BHAGAVATA MELA OF MELATTUR AT THE CROSS-ROADS

After Venkatarama Sastry, the younger generation of the entire community carried on the tradition till 1855 AD. Among those who contributed most were Venkataramayya and Venkatarama Josyar. It is said that the natakam, Prahlada Charitam, alone was performed during this period. In spite of best efforts by the villagers, the tradition suffered frequent set backs and fell in to disuse in 1882 AD owing mainly to the waning royal patronage and the effect of the British rule vis-ā-vis the milieu.

At a stage when there was no hope of renaissance of this great tradition, "Bharatam Natesa Iyer" of Melattur (1865-1935 A.D) took greater interests in this divine art-form and brought the play, "Prahlada Charitamu", back to stage in 1917. With assistance from Varadayya, Nataka Duraiswamy and Muthukrishna Sastrigal, Natesa Iyer, an autodidact, kept the art at its glory until 1931. Even today, the villagers greatly admire his proficiency in the art of dance, music and direction, and his dancing-cum-acting in the role, Leelavati. For his proficiency in the art, his disciples conferred on him the title, "Bharatam".

When he could not manage the expenses of the annual nataka Utsav, Natesa Iyer took to teaching dance to erstwhile devadasis that fetched him regular income to support his task.

He trained artists namely "Bharatam" Nallur Narayanaswamy Iyer, Pichu Bhagavatar, "Kinjin" Kothandarama Iyer and K Ramani Iyer. Also trained E. Krishna Iyer, as a soloist in Sadir.

An ardent devotee of Lord Sri Varadaraja Perumal, Natesa Iyer completed the unfinished "Gopuram" of the Varadaraja temple in 1922 and installed the idols of Narasimha with his consorts and Anjaneya, now in worship. As a part of the renovation, the Narasimha idol near Narayana Theertam, already dilapidated due to abuse of weather, was also shifted to the temple.

Natesa Iyer took ill 1932, left Melattur and passed away in 1935. This led to the decadence of the art again.




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