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Devout and fearless composer

``EVERY INDIVIDUAL whether king or beggar will ultimately be reduced to a handful of ash,'' said the contents of a kriti of a devout saint singer who was invited to sing at the court, by Sri Moolam Tirunal, the then ruler of Travancore; everyone in the royal court was shocked by the act of the musician and expected the wrath of the royal patron to fall on the singer; but to the surprise of all assembled, the Maharaja was moved by the emotional content of the composition and he showered his praise on the frankness of the noble composer and presented him with a Veera Srinkala (Golden Bangle). Such was the greatness of the Bhakti-music of Sri Neelakanta Sivan (1839-1900), whose 100th year of Samadhi Aradhana was observed on July 28, at Karamana, Trivandrum, where he spent most of his life, as an ardent devotee of Lord Siva.

It is said the composer received the Divine blessings of Lord Neelakanta and Goddess Anandavalli, enshrined at Padmanabhapuram temple; the Goddess is believed to have placed ``thamboolam'' in the mouth of the devotee and immediately thereafter songs started flowing from his lips. He addressed himself as ``Neelakanta Dasa'' and his compositions contained the same as his signature. ``Ananda Natamaduvar Thillai,'' ``Endraikku Siva Krupai,'' ``Nava Siddhi,'' ``Iha Param,'' ``Sivanai Ninaindhu'' and ``Sambho Mahadeva,'' are some of his very well known kritis. Neelakanta Sivan has composed nearly 1,500 kritis besides several verses and charithrams such as Nalvar Charithram, 63 Nayanmar Charithram, Pradosha Maahatmyam, Sivaratri Maahatmyam and Bhishaatanar Charithram. His ragamalika composition in 18 ragas is a testimony to his ability as a composer of a high order.

Sri Uthradam Tirunal inaugurated the Aradhana Festival on July 26, at Vadiveeswaram, Nagercoil, the birth place of Sri Neelakanta Sivan; a commemorative postal stamp of Sri Neelakanta Sivan was released at Karamana, Trivandrum on July 28. Installation of a statue of the saint composer took place at the same venue, along with the release of a book titled ``Sri Neelakanta Sivan Kritis - Vol. ii,'' by Sangita Kalanidhi T. M. Tyagarajan, P.L. Saraswati Ram, great granddaughter of Sri Neelakanta Sivan rendered a Sangeetha Upanyasam on the life of the composer.

The two-week long festival, commenced on July 22 and featured several recitals by well known musicians.

NANDINI RAMANI

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