Ramadasa keertanas are rich in bhakti bhava (devotional fervour). Saint Thyagaraja himself praised Ramadasu in Prahlada Bhakti Vijayam, placing him amongst greats like Narada, Parasara, Thumburu and Prahlada. The Keertanas are sung even today with fervent devotion in tunes passed on to us through Bhajana Sampradaya (as tradition).
Of the more than 100 keertanas known to be composed by Ramadasa, traditional tunes have survived for not more than 20. With efforts of eminent individuals like Sangeeta Kalanidhi Sangeeta Vidyanidhi Dr Nedunuri Krishnamurthy who wrote notation for 54 Ramadasa keertanas and their great efforts to popularise the same, the tradition of singing Ramadasu keertanas is once again gaining ground.
Navaratnalu (Nine Gems of Ramadasu's Compositions)
Every year, Thyagaraja Aradhana Festival in Tiruvayyar starts with ‘Thyagaraja Pancha Ratna Seva’ and Annamacharya Festival starts with ‘Annamayya Saptagiri Sankirtana Seva’. Similarly, Bhadrachala Ramadasu Jayanti Utsavalu start with group rendition of Bhakta Ramadasu Navaratnalu (Nine Gems of Ramadasu’s compositions).
The Navaratna keertanalu are popular, familiar, simple and easy to sing. They are “Adigo Bhadradri” (Varali ragam, Adi talam), “Sri Rama Namame” (Athana, Adi Talam), “Paluke Bangaramayena” (Anandabhairavi, Adi Talam), “Sri Ramula Divyanama”(Saveri, Adi Talam), “Ramajogi Mandu Konare”(Khamas, Adi Talam), “Taraka Mantramu” (Dhanyasi, Adi Talam), “Hari Hari Rama” (Kanada, Adi Talam), “Takkuvemi Manaku” (Sourashtra, Adi Talam) and “Kantinedu Maa Ramula”(Nadanamakriya, Khanda Talam)
Under the guidance of Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, a book titled “Bhadra chala Ramadasa Navaratnalu, Nine Gems of Ramadasa’s compositions” was published with notations in English and Telugu. This effort was taken up by well known artistes Malladi Brothers -- Malladi Sriramprasad and Malladi Ravikumar along with their father Malladi Suribabu for providing easy access of the notation to all.
Sri Chakra Cement, Hyderabad had been the hosts to the festival organising it on a grand scale since six years, in close association with the Sri Sitaramachandraswamy Devasthanam authorities, Bhadrachalam. This is the 7th year in the series; the 381st Jayanthi that was celebrated at Bhadrachalam in the Chitrakuta Mandapam from Feb 3 to Feb 4, 2014 with the ‘Brundaganam’ (group singing) telecast live on SVBC channel.
The day’s proceedings started at 6 am with ‘Nagara Samkeertana’, where in the devotees, led by chairman of Sri Chakra Cements carried picture of Sri Ramadasu and other vaggeyakaras, rendering devotional songs and Rama bhajans, walked up to the banks of river Godavari and performed special puja. Later they returned to the temple and performed ‘Abhishekam’ to the idol of Ramadasu.
The cultural programs were inaugurated this year by a panel of eminent personalities. Inaugural speech was delivered by Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, the renowned musician. This was followed by ‘Brundaganam’ of ‘Navaratanulu’, led by the famous musicians Malladi Brothers, rendered by the assembled artistes at 9.30am. Post ‘Brundaganam’, individual short duration concerts by young, leading and upcoming artists were organised till 9pm and on the following day. There were many young and child artistes who participated in the ‘brundaganam’.
This year the 46 concerts scheduled for the first two days of the festival organised by Alivelumanga Sarvaiah Charitable Trust was a cynosure with more than 100 artistes performing Vocal, Veena, Violin, Nadaswaram, Thavil, Flute, Mrudangam, Ghatam, Tabla, Kanjira, Morsing, in addition to instrumental solos of Veena, Violin and Flute that are included this year. Along with artistes from Hyderabad, Vijayawada, Vizag, Mumbai, Chennai, Kakinada, Tirupati, Bangalore and other cities besides local artistes, a few artists came from Bahrain and the US to participate in the utsavam celebrations.
One aspect that needs to be mentioned and appreciated is that the artistes, music lovers and audience participating in the utsavam were well dressed in traditional attire, bringing dignity and pleasantness to the whole program. It was indeed a celebration of tradition, music and the Divine.