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Homage to Guru Adyar K Lakshman (1933 - 2014)
- Chandrabhanu

August 25, 2014

One of the most illustrious of Bharatanatyam dance mentors passed away on the 19th of August 2014.

Adyar Lakshman or Lakshman Sir, as he was known to his students, who are to be found all over the world, developed an extraordinary method of teaching Bharatanatyam. I consider myself most fortunate and blessed to have studied with him and to have inherited this ingenious method which stressed thorough knowledge of dance practice and theory, music and rhythm, the thematic narratives of the dances, nattuvangam, and the ritual contents of the dances. Despite his great achievements, my guru remained a man of great humility, always crediting his own gurus, Rukmini Devi Arundale, and several others, for the development of his artistry. Unlike so many of the new generation dance teachers, he did not profess to know everything. Rather, if he did not know the answers to some questions asked by his students, he would say he didn't know, and would we go and research on these subjects and come back to inform him.

I started studying with him in 1974 and was fortunate to have him come to Australia to stay with me in 1979 and 1981. He would train me daily, and also took classes for my students. Lakshman Sir had the gift of illuminating our minds so directly as to the nature of the art of Bharatanatyam. Each day was a new revelation. I liken this period of my training under him as looking into the many layers of the petals of a lotus, each layer bringing surprise and delight. In time many of his students learnt the magnificent dance compositions of his repertoire, and embarked on a lifelong voyage of discovery of his genius. Many of us, his early students, will no doubt reminisce on the sheer joy of learning his classic dance compositions, choreographies, jathis and thirmanams: the Dhanyasi Varnam Nee Inthe Mayam, Thisra Dhruva Allarippu, the Nata-Kuranji Varnam Swami Nan Undhan, the Dikshitar piece Simhasanasthite, the monumental Kamas Varnam Inthe Ninne, Chinna Chinna Paatham, Nandi Chollu and Shiva Dhyanam, Nitya Kalyani, and for me the first piece I learnt from him, the Kirthanam Ananda Natam Aaduvar in Purvi-Kalyani, as well as a series of Jatiswarams and Thillanas, and several Kavuthuvams and Thodaya Mangalam. In addition, he taught the compositions of Rukmini Devi Arundale faithfully giving us an insight into the genius of his Guru and Kalakshetra's development.

Lakshman Sir remained true to his calling, and we and the world are indeed blessed by his meticulous teaching. Let us hold steadfastly to his values and ethics and do him proud, to impart further knowledge to the new generation of dancers and teachers, and to ensure that his legacy will remain vibrant for decades to come.

Early life of Guru Adyar K Lakshman
Born on 16 December 1933, Adyar K. Lakshman hails from Kuppam in Chittoor district of Andhra Pradesh. His father, Krishnaraja Rao, was posted there as a school teacher. Lakshman and his brother Rama Rao were discovered at a young age by P.D. Doraiswamy Iyer, a representative of Rukmini Devi Arundale, the founder of the world acclaimed fine arts college Kalakshetra. The young boys showed unusual musical and rhythmic talent, and were offered a thorough education in the Fine Arts. Lakshman's father was only too happy to accept the offer made by Kalakshetra.

Early education and training
Adyar Lakshman began his education at Kalakshetra in 1944 at the young age of 11 years. He underwent rigorous training in vocal music, Bharatanatyam, mridangam and nattuvangam under the able tutelage of eminent teachers. He had the good fortune to receive his early training and exposure to the classical arts from Rukmini Devi Arundale herself. He has also been closely associated with other great masters in the field, including Mylapore Gowri Ammal, K. Dandayuthapani Pillai, S. Sarada, Tiger Varadachari, Budalur Krishnamoorthy Sastrigal, T. K. Ramaswamy Iyengar, Mysore Vasudevacharya, Tanjore Rajagopala Iyer, V. Vital, Kamalarani, and Karaikudi Muthu Iyer. Eventually, he graduated in 1954 from Kalakshetra in Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music and nattuvangam. He stayed on in Kalakshetra, and received a Government of India scholarship, and went on to receive a post-graduate diploma in 1956. Thereafter he went on to specialise in mridangam and also learnt Kathakali from Ambu Panicker and Chandu Panicker. Subsequently he was cast by Rukmini Devi in prominent Kalakshetra productions like, 'Kumara Sambhavam,' 'Kutrala Kuravanji,' 'Sita Swayamvaram' and 'Usha Parinayam,' based on the Melattur Bhagavata Mela tradition.

Lakshman Sir first ventured into teaching outside Kalakshetra in Vyjayantimala Bali's school, Natyalaya. Here over period of more than a decade, he conducted over ten arangetrams, assisted in productions like 'Tiruppavai,' 'Azhagar Kuravanji,' 'Chandalika' and 'Sanga Tamil Malai.'

He founded the Bharatha Choodamani Academy of Fine Arts on August 22, 1969. He has trained a wide variety of dancers and many professionals and produced dance drama productions like 'Varunapuri Kuravanji', 'Aiychiar Kuravai,' etc. He has also choreographed classical dance sequences in films like Hamsa Geethe, Subba Sastri and Ananda Tandavam.

Adyar Lakshman has received several awards for his outstanding contribution to the art of Bharatanatyam, as a dance guru, choreographer, composer and nattuvanar. He received the Padma Shri award from the President of India in 1989, and Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1991 by Sangeet Natak Akademi, India's National Academy of Music, Dance & Drama.

Chandrabhanu is Founder and Artistic Director, Chandrabhanu Bharatalaya Academy, Melbourne, Australia.

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