Last week a video of a group of people aged between 20-60 years of age singing and a girl performing classical Indian dance in the front, chanting a Kannada Bhakti song, moving in the streets of a village in south India has made a nationwide wave of how Indian culture is still intact and safe in the hands of our future generations. The video had reached over 20 million views within the first day of its live on Facebook. Twitter and other social media platforms picked it up quickly and it was viral within an hour. ANI has tweeted about it and so as the Twitterati in numbers with a lot of love and praise of this gesture. It was a result of twenty years of hard work of a lady namely Sunita Chandrakumar of Raghu Leela School of Music, Mysuru. Let’s know a bit how it was started and how they feel after being noticed worldwide within a day with their performance.
Raghu Leela Music School: Sunita Chandrakumar has trained under Smt. H.R. Leelavathi and Sri. S. G. Raghuram in Indian classical music and dance. She started her career as a music teacher in the year 2000, in Mandya district, Karnataka at ‘Surabhi Gaana Mandali’. She also began teaching in Mysuru around the same time. With the kind of response, she received she was encouraged to start a music school in Mysore as well and started the school naming it after her gurus’ first names Raghu & Leela. Thus began the journey of RLSM (Raghu Leela School of Music) on 1st February 2003. The school started to do thematic programmes annually from then on, up until 2013. This helped them showcase different genres of music, along with performances. To celebrate our Schools 15-year milestone, ‘Shree Shrinivasa Kalyanam’ was started, which had nearly 110 of the RLSM students participating in different roles, with music composed by The Chairman Sunita ChandraKumar, with the songs recorded by the students.
Why Nagara Sankeerthane started: ‘Nagara Sankeerthane’ is an age-old practise where a group used to walk on the streets, in the early hours while singing devotional songs. This was also a way for the bhakts to get bhiksha and blessings for the day. But with time, this practice was lost like several other valuable traditions of our country. This practice was restarted around 3 years ago by Raghuleela School, as a way to bring back a lost tradition, while also ensuring that the students get to learn these songs. It was started in January 2018, discontinued for about 9 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It has a resume with an even more beautiful way after covid.
Nagara Sankeerthane happens on the first Sunday of every month, wherein the students of RLSM walk from one temple to another while singing devotional songs for about an hour early in the morning. The overwhelming positive response we received in the initial encouraged us to include even patriotic songs, vachanas, tatva padas as a part of the same. “This also led us to start performing sankeerthan in different religious venues like Shringeri, Udupi mutt etc., once a year,” Says Smt. Sunita Chandrakumar.
Response to Nagar Sankeerthane: We have always received immense support from the students who show up in big numbers for the Sankeerthane, dressed traditionally, not just in Mysuru but now when we travel to other cities also. We have been welcomed with the utmost respect in all the temples we have performed at to date and most residents that live on the streets wherever we go have stood by and encouraged us with their smiles and enthusiasm. But the unplanned live on Facebook, that happened on the morning of 7th February, in the presence of Lord Rama in Ashwatthapura has now blessed us with support from all over the world. The support we have received has been immensely positive and encourages us to do better. A delighted Sunita Chandrakumar describes in joy.
Future Plans: Smt Chandrakumar further tells about her plans “Since we are a light music school, we wish to continue to teach students all forms of light music alike and never to commercialize on Sankeerthane which started and shall remain as a humble offering to the Gods. While we are very grateful for all the appreciation we have received so far, I wish to continue to teach and showcase the dedication and effort of the students of RLSM. The hope is to continue doing unique thematic programmes as it allows everyone a chance to learn something new, while also bringing new content and forms of music to our ever-growing family online and offline. COVID-19 forced me to adapt to teaching online and now with several thousands of requests for online classes, I am actively exploring how best to bring what I teach in class to everyone who wishes to learn. There are also plans to organize workshops at various levels for people who wish to learn but are unable to attend classes regularly, or only wish to polish their skills in a limited time. I also hope that we can take music to different audiences across the country and globally. Please find below, photographs from different programmes in the past and the ones more recently.”
This effort needs to be applauded widely and should be adopted as a role model throughout the country, to spread the great Sanatan culture to pass it on to the generation next. Smt Sunita Chandrakumar has already made her place in history with others who dedicated their lives in the service of the culture and Bhakti.