Thanjavur in Singapore!

01065_Kshetra FB Post Rev3Why Kshetra ? According to Jayashrree and me!

Announcing the release of Book and Music Album – Kshetra Sangeetam Thanjavur

Compiled by Jayashrree S.Mani, based on a series of concerts by Dr.VijayalakshmySubramaniam

On Thursday 9th June 2016, 12:45 to 1:30 pm

 In Singapore at The Goodman Arts Centre

90 Goodman Rd, Singapore 439053

When people ask me how did Kshetra Sangeetam happen— I tell them

Like all exciting ideas, this too just happened! Can there be a more holistic way of presenting our culture? Music, history, religion, architecture, beliefs, spiritual significance….!!

When Jayashrree, the publisher of the book heard of my concert series, she felt the concept had to be presented to wider audiences beyond the concert hall.

Let’s hear what Jayashrree S. Mani,  Compiler and publisher of the book and music album–Kshetra SangeetamThanjavur–has to say


What does KshetraSangeetam mean? Why is it of significance to you?


KshetraSangeetam simply means music about Kshetras, or places of pilgrimage.

When Dr.Vijayalakshmy Subramaniam first invited me to these concerts, I was struck by the underpinnings of faith on which this music is based.

A pilgrimage is a major undertaking for many of us. Most of us today do not practice religion in an organized basis in our daily lives; Yet none of us passes up the opportunity to go to a Kshetra; Tirupathy, Kanjeevaram, Rameshwaram.

We could  pray anywhere isn’t it? In any temple?? Why do we go on pilgrimages? What drives us?Why do some temples become Kshetras? There are some very sterile sounding definitions on the web:

–Because they are considered a sacred space where terrestrial energies flow heavenward or cosmic energy flows earthward.

–A space which celebrates the life of a saint, or commemorates the death of a saint/ a place sanctified by a seer/ a space where miracles may have occurred.

One of our reviewers, Mrs.Santha Bhaskarof Bhaskars Arts Academy, Singapore, alludes to the metaphysical description of a Kshetra in her review of the book.

Personally, I believe its because these places are completely saturated with the positive, infinite energies of belief and human faith which drive us to achieve what is considered impossible. We feel this energy when we go there. And that is part of what I want to share with this book and music album.

Why Thanjavur, when there are so many Kshetras all over India?

 Temples are the physical expression of this Faith. And large temples were built by Kings – who patronized the arts there too but they were not just a place for Royalty.  Artistes and scholars, they were  the soul of the community’s day to day life. They were the focus of all community activity; of weddings, music, dance and theater performances; of the daily services, evening recreation, local gossip and of deals fixed and the scenes of great local romances.

So it was a symbiotic relationship with Faith driving the community; and the community in turn flourished in the expression of this faith. Thanjavur Brihadeeswara is a prime example of this.

How is this book different from others on Thanjavur?

KshetraSangeetamThanjavur, is a different kind of book because it is a record of the connection between faith, the arts and the Kshetras within which they were centred.

And these temples were the bedrock for communities to flourish and grown in.

Society has evolved beyond that sort of social structure now, but even though we don’t understand the language and lyrics of carnatic music, we still go to hear the music;even though many songs were composed hundreds of years ago, they are still performed today; and we still send our children to learn the vocal music. They in turn seem to learn it unquestioningly. I find that curious. The ripple effects of faith from hundreds of years ago? Strange isn’t it?

When you buy the book, you get the Scholars’articles, a little bit about how the musician puts the concerts together, interesting snippets, and the music album with lyrics and meanings – very artistically presented. Very seldom have the great Carnatic music composers been celebrated in art, except by Shri S.Rajam. So it’s a limited edition book and hopefully will take pride of place in many book collections.

Follow Kshetra Sangeetam on Facebook at:


Tags: carnatic music, fine arts, Tamil culture, Thanjavur, Dr.VijayalakshmySubramaniam, KshetraSangeetam


The book is available online at



You can also buy it at

Chamiers, Chennai     –

Odyssey, Adyar, Chennai  –

Odyssey Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai –

Odyssey, Coimbatore   –

The Karnatic Music Book Centre, Chennai   –

Giri Traders  –



Kshetra Sangeetam

Science and music are quite similar in many ways. Science pursues understanding the unknown –unravelling the universe and its various dimensions. Technology looks at putting it to use in a lucrative manner. Science is now under pressure to only look for things that technology can make worthwhile. Understanding the universe may not be so important after all……

Mystics have tried to understand the Universe through their spiritual paths. Another system that opens up wider dimensions is Music. What splendor in the seven notes that it appeals universally to the pandit and the layman! It’s incredible how a rendition can melt you to tears or reduce you to putty in just a few moments. It’s the power and appeal of melody, rhythm and in the Indian context, the words too.

One of the fine things about being an artist is the liberty to contemplate and work on anything that appeals to your sense of aesthetics. Of course, it is very much like science in that, it can be satisfying from a creativity point of view and not much else, if you know what I mean!

I started off on an exciting journey some years back – Kshetra Sangeetam. With a fairly good repertoire, I found that I could conceive of and present a concert on a ‘Kshetra’

Sangeetam, everybody knows but what is a Kshetra?

A Kshetra is an important place of worship. It could be a whole town with many temples — like Kanchipuram, or it could be a place with one significant temple –like Tirupati.  I started putting together a list of Kshetras. Off the top of my head I rattled of—Kanchi, Madurai, Chidambaram, Tirupati, Kasi, Thanjavur, Guruvayur and Srirangam.

I got thinking about what actually goes into making a place a Kshetra. While every temple evokes bhakti or devotion in various degrees in the devout, what is different about a Kshetra? Why do people plan trips or pilgrimages to Kshetra? Why are we not content with the Pillayar Kovil at the end of our street? This brought up a number of interesting possibilities. If you believe, it is in Chidambaram that Nataraja did his cosmic dance. It is in Srirangam that Ranganatha is reclining. It is in Kanchipuram that Kamakshi actually did Tapas and eventually married Ekambresa and so on….. These temples have stood the test of time not only physically but have virtually become a part of the DNA of our culture. These Kshetras, are storehouses of spiritual energy.

Often the Kshetras are rich in history with kings having built these temples and patronized them. The architecture and the style of these temples are major aspects of pride for the rulers and they create structures that live to tell their tales. A significant example would be the Thanjavur Brihadeeshwara temple built by King Raja Raja Chola. These Kshetras gain importance over time and have more popularity and visibility with thousands of devotees thronging the place, in addition to curious tourists.

 It is the spiritual vibrations in these places that prompted great saints to build the expansive temples of yore there and that have made these temples what they are.

In addition to these tangible features, what really makes a temple great and stand the test of time is the intangible factor of devotion. Devotees flocking to them over hundreds of years have added their collective spirituality to the town, generating a very intense and deep spiritual experience. Great saints have lived in these kshetras and sung in ecstasy of their ‘Ishtadevathas’ or personal Gods. These hymns have come down to us through the oral tradition that India and Indian Music is famous for. The Kshetras have also attracted numerous music composers to visit these places and sing of the glory of the Kshetra or a specific God therein.

The temples, deities and the spiritual energy of these sacred spaces have inspired not only devotion but also creativity in great music composers, who bridged art and spirituality. Kshetras have been celebrated in poetry, music and devotional hymns.

I am delighted, proud and excited to collaborate with my dear friend Jayashrree S. Mani – who is passionate about the arts in general and music in particular– in bringing out the first book and audio album of Kshetra. A labour of love. An effort to document this work for posterity.

Kshetra Sangeetam-Thanjavur.

The launch is scheduled for March 11 2016. The book will be available across a few popular portals. We will be posting details on our page on Facebook.

Each book comes with a code for audio download facilitated by

We do hope you will enjoy this offering from us and inspire us to document the work done on other important Kshetras too J

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I love Kerala!

The rain the rain….. endless sheets of water

In a torrent now and a drizzle then

Cajoling and threating in turn

Waiting for the endless lashing to stop

Even as you enjoy your cuppa

Looking out through the windows……

I am just back from a delightful trip to Kerala, straight into the swimming pools for roads in Chennai!

I love Kerala, malayalees and all things Malayalee, including the food! It is surely one of the most evolved states in the country. The general level of education is evident in most transactions. Yes, I know they have their ice cream parlours (ahem!) and the like but I do love Kerala.

The Keralites are methodical. This is seen best in their temple ‘vazhipaadu’. Clean spaces with the Poojari intent on the Pooja.  They break the coconuts elsewhere and do not stamp on the coconut water within the sanctum..They close the temple when they must, no matter who is in line for darshan. Its no surprise then that the Chief Minister Jayalalithaa had the priests from Tamil Nadu sent to Kerala to undergo training in temple functioning and administration. A laudable venture.

Our first stop was at our Kuladeivam temple—the Chittur Bhagavathy Kaavu. We had a good darshan and spent time and money on the ‘Vedis’ or bombs, literally , to drive away the evil spirits! Bought some delicious payasam prasadam and ate up the best bananas in the world! In Kerala, this is staple, by the way. Any one we visited fed us bananas—either the tiny elakki or the local nendram. One more and I could have swung on the trees to our next destination – Guruvayur! Burp.

The Chembai music festival was on in full swing. The special concerts, covered live by the media, were meticulously organized and I was fortunate to perform one. Even better was the Pancharatnam singing the next morning. The musicians adhered faithfully to Semmangudi Srinivasa Iyer’s notation and the rendition was really smooth. There were no sudden frills or sangatis to take you by surprise. And you know what was most exciting for me? The elephants came out in a procession to listen to us! I was so moved I was almost choking! It was like a benediction…..

After a privileged darshan of Lord Guruvayurappa, it was time to head back home. Lapped up every bit of Puttu- kadala curry, appam-stew, ada dosa… of course all generously interspersed with bananas!

The Palghat genes of my husband blossom in this environment and he looked like a thousand watts. Nice.