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HomeUncategorizedA night at the Melattur Bhagavata Mela utsavam

A night at the Melattur Bhagavata Mela utsavam

MELATTUR BHAGAVATHA MELA
NARASIMHA JAYANTHI MAHOTSAVAM

MELATTUR BHAGAVATHA MELA
NARASIMHA JAYANTHI MAHOTSAVAM
| Photo Credit: The Hindu Archives

The close to seven-hour drive from Chennai to Melattur (near Thanjavur) to watch the Bhagavata Mela could be exciting for a first-time traveller. Lush paddy fields, small streams flowing down rocks, children playing in the sun… the visuals provide a slice of life in villages.

The three-tier gopuram of Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple decorated with LED lights on the inaugural day of the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam.

The three-tier gopuram of Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple decorated with LED lights on the inaugural day of the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam.
| Photo Credit:
T.R. Sudha

A view of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple at Melattur before the start of the Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam on May 19, 2023.

A view of the Sri Varadaraja Perumal temple at Melattur before the start of the Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam on May 19, 2023.
| Photo Credit:
T.R. Sudha

Despite the sweltering heat, Melattur is all geared up to host the 83rd Bhagavata Mela utsavam (May 18-26). As you reach the venue, a flashy arch says, ‘Varuga varuga’ (welcome).

The arch at the entrance of the
agraharam street and the make-shift stage set up in the middle facing Sri
Varadaraja
perumal
temple for the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam. It is here that the night-long theatre takes place every year. 

The arch at the entrance of the
agraharam street and the make-shift stage set up in the middle facing Sri
Varadaraja
perumal
temple for the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam. It is here that the night-long theatre takes place every year. 
| Photo Credit:
T.R. Sudha

The agraharam that leads to the makeshift stage, facing the Varadaraja Perumal temple, is decked up in kolams.

The make-shift stage set up in the middle of the agraharam facing Sri Varadaraja perumal temple is where the week-long festival takes place. A view of the arrangements being made before the start of this year’s Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam on the inaugural day (May 19).

The make-shift stage set up in the middle of the agraharam facing Sri Varadaraja perumal temple is where the week-long festival takes place. A view of the arrangements being made before the start of this year’s Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam on the inaugural day (May 19).
| Photo Credit:
T.R. Sudha

Every year, Melattur turns into a performance arena as locals and people from nearby villages flock to watch the spectacularly colourful folk theatre.

A section of the audience waiting to watch the inaugural play Prahlada Charitam. 
. 

A section of the audience waiting to watch the inaugural play Prahlada Charitam.

| Photo Credit:
T.R. Sudha

The inaugural evening culminated into the night-long staging of the popular play, Prahlada Charitam, presented by the Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam as part of the Narasimha Jayanti Vasantotsav.

A special puja is performed to Narasimha and his consorts and the mask, an important prop used in Prahlada Charitam. After the preliminary rituals on the inaugural day of the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam, the deity is carried back to the temple to the accompaniment of thavil performance.

A special puja is performed to Narasimha and his consorts and the mask, an important prop used in Prahlada Charitam. After the preliminary rituals on the inaugural day of the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam, the deity is carried back to the temple to the accompaniment of thavil performance.
| Photo Credit:
T.R. Sudha

The art form owes much of its popularity to Melattur Ganesa Iyer, who worked hard to revive it. He began this annual utsavam as a way to promote Bhagavata Mela. The legacy was taken forward by his son G. Swaminathan and grandson S. Natarajan, who established the Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam. The Sangam is now helmed by Natarajan’s brother, S. Kumar.

A dedicated team of actors, musicians, and backstage technicians have kept the tradition going. Plays such as Harischandra, Sita Parinayam, and Prahlada Charitam from the Melattur Bhagavata mela repertory are presented every year.

A scene from the inaugural play Prahlada Charitam, at the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam, on May 19. The night-long play The night-long play, which began at 10.30 p.m., continued till 5
a.m. the next day.

A scene from the inaugural play Prahlada Charitam, at the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam, on May 19. The night-long play The night-long play, which began at 10.30 p.m., continued till 5
a.m. the next day.
| Photo Credit:
Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam

As the night gets darker, Hiranyakasipu (played by Kumar) appears on the stage to thunderous applause.

Master Sudarson as Prahlada in the play Prahlada Charitam staged on the inaugural day of the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam.

Master Sudarson as Prahlada in the play Prahlada Charitam staged on the inaugural day of the 83rd Bhagavata Mela mahotsavam.
| Photo Credit:
Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam

Prahlada, played wonderfully by master Sudarson, tugs at the audience’s heartstrings with his emotion-packed performance. The singers, who also double up as sutradhars, are led by the Tiruvaiyaru Brothers – S. Narasimhan and S. Venkatesan.

The engaging rendition by the singers accompanied by a percussion team enhanced the appeal of the night-long play.

The engaging rendition by the singers accompanied by a percussion team enhanced the appeal of the night-long play.
| Photo Credit:
Photo Courtesy: Melattur Bhagavata Mela Natya Nataka Sangam

The music team with Nagai P. Sriram on the mridangam, B. Gokul on the flute and Kannan Balakrishnan on the suddha maddalam build the mood with their perfect sound support. It is 5 a.m., and the audience is still sitting glued to their seats.

When the play finally draws to a close, you realise Bhagavata Mela is not merely an art form, it’s an experience.



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