These Bhakti-oriented plays, performed annually, on and around Narasimha Jayanthi
by traditional families of certain villages around Thanjavur, remain soul stirring. The
enactments last from dusk to dawn and the joy arising out of the culmination of
Bhava- laden music, with lively gesticulation, have the unique power of bringing
about a sense of immediacy, transgressing the elements of time and space.
Saliamangalam, Soolamangalam, Melattur, Tepperumanallur and Oothukkadu, are
the major villages of Thanjavur that are associated with the performance of the
Bhagavatamela Natakams. BHAGAVATAMELA NATAKA, the unique ritualistic dance-theatre of South India,represents a fine synthesis of three salient features of the Sanskrit dramatic tradition.The plays contain beautiful Telugu lyrics of Melattur (Unnatapuri) Venkatarama Sastry, performed in the villages around Thanjavur, rendered solely by male actors of Tamil origin. For over several centuries these plays, an authentic continuation of the Sanskrit
dramatic tradition of Bharata, are being preserved at Melattur and Saliamangalam,
by votaries of this art, both hereditary and enthusiasts from outside the traditional families.Among all the plays, Prahlada Charitamu remains unparallelled and is performed on Sri Narasimha Jayanthi, with focus on the emergence of the Man-Lion God.
Melattur Bhagavata Mela Prahlada Charitam Natakam
Melattur is a village near by Thanjavur. It is famous for cultural Nataka Mahostavam. Every year the great
function is celebrate by the Bhagavathas in this Traditional village. The great Bhagavatha Mela tradition, a rare temple/theatre art in a unique blend of Bakthi, music, dance and drama in vogue over 4 centuries, is the only surviving link today in Tamilnadu that connects them with the aancient Sanskrit theatre. The Bhagavata Mela natakams, composed by Melattur Venkatarama Sastry (1743-1809 AD), are performed annually, in adherence to the Natya Veda, in the sannidhi of Lord Sri Varadaraja, the presiding deity of Melattur Village as part of Sri Narashimha Jayanthi Vasantotsav.At Melattur, there are two groups which perform the Natakas. Mahalingam heads the
Bhagavatamela Natya Vidya Sangam and conducts annually The Prahlada Charitamu
and a couple of other plays.
Sri Lakshmi Nrisimha Bhagavata Mela Natya Sangam led by S. Natarajan, is the
other active group.
Thepperumanalur, a small ancient village with a population of about 10000 people, situated near kumbakonam of Thanjavur District and it is very near to famous Uppiliappan Temple and Raghusthalam Thirunageswaram. This village was once called “Dhevarajapuram” and Dhakshinakanchi”.
The famous “Annadhana Sivari” who was born and lived in this village., was adored by Sri Sri Paramacharya Chandrasekara saraswathi swamigal of kanchi kamakoti peetam. The village is famous due to the performance of Pracheena Sampradhaya natya natakas, a set of bhagavatha mela dramas conducted at varadharaja perumal sannadhi since more than 300 years. Once sarabhoji maharaja of thanjavur had summoned the people of these drama artists to perform the praklatha charitharam drama at this palace at thanjavur. But they refused due to the traditional principles. While the artists performing the drama at palace based on the order of Maharaj , they found lot of scorpions (in tamil, it is called “Thel”) in the drama costume baggage. From onwards, the name of this village is being called “Thelperumanallur or Thepperumanallur”. After that they conducted the drama in this village itself.
Originally, the bhagavatha mela dance dramas were conducted by the village artists, containing ten dramas such as praktha charithram ( two days) , Rukmangatha charithram, Ambarisha charithram, devaki Kalyanam, Krishnavathararam, kamsa vadham, usha Bharaniyam , seetha kalyanam and rukmini kalyanam,. Now due to financial constraints and also migration of artist’s families to different parts of India, only two dramas including the main drama namely “praklatha charithram, and rukmini kalyanam are being performed during Narasimha jayanthi day, without break in the last more than 300 years. The yester year generation headed by late Sri T.V. Natesa Bhagavathar, follwed by Late Sri N . Muthumani Iyer had conducted the dramas, had been honoured the prestigious “kalaimamani” award by the Tamil nadu Government for his services on bhagavatha mela dramas. Now, the dramas are being staged under the guidance of Sri N. Narashimhan, Retired Railway Employee, the son of Late Sri T.V. Natesa Bhagavathar and well versed with these dance dramas and he is assisted by Thepperumanallur Sri N. Ramachandran who is taking care the music section with a set of prominent bhagavathas and Sri. M. Kalyanaraman is assisting in training the drama artists.
The specialty of this “Praklatha Charithram” dance drama, is handled by three languages, which includes songs (dhipathai) in telegu language, Slokams in Sanskirit taken from Bhagavatham and dialogues in Tamil. The highlight of this drama is conversation between Praklatha & Hiranya at the climax scene before the Narasimha avatharam, is adored by lot of devotees from all over India who gathered here to watch this beautiful dance drama.
Apart from varadharaja perumal temple, vedhanthanayaki sametha sri viswanatha swami temple and Kaliamman temple where kaliamman Utsavam and Theemidhi utsavam are being performed every year during the tamil month panguni, are adding famous to this village.
The donations are accepted and can be send to the following address
Pracheena sampradhaya Natya Nataka Mandram Agraharam Thepperumanallur , Kumbakonam, 612 206
The Saliamangalam technique is simple, dignified and believed to be the authentic
version of performance. The artistes, mostly from traditional families, follow a chaste
Telugu-Sanskrit lyrical and conversational language composed by Bharatam
Panchanada Iyer set to simple dance technique. The music is well-defined. Not much importance is given to costumes. The striking
feature is that the group focuses on a purely devotional approach rather than adding
detailed aspects of entertainment. A sense of Sadhana or an attainment of the goal
of life of the individual towards the Supreme is visibly present in the Saliamangalam
offering. The striking performance of Hiranyakasipu in the Saliyamangalam tradition deserves
special attention. The dialogue is a fine blend of Telugu and Sanskrit.