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Guru B. Herambanathan
Photos courtesy: B. Herambanathan

August 22, 2014

B. Herambanathan is the senior most choreographer and dance teacher of the Thanjavur nattuvanga tradition. He is the son of T.G. Bhavu Pillai (a Bharatanatyam teacher, mridangist and Bhaghavatha Mela drama teacher who was a much sought after accompanist to dancers of the past) and Jeeva Amma (a dancer). He is the son-in-law of devadasi Doraikannu and is proud to hail from a lineage of devadasis belonging to the Thanjavur region.

He trained under his father, T.M. Arunachalam Pillai and K.P. Kittappa Pillai in Bharatanatyam, under N. Rajam Iyer in mridangam, under Balu Bhagavathar and P.K. Subbaiyer in Bhagavatha Mela. He began his career as a Bharatanatyam choreographer from 1967. He accompanied as mridangist for the arangetrams of his father's students. The arangetram of his first student S. Rohini was held under the presidentship of K.P. Kittappa Pillai on Feb 8, 1970 in Thanjavur. He serves as a teacher for the Melattur and Saliyamangalam Bhagavatha Mela dance programs.

From 1973 onwards, Herambanathan had the honour of being co-choreographer along with K.P. Kittappa Pillai and his father. After the passing away of his father, he has choreographed many new dance dramas for the past 35 years. From 1986, he undertook overseas tours, training many students in Bharatanatyam, dance dramas and presenting their arangetrams. His magnum opus is the dance drama choreographed on the significance of 'Kasika Ekadesi' of the Kaisika Puranam sacred in the Vaishnava tradition. He and his troupe have been presenting it for the past 12 years after its revival by Dr. Anita Ratnam and Prof. S. Ramanujam to much appreciation.

In 1989, he established Thanjavur Bavu Pillai School of Bharatanatyam in Thanjavur in memory of his father. Music and mridangam classes are also conducted. His noted choreographies include Subhadra Kalyanam, Sivan Malai Kuravanji, Sarabendra Bhoopala Kuravanji, Sakuntalam, Kamsa Vadham. Creative styles in dance drama include Andal, Paravaiyar Udal, Kandhan Kaviyam, Karaikkal Ammaiyar, Valli Kalyanam. Modern theater tradition includes Pennin Dhagam, Veriyaattam, Nandhan Kadhai, Kongai Thee.

Apart from directing dance dramas, conducting lec-dems and organizing special programs, Herambanathan has also written articles on Bharatam and Bhagavathamelam, Rasa Pandaram, Adal Adavus in Folk Arts, Dance tradition of Thanjavur, Dance and music in temple worship. He is the recipient of the Kalaimamani (Tamilnadu) and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award (Delhi). He heads the Thanjavur Heritage Arts and Cultural Academy.

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Thank you for publishing profile about my guru(s) Jeeva amma and Master Herambanathan. It brings back a lot of childhood memories. Appreciate if I can get to know his disciples based out of Bay Area as I would like to revive my passion.
- Preethi Kulkarni (12 Sept 2015)

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