Who Killed Manavi Cheykona raada?

Bharatanatyam is a fantastic and a spectacular dance form. I say this with a reason. Imagine one dance form, that was performed facing the Idol in a temple, with curtains on, rarely seen by the audience outside, and if they get lucky to catch a glimpse, its only the back of the dancer they see. From here, to being one of the most popular classical dance forms of the world, performed in every corner, on every big and small stages is quite a journey.
Bharatanatyam as any art form welcomed variations and experiments with open arm. This might be the reason for both its popularity and being most criticised dance form. Either ways, this definitely is the reason why so many ‘styles’ in bharatanatyam came up.



Some say “there are as many styles of bharatanatyam as there are dancers”. But for classification purposes there are only four : Tanjavoor, Pandanallur, Vazhuvoor and Kalakshetra. Whilst I cannot make out much difference between Tanjavoor and Pandanallur, I can mostly make out Vazhuvoor and can definitely make out Kalaskhetra.

No matter what the style be, the music and the kind of compositions that are used to dance are the same. Coming to talk of compositions, some are written for bharatanatyam and some are adapted. How beautiful is the adaptation is again a hugely debatable topic. There are several popular compositions that were written decades back, but still are very popular and are performed even today by dancers of all styles of bharatanatyam. Sometimes a composition is often and frequently performed by dancers of one particular style and that becomes a kind of flagship dance piece that is usually identified with that particular style of bharatanatyam.

For eg: The varnam : Manavi chekona raada, in raaga Shankarabharanam, Adi tala.

This dance piece is performed so often and frequently by the students of kalakshetra style of bharatantyam that it became a flagship dance piece of kalakshetra style and is identified with it.

Over years I have seen many dancers of all styles perform this dance piece. Much to my disappointment, not a single dancer could stir any emotion in me, let alone the bhava working its magic. I don’t want to be partial to any style here. However, completely ignoring or cutting down on the essential elements that communicate the ‘rasa’, fails to achieve the goal. Yes I agree that every performance cannot be a soul-stirring experience. Much depends on the rasika too. Even the natyashastra/abhinaya darpana say that. But atleast there should be a sincere effort to try make each performance, an experience that it is meant to deliver.

While performing to a composition, a dancer should help the composition, what it set to achieve, thereby realising her own goal of executing it. Particularly in this case, I have been a witness of mere various physical interpretations of the verse, than emotional. Let me explain. It is like how many different ‘sancharis’ one does while the line repeats. There is nothing wrong with that, but yes, there is, when its done mechanically.

I was watching a very popular dancer(not a kalakshetra style dancer) execute this dance piece on a DVD. Why did I use the word execute? Well, that’s what she did, execute and not perform. Her beauty, her perfect body, aramandi and perfect execution of foot work shadows her absolute lack of abhinaya in this varnam.This not just a case with her, but with almost all of the dancers, I saw performing this varnam. Especially in the recent times. I am as much of a traditionalist as anyone when it comes to technical perfection in terms of aramandi etc, but where is the bhava? I ask. Where is the sringara, the tease, the blushing, the absolute openness on how the felling of love is tormenting? Yes the story is told in the sancharis, but without an iota of feeling- at least that is what the rasika feels. It is as beautiful as reading out a melodious song.

Is this a case of a chewing gum that lost its flavor due to over chewing? or is it just that one style is very restrictive or is it the dancer’s incompetence? Whatever the reason, one of the most popular varnam has been mercilessly and collectively killed. I am yet to see one dancer perform this varnam that can keep me glued.

However tempted I am here to provide links and mention names, but I refrain for one reason that classical dancing is not a bread-earner in India. Yet so many people, small, young and old, religiously study it and practice it and pass it on generation to generation. They do it for the love the have for the dance, and not with an ego of being a great dancer themselves. The above was not about them, but was about those 1% of flag bearing professional talented dancers(and those that like to think and display themselves as exceptionally talented dancers) that influence these rest 99%.

Whatever it is, this is not a singular case. Another composition that came to light in similar conditions is “Bho Shambho”. One dancer I met in a dance festival recently claimed that she has choreographed it herself and went on to do the worst duplication of the most viewed video on youtube.

Does a little use of breasts, glances, lips, eyebrows, shoulders hurt so much to communicate the bhava and rasa?

Response from a dear friend and an ardent rasika : I just read the post.. its not the case just with manavi.. so many varnams have been killed.. specially mohamana and kamas which have more of explicit lyrics… Vazhuvoor le its done with more of oomph!


I am back !


Yes, its been a very long break. Much needed one. This sabbatical gave me time to revisit my thougths on dance and other areas of life.

Anyway, I hope to write more meaningful and thought provoking articles. Please feel free, as before, to leave your comments and thoughts.

My Experiance At Natyaanjali


I don’t know how right or wrong it is to share some not so pleasent experiances one has had with something that is popular and big, especially when everyone around seems to be only singing praises. Well, let me start with the pleasentries. Yes it is great to be a part of Natyaanjali. The sheer proximity of the temple, the dancers, so much of talent and creativity infuses a very different kind of vibrance in one. Though I was supposed to go to Chidambaram and Thanjavur, due to reasons, I was, on request, kindly relocated to Thirunallar, Nagapattinam and Kumbakonam. All my tickets were booked and I got to know that I was soon to be a mommy again. I was in a dilemma whether or not to go ahead with my plans. With my health and now this news, I had 4 programs in 3 days, travelling not including. Well, with family and doctor giving me a nod, I decided to go ahead.
My experiance in with the Govt. was good. I only hoped they gave more publicity about the cultural evening, and time to me also. The anchoring for the dance recital could be done in a much much better fashion. But, with Govt. dept., I didn’t expect much. What I got was more than what I thought.
Then I came to Nagapattinam. In a not so bad hotel, but in really hot and sultry weather. The non-ac room didn’t help much. The organizer came and met me. I told him that I was exhausted and that I was pregnant. I conveyed that I might not be able to cover the time they have given me, even with all my preperation. He told me to rest and gave me an option to don the role of a rasika. No way. On shivaratri night, I have to dance. It was the Lord’s calling, I was about to cancel everything. The fact I am here is becoz He wants me to dance. So they were kind enough to get me an AC car to and fro Thirunallar and Nagapattinam. I did dances on Shiva theme, as they had requested. Lovely audiance. I remember, the elderly gentlemen kept glued to their seats thru my performance, especially when I did ” yethanai sonnalum”. Then when I finished and joined my mother in the audiance, they turned back and just smiled at me. There were few who said I was good, but that smile, was more than a compliment. After I finshed in Nagapattinam, they asked me to be on the stage. The organizer announced that “today not only this artist danced, but her baby that she is carrying had its arangetram” and etc in Tamil. He was kind enough to make me the lucky one when he told me that I was the first one to have the shivaratri prasadam, while handing the packet to me. He even arranged the dinner in my room at 12 in the night. Quite an honor it was. Sad that quite a few well known dance teachers and gurus donot prefer or not aware that Natyanjaali happens in these places too. Its nice when you dance for the audiance and influence them, who are not used to the likes of Chidambaram.
Then I travelled to Kumbakonam. It was a nice reception. Atleast here, I got an ac room, to my relief. The lunch was simple yet very very delicious in a satram kind of place. In the evening I got ready before time. I wanted to see other performances. To my delight and dismay, when I reached there, Sonal Mansingh was dancing. She is a reservior of talent. But, now too old. The dancers I met during lunch were all dressed and waiting for their turn. There I met Probal Gupta. I saw his advert in Narthaki.com. I was so happy, dont know why. I met him, introduced myself. Then I sat almost next to him. I just commented about Sonal Mansingh being too old, and then I realized I was heard by a representative from Southern Cultural zone. After I exchanged the contact information, I noticed few dancers eagerly waiting for their turn. Talking to them I realized that one of them was waiting since 6.30pm for her turn to dance. Mine was at 9.20pm. I again went to Probal Gupta to ask his time slot. He told me very curtly that he will talk to me later. I thought he was watching Sonal Mansingh. Later the way he avoided me made me realize that I did some thing to set him off. Was it becoz I am not as big a name as he thinks he is, or is it becoz he can’t handle a disarming smile and a friendly gesture from a co-artiste.
Time was running out. There was another Kathak artiste, student of Birju Maharaj I guess, who had to catch the ssame bus to Chennai as I. He went and requested a couple of artists including Probal if they could cut a couple of minutes down, then he can manage 5-10 minutes of his slot and them be on time to catch the bus. They all said it was fine. But acutally exceede their alloted time. Prema, Probal were before me. Then the Kathak artist. He came to me with the same request and I told him I will do 10 min of my 20 mins alloted time. Both him and the organizer were happy.
When an artist is given time, is it not good to stick to that time. This goes for Sonal Mansigh too. The bigger celebrity you become, is it not good that you set standards and examples. It was as if this was the last stage on which these dancers will ever dance. Prema danced 3min more than her time, Probal danced for more than half hour. Me and the Kathak artist were down to 10 mins each. When him and the organizer thanked me for being understanding, I told them audible enought to other dancers, dancing is not just moving your hands and legs in coordination. Its a spritual experiance that comes from within. It starts from understanding, oneself and others. This is what my guru taught me. If I have to make a mark, then I dont need half hour for it.
I was a part of another festival where this artist was made to stop dancing as he exceeded his alloted time, by stopping the music. In retrospect I dont tthink it was a bad idea. We all are educated enough to understand that 20 minutes never means 21 or 25 minutes. I request the organizers too to please in future, when you give an artist a time, make it amply clear that they have to be in that time – no matter how big a celebrity he/she be.

Pyar Kiya toh Drama Kyon


i was watching this program on CNN IBN regarding Valentine’s day. Why should we have such a day? Is it borrowed from western culture? whats wrong with it?
My take on this- Its bloody well borrowed from western culture. Yes it it not wrong to love or express it- donot forget its India that taught the world Love and Sex (Khajuraho).
What i find objectionable is the duality and hypocrysy in the whole concept of Valantines day. Started as a day for lovers now extends itself that its a day for mother’s love etc. what bull shit ? Do they think we dont know the story of Saint Valentine? then there is mothers day, father’s day etc.
now if one wants to really celebrate such days,then why not have a Kanva Maharshi day- the one who united Shakuntala and Dushyanta. or in the name of the Brahmin who was the messenger between Rukmini and Krishna. Why not have Dasharatha day and Yashoda day? So Indian and so ours. But no we will not even care to hear this argument. these names are sooo old and sooooooooooo Indian that most of the Indian youngsters feel awkward to celebrate it and the companies find it hard to market them. I would die of shock if half my readers even know the stories and names i mentioned above.
it is so fashonable to trash all that is Indian culture and beliefs and so convienient to take the western shit. youngsters today dont even put that minimum effort to find out why and how belief survived millions of years. just as easy to name SOMRAS as the modern day alcohol. foolish!!
Atleast I am not ready to become another Gora Slave.

Jesus Kauthuvam, Jesus Shabdam, whats next?



Of late I have been seeing a lot of enquires on dance pieces relating to Jesus or Christianity. However I felt happy when there are loads of responses to help such queries and not a single one to condemn. Why should there be one? Bharata never said that Natya
Shastra belongs to a particular religion. When Bharata might have sit down to write the book, there might not have been one single religion in sight. Probably that’s what makes the Natyashastra so adaptable by Hinduism, because it developed, adjusted and adapted to various changes thru the life and civilizations over millions of years. All this happened in the very land where Bharata drafted the Natyashastra.
I am not a religious person, but, spiritual, – yes. One need not believe in Rama or Krishna to be a Hindu or perform a piece on them. It’s understood more in terms of the finite soul and the infinite Paramatma.
How can Christianity or Jesus fit this picture? While this is a religion that is not a part of this land and requires one to believe in Jesus/ his family members to be a true Christian. It is so required that a true Christian needs to go to church regularly, while one can be a Hindu without seeing a temple all your life.

Yes, religion is important in the context of dance, because of the emotions springing there-from. Let me elaborate. Hindusim or Sanathana dharma has never shunned sex, or love between a man and woman. From this and based on this one act there are thousands of emotions and compositions. Emotions are the quintessential aspect of any art- one cannot deny this fact. Take the different Tandavas. The rasas and bhavas are what adds color, is what gives the rasika a rasanubhava. The rasanubhava of the rasika and the artist is the aim of the art form.
Once we start talking of love, there is no end to it. Pangs of separation, happy unions, jealous of the lord’s other wife or be it the urge to meet the lord- all speak of love. How can Christianity cater to this?
Then there is love of mother. And we have thousands of compositions on Krishna right from the ‘gopika’ point of view to et al.
What instances and inferences can be taken to depict ‘hasya’, ‘bhayanaka’, ‘bhibhatsam’?
How can the navarasas be emoted with appropriate instances? So how can there be a Margam? When there is no path, where does the artist start, where to end and what it will lead to?
All these emotions give an insight into the human physical inconsistencies and what the soul craves for. As one needs to be born a baby and thru adolescence, teenage youth and old age that he accumulates the wealth of knowledge and experience and understands the ‘Maya’. An artist needs to travel thru the navarasas before reaching the pinnacle of truth, that of his Atma to become one with the Paramatma.

May be this is the reason that there is not many compositions to find for Lord Buddha.
While some great composers of A.D chose to compose in different languages, they never ventured out of Hinduism. This understanding of the inconsistencies of other religions with respect to the Indian classical dance, gave the status of Natya Veda.

On Dance,Bharatanatyam,Tanjore Quartet,Disco, Of Glorious past and not so glorious present


The inspiration behind this writeup is the the previous three articles on www.bharatanatyam2dance.wordpress.com.

Let me start by first exploring this- what is dance? Dance is the physical interpretation of music. What is good dancing and what is bad dancing? Like beauty is it not a very personal thing, is it not something only the viewer of the dance can and should judge? If not then why do different people have different opinions and favorites?

What is divine dancing? Is Bharatanatyam only divine and no other dance form? Ok. I will give the author of the abovesaid blog some lieniency. Are only the Indian classical dances divine? This author seems to make a lot of fun for other dance forms. Any dance, where one is enjoying the dance, without the knowledge of self- is divine( limiting this only to dance- i believe anything done without the knowledge of being or self is divine) be it hip- hop, ballet or jazz etc. I feel the author of the above said blog should see a few programs to realize that there are dances which would physically challenge all the aspects of even the author’s best Bharatanatyam dancer.

I am a Bharatanatyam dancer myself. But to say that only this form is good and divine and everything else is inferior, is not an idea I agree to. This author has even criticised dances in discos. Well I doubt the author has ever been into a disco. I feel one of the best places to observe what it means to dance- just dance, is a disco.  Is enjoying dancing not one of the purposes of dance itself? Is it not better than dancing infront of a audiance who are munching chips while the dancer is trying hard to catch their attention?

Have you ever heard a dancer saying, “This item was revealed to me by such-and-such Apsara in my meditation?”  is what the author comments in article . Well, since when did Apsaras and Gods started appearing in meditation? One should meditate to understand what it is and what are revealed thru it. Or is there any other meaning than what I understand that the author was trying to put across?

I still await the answer from the author for the question on what is glorious past? What is the current shit? What is art and what is not?  Hpw was an Alaripu was performed say 500 yrs ago, when Bharatanatyam was known as Sadir attam? This dear author was not even born, and because the author can’t find answers on the internet, so the author cannot say anything.

Although some idiots corrupted by the western pseudo-culture dare to expose their lack of brain by stating that “The body of a dancer of today considerably differs from that of an 11th or 14th century dancer, especially one known only from temple sculptures.” , it is an archaeological fact that the human bodies in South India were no different 50000 years ago from what these bodies look now. It is the styles of sculpture that came and vanished. The bodies remain the same “  The author seems not to be  aware of the evloution process.

“there are no contemporary Bharatanatyam dancers whose death would result in the immediate death of 1000 of their fans” there is nothing on this earth that can produce such results, God didnot design human such a way. Else all the people who lost their beloved would die immediately.

the real dancing happens in the invisible worlds, where it is much more fun Please explain in detail…

Have you ever met a contemporary Bharatanatyam dancer who has at least 1 spiritual experience??? Since when people started talking loudly about their spiritual experiances to all
Tom Dick and Harry? The author can please enlighten whether the author had herself/himself had one such experiance? Iam sure he/she would know if her /his favorite dancers had one- we all would like to know, don’t we?

Tuition was… free of cost. What was Guru Dakshina?

The author speaks endlessly regarding that perfect physical posture, that perfect expression – a dancer not having them  for which the below is the conversation that happened between us.

the way you rip apart each one above, you sound as a considerable authority on the art form. considering this you might as well.

Dear, reading the above, has indeed stirred what has been on my mind since quite some time. Is a perfect araimandi more important that giving oneself into dance itself? i fall into this catagory.
Is dancing in itself more important than looking for people to clap for you? Very recently, due to some misunderstanding, i have been denied a slot for performance in a show in Sydney. I was dissappointed, I practice every day in my kitchen-dining space. Thats when my husband asked me this- Are you not happy that you have enough space and time to dance every day? is it not enough?


Oyoyoyoyo! You are making such irresistible compliments! ) Wow! )

Is a perfect araimandi more important than giving oneself into dance itself?

The concentration and laya are important factors to touch the rasas, and to create a powerful spiritual atmosphere. Many good musicians (the violinist Sikhamani is a good example) “dance” (even their bodies move) while playing music. Are they dancers? No, they are musicians.

However, Bharatanatyam is not just about the inner, invisible things: it is about expressing (perfectly or not so) the inner experiences in the physical form. Without a perfect instrument and a perfect expression, the higher, spiritual truths, cannot be embodied.

We can also ask, what if the dancer cannot put her fingers into a perfect mudra? If you find a perfect body position, automatically your mind will move into a certain state.

If millions of people feel ecstatic at a disco when they give themselves into dance itself, is it important that they don’t dance Bharatanatyam? ;)

If you are “looking for people to clap for you”, you need either to become a pop star or to consult a psychiatrist. ) Seriously, if you feel such a need, your pranas are not circulating properly (some channels are open, and you lose energy). Go, sit in padmasana )

  • mallika Says:
    July 29, 2008 at 9:46 am Bharatanatyam,
    Now we are discussing something important here. While you are talking of araimandis, mudras etc, how much do you delve into the dancer really enjoying the dance herself. Iam a firm believer that one can give what one has, be it money or love or any feelings. While I was in theatre, doing skits and plays, one of my seniors told me, if you are not feeling it within, it shows to audiance mallika. And same goes for dance.
    While there is such rush to become celebrities ASAP and remain so as long, be it in any field. I feel this is a question that one should ask oneself, ‘am i feeling bhakti, when iam potryaing it?’
    Can you really deny the fact that most of the dancers are up there looking for people to clap for them?For all of them, its time to take a closer look and deeper meaning at what krishna said ‘ karmanye vadhi kaaraste, maa phaleshu kadachana…..’
    FYI, if a perfect body pose is what leads to rasanubhava, then iam still to watch it. but i expreianced a stir in me when i did watch priya murle do a varnam, without a araimandi.
  • mallika Says:
    July 29, 2008 at 9:51 am one more thing, its not only ectasy that we are talking about. if we are so insistant on being physically perfect poses, it doesnot need bharatanatyam. Even PrabhuDeva is physically perfect when he does his moves. or any bhangra dancer from punjab.
    what takes bharatanatyam is that inner spiritual feeling, felt and transmitted. Unless one feels, no transmission can happen.
  • Bharatanatyam Says:
    July 29, 2008 at 11:28 am I agree with you that there is no such a thing as an absolute physical perfection (in the types of bodies that humans have today). Moreover, people always see not the reality but what they expect and what they want to see.
    You can captivate their minds even without a perfect araimandi, no questions about that. You are absolutely right that a perfect araimandi is not as important as the dancer’s enjoying the dance.The dancer’s body’s perfect physical position is as unachievable as a violinist’s absolute precision in taking notes. If a musician is sometimes off-key, is it important? Or rather, can YOU hear it? Even among the most professional violinists, there are no perfect ones: the notes cannot be taken with an absolute precision. The average (untrained) human ear can distinguish 22 microtones in an octave. My neighbour can hear only 6, I guess! (So if some short-sighted people believe that PrabhuDeva (or Jothika) is physically perfect when he does his moves, it is because these spectators do not have a sharp (well-trained) eye, and do not understand what is Bharatanatyam.

    Rasanubhava is not just a “stir”, my dear.

    Can I really deny the fact that most of the dancers are up there looking for people to clap for them? No, I can’t. But these dancers will not be able to bring Tejas through them.
    In fact, it is quite obvious (and boring) when the dancer is aware of the audience and tries to please them.

  • The author seems to have not much information on the Dance itself and its history. Much to my shock the author and me had the below conversation for the article http://bharatanatyam2dance.wordpress.com/2008/01/03/the-hereditary-ones-and-back-to-karanas/#comment-141

    mallika Says:
    August 2, 2008 at 12:45 pm

    whats wrong with the TQ compositions? u seem not to like them. iam still thinking about the margam format though.
    may be ’cause i am trained in tanjore style?

    Bharatanatyam Says:
    August 2, 2008 at 12:58 pm

    think the TQ compositions are nice. u seem not to like them.

    They are ok, if the dancer is good I enjoy watching them, no problem. I have seen, for example, Sakiye performed at least 100 times by all kinds of dancers of all kinds of styles, in solos, duos, trios and groups! )

    However, the kings that the TQ compositions extol are no longer alive. The kings are dead.

    Imagine a contemporary composer composing an item dedicated to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Ms.Jayalalitha and containing lines praising her. As soon as Mr.Karunanidhi takes over again, this item will lose its relevance. Maybe the composer would end up in jail! ) The composer whose mind is tarnished by the desire/need to please a VIP will never produce a real masterpiece. For Rs.20000, some (second-rate) composers in Chennai will write you the lyrics and the music.
    There are short-term (politically correct) items, and there are long-term items not marred by politics/business.

    Think about what was BEFORE the present margam was introduced 200 years ago.

    Oy-yo-yo! ) Maybe ) Which Tanjore style, may I ask you? )

    mallika Says:
    August 3, 2008 at 9:09 am

    how many tanjore styles do u know anyway? how can you comment on anything that you have not seen or felt, for eg sundari? Dance is the physical interpretation of music and in that music lies the feeling and etc. thats y bharata never told how to dance. he laid guidelines, he left the interpretation part. he wanted each human being/dancer to feel, interpret and reach that point of understanding/realization. gods dont show their teeth? r u sure? what abt ur fav kali?
    while everything in the nature has undergone a change, including all kinds of art, y not dance or say bhartanatyam? y r u against it? no change or innovation or even bettermetnt can happen without such out of hte box thinking. yes i agree to the point that it might now be called, present day bharatanatyam of present day tanjore style of guru so and so…. but can u take an example , say a simple compsition and choreograph it exactly according to what sage bharata had written and meant in natyashastra? once u do that we will talk further.
    darling, not everything that is old is great, and not everything that is new is shit

  • Bharatanatyam Says:
    August 3, 2008 at 9:37 am How easy is it to infuriate you! )

    how many tanjore styles do u know anyway?

    Many. More than 50, I guess.

    how can you comment on anything that you have not seen or felt, for eg sundari?

    I did watch Sundari in that DVD. I tried not to laugh! ) Did you see how she drops her jaw? ) Comic! )
    What I meant to say that I did not see her in person, when she was younger. I guess she danced much better

    gods dont show their teeth?

    I said, “devas” (the Sattva-loving powers of Mind). Not even the Mahadevas or the powers of Svar, who are above the 3 guna’s.

    r u sure? what abt ur fav kali?

    She is the exception, since she has to clean up the world’s garbage. Dirty job. ) Unlike devas, She is not attached to any guna.

    while everything in the nature has undergone a change, including all kinds of art, y not dance or say bhartanatyam? y r u against it?

    No. I believe even Urvasi has been evolving in her style ) The apsaras (or devas) cannot evolve unless they take birth on earth. All evolution is happening here.

    can u take an example , say a simple compsition and choreograph it exactly according to what sage bharata had written and meant in natyashastra? once u do that we will talk further.

    OK. I’ll talk to you in 40-60 years’ time. Sure ( My creative talent is (at the moment) zero. I would have to do a lot of pujas for Brahma )

    darling, not everything that is old is great, and not everything that is new is shit

    Fine. I will be happy if you show (or tell) us what is there new that is not shit. )

  • mallika Says:
    August 3, 2008 at 10:37 am dear bharatanatyam,
    you mistake my thoughts as fury. you have not infuriated me. just like cleaning the garbage that u do is mistook by many.
    you not only have to open your eyes wide enough, but also your mind to let in some freshness and see things in a new and better perspective, then you will realise what is new and what is not shit.
    while i really like and respect your honesty, pls dont hide under any pretext…. did u really think that way when i askedu abt sundari? welll….. there is something that is above everything- that is truth. and only our inner self knows whether we are true or not, right or not.
    not only the devas, but also such human who is self realized and has reached the ultimate bliss thru meditation will have that kind of smile u have mentioned above.
    to think that one knows everything and what one sees exists and what one knows only is right – is not a very good idea.
    pls list down the 50 kinds of tanjore style of dancing in detail and i will tell u which one is mine.
    how do u know that devas have that smile, and do u know the reason behind it, all the reasons that are there all the time?
    why such frustration?
  • The author is obiviously unaware of the various kauthuvams and varnams like ‘manavi chekona raada’ by the Tanjore quartet.

    Coming to the latest post by this author where the author poses certain questions on the commercialisation of Bharatanatyam.
    The author starts by talking how mean it is to claim a copyright on one’s work and how glorius were the people of the past that they did not do any such thing. Indeed, Ramayana was always, Valmiki Ramayana, then came Tuslidas’s Ramanayana, then came our Ramanand Sagar… same goes for Mahabharatam and Bhagavatam… Iam tempted to name Pothana here….. Whilst it would have been beneficial to tell the readers that it was Vighneshwara who actually wrote Mahabharatam while Vyasa was narrating it and while is pen/thing with which he was writing broke, he broke off  one of his tusk and wrote the rest of Mahabharatam with it. Iam looking for a composition where I can choreograph this piece.

    The author then quotes the following:

    Read what Minakshi tells us:

    The most popular legend is that of the amazing young tribal boy Ekalavya on being rejected by the ace trainer Dronacharya, raised his statue and with great dedication practised the art of archery and left behind Arjuna, the master archer, who actually learnt the art under the living guru. And the heartless guru asked for his thumb as gurudakshina or fees, and made him inferior before his royal disciple.

    This is the most funny conclusion I have ever read, except Rama doubting Sita and subjecting her to the fire test. The author misses the basic comparision of Ekalavya’s act to what is happening in the present day Bharatanatyam world. Can we not see the similarities between what Ekalavya’s learning and present day online bharatanatyam courses, DVD teaching and distance certification courses? If this is right, then Drona was wrong indeed. 

    I posted a comment for the above article for which I am still waiting for an answer.

    mallika Says:
    August 8, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    what is sadir attam? to be precise, how did it look when one danced in that style,an alaripu or a padam,and may be not the present day bharatanatyam style? who dances that way now? how can one know? how can one say that that is only nice and not wat we do today? if one teacher charges some amount as a fee, but teaches more than for the said hours, is it wrong? is a bharatanatyam teacher supposed to teach free, when the student is someone who can afford the fee? what is the avg fee for bharatanatyam, rs.300-500 monthly for thrice a week hourly classes? how many students cannot afford it? how many children who cannot afford such money really find bharatanatyam interesting? should one just pull everyone into dancing, whether or not its his interest? like one is pulled into academics?
    who is a ‘true bharatanatyam guru’? if we have ’sa, ri, ga,ma,pa,dha,ni’ ,we create ragas based on these seven swaras. now all the ragas will contain only these swaras, then what is original- this is without going into the details of the origin of the swaras themselves?




    iam still thinking about the margam format though. 


    may be ’cause i am trained in tanjore style? 

    Bhartanatyam And Yoga Part-9



    A true Yogi is neither an introvert nor an extrovert. He or she is an ambivert, a person who is equally at home irrespective of whether he is introspecting within himself or whether he is interacting vibrantly with the external environment. Therefore to make sure that the natural introversion of Yoga is balanced with healthy extroversion, some form of extroverted activity such as sports, music or art and craft skill need to be deliberately cultivated.

    Dance provides a dynamic activity to offset the static activity of Yoga and many modern Yoga practitioners can benefit from such an associations.

    Dance also provides a great source for emotional catharsis and this can help the Yoga Sadhaka to get over many of the emotional hang-ups that continue to bother them in his or her Sadhana.



    Pujya Swamiji, Gitananda Giri Guru Maharaj, the codifier of the Rishiculture Ashtanga Yoga Paramparai was a world-renowned expert on Classical Yoga and his knowledge of the Yogic science of Mudra was unsurpassed. Here we present an extract from his book MUDRAS published by Satya Press, Ananda Ashram, Pondicherry.



    The casual observer or the neophyte to Yoga may be easily led to believe that the beauty of the gesture, or the power of the esthete is that which evokes the Devatta, the Deva and the Devis, or that the entire procedure is entirely symbolical. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    There is a good basis for acceptance that the Mudra does control the mind-brain processes and the functions within the nervous system by uniting various nerve terminals of the sympathetic and para-sympathetic function. It is acceptable in neurology that the human nervous system is divided into aflex and reflex systems. The aflex carries afferent or sensory responses as well as efferent or motor responses. The reflex system is much like the grounding wire of any high voltage electrical system. A second function of the reflex system is that if feeds back to appropriate brain centres reflexogenic impulses that are associated with the modern concept of biofeedback. There are some 729 reflexes in the Yoga system. Modern Science has accepted some 222 of these reflexes. Mudra Yoga is a most exact science, emanating from our ancient Rishi Yoga culture.

    In Yoga, the human body can be divided equally into ten distinct parts, five on each side of a median drawn directly through the centre of the body from the top of the head to the base of the spine and terminating in each of the digits of the toes and the fingers. The body can be further sub-divided into ten Pranic areas, where one of the five major Pranic flows governs the head and others the chest, the abdomen, the pelvis and the extremities. Five minor Pranas are more subtly at the work within specific nerve areas.

    The true use of Pranayama is to control these ten flows of Prana Vayu and the Prana Vahaka or nerve impulses, which move in the Nadis or nerves of the Pancha Kosha, the Five Bodies of Man.

    When the fingers of the hands are united together in the Hastha Mudra, the specific nerves (as in Jnana Mudra) are united together in a closed nerve circuit. The fingers not in use represent an open nerve circuit. If the hands are united together (as in Namaskara Mudra), then the cranial nerve circuits of the head and the upper part of the body in the Pneumo-gastric or Vagus system are united together. If the hands are brought into alignment on the face (as in Yoni Mudra) then the Vagus nerves and the facial nerves are brought together in a closed circuit.

    If the hands are united with the feet (as in Yoga Mudra) then the Vagus system is close-circuited with the cerebrospinal nerves.

    When a posture like Parva Asana, the Past Posture, is used, all of the nerve systems of the body are thrown into turbulent action. Parva Asana is used by the Yogi to see into his past existences, to remember past lives. It is also sometimes called Purva Janma Mudra or Parva Mudra.

    The purpose of the Hatha Yoga Asanas is to bring together these same nerve terminals, uniting them uniquely in the various postures to produce the specific effect of that posture. This is one good reason that Asanas, Kriyas and Mudras must be done correctly, otherwise the posture is a meaningless gesture, rather than that as understood in the inner teachings of Yoga, a concrete method to achieve Union.       



    1. The Mudra is made complete by bringing together acupressure points at various sites on the human body. These Bindus are concerned with the pristine practice of Mudra. Yet, every Asana or Kriya is in some way a partial Mudra if these acupressure Bindus are brought into play. Particularly, this is to be noted in the practice of Hathaats, Hathenas, and the Hastikams in the Hatha Yoga system. This group of Asanas comes very close to being: Mudras.

    2. The Mudra or gesture can act like a Kriya increasing or impeding circulation of the blood or lymph into various vital organs. Mudra can control every organ and function of the body and mind.

    3. The Mudra moves energy through the physical nervous system of a bi-polar nature. This bi-polar nature is also inherent in the energy moving in the Pranamaya Kosha, the Vital Body. The Mudra helps to produce an electrical field around the Yogi, abundant in negative ions, producing a sense of well-being.

      4. The Mudra extracts energy and substances from the nerves and vital bodies producing the various enzymes and hormones needed for vibrant health.

    5. The Mudra creates a uni-polar base of energy in the Kanda, the Conus Medullaris at the base of the spinal cord. This uni-polar energy is popularly called “Kundalini Shakti”.

    6. The Mudra converts enzymes and hormones into Ojas, purified autocoids, and Tejas, super-enzymes. The Mudra accomplishes Urdhwa Retas or a transmutation of lower substances and drives producing a Satchidananada Deha, an indestructible Yogic body.

    7. The Mudra arouses and controls the Kundalini Shakti. Kundalini arousal without Mudra is madness.

    8. The Mudra is itself a vehicle of total Union or Yoga. To a pious Hindu Yogi, the Mudra is no longer a gesture of Union, but is Union itself. The devotee becomes Shiva, or Shakti. “Verily, the Mudra is the Devi, even the Supreme Adept Himself … Devi is Shakti, but the Mudra controls Her … so Mudra is also the Supreme Shakta”.



    Yogacharini Meenakshi Devi Bhavanani is one of the few experts in the world who has the unique combination of more than 35 years of study, research and teaching experience in the fields of Yoga and Bharatanatyam . She is a member of numerous Central and State Government councils of Yoga and has trained thousands of dancers in the art of Natya Karanas. Here we reproduce an essay by her that is excerpted from her book, YOGA: ONE WOMAN’S VIEW, published by Satya Press, Pondicherry.


    What are the means of communication, which are subtle, refined, and delicate beyond words? What means of communication exist which will not destroy the fragile relationship, the delicate emotion, the subtle thought? Even more important, how can the individual mind communicate with its own emotions, with its own body? Is there an intimate form of communication within the human structure itself? In India, a whole language grew up which was capable of expressing the subtlest spiritual truths, the most refined human emotions and thoughts without resorting to the gross vehicle of verbal communication, which alters any situation it expresses. That form of communication was called the Science of Mudra.

    Broadly speaking, Mudra means a “gesture”. I can be a gesture of mind, (Manas Mudra); a gesture of the body (Kaya Mudra); a gesture of the hands (Hastha Mudra); a gesture of the feet (Pada Mudra); a gesture of the face (Mukha Mudra) or a gesture of the eyes (Chakshu Mudra).

    Most humans unconsciously use “Mudras” constantly in their daily lives. They simply are unaware of it. Let us examine a few Mudras common to humanity throughout the world, “Mudras of the daily life”, so to speak.

    “Body Talk” has become a popular cliché in “pop psychology” circles in the West. We unconsciously tell the world many things about ourselves, unconsciously communicate much of our real self to those around us; simply by the way we hold our body, our hands, our face, and our feet. The English expression “It was a gesture of good will,” indicates that we recognize that emotions can be “gestured”. Mentally we can “gesture” or “reach out” towards others with good thoughts or even bad ones, and this “gesture” has its power, depending upon the concentrative power of our mind at the time. This would be a Manas Mudra. We all know when we see someone with shoulders caved in that the person is dejected, or lacking confidence, just as we know that someone who walks with shoulders thrown back and straight and tall is filled with confidence. We know that someone who is constantly “fidgeting” or moving a body part unnecessarily is nervous and worried. These are all examples of unconscious “gestures” of the body, of Kaya Mudras.

    Some common unconscious gestures of the hands (Hastha Mudras) include wringing of the hands when in great difficulty or trouble; showing the palm of the hand to another, a gesture asking the person to stop what he is doing; (this Mudra is used by traffic policemen all over the world); putting the hand into a first to show defiance and anger; gesturing the thumb up, with the remaining fingers closed into a list to show approval. (In the ancient days, the gladiators in the Roman Coliseums depended upon this signal from the emperor to spare their lives).

    Gestures of the feet are not so common in the shoe-clad West, but everyone knows what it means if someone “kicks” their foot at them. In the East it is considered a gesture of great disrespect to sit with the legs crossed at the knees when in the presence of someone who should be shown respect. It is also considered disrespectful to sit with the feet outstretched toward anyone. In the East, because it is customary to sit on the floor, the people are accustomed to many different positions of the feet, which have many meanings. This is the Pada Mudra. We are all also aware of gestures of the face (Mukha Mudras). We all know what a smile is and what a frown is, and what a grimace of disgust looks like or a hateful look. These are all common facial Mudras. The Chakshu Mudras, those gestures of the eyes, are much more subtle. Certainly most lovers are experts in the Chakshu Mudra, sending glances of love, of disappointment, of anger, of sorrow etc. The unconscious use of the various Mudras to communicate basic emotions, feelings and ideas is common throughout the human family. It is only in India, however, that this human phenomenon has been observed, codified, structured and refined into both a science and an art.

    Mudra was elevated to the position of a carefully thought out science of cause and effect in the ancient discipline of Yoga, and refined to an exquisite form of communication in the ancient art of Bharat Natyam. The Hatha Yoga and Raja Yoga Systems of the ancient Hindus contain a wide repertoire of Pada Mudras, Hastha Mudras and Kaya Mudras. Although there are Chakshu Mudras and Mukha Mudras, their use is not so widespread as in, for example, the Bharat Natyam.

    The Yogis in times past were fully aware of the flows of Prana or Vital Energy in the body, the effect of this Prana upon the human organism and its importance in al forms of life. The existence of Prana is a fact that even the greatest of modern scientists have yet to discover. Carl Sagan, well-known popularizer of scientific theories in the United States, recently stated that it appeared as though it was simply by chance adaptation to environmental conditions that the human body developed five fingers and five toes. The Yogi, who knows is own body inside out and its connection with the Universe, knows differently, and this is one of the basic principles as to why Mudras work as they do. The human has five fingers and five toes on each side of his body because he has five flows of Pranic energy, which terminate in each of the digits. There are five flows from head to foot on the right side, and five flows from head to foot on the left side. As well, there is a definite form of Prana circulating in the head, in the torso, in the stomach, in the pelvic area and in the extremities. These Pranic energies even have a name in Yogic terminology. Udana Prana circulates in the head; Prana Reflex in the chest; Samana in the digestive organs; Apana in the organs of elimination and Vyama in the organs of mobility (arms and legs). Bringing these various diverse flows of Pranic energy into closed circuits (“sealing” the energy flow) is one of the methods by which Mudra achieves its purpose.

    Even the less sensitive human is fairly aware of the flow of energy off the hands and feet. This is why for ages immemorial holy men (men who had achieved some high level of energy within their human frame) have been able to “heal” by the “laying on of hands”. This also explains why we like to be touched by “high-energy”, positive people. They are transferring their surplus energy to us. It also explains why we shudder to be touched by negative, low energy people – they literally drain us of our energy. Normally we are losing energy through our hands and feet. It was discovered by the Yogis that joining hand to hand or hands to feet in various ways not only prevented that energy loss, but also helped build up the power of the nervous system, making it capable of handling the greater energy flows needed for (and produce by) “real” meditation. In Namaskar Mudra, for example (which, interestingly enough, is the hand position also used by Christians for prayer), the palm is placed against palm, and held against the region of the heart. In Yoga Mudra, the feet are crossed into Padma Asana, with right foot on left thigh, and left foot on right thigh, are palms of the hands placed on the soles of the feet. In many Yoga Asanas, the palms of the hands are placed into contact with the soles of the feet deliberately to create closed circuits.

    Sometimes, various fingers are held together in particular positions, uniting one specific flow of Prana in a unique way with another, to produce a certain effect in the body. For example, a whole system of Mudras has been evolved which, when the fingers are held in a particular position, such as Chin Mudra, Chinmaya Mudra, Adhi Mudra and Brahma Mudra, the flow of air into specific areas of the low, mid, high and complete areas of the lungs respectively can be controlled. A Mudra used commonly for meditative and concentrative activities is the Jnana Mudra in which the tip of the thumb is united in a circle with the tip of the forefinger, and the other three fingers held rigidly straight the thumb represents the energy of the Atman (Universal Self; in physiological terms, the energy of the Central Nervous System or Sushumna Nadi) and the forefinger represents the energy of Jiva (individual self; in physiological terms, the right and left peripheral nerves or the Ida and Pingala Nadi). In Yogic parlance, the energies of the individual self are united to the energies of the Universal Self and the high meditative state is achieved. The Hastha Mudra is both a symbolic, as well as a causative factor in producing that which it symbolizes. It sets the stage, so to speak, and points the way. It is the conscious, evolving aspect of mind speaking indirectly through the Mudras to the physiological function of the body, gesturing to the body the direction along which body energies should flow.

    There are many such Hastha Mudras, each having its own particular effect upon the body, emotions, mind, nervous system and Pranic flow within the human organism, each Mudra carrying its own subtle message of evolution. Also in the Hatha Yoga repertoire are numerous Pada together in various positions in order to affect energy flows. Sometimes the feet are used as the vehicle of pressure to apply this pressure at a certain sensitive point in the body, producing the desired effect on the energy system.

    Some Kaya Mudra (Body Mudras) include Yoga Mudra and Maha Mudra, but the most important of the Kaya Mudras in the Hatha Yoga system are the six Mudras known also as the Shat Mudras or the Oli Mudras. By placing the body into six distinct positions, using breath control and Bandhas as well, endocrine glands of the body are stimulated indirectly. Through this complicated series of body Mudras, the Tejas or firepower of the body (sexual energy) is transmuted into Ojas, or mental energy. This is a good example of how the higher mind speaks to the body through the medium of the Mudra. If the mind tried to verbally instruct the body to transmit Tejas into Ojas, the feat would be impossible. By placing the body into particular positions, controlling the breath in a particular way and using Bandhas, the Mudras acts as the communicative link between the higher mind’s desire to create Ojas, and the body’s ability to follow its direction. Thus, the Mudra becomes a subtle means of true communication between mind and body, a concrete way in which in which the body can implement the evolutionary commands of the mind. It is the special language uniting mind and body.

    Whereas Mudras in Yoga is used mainly by the Yogi to communicate spiritually within himself and with the Universal Self, the Mudra in Bharat Natyam is used by the artist to subtle communicate with her audience, creating a Rasa – a particular emotional state – or stimulating the perception of a spiritual truth or feeling directly, from soul to soul, without the cloying, degrading effect of verbal contact. The Mudra in Yoga is an intra-personal communication, where via hand, foot and body positions, the mind can communicate to the body via energy or Pranic flows, its evolutionary commands. The Mudra in Bharat Natyam, however, is much more an inter-personal communications, a direct communion between artist and audience. Subtle emotions, spiritual truths that cannot be conveyed verbally, can be expressed via the trained glance of the eye, face, the position of the hands, the feet or the body.

    Many of the Bharat Natyam, Mudras are also to be found in Yoga, as they are deeply rooted in the natural physical reaction of the nervous system to certain emotions and states of mind. For example, in Bharat Natyam a closed fist with the thumb up is called Shikara Mudra and is used to symbolize manifestations of the Divine Power – Lord Shiva Lord Vishnu etc. We have seen how in common usage the erect thumb position symbolizes triumph, success, “lordship” (compare the popular expression “thumb up”). This corresponds well to Yogic thinking where the thumb symbolizes the energies of the Higher Self, in physiological terms, the Sushumna Nadi. The Namaskara Mudra which literally gestures the meaning, “I witness that Supreme Force as manifesting in you” is common to both Yoga and Bharat Natyam, as is the Anjali Mudra, in which the Namaskara Mudra is lifted high over the head in a gesture of great respect to the higher authority, which could be God, Guru or King. The Jnana Mudra, the Gesture of Meditation in Yoga, is used also in Bharat Natyam to show the meditative state.

    An interesting example of a Mudra for the dance, which is deeply rooted in neurological truths, is the Mudra used to depict the Rakshasha or the demon. We noted in the case of the Jnana Mudra, the Mudras of Meditation or Wisdom, that the thumb, which represents the Higher Consciousness, is joined to the forefinger, which represents the individual self, and the three remaining fingers which represent the Tanmatras (the eighteen senses of man) are held tightly straight and together in a controlled position. This represents a man in a meditative state. In the Mudra representing a Rakshasha, the forefinger is held against the base of the thumb, with the thumb stretched out, indicating that the individual self willfully refuses to join itself to the Supreme Consciousness. The other three fingers representing all the senses are played apart widely, indicating that the senses of the Rakshasha are out of control. Neurologically, the hand position well represents a devil, a Rakshasha, a man who stubbornly refuses to submit his individual will to the Divine Will and whose senses are uncontrolled. This same kind of analysis could be applied to many other Mudras of the Bharat Natyam.

    Another class of hand positions is more graphic and descriptive, and recreates salient features of the action / emotion / thought expressed by simulating the outstanding characteristics of the action. These Mudras are more obvious, such as those used to suggest carrying a pot of water, stringing flowers into a garland, closing and opening a door, eating butter and so on. The Kaya Mudras, holding the body in a defiant stance, an amorous stance, etc., play their part in communicating ideas and emotions as well.

    The Pada Mudras reinforce the work of the Kaya Mudras. Chakshu and Mukha Mudras are the vital link between Hastha, Pada and Kaya Mudras and the Rasa to be created in the audience. The skilled, trained dancer learns to communicate with her eyes and subtle gestures of face, using facial muscles, eyebrows, eyelids and mouth to convey her point. The most exquisite communication is achieved without uttering a single word. Of course, elaborate instrumental and vocal music and the collective cultural consciousness of the audience is also drawn upon to achieve the total effect. When that magic of shared spiritual insight and awareness occurs, as it often does in a Bharat Natyam recital, it is amazing to think that so much has been shared, so many emotions, so many thoughts, so many experiences with nary a word uttered by the artist or audience. The purifying and uplifting process of that type of artistic communion must be experienced to be understood.

    Through the science of Mudra, that rare moment of perfect and pure communion and oneness can achieved, whether uniting man with man in a high spiritual level of consciousness or uniting man with the Supreme Force in that fleeting moment of spiritual insight. The Mudra “gestures” the energy necessary and “seals” that otherwise intangible and illusive moment, fixing it for all time in our heart and nerves, bones and blood, mind and body, soul and thought – creating a solid foundation stones upon which to build a spectacular spiritual life.

    The Mudra , that Divine gesture, “seals” into our very cells that , ‘Call to a Higher Life”, which can never again be denied!