Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Tuneful tribute to Annamacharya - Singers set Guinness Record

For one and a half hours, more than one and a half lakh professional singers and amateurs sang the Annamacharya Kirthanas in one voice in Hyderabad on 10th May to mark the Telugu saint-poet Thallapaka Annamacharya's 602 birth anniversary. It is not lakhs of people who attended the programme that alone enjoyed the evening but also several lakhs of TV viewers including me. When I went to the venue to register my name and collect a book & CD of all seven sankirtans, I could see from the afternoon itself, people started pouring into the Parade grounds, the venue of this mega event. A festive atmosphere prevailed in and around the venue with many children and youngsters with traditional costume and some are seen dressed up as composer-singer Annamayya and Lord Sri Venkateswara. The stage was decked up beautifully to suit the occasion and Vedic pandits from Tirumala Tirupathi Devastanam also participated in this programme named as Laksha Gala Sankirthanarchana (one lakh voices singing Annamacharya Sankirtanas).
At about 6-20 pm all the participants seen reciting the sankeertanas simultaneously along with noted singer Garimella Balakrishna Prasad, who rendered the sankeertanas from the podium. The participants followed suit by clapping their hands and thighs. Starting with the noted Bhaavamulona, Bahyamunandunu Govinda, the musicians and singers rendered Brahma Kadigina Padamu, Entamatramuna Evvaru Thalachina, Podugantimayya mimmu, Kondalalo Nelakonna Koneti Rayudu Vaadu , Narayante Namo Namo and concluded the extravagnaza with Muddugare yashoda. In the process of reciting these sankeertanas, the participants set a new Guinness Book of World record surpassing a 72-year-old record set in Germany by a choir of 60,000 in 1937. The record was announced and a Certificate was presented by Guinness Book of World Records representative and adjudicator for the programme, Mr.Raymond Marshall amidst huge roar of applause from the audience. Mr. Raymond Marshal admitted that he had not seen such a performance, which he said was a treat to the eye and the ears.
The programme was organised by SiliconAndhra, a voluntary organisation in association with Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), the Andhra Pradesh state cultural council. Silicon Andhra is a non-profit, non-political, cultural and community organization based in the Silicon Valley (Bay Area), California, USA started its preparations in December last year for this spiritual musical event involving mass recital. This is second time Silicon Andhara entered Guinness Book of World records. The first record was in June 2008, when it has organized a Largest Kuchipudi Dance performed in California by 328 Kuchipudi dancers came from all over the world. SiliconAndhra's President Mr. Kuchibotla Anand and his band of volunteers must be congratulated for selecting Hyderabad as its venue and all their efforts to make a well structured mega event successful right in the Capital of Andhra Pradesh. The photos of this event and kirteenas in MP3 are available on http://www.siliconandhra.org What best I found in this event was that people came on their own, maintained utter discipline and participated enthusiastically. For several weeks they had been practicing the seven sankirtans prior to their lending voice. More than creating a record, participants sheer passion for Annamacharya brought the them to the venue who enjoyed the evening in a devotional bliss. It was indeed a exceptional experience for every one of us. Annamacharya Anniversary is being observed year after year and a postal stamp was released in his honor in 2004. But this Annamacharya Lakshagala Sankirtana has proved that Sisurvetti, Pasurvetti, Vetti Gaanarasam Phanihi (From children to animals to snakes, music enthralls all).
I admire any event of this sort with innovative ideas as it would certainly help in propagation of Telugu culture across the world.

Monday, May 4, 2009

A visit to Basara Temple

India is “The Land of Temples”. Almost every temple in India has its unique legend telling a fascinating story about its existence. Amongst such numerous legendary temples in India, the temple of Gnana Saraswati at Basara in Adilabad District in Andhra Pradesh holds a prominent place. Basara Saraswathi Temple is one among the two temples of this Goddess in India. The other is in Kashmir. Basar is a village situated on the banks of river Godavari; the serene and pious nature attracts everyone. Basara temple is surrounded with beautiful gardens amidst the dry and barren patches of the north Telangana region, 30-km from Nizamabad. Basar is situated on the banks of River Godavari. It is located at a distance of about 220-km by road and 190-km by rail from Hyderabad. I have accompanied few of my friends of Rotary Club, Rtn. Siva Kumar, Rtn Prabhakar and Rtn. Ravindranath for a brief visit to Basara after an all day District Event of Rotary Club held in Nizamabad on Sunday, the May 3. Devi Navarathrulu is celebrated for ten days during Dasara Festival in Basara Since Maharishi Vyasa spent considerable time in prayers, the place was then called "Vasara" and turned into Basara due to the influence of the Marathi language in the region. Built at the confluence of the rivers Mangira and Godavari this temple is adorned by the goddess of knowledge and wisdom. The presiding deity, 'Gnana Saraswati Devi', is in a seated position with a 'Veena' in hand and bedecked with turmeric. Adjacent is the shrine of Goddess Maha Lakshmi and a little distance away, on the eastern side is the Maha Kali temple. This temple has no exquisite carvings like other temples. Walking ahead a few steps, one enters the sanctum sanctorum - a feeling better experienced than described. A feeling of peace, brightness and unlimited joy engulfs one.
Temple speciality: Devotees stream the temple for the ritual of ‘Akshara Abhyasam’ of their children -the formal starting of education deeming it to be auspicious with the blessings of the Goddess of Knowledge. 'Akshara Gnana' is a special ritual before commencing formal school education wherein the child is give
n little bit of turmeric paste to taste, believing that it will clear his/her vocal chords for better learning. The Goddess answers all the prayers of the committed devotees, filling their life with bliss and happiness. Basara Aksharabyas can be done by just taking a new slate or notebook wherein the poojari will bless the child by writing the sacred "Om" on it. "Postal Aksharabhyasam" Scheme is in association with the Indian Postal Services is also available. After paying necessary fee in a Post office, Basara Temple will perform pooja on the child's name and send a Magic Slate, Kum Kum, Turmeric, Misri, and Kankanam ( Sacred Thread).
Well, our trip to Basara did make us feel blessed and was spiritual indeed. I would say staying at Basara for atleast one night (as is usually done by devotees) brings more happyness. Staying at Punnami Guest House of Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation or Devasthanam Choultry will be the best options to make the visit a pleasant one rather than just taking a snap trip from Nizamabad and visiting the temple for a quick darshan as we did. A shrine one must visit in one’s lifetime; the abode of Goddess of learning and knowledge is the BASARA.
Resources: Log on www.basaratemple.org to find more info about Basara and listen to:
Saraswathi Namasthubyam,
Varadey Kaamarupinee!

Vidhyarambham Karishyami,

Sidhir bhavathu mey sada !

Oh ! Goddess, Saraswathi, my humble prostrations unto Thee, who are the fulfiller of all my wishes. I start my studies with the request that thou will bestow Thy blessings on me.