Tribute to Guru Govindaraj Pillai and Guru Karunambal

December 13, 2015

India Habitat Center, Delhi, hosted a tribute to the legendary couple, Guru A.T Govindaraj Pillai and Guru Karunambal, presented by Dr. Padmaja Suresh of Aatmalaya, Bangalore and disciples of Rajeshwari Natarajan, Rajeshwari Natyalaya, Delhi, at the Amaltas Lecture Hall on 24th November 2015. Guru Arutsakthi Nagarajan, Founder President of Ritanbhara Jnana Sabha, was the chief guest.

Padmaja, an alumni of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharatanatya Kalamandir, the premier institution at Mumbai, paid a rich tribute to the founders by introducing their life sketch and contribution. Born on 22nd June 1914, in a family devoted to music and dance for generations, Guru Ayyampettai Thyagaraja Govindaraj Pillai had first started his music lessons from Veerabhadra Pillai. Later, he was thoroughly trained in the intricacies of Carnatic music by the veterans Markhanda Pillai and Venugopal. By sheer dint of hard work and intense devotion to the art, Govindaraj Pillai reached the pinnacle of fame. It was after he married the only daughter of Guru Kuppiah Pillai, that the genius of Guru Govindaraj Pillai came to be recognized in the field of dancing. Karunambal had been a great source of inspiration and of immense help to Govindaraj Pillai. He had amassed huge knowledge in Bharatanatyam technique from the vast treasures of Kuppiah Pillaiís erudite scholarship, with whose blessings he founded this model dance academy in Bombay in early 1945 to propagate the art of Bharatanatyam in its pristine purity.

Majestic in his nattuvangam and melodious in his singing, Govindaraj Pillai conducted over 2000 arangetrams and nearly 10000 concerts in India and abroad. Unassuming, amiable and gentle, Guru Govindaraj was the embodiment of simplicity, sincerity and devotion. His legacy is continued by his son Guru Vasant Kumar in Mumbai and daughter Rajeshwari Natarajan in Delhi.

Padmaja offered her doctoral thesis based programme that evening - Yantra, Mantra, Tantra and its relevance to dance as a result of the dedicated training in Bharatanatyam received in this great institution, followed by insightful research under the guidance of great masters in philosophy and spiritual practices like Guru Arutsakthi Nagarajan, a doyen in Sri Vidya worship. Keeping in view the theme of the lecture, Rajeshwari presented her students in two numbers - one was Sri Chakraraja Simhasaneshwari, the mother Lalitha who is the goddess of universe, who sits on the throne of Sri Chakra, she who is personification of Agamas, Vedas and arts. The other was a brief demonstration of the Varnam in Anandabhairavi composed and sung by her father Govindaraja Pillai. Both of these were performed gracefully and elegantly.

Padmaja addressed queries like, what is that element, that essence or that principle that connects ONE to the dance, connects dance to LIFE, connects one with audiences, crossing all barriers?  Is it the body owning a spirit, that is wanting to express something or is it the spirit that has manifested in this form in order to express? Tantra Yoga attempts to unify Shiva and Shakti by raising the serpent power from the lowest Muladhara to the highest Sahasrara Chakras.All these Chakras converge when vibrated into the Bindu of Sri Chakra, the mystical Yantra, the supreme Goddess within the wonderful mind-body sphere. In dance, one delves deeply into the macrocosm and into the micro orbits of forces.

Towards the end of the lecture demonstration, the intellectually interested members of the audience were treated to the ĎGospelí from Guru Arutsakthi Nagarajan, a sought after exponent and guru of the esoteric meditative Sri Vidya worship. With a peaceful smiling countenance, Guruji explained that Srividya is called Brahma Vidya.  The science of Srividya is related to the waxing of the moon. Just as the moon that is physically in sky, the same moon is reflected in the Sahasrara Chakra of the individual. Concept of Time (Kaala) is the product of Kameswara and Kameswari. The 15 days of the lunar fortnight symbolically represent the 15 bija mantras of Panchadashakshari Vidhya of Srilalitha Mahatripurasundari and the alphabet of Mathrukaaksharas. These 15 days of lunar fortnight are presided by corresponding devis that is called Thithi Nitya Devatas, mentioned in Tantraraja Tantra. These 15 days are the same for Sukla Paksh and Krishna Paksha. The 16th Devi is called Shodasi. This Shodasi shines with 16 dimensions on Pournami i.e. the 15th day of Sukla Paksha and the same Shodasi shines with 1 dimension on Amavaasya i.e. the 15th day of Krishna Paksha. The concept of Time is expressed in terms of 1 year in Veda, i.e. 12 months. And 12 months are expressed in terms of 360 days. These 360 days or 360 degrees are the 360 Rashmis or Rays that are the manifestation from Sri Lalitha Mahatripurasundari.

Now, the entire cosmos is the product of Mathrukaaksharas in the form of 16 vowels and 34 consonants. These are all mentioned in so many Tantra Sastras, agamas and puranas. This is also called cosmic dance of Nataraja, a depiction of Siva as the cosmic dancer who performs his divine dance to destroy an exhausted universe and make preparations for god Brahma to start the process of creation. While the Rudra-Tandava describes his violent nature, first as the creator and later as the destroyer of the universe, even of death itself, the Ananda-Tandava describes him as the enjoyer of his creation - the universe. Siva is wearing a manís earring on one ear and a womanís earring on the other ear.  The different earrings point to the equality and importance of both men and women in the conduct of the world - (Arthnareeswara) Artha+Naree+Eswara.