Drenched in song: Southern India celebrates Rama Navami with a host of concerts

TM Krishna takes the stage during Bangalore's Rama Navami series.

As Rama Navami celebrations grip the nation, each area has a different way of celebrating. Northern India burns effigies, sings Rama’s praise, and holds fasts for the well-being of the community. Down South, however, the tale is slightly different.

After a bustling Margazhi season and a lull of two months where artists and audiences re-tune their ears and hearts, March brings another wave of concerts by esteemed vidwans.

For a period of ten days, musicians return from their vacations and journeys abroad to take part in the illustrious Rama Navami festivals. Many of them are held in Bangalore in age-old sabhas, to the extent that performing in Bangalore during Rama Navami is a matter of prestige for most musicians.

The city of Bangalore has nearly 60 sabhas promoting classical music, apart from 35 other organisations choosing important festivals for running a parallel concert series. Among these stand out some notable ones for their cultural contribution.

Why has Ramanavami evolved into a platform for such great music? Simple, its energy and verve is infectious with street-side temples also plunging into the spirit. Kicking off on the auspicious day of Ugadi, the series capitalises on the festive spirit of the city as it gears up to celebrate a myriad of New Years.

“Music is intrinsically woven with Ramanavami as our scriptures say Hanuman was a musician who also learnt the Vedas from Surya. Some of Tyagaraja’s kritis too have references to this, so music being a part of Ramanavami is a time-honoured practice,” says Doreswamy Iyengar, president, Malleswaram Sangeetha Sabha.

The concerts are marked by a novel ambience, as well, with many foregoing the routine sabha space to host open-air concerts.

 “It was Rajaji’s advice that Ramanavami had to have open-air pandal celebrations and we continue to do this,” says S.N. Varadaraj, general secretary, Shree Ramaseva Mandali, Chamarajpet.

Sister duo Ranjani-Gayatri often does as many as six to seven concerts in Bangalore during the Rama Navami season.

Concerts during this time carry unprecedented advantages. For one, concerts by instrumentalists which are often snubbed or not well-attended during the December Season draw hundreds of rasikas during the Rama Navami festival season.

For example, violinist Kumaresh and veena artiste Jayanthi Kumaresh got a packed house for their concert in Basaweshwaranagar on Friday evening. In Chennai meanwhile, the Lalgudi siblings performed to a packed house at Parampara’s ten-day Rama Navami concert series which took place at Kalyan Nagar Association in Mandaveli.


Compiled by Lavanya Narayanan