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A tribute to veteran mentor Acharya Parvati Kumar
- Vijay Shanker, Mumbai

December 5, 2012

Veteran mentor Acharya Parvati Kumar left for his heavenly abode on 29th November 2012 at his residence in Grant Road in Mumbai. He was 94 and leaves behind his wife Sumatai. A prayer meet was organised at his residence on 2nd December.

Acharya Parvati Kumar trained in Kathak, Kathakali and Bharatanatyam under respected masters. An eminent Bharatanatyam exponent and teacher, he was instrumental in shaping the professional career of several exponents. A stickler for perfection and a great task master, it was not easy to learn the basic 'adavus' or movements as he was very meticulous in his teaching. If you made a mistake, you would be made to do the same movement repeatedly. Only after this was learnt properly would the next step be taught. Hence, to learn the complete Bharatanatyam margam from him was a herculean task but ultimately, one not only became a fine exponent but also acquired knowledge of the theoretical aspects and significance of Indian classical dance which is rare as there are dancers who hardly have any theoretical knowledge.

A Sanskrit scholar, he had great knowledge of texts like Bharata's Natya Sastra and Nandikesvara's Abhinaya Darpanam. He established the Tanjavur Nritya Shala in 1968 in Mumbai where several students learnt this wonderful art form. Parvati Kumar applied himself to an in-depth study of an entire repertoire of compositions by the Maratha rulers of Tanjavur. The research resulted in the publication of his Tanjavur Nritya Prabandha. His special contribution is choreographing the compositions of Maratha rulers like Shahaji and Sambaji for dance and this is being regularly performed by disciples like Sucheta Bhide Chapekar, who is based in Pune and is an accomplished exponent with several disciples to her credit. I still vividly remember one of Sucheta's most popular Marathi compositions "Aaji sonyacha divas" (Today is a golden day) where the devotee gets a vision of Lord Shiva dancing in the golden hall of Chidambaram. Indeed, Sucheta has been a worthy disciple of Acharya Parvati Kumar on the national and international level with several performances to her credit.

Acharya Parvati Kumar with his wife

Another prominent disciple of Acharya Parvati Kumar is Dr. Sanddhya Pureccha. Sanddhya has done extensive research on Abhinaya Darpanam which she demonstrates in her performances too. Her book on Angika Abhinayam has received appreciation from everyone. Sanddhya says, "I was a child when I went to him to learn dance. I would be so scared to see him as he was a towering personality. But his residence soon became my second home and I would spend hours learning from him. He was like a father figure for me and whatever I have achieved today, it is purely due to him. It is a great loss for me which can never be replaced." Sanddhya is a Sanskrit scholar too and the director of Bharata College of Fine Arts and Culture and Kala Parichaya. Another disciple, Guru Kirti Naik has established the Tanjavur Nritya Shala in Juhu and has produced disciples who are professional dancers today.

Acharya Parvati Kumar lived a simple life. He believed in simple living and high thinking and never cared for fame or name. He maintained a low profile and did not hanker after the commercial aspects in spite of living in the financial capital of India for several years. He was a man of great ideology and conviction and firmly believed that art is worship and only sheer hard work and determination can make a dancer complete, so there was no shortcut to success. May his soul rest in peace.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, choreographer, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.


The demise of Acharya Parvathi Kumar...Words cannot replenish this great human soul. An ardent devotee of Sree Chidambareshwara Nataraja..May his soul rest in peace.
- Anonymous (March 24, 2013)

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