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When Karambithlu is bursting with vitality
There is this niggling worry in the minds of many. Are our traditional values reaching the younger generation at all? This question props up often in any discussion forum. For any one who was a witness to the recent event at Karambithlu in the village Nidle, this worry is unfounded.

Amidst the Western ghats near Dharmasthala is a small village called Nidle. There stands tall this house Karambithlu (literally meaning sugarcane in Kannada), the birth place of violinist Vittal Ramamurthy. From the narrow tar roads that come from Dharmasthala towards Subrahmanya, there exists a stony and steep mud road. One has to take this road to reach the house. To move a vehicle up the steep road is in itself a task. But once we reach there, we see a big century-old typically traditional house. The house has a huge veranda, a prayer room and a kitchen. The bathroom is far, and the toilets are still farther. The villa is surrounded by hills with cashew, mango and jackfruit trees on two sides and cocoa and areca nut farms on the other two sides. The greenery is breath-taking and a sight to behold for the less fortunate city people. This house is beautiful, as indeed the rest of the houses which are separated by farms in this area. But what makes this house special is that once every year this house accommodates more than a 100 people for a week during which time one can hear music all day and, sometimes, in nights too within the circumference of about half a km from the house. This is the week when music camp is conducted by Shri Vittal Ramamurthy with the support of his parents Smt Krishnaveni Hebbar and Sri Subraya Hebbar and sisters.

This time around, the musical week was held between May 5 and May 10. This was the ninth musical annual camp conducted here. Every year, students from neighbouring towns and villages make a beeline for this house to learn and share Carnatic music. Student in the age group of 6 to 25 come here to participate in the musical week. The musical training is staged differently for students of different age groups. But all of them share the common surroundings and build friendship and mutual musical bonding.
The musical Shibirams, originally initiated by Vidhushi Rajarajeswary Bhat (sister of Vittal Ramamurthy), is being continued every year by Vittal Ramamurthy. The musical lessons are taught by family members of Karambithlu, as well as the visiting performing musicians such as Vidwan Santhanagoplan, Vidwan Vijay Shiva, Vidwan Vellore Ramabhadhran, Vidwan Kasturirangan, Vidwan T.M. Krishna, Vidushi Shankari Krishan, Vidwan Kamalakara Rao and Vidwan T.V.Shankaranarayan. The specialty of this Shibira is a musical concert by musicians on the final day to demonstrate and provide a better understanding of the practicality of the lessons to the participants.

This year, senior artiste of Mumbai Smt. Vidushi Kalyani Sharma (a senior disciple of Vidwan Semmungudi Srinivasa Iyer, Vidwan K.S. Narayanaswamy and Vidushi Brindamma) graced and led the occasion. More than 120 students participated in the Shibiram. The camp was inaugurated by a welcome note by Vittal and the family and the students were taught the Mayamalava Gowla geeta - "Gananatha". The programmes for the next four days were varied and elaborated ones.

The morning would start as early as 3 a.m., when some of the students would get up and take baths in turns either in the house or in the neighbouring houses. All would be ready without fail by 8 am for the breakfast. The musical session would start at 9.30 am, which would continue till 4.30 p.m, but for the small breaks for Kashayam at 11.30 a.m. and lunch at 2 p.m. The tuition would end with milk and snacks. The kids would then play and explore the nearby hills and surroundings. Between 6 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. there would be performance session, where all participants would sing at least once. The performance would range from a simple geetam to an elaborate Raga and Swara prastarams; a simple varnam to brisk thillanam; and a simple krithi to a standard ghana raga's Vilamba Keerthanams, depending upon the little artiste's capability. The day would end with dinner.
During these four days, the students learnt from Smt. Kalyani Sharma the following Keerthanams: Mahaganapathim Vande in Thodi (Dikshitar), Brihadeeswaraya namaste in Shankarabaranam (Dikshitar), Sanny Thodi Deve in Harikombodhi (Thayagraja), Ramachandram in Vasantham (Dikshitar), Soundarya Vellendanil in Mohanam (Papanasam Sivam), Nityapooja Levio in Dwijawanti (Annamacharya) and a bhajan in Behag. Kalyani Sharma gave an outstanding performance with Vittal Ramamurthy on violin and Mannarkoil Balaji on mridangam, on one of the evenings. This was more to demonstrate to the participants the traditional bani of musical rendering.

What was appreciable was the sincerity and dedication of the students. They would get ready fast and would be seen practising before the sessions as well as before going to sleep. The self-discipline displayed was astonishing, which came on their own without any instructions. The way they went about their daily routines, the way they queued up for the food and the way the elder kids helped the younger ones for their daily chores - all were a sight to behold and a thing to be imbibed.

The Shibiram concluded on May 9th in the temple hall of Southyadka Ganapathy. The programme started with a veena concert by Shri Murthy. He was accompanied by Vidwan Mannarkoil G Balaji on mridagam. This was followed by the rendering of songs learnt in the Shibiram by all the children. After the lunch-break, the programme continued in the afternoon with the violin duet by Smt. Vanamala Dikshit and Smt. Preema Sundaresan. The conclusion of the Shibiram was marked by the felicitation of Vidhushi Kalyani Sharma followed by a concert of Vidwan Pattabhirama Pandit of Bangalore with Vidwan Vittal Ramamurthy on violin and Vidwan Kanchana Eswara Bhat on mridangam. All the programs were rich in tradition, grand in excellence and hearty in enthusiasm.
As usual in these Shibirams, the students left with smiles and tear drops.

On the 10th of May, we left the Karmbathil house into the mud roads to get into the tar roads, which led to the high ways and then on to our normal life in the city. But the hearts continue to listen to the humming of bees, chirping of birds, fresh sounds of wind, melody of the music and the divinity of the experience. We had a sense of contentment for being a part of the process. There was satisfaction. We felt a sense of assurance that the heritage will find its own way to keep its continuity through generations.
Rajarajeshwary Bhat -
Fantastic, mrvelous, awesome, wonderful !!!! We are eagerly awaiting the next shibiram.
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