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Vilangudi Bhajan festival attracts legends in the field
VILANGUDI (Kumbakonam), January 17: Namasankeerthanam has turned a popular Bhakthi programme in urban centres in recent years with increasing number of devotees attending Bhajan performance by leading Bhagavathas.

Namasankeerthanam, also known as Kirtan yoga, has proved to be an effective medium to beat stress, and overcome tension. Its relevance has increased in the highly competitive and performance-driven corporate culture, and in the light of turbulent economic conditions.

Thanks to the support from business establishments and the telecast in TV channels, the Sabhas and Bhajan Mandalis are coming forward to organise more Bhajan programmes in cities. But, it is in villages where the centuries old Namasankeerthanam is still deeply rooted.

Thanjavur district (now divided into three) remains the bastion of Namasankeerthanam with several villages strictly following the Sampradaya Bhajan Pandhathi while conducting Sri Radhakalyanam and Seethakalyanam Mahothsavams. This stemmed from the fact that the district has produced Mahans and Bhagavathas in the field.

The pioneer
Sri Sadguru Swamigal, who is the pioneer of Namasankirtanam, hailed from Marudunallur near Kumbakonam. He collected kirtanas or compositions of Mahans, and compiled them as Sampradaya Bhajan. The other Mahans are Sri Bodendra Saraswati Swamigal from Govindapuram, Thiruvisanallur Sridhara Ayyaval and Saint Tyagaraja.

A tiny village, Vilangudi near Kumbakonam has created a record by hosting Namasankeerthanam every year on the occasion of Sri Radhakalyanam Uthsavam at Perumal temple. Following this century old tradition, the 114th year Sri Radhakalyanam Mahothsavam was organised from January 3 to 5, 2013 at Sri Venkatramana Swamy temple in the village.

The Uthsavam was marked by several hours of Bhajan performance by leading Bhaghavathas. They appreciated the deep interest being shown by the natives of the villages to attend the programme every year, and contribute liberally as donation to meet expenses.

A unique uthsavam
To quote, Sri K Subramanian, Secretary, Vilangudi Sri Radhakalyanam Mahothsava Bhajan Mandali, “ Vilangudi uthsavam is unique and performed by the Bhagavatha Sironmanis following the Pracheena Sampradaya Bhajan Pandhathi, and the customs laid down by late Bhagavathas of this village”.

Further, he said, “ Namasankeerthanam has, for centuries, been a road to peace and harmony in the minds of people and it helps in realising the Supreme creator. Any Prayer that is set to music is easy to follow and participate. Keeping this dictum in right earnestness, we trust our ancestors conducted the Uthsavam every year and we continue this tradition”.

The Uthasavam began on January 3 with performance by Vilangudi Viswanatha Bhagavathar, Tapplampuliyur Sundaresa Bhagavathar, K Subramanian and K Venugopal. It was followed by Geetha Govindam by Marudanallur Sathguru Swamigal, Kannan Bhagavathar and Udaiyalur Balarama Bhagavathar.

On the second day, a galaxy of veteran Bhagavathas enthralled the Bhajan lovers with their superb performance singing Thodaya Mangalam, Guru Kirthans, Geetha Govindam (Ashtapathis) and Namavalis. Divyanam programme (dance) saw enthusiastic participation by old and young people alike.

Galaxy of artistes
The legends who took part that day included Kumbakonam E K Srinivasan and E K Jayaraman, Udaiyalur Kalyanaraman, Thiruvisanallur Ramakrishna Bhagavathar, Tiruvannamalai Pichumani Bhagavathar, Kovai Jayarama Bhagavathar, Madippakkam Ramamurthy Bhagavathar and Nannilam Ramanatha Bhagavathar.

Their inspiring programme continued on the third day, January 5 culminating in the conduct of Sri Radhakalyanam Uthsavam. The lively competition among the supporting artistes also helped in the excellent performance by Bhagavathas.

The artistes included Thanjavur Rajesh and Mannargudi Sankarraman (both Harmonium), Poongulam Ramakrishnan, Vilangudi Sivakumar and Poompuhar Bapu Rajasekar (all three Mirudhangam), Srirangam Vakulaparanam (Tabla), Thanjai Krishnan (Morsing), Adambakkam Sankar (Ghatam) and Pammal Sankar (Dolak).

Upanyasam experts, Neyveli Thiagarajan and Chennai Thiagaraja Sharma, gave good discourses on Guru Bhakthi and Kuchelar Charithiram. The Mandali had made good arrangements for the people to stay in the temple for three days along with free food.

The author (V Balasubrmanian), is an admirer of Namasankeerthanam for over three decades. He hails from Vilangudi village near Kumbakonam. His Mail id: visbala@gmail.com