What is the Navarathri Mandapam Festival?

"When Sage Kambar (author of the epic Kamba Ramayanam) knew that his end was nearing, he gifted the idol of Sri Saraswathi which he worshipped, to a Chera King whose name I forget.  This was before the formation of the Venad Swarupam and later Travancore. The state of Travancore was established by Maharaja Anusham Thirunal Marthanda Varma (1729-1758) who had only two options at the time - to kill or be killed. He opted for the former - and ably aided by the genius of his minister ("Dalawa") Ramayyan, wiped out his enemies being nearly wiped out himself on more occasions than one but that is another story. In fact he vanquished his enemies so thoroughly that the succeeding Maharajahs had little to do in the defense department, which left them ample time for the finer things in life - music, for example. Though Maharaja Swati Thirunal Rama Varma remains the most famous musician, composer and patron of arts in the family, there were many others before and after him who have rendered invaluable service to the cause of art and literature in their own way.   To come back to our story, the Chera King had promised Sage Kambar that the Navaratri Festival for the precious Saraswathi Amman would be conducted every year, come what may. This promise has always been kept and the Navaratri Festival is being conducted by the royal family of Travancore to this day".

Where does this festival take place? This Festival takes place in the Navarathri Mandapam, adjacent to the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple of Trivandrum. 

How can we reach the Venue? By Air: Thiruvananthapuram International Airport is located at Valiyathura 6kms from the city. Many international air carriers operate daily flights to the Middle East, Male and Sri Lanka from Thiruvananthapuram. Indian Airlines has direct connections to Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi. Jet Air (Gulf Air) has daily flights to Mumbai and Chennai.

By Rail: The main railway station is the Thiruvanananthapuram Central station located at Thampanoor about one and half kilometres from the Venue. There are daily trains such as Parasuram express, Malabar express and Cannanore express. There are also daily express trains to Kochi such as the Venad express, the Kerala express and the Vanchinad express.

By Road: Thampanoor is the main bus terminal in Thiruvananthapuram. Kerala State Transport operates a comprehensive service from Thiruvananthapuram, throughout the state and to Tamil Nadu. The city bus terminal is situated at Fort from where most of the city service originates. State and National Highways connect Thiruvananthapuram to all major Indian cities. 

What are the dates of this festival? The 9 day Navarathri Mandapam Festival takes place annually during the 9 days of the Navarathri/Pooja/Dusserah Festival.  Therefore the dates of this festival change according to the Hindu calendar.  This year (2010) the Navarathri Mandapam Festival commenced on October 8th and concluded on October 17th.

When does each concert commence? The concerts commence at 6pm SHARP.

When does each the concert end? Unlike the concerts during the Swathi Sangeethotsav each concert during the Navarathri Mandapam Festival concludes at a fixed time which is 8.30pm SHARP.  This is then followed by a Deeparadhana/AARTI.

Are there any restrictions at the Navarathri Mandapam Festival? Yes.  The Navarathri Mandapam Festival being a festival that takes place within the Navarathri Mandapam adjacent to the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple, the following restrictions apply:

  1. Non-Hindus are not allowed inside
  2. Men (audience and performers) are required to remove their shirts before entering 
  3. People are not allowed to wear sandals
  4. Applause is not permitted as every concert is a musical offering and not a performance.
  5. Mobile phones are strictly forbidden inside.
  6. One has to be seated by 6PM itself and cannot leave before the concert finishes at 8.30

Some salient features of the Navarathri Mandapam Festival:

The Navarathri Mandapam Festival steeped in tradition is a musical offering to the Goddess of learning and wisdom Saraswathi Devi.

Until 2006 tradition demanded the prohibition of entry into the Navarathri Mandapam for women folk as listeners and/or musiciansHowever, 2006 is an important year in the history of the Navarathri Mandapam Festival and in the history of Music itself as this was the year when the ancient tradition was abolished and the mostly retired Smt Parassala Ponnammal became the first woman to sing at the Mandapam enthralling an audience that for the first time comprised also of women.  This revolutionary move admitting women both as audience and performers was not achieved overnight and into its realization went years of focused effort on the part of Prince Rama Varma.  This was hugely welcomed by music circles and the Indian society in general.   

Is this festival open to all? Sorry, but entry into the Navarathri Mandapam is not open to all.  Non-Hindus are not allowed inside the Mandapam, however, Speakers installed outside, near the steps of the Sri Padmanabha Swami Temple make it possible for every lover of music to listen to the concerts even from outside the temple. A chunk of each day's concert is broadcast by All India Radio from 9.30pm till 11pm the same night. 

What are the seating arrangements like at the festival? People have to sit on the floor inside the Mandapam.  One could sit on the steps outside the Mandapam. 

How can we ensure a seat of our preference? One is sure to find a good place to sit if one were to reach the venue by 5.45pm or so. 

What compositions are performed at this Festival? The compositions performed at this festival are the Navarathri Krithis and others songs composed by Maharajah Swathi Thirunal.

The Navarathri Krithis are the following (name of the Krithi followed by the Raaga and the Thaal)

  1. Devi Jagat Janani, Sankarabharanam, Adi
  2. Pahimam Sri Vageeswari, Kalyani, Adi
  3. Devi Pavane, Saveri, Adi
  4. Bharati Mamava, Todi, Adi
  5. Janani Mamavameye, Bhairavi, Misra Chapu
  6. Saroruhasana Jaye, Pantuvarali, Adi
  7. Janani Pahi, Shuddhasaveri, Misra Chapu
  8. Pahi Janani Santatam, Nattakurinji, Misra Chapu
  9. Pahi Parvatanandini, Arabhi, Adi

Are the concerts purely vocal or is any other form of music performed? The concerts are both vocal and instrumental in Carnatic style.

Who organizes this festival? This festival is organized by the Navarathri Trust.  

How can we get in touch with the organizer? Internationally acclaimed classical vocalist and vainika and also the scion of the Travancore Royal Family, Prince Rama Varma is a trustee in the Navarathri Trust and he may be reached on the following email id: writetoramavarma@gmail.com

Which are the nearest hotels where music lovers can stay during the Navarathri Festival?

Hotel Comfort Inn,    N G Road, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471 2471286

Hotel Luciya Continental East Fort,Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471-2463443, Fax : 91-471-2463347                         

The South Park M G Road, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2333333, Fax :91-471- 2331861                                 

Hotel Horizon, Aristo Junction, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471-2326888

Hotel Pankaj, Statue, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2464645

Mascot Hotel,Palayam, Trivandrum, Kerala  ,Tel: 91-471-2318990, Fax : 91-471-2317745


Hotel Chaitram,Thampanoor, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2330977


Hotel Silver Sand,Near Railway Station, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2478230 / 2460318


Hotel Amirtha (Govt. Approved),Thycaud, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2323091


Hotel Sukhvas (Govt. Approved)    ,Manjalikulam Road, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2331967


Jaz Hotel (Govt. Approved),Thycaud, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471-2324881, Fax :91-471-2324443


Hotel Arya Nivas ,Aristo Junction, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2330788/ 89/90/91/92, Fax :91-471-2330780


Hotel Geeth,Near GPO, Pulimoodu, Trivandrum Kerala,Tel: 91-471- 2471987/2460278


Hotel Hilton,S.S. Kovil Road, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2331137 / 2331098


Hotel Highland,Manjalikkulam Road, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2332645 / 2333200 / 2333416


Hotel Highness Inn,Perumthanni, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471- 2450983


Hotel Horizon, Aristo Junction, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471- 2323222 / 2326676


Hotel Jazeera,Medical College, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471- 2446586 / 2446582


Hotel Keerti,Aristo Junction, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471- 2325650


Hotel Kyvalya,Manjalikkulam Road, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471- 2337513/2335561/ 2334176/2330724


Hotel Lakeside, Near Veli Tourist Village, Veli, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471- 2501685


Hotel Libra, Medical College, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471- 2445581


Hotel Mass, Over Bridge Jn., M.G. Road, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471-2460566


Hotel Navaratna, YMCA Road, Near Secretariat, Trivandrum, Tel: 91-471- 2331494 / 2331784 / 2330473


Hotel Prasanth, P.M.G. Junction, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2316189/ 2316581


Hotel Rajadhani, East Fort, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2473353


Hotel Safari,Opp. S.M.V. School, Trivandrum, Kerala,Tel: 91-471-2452839


Hotel Residency Tower, Press Road, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471-2332245 / 2331661


Safa International, Aristo Road, Trivandrum, Kerala, Tel: 91-471-2327556


The Muthoot Plaza, Trivandrum, Kerala,,Tel: 91-471-2337733

Hotels in Kovalam

Thapovan Heritage Home, Nellikunnu, Mulloor P.O Trivandrum  Kerala Emails: thapovan@gmail.com, thapovan@sancharnet.in.  Website:  www.thapovan.com.Tel: 91-471-2480453

The Leela, Kempinski Kovalam Beach, Kovalam,Kerala, Tel: 91-48-4646 505


For further details of the Festival please contact Prince Rama Varma on his email ids.

Names, contact details of hotels and other information courtesy: Various websites including Wikipedia

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