On the ceiling of the Devasiraya Mandapam in the third prakara of the Tyagarajasvami Temple in Tiruvarur, Tamil Nadu an unfinished set of around 50 painted panels depicts the story of the monkey-faced Chola king Mucukunda, who is said to have brought the god Tyagaraja from heaven down to Tiruvarur.
The story is well documented in medieval Tamil texts such as Kantapuranam of Kacciyappa civacariyar and Campantamunivar's Tiruvarurppuranam.
The paintings, although in a shockingly dilapidated condition, are among the best surviving examples of late-Nayaka or early Maratha-period murals.
Along with offering a distinctive version of the Mucukunda story (together with inscriptions that accompany each panel and embody directions to the painters), these murals express a distinctive cultural and philosophical vision - one in which we can observe the new subjectivity of the seventeenth century, with its spatial and pictorial correlates, and a particular understanding of the possibilities open to human beings in relation to the depths of their own consciousness, on the one hand, and the divine realm, on the other.
Prakriti Foundation, Chennai has been undertaking the restoration of these panels for the last 3 years.
The restoration work has now been completed and the temple authorities have granted permission to conduct the opening of the Devasriya Mandapam and release of the book by noted Indologist, Dr. David Shulman and V. K. Rajamani on the Mucukunda Panels at the Devasriya Mandapam at the Tyagarajasvami Temple, Tiruvarur on January 26, 2011.
The programme schedule:
4pm to 5.45pm
Lectures by Prof. David Shulman, Prof. Saskia Kersenboom, Prof. Davesh Soneji, Prof. Rajeshwari Ghosh
David Shulman is an Indologist and regarded as one of the world’s foremost authorities on the languages of India. His research embraces many fields, including the history of religion in South India, Indian poetics, Tamil Islam, Dravidian linguistics, and Carnatic music. He is also a published poet in Hebrew, a literary critic, a cultural anthropologist, and a peace activist.
He was formerly Professor of Indian Studies and Comparative Religion at The Hebrew University, Jerusalem, and professor in the Department of Indian, Iranian and Armenian Studies, and now holds an appointment as Renee Lang Professor of Humanistic Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has authored or co-authored more than 20 books on various subjects ranging from temple myths and temple poems to essays that cover the wide spectrum of the cultural history of South India.
Saskia Kersenboom is at present Associate Professor of Theatre Studies at Amsterdam University, The Netherlands. She is Founder/Director of Paramparai in support of the traditional performing arts of Tamil Nadu.
Davesh Soneji is Associate Professor of South Asian Religions at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. He is also co-editor, with Indira Viswanathan Peterson, of Performing Pasts: Reinventing the Arts in Modern South India (Oxford University Press, 2008). He has just completed a book on professional dancing women in the Tamil and Telugu-speaking regions of South India that integrates archival, literary and ethnographic data, entitled Unfinished Gestures: Devadasis, Memory, and Modernity in South India.
Rajeshwari Ghose, Associate Professor (retired) of History of Religion and Sacred Arts at the University of Hong Kong, has published several books including 'Thyagaraja Cult in Tamilnadu, a study in conflict and accommodation' and 'In the footsteps of the Buddha.' Presently retired, she shuttles between Toronto and Chennai.
6pm to 7pm
Prof. Saskia Kersenboom
Lecture Demonstration by Prof. Saskia Kersenboom on the theme of MURAI - the Right to Perform in relation to the Chinna Melam and Periya Melam traditions in the Shri Tyagarajasvami Temple at Tiruvarur.
Srimathi Tilakamma, a Kuravanji choreographer belongs to the illustrious family of Kondi known as Kondi paramparai. Musicians and dancers dedicated to the temple of Tyagesar in Thiruvarur and privileged to receive the first parivattam. This is a ritual honour bestowed by the temple at the annual Brahmotsavam festival, and enjoyed by this family for over fourteen generations. Her grandmother, Thiruvarur Kamalambal, was the last in the family to dance before the deity, Thyagarajaswami.
She will present from her dance repertoire, a Kuravanji dedicated to Tyagarajasvami at Tiruvarur. Kuruvanji is a popular dance drama placed among the minor literacy genres in Tamil. It is a composite category, amalgamating elements from Sangam and later literature. The main theme in a Kuravanji is the love and affection of the female protagonist towards the deity of the temple or the local ruler.
Paramparai Foundation will offer to the festivities an ongoing Mangala Vadya Kosthi during the day: the performance of Nagasvara music - its repertoire of Padams and Varnams as a tribute to Shri Tyagarajasvami. Paramparai Foundation, will alternate the musical instrumental offerings with vocal offerings by the local otuvar of Tiruvarur Tevaram.
Dance master, Srimathi Shyamala Mohanraj, a disciple of the great T. Balasaraswati will perform the Mohamana Varnam. The Mohamana Varnam is primarily a piece of dance art that has transcended time despite changes that have taken place in the world of dance. A perfect paean to Tyagarajaswami of Tiruvarur, it allows for the dancer to depict the entire universe of 'sringara' emotions that color our human and divine lives.
Srimathi Aruna Sairam, eminent Carnatic music vocalist, will render kritis composed by the trinity – Swami Thyagaraja, Syama Sastri and Dikshitar – in praise of Thyagarajaswami and Thiruvarur.
Contact - Logesvaran Devan, Prakriti Foundation, : 9840215765