Bhagavata Mela

ABOUT THE BOOK There is very little historical material published on Bhagavata Mela. This book is a compilation of research during the author’s ten-year association with the gurus, artistes, musicians and pandits of the Melattur Bhagavatha Mela Natya Vidya Sangam. This is the first step to document all aspects of the tradition in one book. Bhagavata Mela – My Tryst with Tradition scans the history and evolution of the Bhagavata Mela tradition. The scholarly Nayaks and the Maratha kings of Thanjavur honoured the artistes and penned Bhagavata Mela natakams in Telugu, Sanskrit and Marathi. The book also describes the privileged journey of the author who, with the cooperation of the Melattur artistes, helped to focus the limelight on Bhagavata Mela. In 2002, Babasaheb Ekoji Bhonsle II’s (1736 – 1737) natakam Sakuntala was produced, directed and staged in Mumbai by Indumati Raman in collaboration with artistes from both Melattur and Mumbai. The effort received acclaim and appreciation from the Marathi theatre fraternity in Mumbai. This book is ReSource+ enabled, ReSource+ is Indus Source Book’s innovative platform to allow readers to dive deep in the content associated with the book which is in digital format. With this book we are making available some select videos based on this book. If you wish to visit ReSources available with this book kindly scan the QR code printed in the book and you will be able to access vast reservoir of audio visual resources. 

 “Returning to Mumbai after that visit to Melattur, I was witness to Indu’s passionate involvement in putting Bhagavata Mela back on the dance theatre map of India”.

    – Shanta Gokhale

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About The Author

Indumati Raman

Indumati Raman

Indumati Raman, an alumna of Rukmini Devi’s Kalakshetra (Chennai), is a dancer, teacher, choreographer and writer who worked from 1993 to 2002 with the artistes of Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Vidya Sangam as Chairperson, Sponsor and Patron.

Deep in the interior of Thanjavur, South India, is a small village called Melattur, rich with traditions of rituals, dance, music and theatre. The male Brahmin priests of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple perform classical dance to chaste Carnatic music enacting various divine stories of Vishnu. Bhagavata Mela’s unique feature is that all artistes are male, including the dancers for female roles. They keep alive a 500-year old heritage handed down by their forefathers.

Melattur Venkatrama Sastri has written twelve plays in the Telugu language. Narasimha, the fourth Avatar of Vishnu, holds special significance to these Brahmin Bhagavatars. Every year on Narasimha Jayanti, which falls in the months of April/May, the native sons of Melattur gather here to celebrate the festival with a performance of Prahlada Charitram, the story of the Manifestation of the Avatar.

In the temple, a three-hundred-year-old mask of Narasimha is worshipped through the year. On the Narasimha Jayanti day, it is taken out and worn by the actor who is privileged to play the role of Narasimha.

Tradition is what we receive from our ancestors and hand down to posterity. Bhagavata Mela exists in Saliyamangalam, Teperumalnallur and Melattur. Every family offers one son to the tradition. As a child, he is trained in classical dance, speech and movement. The foundation of this art is unshakeably set in religious fervour and ritual. It is a community festival and a religious duty to continue this tradition.

The Bhagavatars have kept alive the tradition known to exist from the Chola era, resisting radical changes in society, and are persevering to nurture it.

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