Mukthamal chatram, Orathanad and its link with ''Harikatha'' artform!! - brief note

Mukthamal Chatram Orathanad, TN

Raja Serfoji II Thanjavur.

Perhaps you may be wondering  as to what has  Mukthamal chatram of Orathanad got to do with Harikatha kalashepam. Located 25 km from Thanjavur city, this famous chatram (road side inn) built in 1869 by  Maharaja Serfoji II  of  the Thanjavur Dynasty -1674 to 1855; in memory of his wife Mukthamal is a heritage site and efforts are afoot to repair and restore it by the district chatram administration.  

The rulers of Maratha  dynasty were patrons of arts, music and dance. Raja Serfoji was the one who developed the famous Saraswati mahal  library into one of the best in this country, perhaps a rare one in this world.

This popular chatram (choultry)  that once  fed scores of travelers in the past and acted as a center of learning, has a close link with the growth and development of Harikatha tradition in Thanjavur region in the 1800s.   It was one Perianna - Muthukrishna Naidu,  a prominent  charitable person  helped Sri Krishna Bhagavather during his troubled period with poor income. Impressed with his knowledge of Carnatic music and languages, Perianna  sent him to Sri Ramachandra Bawa, then a popular expert in classical music and bhajans.   Sri Krishna Bhagavatar with a spirit of emulation   not only picked up devotional songs and the art of narrating mythological stories but also improved this art form with innovative methods. In the later years  he made accompanists  an integral part of the Harkatha group  and encourage them  to perform in sitting posture. The main forformer had to stand all through the performance. 

Harikatha in Telugu Nadu.

Because of Sri Krishna Bhagavathar's efforts Haraikatha became one of the powerful mediums to spread bhakti and devotion to god across the delta region reaching out to all classes of people and places.  He  made Harikatha a popular music and story-telling art form and got a name far and wide. 

The man who helped  Krishna Bhagavathar climb the rungs up  was none other than Perianna, brother of Mukthamal, wife of Raja Serfoji II. Being highly knowledgeable  Perianna wrote the nirupana for Radha Kalyanam, an important religious subject for performance by the artists.  Even in the recent past it was an important theme. 

Attracted by her ravishing beauty and amiable nature, Raja Serfoji II fell in love with the sister of  Perianna - Mukthamal.  The ruler  married her through a custom known as kathi kalyanam as the bride happened to be non-Marathi,  thus imparting royalty to her by placing the sword near her. On his behalf a sumangali -  married woman tied the Mangalayam (mangalsutra). The chatram was built in honor of Mukthamal  by Raja Serfoji. She made a  special request to him at the time of her death. That chatram was  endowed with lots of landed properties to run the inn.