Sree Ramaseva Mandali

The onset of every Ramanavami in Bangalore brings a tsunami of Musical feast that is served with an essence of raga, the spirit of tala and the emotion of Bhava. From the past 76 years we at Sree Ramaseva Mandali, have dedicated ourself for the growth of the rich Cultural heritage of this 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.

The Mandali was established in the year 1939, by Sri.S.V.Narayanaswamy Rao, who dedicated his entire life for the preserving and protecting the rich cultural heritage of the country. He was the first person to organise a Music festival as part of the Ramanavamai Celebrations, which now has become a cultural icon of the Country. The Mandali was referred to as “The Temple of Music” by Sri Rajagopalachari the then Governor General of India.

Sree Ramaseva Mandali’s Sree Ramanavami National Music is the longest Indian Classical Music Festival in the world spanning for a period of 31-36 days.

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. 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 : Ramnavami and Ganesh Chaturthi.

Sree Ramaseva Mandali of Chamarajpet, had its humble begining in such an cultural background. The Mandali is now an important Cultural Institution in India. From its origin on a roadside pavement, today it has gained wide recognition and admiration from Artistes, Scholars and Music lovers, across the country.

The Mandali has been singularly fortunate in our endeavour that several highly eminent & renowned artistes like Smt.M.S.Subbulakshmi, Dr. K.J. Yesudas, Dr. Balamurali Krishna, Sudha Raghunath, Bombay Jayashree, Ustad Amjadali Khan, Ustad Bismillah Khan, Dr. N. Rajam, Pandit Bhimsen Joshi, U.Shrinivas, Rajan & Sajan Mishra,Purbayan Chatterji and others have consistently performed at the Mandali. Also the Mandali has been instrumental in providing a platform for young musicians who have grown into distinguished artistes of today.

The Mandali is also singularly fortunate to have its Inauguration inaugurated by 3 Presidents of this country namely: Dr.S.Radhakrishnan, Sri.V.V.Giri and Sri.R.Venkataraman. Also almost all the Governors and Chief ministers of Karnataka have inaugurated the festivals organized by us. The photos, press reviews and the Souvenirs of previous festivals have been enclosed to you.

Narayanaswamy Rao’s dedication and perseverance

Sri S.V.Narayanaswamy Rao, who founded this Institution and religiously guided its destiny through Sixty-one long years, until his death on 05-01-2000 at the age of 75 years.

Narayanaswamy Rao, then just a boy of fourteen years old used to take the lead in organizing Holi & Ganesha festivals in his locality, true to his age, he and his friends must have enjoyed this as fun, but one could notice an element of religious fervor and Devotion to music underneath.

After the first series of festivals were over, a surplus money accrued from the funds collected. Wondering how to utilise this Mr. Rao hit upon the idea of celebrating Ramanavami in the coming year, thus in the year 1939, almost by a devine urge Narayanaswamy Rao started the Ramanavami festival along with his friends and well-wishers. Then onwards he never looked back and also never looked elsewhere. He dedicated himself in body and mind with Ramanavami Festivals and for the next 61 years till his death he dedicated his life for this purpose and pursued only this as his life’s mission.

Ramanavami Festival at Fort High School Grounds

In late sixties, in the year 1968 the Celebrations were shifted to the huge Fort High School Grounds, just opposite the City Institute. Thanks to the liberal help and co-operation from the Government of Karnataka, Dept of Education, Celebrations are being smoothly conducted here for the last 35 years.

The Pandal and the huge open space adjoining it can very easily accommodate up to eight thousand people. Here, the Mandali celebrated its Golden Jubilee and its Diamond jubilee Festivals in a grand manner. The Golden Jubilee Festival was for 54 days while The Diamond Jubilee celebrations went on for a record 62 days. Sri.R.Venkataraman, then President of India inaugurated the Golden Jubilee celebrations.

Musicians' support & help

To Mandali’s fortune, once, Narayanswamy Rao got introduced to Sangitharathna T. Chowdiah. Chowdiah instantly developed a liking and affection towards the Mandali, which continued till his last. A colorful and eminent personality and a man of stature, Chowdiah had by then attained wide popularity and fame in the field of Music.

Also, Narayanswamy Rao earned the acquaintance of the great Flute Wizard T.R. Mahalingam. These two eminent luminaries of Karnatic music lent all possible help and support. A number of well-known musicians of those times could thus participate in the Mandali’s Festival. A strategy followed by Chowdiah was simple, he used to persuade the leading Vocalists of the time to sing at the Mandali by offering to play as accompanying Violinist. Such was the love and affection he had towards the Mandali.

A rare sight elsewhere, but a common feature at the Mandali was Chowdiah playing violin for Mahalingam’s Concert. Many such memorable Concerts have been rendered by the famed duo at the Mandali.

Spirituality & Music

Narayanaswamy Rao hailed from a traditional Madhwa Deshastha family. His zeal & fervor for religious activities were very profound and strong. He had developed a system where in all rituals, offerings & pooja were conducted in an orderly manner without compromising on any detail. A keen observer of all religious structures he never tolerated even the slightest slackness in its practice.

The daily decorations of the Idols of Sri Rama, Seetha & Lakshmana were being done with meticulous care by Narayanaswamy Rao himself which is continued now by his son S.N.Varadaraj. The manner in which the Idols, the imposing Mantap used to get decked up in fresh flowers, fragrance and garlands created the right spiritual ambience for the evening Music Concerts.

Religious Fervour with strong traditional roots have been the mainstay of the Mandali, Music has given it a unique dimension. The Mandali’s uniqueness lies in blending Music and Spirituality. In fact, Pandit Rajan Mishra made this observation when he performed along with his brother Sajan Mishra during a recent Mandali’s Festival. He remarked “both of us enjoy singing here, not just because it is a prestigious place to sing but also because this is a very `Spiritual Platform’ to perform.” Thus Mandali has carved a special Niche for itself in the field of Music.

The Golden Era

In the forties & fifties Mandali gained wide recognition as one of the important Cultural Centres of South India. In those days Sabhas and Music Institutions were very few. Opportunities to listen to eminent and popular Artistes were quite rare. Ramanavami Festivals of the Mandali provided such an opportunity and remains a prime attraction to music lovers, even today.

As the size and duration of the festivals grew Mandali looked for a more spacious place. The vacant land adjacent to Bangalore City Institute was an Ideal one. Thus in the year 1952, Ramanavami Festivals were shifted here and were conducted in the same venue for the next 16 years. Mandali pioneered in providing a congenial atmosphere and creating the right ambience required to enjoy Music. A spacious Pandal which could easily accommodate up to 2000 people, Quality Audio System, Comfortable seating arrangements, were some of the facilities initiated by the Mandali.

Mandali, during this period attained a pre-eminent status as a Premier Cultural Institution of Bangalore. It earned a prestigious place as one of the most sought after Platforms to perform. The decades of the fifties and sixties could easily be termed as the Golden Era of the Mandali.

Mandali shifted to this venue in 1952, by strange coincidence Bharataratna M.S. Subbulakshmi’s first concert under the aegis of the Mandali was also in the same year. Mandali enjoys a very strong relationship with M.S. Subbulakshmi. She and her husband late Sri.T. Sadashivan, both showed immense love and affection towards the Mandali. Starting from the year 1952 till 1992 in a span of Forty-one years M.S. has performed on Thirtyone occassions in the Mandali’s Ramanavami Festivals. Mandali has been singularly fortunate in establishing such a glorious feat.

Each concert of M.S. at the Mandali had its own richness of the occasion, to be remembered and cherished for a long time. The most memorable day was, when in the year 1980 M.S’s concert at the Mandali was broadcast Live by AIR all over the South. Another interesting aspect of M.S’s concerts at the Mandali was ‘Rain’. It did rain on a number of occasions, but such was the sagacity of M.S and her husband T. Sadashivan the concerts used to go on smoothly till the end, and no such occassion arose when the concerts had to be cancelled or rescheduled. Every concert of M.S at the Mandali turned out to be a Grand success.

Some of the finest Musicians of this period have added Credence and Grace to the Mandali’s platform : Doyen of Karnatic Music and inventor of the modern Concert format Sri Ariyakudi Ramanuja Iyengar, Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer, Chittoor Subramanya Pillai, Sathur Subramanyam, K.B. Sundarambal, M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavatar, S. Balachander, Veena Dhanammal, R.S. Keshavamurthy, B.S. Raja Iyengar, A. Subba Rao, B. Devendrappa, M.D. Ramanathan, Madurai Somasundaram, Dwaram Venkataswamy Naidu, D.K. Jayaraman, S. Ramanathan, C.S. Murugabhoopathy, Madurai Krishna Iyengar, and many others, have adorned the Mandali's Platform and given it a hallowed stature.

Mysore Maharaja’s Visit

Mandali has a tradition that all along, eminent dignitaries from public life have inaugurated the Mandali’s festivals.

In the year 1955, Sri. Jayachamaraja Wodeyar erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore and the then Rajapramukh, Inaugurated the celebrations. This was an historic occasion for the Mandali, the Maharaja was a great Music Lover and an eminent Musicologist, he took keen interest in promoting and patronizing Fine Arts. Again, two years later in the year 1957, the Maharaja participated in the Inaugural ceremony of Mandali’s Ramanavami Celebrations alongwith Bharatarathna Sir. C. Rajagopalachari.

Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, the then President of India deeply appreciated and applaued the efforts of the Mandali. He was to inaugurate the celebrations in the year 1959, though he could not attend due to unavoidable circumstances, his taped speech was played on the occasion. An interesting thing here was, the Tapes were Air-flown from New Delhi just in time for the ceremony to commence.

The Mandali after S.V.Narayanaswamy Rao

Mandali's beloved founder Sri S V Narayanaswamy Rao left the world on the 5th of January, 2000. The whole music fraternity thought it was end of Mandali. However as per the wish of Narayanaswamy Rao, his wife Smt.Narasamma and the then President of the Mandali, Sri.Lakshman Rau bestowed S.N.Varadaraj, the last son of S.V.Narayanaswamy Rao the responsibility of the organisation. With an aim of continuing his father’s effort in protecting, preserving and promoting the Indian Classical Music, S.N.Varadaraj a Mechanical Engineer by profession left his job at ESCORTS and took the responsibility of the organisation.

With the blessings of our founder and with guidance of philanthropic people like our previous President Sri Lakshman Rau, Mandali's present President Sri Mani Narayan Swamy and Mandali's Chief Patron Dr.C.S.Kedar. The youth festival in Bangalore was started by the Mandali in the name of Prathibakanshi.

A new era of Jugalbandhi Concerts was started by Mandali with the jugalbandhi concerts of Pandit Vishwa Mohan Bhat, Mysore Manjunath, Mysore Nagaraj, Ganesh Rajagopalan, Kumaresh Rajagopalan, Pandit Rakesh Chaurasia, Pandit Purbayan Chaterjee, Pandit Praveen Godkindhi etc,.

The Mandali is successful in blending Modernity and the rich traditions left by our founder

Mandali’s Secular Music

“Sangeetha Gnanamu Bakthivina Sanmargamu”
Music is the rightful path parallel to bakthi.

–Saint Shree Tyagaraja

“If music be the food of love, play on,
Give me excess of it; that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.”

― William Shakespeare

“Music is a Discipline and a Mistress of the Good Manners,
she makes the people milder & gentler, more Moral and more Reasonable”

-Martin Luther King

Music is an instrument that promotes Bhakti & not religion. Music is only the permutation & combination of the 7 octaves that results in the formation of different tunes which will have a strong influence over the mind, body & soul of a man. These tunes are called as RAGAS in our Indian Classical music, which is further divided into Karnatic & Hindustani styles. Sufi music also became a part in the later stages. Music has no boundaries; it can be sung /played by anyone belonging to any religion. Hindustani Music style has gifted many great musicians from Islam & Karnatic Music has gifted many musicians from Christianity.

The Mandali since its inception has been staging many concerts of artistes from Islam & Christianity. Shri Chembai Vydyanatha Bhagavatar gifted the nation with 2 very important singers Jon.B.Higgins & Dr.K.J.Yesudas. Ustad Bade Gulam Ali Khan; Ustad Bismilla Khan; Ustad Amjad Ali Khan; Begam Parveen Sulthana etc. were the gifts from the Hindustani style & the most important fact is that all of them are/were very closely related to the Mandali & are/were a part of the Mandali. All of them prayed to the Sangeetha Brahma, the main deity of the Mandali. Dr.K.J.Yesudas; Ustad Amjad Ali Khan; Begam Parveen Sulthana has performed nearly 50; 40 & 15 concerts respectively in the Mandali. One more interesting fact is that the chairs for the Ramanavami Celebrations are provided by M/s. Saleh Ahmed from past 50 years. The Mandali is stating the above facts because to tell that “WE ARE AS SECULAR AS THE MUSIC IS”. The Mandali throughout its 75 years has been proving “THAT MUSIC IS SECULAR & SO ARE WE”. The Mandali follows only one religion & that is simply MUSIC.