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Nama Sankirthanam a big treasure for GenNext, says Sri Gopi Bhagavathar
CHENNAI, June 20: In the modern age ( Kaliyug), kirtan bhakthi holds a supreme place, and it is the bestway to get the blessings of God and attain Mukthi. Nama Sankirthanam has great lessons and teachings to offer for young generation, according to Cuddalore Sri Gopi Bhagavathar, a veteran in the field and who is performing Sampradhaya Bhajan for more than two decades.

In an interview to Carnatic Darbar, he said,``unlike other music, Nama Sankirthanam has divine sanctity. This is because, the Bhajan Kirtans, Geetha Govindam (Jayadevar’s 24 Ashtapathis) and Marathi Abhangs, composed by gurus, mahans and saints (Sanths) were approved by God Himself.’’

“Nama Sankirthanam is a big treasure,’’ he said. ``Kirtans have great lessons for generation next,’’ he added. Doing one’s duty, doing charity, discharging one’s role properly, preserving the love and affection between a couple, appreciating the selfless service of mothers, taking care of parents and conducting the marriage of their children at the proper age – kirtans, he said, had lessons on all these. ``Above all, kirtans have no religion and caste flavour,” he added.

Several Marathi Abhangs were composed by Sants belonging to lower strata of the society and they had a special significance in Nama Sankirthanam. They were named as Abhangam as no one could spoil (cause bungam ) or destroy them, he pointed out.

According to him, these sants played a major role in spearheading the Bhakthi movement. They hailed from the lower-strata of the society and comprised hair-dressers, cobbler, goldsmiths, potters, tailors and shop-keepers. Lord Panduranga, an incarnation of Lord Krishna, had come to the rescue of these sants and, at times, even assumed the roles of cobbler, hair-dresser, accountant et al. These roles were enacted as Panduranga Leelai, he pointed out.

Sri Gopi is also the founder of Bhagavan Naama Prachara Mandali Trust at Nungambakkam. In Sampradhaya bhajans, ragam, thalam and melam were important, he said. More important than all these was the ability to demonstrate the Bhava and Bhakthi, he added. Every song, he said, had its own jeevan. It should be reflected while singing by Bhagavathas, he asserted.

Saint Thyagaraja’s tireless Bhakthi towards Rama when he went on reciting ``Rama, Rama’’. When there was no sign of Lord coming, His father asked him to recite the `Rama nama’ one crore times. Much to the delight of the Saint, when he finished reciting one crore times, Rama appeared before him. He immediately sang, “Raara, Raara, Rama, Deva”.

Striking aspect
What struck Sri Gopi was the fact that these Bhajan kirtans were composed by Mahans and Saints out of their divine experience several years ago (12th and 13th century) and were being sung by Bhagavathas for the last 100 years or so only during Radha Kalyanam and Seetha Kalyanam.

Sri Sathguru Swamigal from Marudanallur near Kumbakonam was, perhaps, the first to select these kirtans in various languages from different States and structure them into a format as Sampradhya Bhajan, comprising kirtans of Ramadasar, Kabirdasar, Purandaradasar, Tyagaraja Sants from Maharashtra who composed Marathi Abhangs and Jayadevar’s 24 Ashtrapathis (Geetha Govindam).

While appreciating the increasing interest among youngsters to attend bhajan programmes, he said there were no big strings attached for doing Nama Sankirthanam. Bhajans could be sung any time, at any place and even while having a bath or having food. School-going children learning bhajans should continue their interest and perform rather than aiming to score in a competition, he pointed out.

Utmost devotion
In Nama Sankirthanam, different traditions (bhandhathis) were followed as advocated by different gurus. What was, however, important was that Bhajans should be performed well and with utmost devotion, he said. Traditionally, bhajan programmes were conducted mainly in villages and attended by elders or those having some problem in their life or longing for the wedding of their children. In recent times, Bhagavathas were presenting Kirtan bhajans in their own unique style. This had started attracting young generation, he said.

Fifteen years ago, Sri Gopi hit upon an innovative idea of presenting Naama Sankeerthanam in the form of Anukarana Bhajans. He has been presenting the Kirtanas of Ramadasar, Purandara dasar, Tyagaraja and Panduranga Leelai in a dramatised format in order to draw and involve the younger generations into Nama Sankirthanam and invoke Bhakthi amongst them. Slowly, it has gained momentum and has been eliciting good response from the audience.

Guru Bhakthi
Born in 1961, Sri Gopi works in State Bank of India. He was attracted to Nama Sankirthanam at the tender age of seven. His Guru is late Thiruvidaimarathur Venkatrama Bhagavathar. Sri Gopi also learnt bhajans from Kumbakonam Sri Balu Bhagavathar. “I have learnt Bhajan by holding their hands,” he said demonstrating his Guru Bhakthi.

Chennai programme
A day-long programme on “Sri Panduranga Leelai” will be performed by Cuddalore Sri Gopi in Chennai on June 24. It is to showcase how Lord Vittala Panduranga, an incarnation of Lord Krishna, comes down to earth to play around with his Bhakthas and bless great Sants.

It is being organised by the Trust at Sri Krishnaswamy Kalyana Mandamam, South Boag Road in T.Nagar from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. He will beautifully narrate Charithas of Vittala Bhakta sants such as Pundaliga, Namdevar, Sena Navidhar, Komabhai, Sokamelar, Janabhai, Rahidas, Korakumbar, Sakkubhai, Paramandar, Ekanathar and Nararhari Sonar.

(The author (V Balasubrmanian), is an admirer of Nama sankirthanam for over three decades. He hails from Vilangudi village near Kumbakonam. The village has an unbroken record of conducting Sri Radha Kalyanam Utsav at Sri Perumal temple for the last 112 years. His Mail id, visbala@gmail.com)
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