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Vidyarthi Samman in honor of Govind Vidyarthi
- Madhu Nataraj, Bangalore

September 8, 2007

The first Vidyarthi Samman award ceremony was held on September 1, 2007 near Thalassery at the Chirakkuni Service Co-operative Bank Auditorium to honor ordinary people from various walks of life. It was an event to acknowledge the contributions of ordinary people, unknown, unsung and unseen for the better part of their lives.

Actor Ashish Vidyarthi has instituted the award in the name of his late father Govind Vidyarthi, a theatre and political activist from Dharmadom. He was also an SNA member, photo journalist, dance/ art archivist and philosopher. The Vidyarthi Samman would be given to four 'ordinary people' each year. "It is the story of the unknown Indian. The story of the anonymous many who live and celebrate life without the lure of 'mention' and fame," says Vidyarthi.

Playwright and theatre director Kavalam Narayana Panikkar took part in the function.
School teacher and social worker K Vijayan (61), VN Narayanan (70), a circus artist, also known as "spring board Narayanan," who had once done the stunt double for the late MGR, K Ramakrishan (63), a beedi worker who struggled to ensure that his daughters pursued higher studies and Narayani (80), grandmother of a Theyyam artist family and wife of Theyyam artiste Kanaran Munnoottan, received Rs.11,000 in cash, a citation and a memento designed by Jayant Deshmukh in Mumbai.

Kothamooriyattam, an interactive folk form was performed after the felicitation ceremony. This was one of the many art forms, which were archived more than 40 years back by Govind Vidyarthi for the Sangeet Natak Akademi, Delhi, to make sure that this rare folk art form found recognition outside of its native region.

Please check out the link below to find out how the Vidyarthi Samman came into being

Govind Vidyarthi was born to Kalyani and Paithal in circa 1912 at Challayil house, Dharmadom. TK Govindan, very early in his life, showed interest in the teachings of Vivekananda. During his schooling, he participated in the anti Arrack movement while also studying Hindi under the auspices of the Hindi Prachar Sabha.

Nationalism was not far from this sensitive youth as he and his few friends would read writings of freedom fighters and thinkers. A magazine that he used to read very often was the "Jwala" which was published from distant north India by Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi. Govind used to write letters to the editor, and send his own poems. When Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi died in a ‘lathi charge’ at the hands of the British, TK Govindan took on Vidyarthi as his surname as a tribute to the legendary freedom fighter.
Simultaneously Govind’s spiritual journey continued as he came in touch with Swami Agamanda of the Ramakrishna Math.

His thirst for knowledge and spiritual quest took him to distant Varanasi where he studied Sanskrit at the Kashi Vidya Peeth, while training with 'pehelwaans' at an akhaara. At some point, as he was completing his education in Varanasi he chose to become a 'Sanyasi.' By day he studied Sanskrit scriptures and at night he would head for the Muslim quarter in the walled city to learn 'Faarsi' from a Muslim Moulvi. Just before he took his final vows of Sanyas, when his Guru Bhai told him of his 'duty' to free the Kashi Viswanath Temple from Muslim 'occupation,' he saw his spirituality clashing with institutionalized religion. He came out of his Ashram and then began his political journey.

After a short while as a Congress worker, he became a Communist party whole timer.
His 'underground days' since CPI was banned by the British, saw him in various parts of the country, traveling under the pseudonym ‘Sharma.’

During his period of stay in Bombay, he came in close contact with progressive writers like Com. Sajjad Zaheer and Com Kaifi Azmi. It was the period of artists getting together for the final push against imperial rule on India.

He played an active role in the formation of IPTA (Indian Peoples Theatre Association, a role he would reprise years the 1980s after retiring from govt service when IPTA was revitalized and regrouped.)

Amongst other activities, he was hands on involved as a printer of various newspapers like People's War, and People's Age. He continued in the party as Com. PC Joshi's personal assistant till the party split.

Post independence Govind joined the Sangeet Natak Akademi in New Delhi. He was responsible for archiving the various art forms of India. Photographing, sound recording, and filming in remote tribal areas, he ensured that the vanishing art forms found notice.
He got schools opened so that teachers could pass on their form to other people and not limit it to their families only. Forms which could have gone extinct, exist today because of the tireless efforts of Govind and his team.

He was the Director of Jawahar Lal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal and the Kathak Kendra Delhi. He retired as the Assistant Secretary of Sangeet Natak Akademi.

He passed away in Mumbai on 29th of August 2006.

Kathak and contemporary dancer Madhu Nataraj is the Artistic Director of STEM Dance Kampni, Bangalore.