Jan 1, 2009

Chembai Mama and my dad.


Namasthe,

I was quite happy to see the Times Newspaper, Chennai edition, introducing a few Carnatic Music bloggers to the rasikas at large. I am here to share yet another incident that relates to the great Chembai Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar.

Chembai mama, as he is lovingly addressed, was a great devotee of Guruvayoorappan. For those of you, who are yet to visit this Punya Kshethram, I strongly request you to do so. The temple stands as a testimony to the wonders and miracles that numerous devotees have experienced and still do. A few words about the temple will not be out of place. This Kshethram which is approximately 27 kms from Trichur is one of the most ancient shrines in the state. Guru and Vayu are supposed to have built this for Lord Sankarshana Moorthy. The method of worship (Puja Vidhi) is prescribed by none other than Acharya Adi Shankara. Narayaneeyam, the great hymn on Bhagavan Shri Krishna was composed at this very place. Our own Chembai mama regained his lost voice at the mercy of the Lord here. The famous Chembai annual music festival is conducted by the administration of the temple itself. Chembai mama will for ever be the one who has performed the maximum number of dawn to dusk (Udayasthamana) puja at this temple, as I was told that , the puja is booked so often nowadays that the earliest date available is not during one’s own life span. Coming back to the subject, Shri Chembai was so attached to Guruvayoorappan that he literally gave away whatever he earned from his concerts to the temple ever since he turned 60 years of age. He would travel only by second class coach for a very long time so that the money saved would be an additional contribution to the temple. The man has also the reputation of having a character, so spot less in nature and so admirable in its self less ness. He was the driving force to nurture many artistes towards making a mark in their chosen fields. This includes my dad among so many others.

Let me tell you about my dad, Shri Trichur R Mohan’s very first stage appearance as a mridangist. As I had mentioned in an earlier post, Chembai mama stayed at our place whenever he toured Trichur. During one such occasion, it so happened that he listened to my dad practicing Mridangam. Dad was hardly past his teens and had been learning from Shri Koduvayoor Radhakrishnan for not more than a year. Chembai mama called him and announced in front of the entire family, “Mohan, you are accompanying me on the Mridangam for my next concert”. I am sure he must have been pleasantly surprised if not rudely shocked. Chembai was a household name in Kerala and had a reputation par excellence. To accompany him is no easy task. My dad vehemently refused, saying that he has never performed on stage so far. To this retort, the Bhagavathar asked, “How many months have you been playing the Mridangam?” Six months came the reply. “Do you know how many years I have been singing? For more than sixty years. Is it you or I, who knows better as to who can accompany me for my concert?” The matter was decided before anybody could protest. Chembai mama gave rigorous training to my dad for the next few months and lo! , as he had announced, my dad did accompany him on that fateful day. The concert was a big turning point in his career, as Chembai gave him a title on stage. “Sangeetha Lokathil Dhruvan”, translates as Dhruva in the world of music. The title, Chembai mama explained, meant to show that within a short span of time he had blossomed into a Vidwan in the field of Mridangam. For hundreds of concerts including the very last concert of Chembai Mama, my dad was fortunate to have accompanied him on the Mridangam. Thus began a wonderful journey, for which all of us are grateful to Chembai Shri Vaidyanatha Bhagavathar.

2 comments:

madhu said...

Greetings! I am mathangi one of your rasikas

You guys are too good.I had a privilege of listening to your concert today(25.12.09,Mylapore fine arts).I liked the raga vistaram doe in Shanmugapriya. of course the RTP was amazing!amazing Duo!! All the best for all your concerts!

WISH YO A HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Regards
Madhu

chandra said...

I was at your concert today 7/09/2013 I am no connoisseur but you two brothers had me and my sister mesmerized and now we are waiting when your next concert in Bangalore is going to be:) all the best to you both and your Dad he was outstanding you are mutually blessed. May you always have Maa Saraswathi's blessings always.

Wishing you both all the very best :) Chandra