Monthly Archives: January 2016

The Devadasi and the Saint.by V.Sriram

Dedicated to Sriram Venkatakrishnan This post is about his book “The Devadasi and the Saint”,a biography dealing with the life and times of Bangalore Nagarathnamma.Lot of research,documentation and hard work has gone into making this book a memorable one.My heartfelt congratulations to him for this.An engrossing book about a devadasi,not an ordinary one but one who could be queen amongst them.

I heard this name first in the early sixties or so and when I asked my father he evaded the issue.Devadasis were still a hush hush topic,not fit enough to be discussed openly.In 1969when I gave birth to my daughter,Sushmita,my mother in law wanted us to make a trip to Thiruvaiyaru.Her father was ailing and wanted to see her and the new born.We made a trip to her native place.Her family lived in Bavaswamy Agraharam and her father,C.V.Rajagopalachari.At that time I did not realise what a great personality he was and how instrumental he was in Nagarathnamma building this Thyagaraja samadhi.

One cool morning my husband’s cousin,Choodamani,also an accomplished singer,took me to see the samadhi.I was so very happy to see the serene surroundings,the flowing Cauvery and the idol of Thyagaraja.Although not a professional singer,having learnt music for a number of years,I could appreciate the ambience.It was still unsullied.I was curious about the statue of a lady facing the samadhi.Choodamani told me in short the story of Nagarathnamma,the devoted disciple.After that the name was always at the back of my mind and in course of time vanished.It was one of Sriram’s post and a chance comment that my interest about this surfaced.Later he informed me it was published by my brother,Padmanabhan.Immedeiately I contacted my sister in law,Chandra and since it was published some years back,it was retrieved and sent to me.His other book “Carnatic Summer”was also sent.

Once I started reading this,it was so very absorbing and it was like a literary fiction.Every chapter progresses to the next with such ease and grace.Starting life in not very wealthy circumstances,Nagarathnamma rose slowly and became an important part of the social structure and circles first in Karnataka and then Tamil Nadu.Her centre of activity revolved around Madras.She was no ordinary devadasi but learned and scholarly,multi lingual,cultured and had rich patrons and admirers.Her first project was to fight for the rights of her community,taking great pains to distinguish them from Nauch girls or prostitutes.The second ,her life’s mission to build a samadhi for her God,befitting his stature.

The book vividly describes her struggles in achieving this alongside her fight for justice.The term generally denotes girls to be dedicated to the temples and considered to be married to Gods.There was a section of orthodox singers who neither wanted these devadasis nor the Nadaswara Vidvans to participate in the any function relating to Thyagarajar.It is to the credit of Nagarathnamma that she fought against all these and also played a major role in uniting various factions and making the annual celebrations a success.In the end she sells her properties,jewels and everything she had to make her dream a reality.She lives a peaceful life ending her life equally peaceful.This in gist is the theme of the book.Suddenly I realised I am almost repeating whatever he has already narrated in this book.In a way it is also beneficial to new comers who are hearing about devadasis and the book.Surely they would be interested in knowing more.

I am very proud that my husband’s maternal grandfather played such a major role in building the samadhi and maintains it and managing the trust formed by her.It is sad to see with the advent of Television broadcast,much of the sanctity is gone.This fact is also mentioned in the book as also the poor maintenance now.

In conclusion,I want to quote from the book.”No one has seen the Gods,Sri Rama&Krishna.Few have seen their devotee,Sri Thyagayya.Through Nagarathnamma,we were able to view the significance of his devotion”May I add but for Sriram,we would not be knowing of Nagarathnamma.

I am not a professional writer.only a Facebook writer at the most.There may be mistakes here and there.I am sorry for that.Thanks to Chandra for sending me this book and giving me an incredible experience.

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Musings of the New Year…2016

Musings for the New Year.It is once again time to bid farewell to the year about to end and welcome the coming year.This is to wish all of you a very happy new year and success in all your endeavours,whatever be your field of activity.

My best new year memories are always associated with our Calcutta house.Last year I had described how new year was heralded with ships blowing their sirens and the church bells ringing their bells and we literally waited for the stroke of midnight.This was also a tryst with destiny but on a more personal level.Calcutta of the sixties was a different world altogether.Our house near the famous riverside was sheer bliss.It was a quiet locality “far from the madding crowd”.It was the best period of my life.Unmarried and hence carefree I had my college,my studies,my music classes to keep me occupied.My career also started there and thus exposure to Bengali culture and Rabindra Sangeet.This was also the most productive period in my life.I read a lot,absorbed a lot and also translated Tamil short stories of famous writers into English.I also used to take notes for my father’s lectures and articles he used to contribute to P.E.N.This perhaps was the reason for my passion for reading or writing.He was my role model in more ways than one.

I have had a fairly good,healthy year except for some aches and pains,normal with advancing years.Too much of medications and injections is part of my lifestyle but according to my doctor he calls it preventive care and the reasont I am at least this healthy.I may not be very active,may have limited mobility but I don’t miss going out.I was a movie buff but now limited to watching T.V and D.V.Ds.I love to read which I still do ,though there is a slackening in speed.

I find Facebook a good pastime.In this one year I have made some valuable friends in the process.My daughter tells her daughter “pati has made lot of boyfriends at this age.”The truth is some of them are so young,some,my my daughter’s generation and a few my age.Generations never stand in the way of Facebook friends.I agree some have views very different from mine but all are friends in the long run.

This year has not been a good one for our country as well as our neighbouring countries also.Starting with the Nepal earthquake and almost ending with Chennai floods,there have been massive calamity with attendant destruction and loss of lives.Any disaster is a great leveller.Rich or poor,old or young are all affected.There have been other unwanted controversies marring our lives.Being a Chennaite I felt the calamity more.Rehabilitation efforts are still on.We hope everyone would resume their normal life to the best extent possible.One redeeming feature is the rising tide of humanity from all parts of the country.

This has been a serious post.Let me tell you a few of my new year resolutions.I am always ready with them.It might amuse some of you that my resolution would always be to diet and walk.I don’t. eat much of forbidden food but I don’t also eat what I should,mainly vegetables.Exercise is anathema to me at all ages.More so,now.I try to walk 20-25 minutes in my long corridor,with support but would be waiting for an excuse like rain,visitors or phone call.Secondly,I have a huge backlog of books and magazines waiting to be read.My n.w.resolution is limiting and fixing my Facebook time.

I am sure all of you would be having your own resolutions.don’t worry.No one follows them throughout the year.They are meant to be broken.On that cheerful note let me end this,wishing you all once again.