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Ramabhirama - A Tribute To Bhakt, Bhakti And Bhagwan

Ranjani Saigal

"It does not how many times you listen your thirst to hear more grows never diminishes" says poet Jaidev who wrote the title lyrics for the immensely popular Ramayana TV serial.  The truth of these words were brought home forcefully as we witnessed Sunanda Narayanan and her students Amritha Mangalat, Keerthana Gnanapradeepan, Tara Krishnan, Ramya Ramadurai and Anjana Mangalat  perform Ramabhirama on  June 27 at the Chinmaya Maruti Center in Andover, MA.

This was a thematic presentation where compositions of multiple poets was used to glorify Shri Rama, Rama Bhakti (devotion) and Rama Bhaktas (devotees).  With expert guidance of her Guru , Smt Radha Sunanda's presentation brought to life the  beautiful episodes from the Ramayana.   The creation owed a tremendous amount to the detailed research of the works of the various poets done by her illustrious mother Smt. Sujatha Vijayaraghavan whose knowledge of music, poetry, dance and philosophy helped bring authenticity to the presentation.

The evening opened with the Vazhuvoor Thodaya Mangalam  in Ragam Kedaram and Useni. Rama Pushpanjali  in Ragam Nattai, was followed by a Kanda Alaripu performed to the stanzas of the Ramashtakam. The Pushpanjali was a special composition by Smt Sujatha Vijayaraghavan .  Alaripu was also a stylized presentation utilizing group movement to embellish the Rama Astakam that played in the background.

Given the theme it was but natural that the Ragamalika composition of Swathi Thirunal, Bhavayami Raghuramam  was chosen as the center piece for the evening. Different episodes were brought to life through this piece.  The group choreography for the Jathis was delightful. Sunanda's depiction of Manthra and her poisoning Kaikeyi's mind was  specially worth noting.

After detailing  the episodes that extol the virtue of Shri Rama Sunanda used the compositions of different poets to glorify the value of Rama Bhakti and to extol the virtues of Rama Bhaktas.  The first piece was Tulsidasji's Bhajamana Rama (Ragam Sindhubhairavi, Adi Talam, Tulsidas).  She used the piece to highlight the devotion of Guha by depicting the episode of his washing of Rama's feet before he allowed Ram to get on his boat.  "I choreographed this under the guidance of my mother. The episode of Guha creating an excuse to wash Rama's feet before he set foot on his boat was narrated by my mother as coming from the Tulsi Ramayan to me. It really moved me very much," said Sunanda.

She then moved into Tyagaraja's Ramabhakti  with "Endaro Mahanubhavulu" in Sri Ragam, Adi Talam and "Nidhi Chala Sukhama" in Kalyani Ragam and Misra Chapu.
In the second piece she deftly created a contrast between the spiritual Tyagaraja and his materialistic brother Japyesa. The use of tanam to depict the conversation where by Tyagaraja convinces his brother of the superiority of "Ramuni Sannithi Seva"(service to Rama) over the pursuit of "Nidhi" (wealth)  was unique.

Hanuman Chalisa, a composition dedicated to the greatest of Rama Bhaktas, Hanuman ji, was blended in jathis and sancharis and helped highlight the crucial role of Shri Hanuman in the Ramayana while also showcasing His devotion. Her depiction of His devotion reached a crescendo when she showed Shri Hanuman tearing open His chest to reveal the shrine of Shri Rama and Sita.  The famous Bhadrachala Ramdas mangalam "Ramachandraya Janaka" was used  as a fitting finale to the presentation

The taped music featured Guru Rhadha (nattuvangam), Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, Sumitra Nitin (my sister), and  Smt Geetha Murali singing the various songs.

"My students and I are grateful to Durga Krishnan and Shashi Dwarakanath for inviting us to do this presentation for Chinmaya. It was our first group presentation together and we thoroughly enjoyed working on it over the past several months" said Sunanda. The audience certainly was a beneficiary of that hard work.

Shri Rama Jayam!

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