The onset of every Ramanavami in Bangalore brings an eternal divine bliss of Musical feast that is served with an essence of raga, the spirit of tala and the emotion of Bhava. For the past 78 years, we have dedicated ourselves to the growth of the rich cultural heritage of our country by conducting Sree Ramanavami National Music Festivals with a rich and colourful fare of cultural programmes in which artistes from all parts of the world participate.
For the religiously devout and to the discerning Music lovers of Bangalore and nearby places, the advent of spring indicates the arrival of yet another exhaustive feast of music. They eagerly look forward to the Ramanavami season during the months of March-April which provide a rich fare of Classical Music. Similar to the year-end festival season of Chennai, the Ramanavami Celebrations organised by Sree Ramaseva Mandali, Chamarajpet, has captivated the attention of both Musicians and
Music lovers alike.
A survey of the cultural scene a few decades prior to independence - particularly old Mysore region, brings to fore several festivals which were celebrated on a large scale. However, those with greater community participation were mainly two : Ramanavami and Ganesh Chaturthi.
Sree Ramaseva Mandali of Chamarajpet, had its humble begininng in such a cultural background. The Mandali is now an important Cultural Institution in the country. From its origin on a roadside pavement, today it has gained wide recognition and admiration from Artistes, Scholars and Music lovers, across the country and is the organiser of the Largest Indian Classical Music Festival.
The Mandali has completed one full “SAMVATSARA CHAKRA” and is now in its 80th year. At this juncture it will be an interesting exercise to trace and document the progress made by this great Institution.
The Mandali has a rare privilege of having 3 Presidents of India & 4 Vice Presidents inaugurating our Sree Ramanavami National Music Festivals. All the Governors & Chief Ministers of Karnataka state have inaugurated our celebrations. Sri.C.Rajagopalachari referred the Mandali as “Temple of Music”. His Highness Sri Jaya Chamarajendra Wodeyar of Mysore referred Mandali as 'Gnana Gana Sudha'. It is with great pride we say that, Mandali has hosted who's who of Indian Classical Music.
Sree Ramaseva Mandali, the Temple of Music was born out of Shivarapatna Vasudev Rao Narayanaswamy Rao (SVN Rao), Shri Rao's profound passion for Indian classical music which itself stemmed from his devotion towards Rama, his favorite deity.
Shri Rao, who pioneered the Ramanavami Music Festival in Bangalore at the tender age of 14 years, was born on 21 December 1924. Being the son of a police officer, he often participated in the freedom movements even as a teenager. The events shaped his thinking and he began to perceive festival congregations as a platform to promote multifaceted aspects of living. In 1937, a young and ardent patriot who participated in a freedom movement protest at Bengaluru's City Market, was critically wounded when police opened fire. As he fell to the ground and lay bleeding profusely, he surrendered to Rama and loudly called out 'Hare Rama'. Rao who witnessed this scene, was visibly moved and felt helpless at what he saw.
If the incident had caused him intense distress, it also opened his eyes to life's harsh realities. Being spiritual minded even at that tender age, he made a firm resolution to harmonize people. Further, he took a vow before Rama that he would accomplish this task culturally, through music which in the Indian context is inextricably linked to Bhakti. It was his firm belief that music resonates within the human spirit and is therefore a powerful tool to bring people together, transcending communities, cultures, and creeds.
Shri Rao who hailed from a traditional Madhwa Deshasta family, was an ardent devotee of Rama who surrendered at his Lotus Feet. As a young teen, he was inspired by Bal Gangadhar Tilak's conduct of Ganesha Festival in Maharashtra. Rao, along with his friends, began to organize Holi and Ganesha festival in his locality. While the youngsters had fun doing this, the underlying religious fervor and devotion to music, were palpable. When the celebrations concluded, the young organizers were left with surplus funds. As if by providential design, Rao came up with the idea of conducting Ramanavami celebrations the following year.
Thus Shri Rao established Ramanavami festivities in 1939, which since, became an annual event. He sought to foster harmony among people through bhakti and culture, of which music formed an integral part. He ignored the wrath of the British imperialists to successfully conduct Ramanavami celebrations for ten years during their rule.
To begin with, worship, prayers and all activities associated with the Ramanavami festivities, took place before a painting of Rama, standing in all majesty with his consort Sita, brother Lakshmana and his most devout bhakta, Anjaneya. With time, the celebrations grew in magnitude and stature.
A special wooden mantap was crafted in which the painting of Rama and his family was installed. Soon, the painting and mantap gave way to a silver portrait and silver mantap. In due course, by divine urge, Shri Rao had Panchaloha murthis of the deities sculpted from his native Shivarapatna. Amid much fanfare, the idols were consecrated in a new 10 ft tall brass mantap during the 25th Ramanavami celebrations, in 1964. The brass mantap at the Mandali is a magnified replica of a silver mantap with the Maharaja's of Mysore. Sri Vidya Manya Theertharu of Palimar Mutt whom Shri Rao held in great veneration, and who would regularly give discourses on the Ramayana at the Mandali, blessed Shri Rao on the occasion by performing puja for the idols and fulfilling all the requirements of Prana Prathistapana.