NEW YORK: The Natyanjali Trust, which organizes India’s largest annual classical dance festival at Lord Shiva temple in Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu, is planning to have tie in with US-based dance gurus and dancers to help them perform at the festival and pay homage to the lord of the dance.
A. Sambandam, Secretary of Natyanjali Trust and an attorney in the temple town of Chidambaram said the five-day festival that attracts over 700 dancers – both senior and junior – from all over the world is considered the biggest festival of its kind in the world. It starts on the auspicious Maha Shivratri Day each year.
Dancers from every single genre – Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Odissi, Yakshagnanam, Mohiniyattam, Kathak and other classical and folk styles come to the holy city to perform either solo, group or ballet to perform at the feet of Lord Nataraja as a dance tribute.
“Dancers from all over the world consider it sacred to perform before the Lord of Dance and we want more engagement with US-based dancers and students,” he said. Participation and response have acquired international dimension.
He said there were requests from US-based dancers, teachers and students to help them perform at the festival and the Trust is planning to set up a coordinating office in the US, especially in the East Coast, to facilitate their participation.
The invited performers are provided transport, accommodation and food and no money is collected from them. The dancers start performing one by one at 6 pm on the Maha Shivratri day and go on till the next morning as part of the tradition.
The five-day festival is being witnessed by over 10,000 people and the next festival starts on March 10, 2013 at Chidambaram, he said. It goes by the lunar calendar and commences on Maha Shivratri day each since its humble beginning in 1981.
Today it’s patronized by the Government of India’s Sangeet Natak Academy, South Zone Cultural Center, State Governments, Annamalai University and philanthropists. It has come on the global dance map and the organizers start receiving applications in March for the following year and permission is given after a careful scrutiny of their experience and style, Sambandam said.
Dancers come from as far as from Nepal, Singapore, Malaysia, China, Fiji, the US and the UK. A forty-foot huge stage is erected on the outer corridor of the magnificent temple near the sanctum sanctorum. The ancient Shiva temple in which Lord Shiva exists in a dancing form and the Sanctum represent that Shiva exists in the form of “sky” which is one of the five elements.
Chidambaram was a Chola capital from 907AD – 1310AD and the Nataraja temple was erected during the latter part of the administration. The temple complex has four large gopurams. The presiding deity is Shiva in his aspect of as the cosmic dancer and the magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Shiva was built a thousand years ago and provides a beautiful backdrop for the event. The setting is truly divine – the gold-roofed temple, with pillars depicting Lord Nataraja in 108 poses from Bharatanatyam – Tamil Nadu’s classical dance.
With a view to reviving and consolidating the tradition, a concerted effort was made in 1981 in the form of annual event with the cooperation of Podhu Deekshithars – the hereditary custodians of the temple. Over the years Natyanjalii has grown in status developing into national festival presenting many styles of Indian classical dance, he added.
Sambandam said the holy shrine of Nataraja at Chidambaram is full of esoteric and spiritual significance. The Ananda Tnadava of the Lord depicted protection, transformation, containment and grace. The icon representing this manifestation of Shiva has been universally praised for its exquisite beauty and aesthetic nuances. It is this figure that has been a perennial inspiration for the art of dance.
Calai Chandra, a New York-based Bharatanatyam dancer, who performed last year at Chidambaram dance festival, described her experience as celestial and soulful.
Prakash M Swamy