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50th anniversary of Sri Durga Parameshwari Nritya Niketan
Photos courtesy: Viji Rao

January 20, 2009

Sri Durga Parameshwari Nritya Niketan is a dance school based in Bangalore, specializing in teaching Kittappa and Nattuvanar Gundappa’s style of Bharatanatyam – one of the oldest classical Indian dance forms, most widely practiced in South India with origins in Tamilnadu.

Historians have dated its antiquity to between 500 BC and 500 AD. It is a highly nuanced art form that gives equal importance to pure dance, through movement, rhythm and geometry, but also to emotion, through facial expressions and hand gestures. Often invoked for story-telling, the art form is noted for tenderness, grace, purity, and the use of statuesque poses. It couples vigorous rhythmic footwork with emotive hand and facial expressions to translate the language of rhythm to its audience through an array of visual movements.

Sri Durga Parameshwari Nritya Niketan seeks to raise awareness about Indian culture and heritage through Bharatanatyam projects in the ethnically diverse regions of the world. This institute shares its knowledge through performances and workshops in and around India and has been working with maestros like Vasundara Doraiswamy, Ullal Mohan Kumar, Bragha Bessell to mention a few.

The founder K Shiva Rao was born in Mangalore, India. After his education he moved to Bangalore in 1954. His interest in the field of music and dance since his school days motivated him to get his training in classical Bharatanatyam under the able guidance of Guru Kittappa and he furthered his master training under Nattavanar Guru Gundappa. Shiva Rao was fortunate to have learnt mridangam under renowned Guru Krishna Pillai. He was also proficient in other forms of dance like Kathak and Yakshagana.

In 1959 Shiva Rao established his own dance school Sri Durga Parameshwari Nritya Niketan, which was based in V V Puram Bangalore. This school was registered, not just for Bharatanatyam but also other art forms like classical vocal, mridangam, veena and chenda were taught under the same roof. It has been 50 years now that this institute has been serving the art world.

Shiva Rao was an able dancer, teacher, scholar and a nattuvanar. In the 50 years of his dancing career, he created several dance choreographies, Mahishasura Mardhini, Mohini Basmasura, Harihara Putra, Kamadhahana, Bhamakalapam, Kamsana Kapata, Putani Samhara, Krishna Leela, Shiva Thandava and Shiva Parvathi to mention a few. In his 50 years of teaching and performing, Shiva Rao guided emerging young talents as ambassadors of this dance form, who are now spreading this beautiful dance form across USA, Canada, Switzerland and Australia. These young minds will form the foundation of a rich cultural heritage for the future generations.

Shiva Rao received several accolades in recognition of his services to the art world. Pejavaraswamy during the paryaya of Udupi in Rajangana awarded him with Natya Kala Samrat (2001), Nritya Kalaratna (1998), Layalasya Natanachatura by R K Srikantan (1998), Karnataka Kalashri by the Karnataka Government for his service in the field of music and dance (1996), Nritya Vidya Sagara and Nritya Sarathi (1996), Narthana Kalachatura award by Bharathiya Nrityakala Parishad at the Mysore palace (1995).

Shiva Rao passed on his legacy to his son Bhavani Shankar, the well known international mridangam artist based in London, UK. He is the director of Samudra which serves in teaching music and dance to the European world. His daughter Viji Rao is an established dancer, choreographer and teacher in Philadelphia, USA under the banner Three Aksha.

Sri Durga Parmeshwari Nritya Niketan is now under the direction of Hemalatha Jagadish who is the daughter-in-law of Shiva Rao. With her single mindedness, she continues to serve this organization in keeping the rich heritage alive and pass it on to the next generations to come.

The institute recently celebrated its 50th year anniversary on January 17, 2009 showcasing performances by renowned dancers as well as choreographies of the late guru.

Guru K Shiva Rao passed away on April 29, 2008 but his blessings and spirit will always be with us to continue our service in the field of dance and music.