Thiruvarur Bhaktavatchalam crosses 50 years milestone

For any vocal concert, accompaniments are important not for the musician alone but also for providing a thorough entertainment to rasikas.

For that matter, playing an instrument whether mridangam, violin or kanjira, doing so for over 50 years is a rare achievement and a milestone for the artiste concerned. Here is mridanga vidwan Thiruvarur Bhaktavatchalam who begun to play the instrument at a very young age and crossed the milestone of fifty years. He will be conferred with Maharajapuram Viswanathan Iyer Memorial Golden Jubilee award for Pakkavadiyam on 3 January.

Adding to this, another sabha, Karthik Fine Arts also honoured him with Tamil Isai Vendar award this season.
Thiruvarur Bhaktavatchalam is the first classical artiste in the southern region to have a fans club in Madurai and the it organises music festivals every year.

In recognition of his devotion in the field of music, Central Government presented the award ‘Natak Akademi’ and Bhaktavatchalam received the honour from the hands of former President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam.

Excerpts from his interview

Q: Why did you choose mridangam?
A: I was born in 1957 in a traditional musical family in Thiruvarur and got introduced to mridangam at the age of nine. At first, I had accompanied my mother, who is also a musician and moved to Chennai at 16 years. The journey with mridangam continue till today.

Q: Tell us about your musical journey.
A: After hearing one of my performances in Music Academy in the year 1984, Bharat Rathna Pandit Ravishankarji invited and took me on his tour of ensemble all over the world.

Also, I feel happy to perform fund raising concerts for social issues like soldiers who lost their lives during Kargil war and charitable programmes organised by Sankara Nethralaya, Adyar Cancer Society, Banyan among others. For SPIC Macay, New Delhi I had performed several lecture-demonstrations to create awareness and interest among youngsters for classical music.

Q: Your unforgettable moments.
A: I had the privilege to play at the opening ceremony of Olympic Games held at Barcelona, Spain in 1992. Also, I could not forget accompanying musicologist Dr S Balachander for the silver jubilee function of Doordarshan Podhigal and for the Golden Jubilee function in a jugalbandhi concert with seasoned musicians like Dr M Balamuralikrishna and Pandit Ajoy Chakraborthy. I felt very blessed to receive my first title ‘Mridanga Vadhya Mani’ from Kanchi seer Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi.

Q: About Mrudanga Yagna conducted in Mysore.
A: On the 68th birthday of Swami Ganapathi Sachidananda, I had conducted mridanga yagna at Mysore in Swamiji’s ashram. I trained 108 mridangam artistes and also rendered two hour concert there.

Q: On training youngsters in the instrument.
A: Our Laya Madhura Trust conducts annual music festival every year and encourages young artistes to perform. The trust also presents awards to senior musicians and recognise the contribution of sabhas, particularly in the city. I am also co-founder of Raghalaya Trust which creates awareness about classical music in rural areas and in the interior parts of the State. Scholarships and instruments are given to deserving students and arrange for free tutelage to the under-privileged.

Thiruvarur Bhaktavatchalam can be reached at 94443 95858.

G Srinivasan