Natalie Savelyeva

Meenakshi Vijayam (December 1977)

When Rukmini Devi invited KC Thyagarajan to provide the music composition, he readily agreed and took the chosen songs from Mazhavapuri Subramanya Bharati’s Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam. When she started the dance composition she found that many of the music compositions had to be changed to suit the requirements of dance abhinaya. Thyagarajan graciously allowed us to change his compositions in order to give more scope for expressions of bhava, etc.

Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sarma modified some songs and changed the set music of some and composed ten songs. Seetherama Sarma provided the sollukattu swaras for the songs. As and when additions had to be made, or changes done, he composed many songs according to Rukmini Devi’s direction.

Prelude

Vidyavati, the daughter of Vodyadhara king Visvavas, affers worship to Parvati, dancing and singing her praise. Here, Rukmini Devi presents five Vidyadharas as a beautiful picture. They dance together and leave. The princess reenters dancing and playing veena. Parvati appears and promises to fulfill her wish of having the Goddess as her own daughter. Vidhyavati is born on the earth and becomes the Queen of the Pandya king Malayadhvaja.

Patrapravesham of the Pandya king and the Queen

Songs set to Hamsadhvani and Sama describe their yearning for a child.

Patrakameshti Yaga is performed with traditional actions as prescribed by sacred scriptures.

Much research from Sanskrit works in the Adyar Library was done to find the authentic actions, etc. V.H. Subramanya Sastri, Retired Principal of the Sanskrit College, Madras also gave suggestions and the mantras pertaining to this rite.

This rite is described in varied ways in different sacred scriptures. After consultation Rukmini Devi decided not to use Sanskrit mantras, but to base the actions and movements on these original sources.

Queen circumambulates the sacred fire, sprinkles sanctified water in different directions and so on. These actions are done to a Tamil song in Kalyani – "Nadattinan Patrakameshtra".

When the child goddess appears from the Agni Kunda (sacred fire) they rejoice. When the king finds that the child has three breasts, he expresses his distress in the song in Yadukulakambodi. An Asariri (heavenly voice from the sky) says that the child's third breast will vanish when she beholds her future husband. The king and the queen express their joy and love for the child in a moving Pillaitamizh verse set in Kurinji.

Meenakshi and her companions dance to an entrance song in Shanmukhapriya with sollukattu swaras. In the next song in Khamas Meenakshi and her companions are playing Ammanai (wooden ball), swinging and playing Pandi attam (hopping on one leg), etc.

The King proclaims the coronation of the Princess. This is portrayed by men dancers with an song in Hindolam, Gowri Manohari, Vasantha with sollukattu swaras, by playing the drum as if seated on an elephant and enacting the elephant’s gait.

Decoration of the city, rejoicing of the citizens, playing tha auspicious temple pipe are described in the song.

They worship the throne, which represents the seat of Lord Siva embodied as Dharma.

Home is done. Priest worships home–fire.

Archana is done to the throne, in Tamil song (Potri Thiru Akaval) taken from Thiruvacakam.

Procession of the princess is very colorful. Abhishekam (showering sanctified water on the head of the princess) is done by the Pandya king. The auspicious Sopana song is accompanied by the sounds of the conch, bell, mridangam and with three strokes of Chendalam the crown is placed on Meenakshi by the king.

Puja Griham (the shrine at the palace)

Meenakshi’s father is dead. The queen prays to Lord Siva in the song in mourning Bowli "Kakkum Karunai", that her daughter may wed to a worthy husband and continue royal lineage.

Meenakshi enters and worships Lord Siva in "Karpurasundaram", the song in Kalyani is the verse from Thiruvacakam with teermanam.

She exolts the beauty of Ardhanarishvara in the song "Tolum Tuhilum".

The mother asks her about her future plans. Meenakshi answers that she’s going to victory expedition, she will concur the kings in eight directions and will find out the one equal to her.

War exercises by Meenakshi and her companions are done in Kalari style with sticks, poles, swards, modified and set to rhythm. They leave on their expedition.

Kailasa

There are two Sivagansa. Nandikewswara’s patraprevesam is the verse from Tirukkutrala Puranam, set as Kauthuva song in Kambodi. It shows Sarupya state (same form as Lord Siva). Part of Nandikeswara was performed by Raman Kutti.

Ganas leave to fight with Meenakshi.

Lord Siva is seated aloft on a rock in Himalaya, behind a gaze curtain.

His patrapravesham is the verse from Nakkirar and Kailai Padi Kulattipadi Andadi in Atana "Nadamadum" with sollukattus.

Rukmini Devi’s composition was excellently executed by Venkatachalapathi, who’s profocoent in anga shuddham.

Nandikeswara and Ganas enter calling for protection. Lord Siva mounts Nandi and proceeds to fight Meenakshi (the verse from "Udaiyan" in Gambhira Nata).

Meenakshi faces Lord Siva and at once a divine rapport arises between them. When we were selecting the material, there was only one verse in Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam in which Lord Siva says to Meenakshi that he will come to wed her at Madurai next Monday!

Rukmini Devi was not satisfied with this. So I hurried to the Swaminatha Aiyer Library searched and found verses from Perumpatrapuliyur Nambi’s "Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam" and these were composed as songs.

Meenakshi’s bow slips from her hand when she encounters Lord Siva. Her additional breast vanishes. The woman minister, seeing this miracle, tells Meenakshi about the prediction of the asariri and says therefore Lord Siva must be her consort. These are described in a song in two ragas, Devagandhari and Amritavarshini. Lord Siva appreciating the beauty of the valorous Queen Meenakshi now transformed into a shy, gentle girl, speaks words of love to the song "Kaippidippadarka Venden" in Mohanam.

Meenakshi tells of her parentage and the anxiety of her mother to find a worthy husband for her, in a song in Bhairavi which brings us the sentiments fully. (This was composed by Turaiyur Rajagopala Sarma.) When Lord Siva promises to come to Madurai to wed her, and adds that he had been following her throughout her digvijayam.

Then some apsaras describe the beauty of Kailasa mountain in a dance sequence (the excellent music was composed by Seetharama Sarma in Simhendramadhyamam in Khanda Jathi Triputa thalam).

Preparations for marriage

The women–citizens of Madurai wonder at the good fortune of their Queen, as she had obtained Lord Siva himself as her consort. Others retort and wonder at the good fortune of Lord Siva obtaining Queen Meenakshi as his consort. This is expressed in the tillana daru in Sriranjani. There are noteworthy dance compositions of Rukmini Devi and also give time for the actors to get ready for the next scene. There are two songs describing the marriage decorations of Siva and Meenakshi. Rukmini Devi directed Seetharama Sarma to combine two songs alternating the charanas. So he set thins in Bilahari and Karaharapriya simultaneously. The right half represents Kailasa where Siva is seen being decorated by Nandikeswara and Kubera. The left part of the stage represents Madurai where Meenakshi is being decorated by Lakshmi, Saraswathi, her mother and companions. Siva starts for Madurai and the procession is danced to a song in Hamsadhvani (tisra gati, adi thalam).

Decorations for the marriage are done withdance steps by girls to song in Kedaragowla, Adi thalam. They describe the Lord as the Divine All–pervading Flame, the ends of which Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma were unable to find, to song in Natakuranji, Kanda Chapu thalam.

In another song in Saranga they ask how Manmada could have audacity to aim arrows at them, in His very presence. When He could stop Meenakshi from aiming arrow at Him, could He not stop sugarcane bow from being bent by the Lord of Love? Then the dancers leave the stage, holding each other’s hands in a row.

Marriage

In the marriage scene we see the procession of Lord Siva on Nandikeswara coming again to the same song in Hamsadhvani. The shy Meenakshi is brought be her companions to a song in Latangi. The dance "Odiyur Sothana gitam", and the traditional auspicious "Sobhanam" song create the atmosphere of marriage festival. The marriage rite is danced to a song in Navaroze. When the guests are invited to partake of her marriage feast, the sages PAtanjali and Vyagrapada say they had taken a vow that they would take their food only after seeing Nataraja's dance. Lord Sundareswara dances for them in Silver Hall of the Madurai Temple. This dance is composed to song in Kambodi; the pallavi portion is set in chaturasra Ata thala and anupallavi and charanam are set to Adi thala. Brahma, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Nandi and Vishnu provide various instrumental accompaniments to the dance. This is a grand finale to this spectacular dance–drama. This is a mangalam at the end.

Meenakshi’s role was taken by Shanta Devi at the premiere and later on by A. Geeta and Valli Subbiah. In the International Tamil Conference at Madurai, Geeta took the role of Meenakshi and it was well–received and applauded by the public.

Composition

The verses and songs for this dance–drama were taken from "Tiruvilaiyadal Kirtanas" by Mazhavapuri Subramanya Bharati (22 songs and one verse set to thala).

Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam by Paranjoti Munivar (18 verses – 10 set to music as song, 2 verses in raga and one verse spoken).

A few verses were from Tiruvalavayudaiyur Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam by Perum Patrappuliyur Nambi (five verses set as songs), one verse from Meenakshi Ammai Pillaittamizh by Kumargurupara Swamigal (set as song), Tiruvachakam by Manikkavacakar (set as song), "Angaiyurkanni Ammai Kappu" from Tiruvilaiyadal Puranam by Arumuga Navalar, Tirukkutrala Ouranam by Kavi Tirikutarajappar (set as song), Tirmurai Kailai Padi Kalatti Padi Andadi by Nakiradeva Nayanar (set as song).

Music compositions: 10 songs were composed by K.C.Thyagarajan, 10 songs by Thuraiyur Rajagopala Sarma, 26 songs and 21 swaras and sollukattus and teermanam by Bhagavatulu Seetharama Sarma.

References

Meenakshi Vijayam (December 1977) // S.Sarada "Kalakshetra-Rukmini Devi, reminiscences", Kala Mandir Trust, Madras 1985

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