Thanthondri Perumal Vaibhavam: A Dance-Drama

Thanthondri Malai is a small hill located on the outskirts of Karur. Myth claims that it is one of the shattered pieces of the Seven Tirupathi Hills. The reason and the period of this happening still remains inscrutable. The Swayambhu (Self-manifested) ten foot tall idol of Kalyana Venkataramana Swamy is found against the rock wall inside the cave on the hill. The mystery behind the temple still has to be enquired to understand the truth.

“I started with the only available resource, the sthala-puranam, which was authentically published by the HR & CE Board. This provided all the facts, but I did not know how to make it comprehensible. On some thinking, I realized that, only visual impact convinces people better. Hence, I envisaged a Naatiya naadagam (Dance ballet) with the characters depicted in the story. As the idea was conceived, I wanted someone to write the lyrics and choreograph it professionally.”

“I approached, Dr. Rukmani Ramani, daughter of the famous Papanasam Sivan, to write its lyrics. She penned the wonderful lyrics based on the sthala-puranam. This was then handled by an expert and leading Natyacharya (Dance teacher), Dr. Shiva Kumar of Siva Kalalayam. He formulated the ballet with four episodes lasting nearly two hours. The first episode began with the appearance of the hill and the last one covered the mystic presence of a ten-foot-tall icon depicting the arrival of Lord Balaji, thereby yielding to the ardent prayers of the devotees in Karur.”

According to the sthala-puranam, Adiseshan (Lord of Snakes) was guarding the entrance when Lord Vishnu and Goddess Lakshmi were conversing on some important subject. Unknown of what was happening at Ezhumalai (Seven hills), Vayu bhagavan wanted to seek the blessings of the lord even at that instance.

When Adiseshan prevented Vayu Bhagavan from entering, it resulted in a conflict. Infuriated Vayu Bhagavan turned himself into a frenzy cyclone and broke the hill. One such piece which broke away from the series of seven hills is, believed to be the hillock, Thanthondri Malai.

“With the successful completion of the choreography, the first premiere show was staged at Brahma Gana Sabha on 12/04/2015. It was presided over by Dr. T. S. Sridhar, I. A. S. Additional Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu. I remember that moment when the auditorium was jam-packed which could easily accommodate 400 people. Journalists waxed the entire presentation.”

“This was followed by a bigger recital at the Narada Gana Sabha on 15/08/2015. The program was attended by nearly 1000 people. Subsequently, a program was held at the avathara sthalam, Karur. The play was mainly to arouse the awareness of a powerful deity, a Varaprasiddhi, and to create an urge to seek His darshan among people. I am convinced that the glories of Perumal stand beyond press reviews and testimonials and devotees seeking the lord is sure to be blessed with all prosperity and happiness.”

Temples and the visual art like dance ballet are symbols of Tamil Culture. Enacting the sthala-puranam of Arulmigu Kalayana Venkataramana Swamy Temple through a dance ballet had a greater impact on people’s imagination. The responses that we received had been welcoming. This ensured that the sthala-puranam of the temple remains accessible to everyone including the generations to come.

Thanthondri Malai is also referred to as the Thentirupathi, owing its credits to the sthala-puranam. The several episodes in the naatiya naadagam brought out the significance of the lord who is associated with several miracles and mythological episodes. Nrithyopasana Trust, founded by Dr. Hema Rajan, a quarter of a century ago, which has a tradition of creating landmark dance ballets like ‘Arputha Ramanujar,’ ‘Maathru Devo Bhava Arul Nidhi Raghavendrar,’ and ‘Pancha Boothangal,’ had also created this.

The choreographer, Shiva Kumar had blended the story with his innovative technique with the assistance of his wife, Shailaja and a versatile orchestral team led by vocalist, Veeraraghavan. The divinity was accentuated by the Anugraha bashanam of Venkatakrishna Swamigal. Thirunangai Ponni who appeared as Thanthondri Perumal was a fitting finale, had left the audience mesmerized.

Definitely, it must have taken a gargantuan effort for Hema Rajan to cull out specific verses for this naatiya-naadagam and it was left to the dancer Shivakumar’s interpretational skills of the magnum opus to suit Bharatanatyam. It should have been equally challenging for vocalist, Veeraraghavan, to compose the music for the show in appropriate ragas.

“I formed the Thanthondri Perumal Seva Trust in 2015, as a liaison between the HR & CE Board & the devotees, at Karur. The trust had to be relocated to Coimbatore for effective implementation and also for receiving patronage from captains of industries & rich corporate entities. This would tremendously aid the neighboring district, Karur, to make the temple complex look like a replica of Tirupathi.”

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