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FROM THE ARCHIVES OF IGNCA

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SADAGOPAN COLLECTION

 

 Any scholar seeking information on the temple rituals, especially of South India cannot but come to Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts.  IGNCA has, in its possession video documentation that is of great archival value.  A significant part of this documentation is the Sadagopan Collection.  At a time when documentation had not become the 'in thing' and India was only waking up to video documenting, Shri Sadagopan had done over 60 hours of recording on Paramacharya Sri Chaneskarendra Saraswati, besides an enormous volume of work on the rituals of various temples and yagnas.  The value of his collection can be gauged from the fact that it is the only such (known) existing records of three decades spanning the 50s, 60s and the 70s in this field.

Millions have visited Kancheevaram to worship the Paramacharya.  But that sets Shri Sadagopan apart from the rest is they way he manifested his devotion to the seer.   He diligently followed the Acharya on his tour and recorded his speeches and the rituals he performed.

Even before coming into contact with the Kanchi Acharya, Shri Sadagopan had earned a name for himself as an ace mike setting man.  In 1946, he traveled with Mahatma Gandhi, setting up mike and loud speakers.  So much, so that Gandhiji asked that he called to make the arrangements wherever he went, in south India.

Shri Sadagopan was an electrical and radio engineer by instinct.  Even as a school student, he spent time at local cinema halls, learning to operate the projectors.  He took to radios and other electric gadgets like fish to water.  After getting on the job training in radio from a local shop, Shri Sadagopan set up a shop himself.  He could create parts to replace old ones in imported radios, maintained by Englishmen.

The master technician channelised his gifted talent into an area of equally inborn appreciation of music.  Shri Sadagopan recorded concerts of top musicians of those days.  Some of the names to be mentioned are, N.C. Vasantakokilam, Madurai Mani Iyer, Alathur Brothers and Palzhani Subramaniya Pillai.  What amazens one about the Sadagopan collection is that he was able to see far and understand the value of what he was doing.  He felt the temple festivals, rituals, arts and performances, which were taken for granted by the people of the day, may soon fade into past.  So decided to document them.  His enthusiasm for this audio and video documentation can be understood by the enormity of the volume of his collection.  IGNCA has only acquired a part of the collection, which consists of nearly 70 videotapes of varying lengths (from 400 to 2000 ft.), 26 audio tapes, six photo albums and 590 colour slides.  These form a theme of his collection that is mainly related to temple rituals and spiritual leaders. 

Part of the records are the Agama, Bharat, Vyvasa, Silpa Vidwat Sadas at Kalahasti, Rajahmundry and Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Kumbabhiskhekam (temple consecration ceremony) of several temples, Puri religious conference at Bhubaneshwar in 1974, the Padyatra of Sri Andavan Swami to Rishikesh and Badrinath, and the Sri Ragavendra Swamigal Pooja Celebrations.

Shri Sadagopan's proximity to religious leaders also occasioned him to perform a historic task.  He was appointed by the Jeer of the Ahobila Mutt to oversee the construction of the South Gopuram (tower) of the Sri Rangam temple.  He has documented each stage of construction.  A committee of experts appointed by IGNCA to go through the collection of Sadagopan and evaluate it in academic terms found it to be of immense archival value.  They also said the documentation had been done by a professional photographer making it all the more valuable.

IGNCA has a well-developed archieves, which contains some of the most precious articles.  There are paintings, glass plate negatives, videotapes, audio tapes, the complete Mahabharata painted on cloth by Santok Ba, a woman who received no formal education, masks and puppets from world over and musical instruments.  The purpose of the collection is to preserve and pass on our heritage to the coming generations.  Documentation at the Centre also extends to lifestyles, living rituals, legendary personalities, theatre forms, dance forms etc.  Each of the topics is exhaustive and deserves separate treatment.  The archive is not a mere storehouse.  Here the collected objects and information are processed and offered not just to scholars but any person who is thirsty of knowledge and keen on learning.

- Mangalam Swaminathan

 

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