by Amalan  Sountharanayagam 

October, 2001 

A benefit performance by Natya Academy of Indian Classical Dance was held on September 8, 2001 as part of the fund raising effort for the Bharatiya Temple in the greater Philadelphia area.  The temple, which has been in modest existence since last year is looking to get its architectural facelift soon.  When completed, the temple is expected to provide a significant presence in the greater Philadelphia area, whose denizens have had to commute to the adjoining state for important temple functions so far. 

The dance performance was choreographed to touch upon various geographic regions of India, starting with a prayer to Lord Ganesha in Marathi, and included a Varnam in Tamil, a Tulsidas Bhajan (Sri Ramachandra) in praise of Lord Rama, the Mangalam set to the ever pleasing Vaishnavo Janato in Kamas, leading finally to Om Jai Jegadeeshahare as the concluding piece. The main pieces included the Nandi Chol set to Neela kanda mahadeva in raga Vasantha (Adi), which described the incident of the devas and the asuras churning a mountain with a snake to obtain holy nectar. 

The Varnam was set to Adum mayil vaahananaam in Ragamalika (Talamalika), which portrayed the nayika and her fight for Lord Muruga.  She asks her friends to bring him to her, while her friends tease her with negative connotations regarding those surrounding the Lord in an effort to convince the nayika to desist her love.  The friends tell the nayika that her lover’s father, Lord Shiva begs with a skull, dances crazily in Chidambaram and whose neck is blue from drinking poison.  They throw accusations about the mother, Goddess Parvathi, the brother, Lord Ganesha, and uncle, Lord Krishna, but the nayika defends each accusation by explaining the good that each of the divine has showered on the people.  At the end, the friends realize that the nayika possesses true love for Lord Muruga, apologize for their teasing and leave in search of Lord Muruga.  This was a well choreographed piece that depicted clearly the role of each performer.  And for the benefit of those that might not be familiar with the background of such stories in Hinduism, the announcer was adept at handling the explanation of the story line with hand gestures before the beginning of the performance. 

The performances were the culmination of effort by the dancers who were keen on offering the show for the cause of raising funds for the temple.  Their inspiration was commended by their guru, Shoba Sharma, who spoke well of their effort in producing the program amidst busy schedules.  With the completion of the facelift, the residents of greater Philadelphia hope to see many more of such good programs staged in the cultural center attached to the temple. 

The Orchestra: 
Nattuvangam – Smt. Shoba Sharma, Artistic Director, Natya 
Vocal Music – Smt. Savitri Ramanand 
Vocal Music – Sri Venkateshwaran M.S. 
Violin – Smt. Gowri Ramakrishnan 
Mrudangam – Sri Sivachelvan Ponnudurai 
Tabla – Sri Jayant Bantwal 
Flute – Sri V.K. Raman