behind the unique music festival at Rudrapatna.
He adds, "Every activity in the village was accompanied by music. Simple activities, like drawing water from the well, de-husking of paddy or even the movement of the coconut tree climber was done rhythmically or tuned to a raga. It is said that austere widowed women could be seen grinding the batter for idlis as also singing the evergreen maha-varnam Viri...Bo... in different kalas (tempos), sometimes in trikalas,” adds Padmanabha.
The musicians were also practitioners of Yajur Veda. "Those were the golden days of Rudrapatna. Wellknown musicians like Veene Seshanna came to our village to perform,” says R S Bhaskara Avadhani, who has traced the lineage of more than 10 families including those of R S Keshavamurthy, Veena Rangappa, Veena Suryanarayana, RK Venkatarama Shastry.
The musical heritage was destroyed when plague struck this village in the 1920s. Books and treasures were lost and worse was to follow with the death and migration of many musicians.
By 1950s, the village had lost its splendour. Today, R K Padmanabha aided by his vast entourage of disciples and the Rudrapatna Sangeet Samithi revive and document the musical heritage of Rudrapatna. According to Bhaskar Avadhani, more than 60 per cent of performing musicians in the state are from Rudrapatna. Padmanabha says, "In 2001, the idea of a music festival took birth. We wanted Rudrapatna to be another Thiruvaiyaru but in Karnataka.”
Every year, for three days, thousands of people from surrounding villages, congregate to participate, appreciate and enjoy music at Ram Mandir. Concluding the rendition with Endaro....mahanubhavulu andiriki vandanamulu...(The song is a salutation to and praise of all the great saints and musicians down the ages) that reverberates and resonates all along the brimming river bank amidst the thundering of the rain gods, it seemed as if Rudrapatna was also dancing the tandava in reverence and remembrance of the past and its long traditions.