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Our Naatya Sampradaya
- V P Dhananjayan, Chennai

(Inaugural address by V P Dhananjayan at the 22nd Kinkini Nrithyotsava, Bangalore on 19th January 2006 at Dr. H N Kalakshetra Auditorium)

January 23, 2006

Sarvejanaah sukhino bhavanthu. Let this New Year usher in the beginning of an era of peace, prosperity and friendship among all humanity.

Both Shanta and I feel really honored to be present here to inaugurate the 22nd Kinkini Nrutyotsava and offer our hearty congratulations and felicitations to Sri & Smt. Gopinath for their dedicated service to our performing arts - the naatya. In spite of all funding problems and onslaught of various regionalism and complex and adverse situations, Sri. Gopinathjee has spearheaded a movement of art awakening in Karnataka. During the last two decades, Karnataka has taken great stride in bringing back the past glory of the art activities and patronage shown by the great rulers of this country. Actually the whole of Dakshina Bhaarata is to be known as Karnataka (Karanadu - or surrounded by kara or shore) and Mysore being the centre of Dakshina Bhaarata had a pivotal place in the art and cultural map of Bhaarata. So anything undiluted and divine was referred to as Karnataka. Even our Sangeetam was referred to as Karnataka Sangeetham, Sangeetham being three in one - gitam, nrutyam and vaadyam - trayam sangeeta muchyate.

By the great efforts of cultural luminaries of Karnataka -including poets, musicians and literary personalities, Bangalore has become the hub of art activities competing with Chennai. It has been a historically proven fact that Tamizhnaadu has uniformly given patronage to art and artistes, irrespective of any regionalism, parochialism, language or religion from time immemorial. Still they maintain that tradition of encouraging art and artistes from other states in spite of the surfeit of artistes emerging locally. Recently you must have noticed the influx of Karnataka performing artistes into the performing arena of Tamilzhnaadu, getting high recognition and awards surpassing the so called high standard of Chennai cultural coterie. (Even our Rangasri Gopinath's daughter and a pride of Karnataka, has bagged several coveted awards in Chennai, competing against Chennai Bharatanaatyam artistes). Kinkini organization can justifiably be proud of contributing much to the awakening of sleepy Mysore state, especially the sleepy city of Bangalore. Both Shanta and I had the opportunity of performing for Kinkini 20 years ago. So this Kinkini Nrutyotsava marching towards their silver jubilee year has a golden letter mark in the history of Karnataka's cultural renaissance.

At this juncture I would like to point out some important factors contributing to the continuity and upholding of our lofty art traditions and let our culture live through art forms.

Our highly sophisticated and deep-rooted technique of Bharatanaatyam is the quintessence of Bhaarateeya Samskriti and we should all remember our nation is Bhaarata, we are Bhaarateeya and our art forms are called Bhaaratanaatya. So our performing art forms are integrated with our Samskriti or culture and we are respected for our beautiful culture preserved through our art forms.

In the present context of globalization of everything around us, the multimedia and multinational commercial houses like Narayanamurthy's Infosys and the like have great responsibilities to liberally support the cause of art without which the nation is nothing but a junk yard. Bharatanaatyam and Karnataka Sangeetham are the pride of our nation. The professional artistes of performing arts should be very well remunerated and they should be kept above want, then only can they create monumental Sowdham (mansions) for the future generations to emulate and get inspiration. Unfortunately funding is a big problem in the art field. Artistes are not remunerated adequately in our country, sorry to say especially South India. Somehow our organizations feel that artistes should do performances for free and the rasikas also are reluctant to pay entrance fee to see good artistes perform. We have to remedy this situation and be liberal in remunerating professional performing artistes. People at the helm of affairs fail to understand the truth of how much classical arts contribute to the economy of a nation. There are innumerable ancillary industries surviving because of Bharatanaatyam or classical music. To cite an example, all our foreign exchange earning through south Indian temple jewllery business developed due to Bharatanaatyam. Now we earn millions of dollars from ghungurus (bells), makeup materials, silk sarees, costumes… so many costume-making tailors have very lucrative career through Bharatanaatyam and other dance forms. So our performing arts contribute a great deal to the economical development of our nation, a fact often unnoticed or deliberately hidden.

There are cultural organizations with lots of money but the people controlling it have no heart to part with it. Still they hold on to the view that all artistes must live like Saint Thyagaraja doing unjavritti for livelihood - forgetting that even free darshan of God in the temple is highly priced now. Of course there are people like Sri. Gopinath who wants to pay artistes properly, but he has to carry on such landmark art festivals on a shoe string budget. Why cannot the multinational companies come forward to financially support organizations like Kinkini and help the artistes feel proud of their profession as artistes by earning well, to live like high salaried Engineers, Doctors and IT professionals? I must compliment the Karnataka Government for their continued support and patronage to professional performing artistes. But they have their limitations and we should not always rely on Government, but true support should come from the public, then only art can survive and it has survived only because of the genuine art lovers. As many of you may know, art and culture are 64th in the priority list of our constitution, may be now this must have been pushed further down - 100th place. Very unfortunate indeed, we have only political dealers, but not leaders.

Last but not least I would like to mention that Madras Music Academy Expert Committee has unequivocally welcomed my suggestion that Bharatanaatyam should be referred to only as Bharatanaatyam or Naatya, but not as just 'dance' because our Naatya sampradaya (tradition) is not just physical movement for entertainment, but a vehicle to elevate soul to a spiritual level - a combination of body, mind and spirituality or sareerika, maanaseeka and aatmeeya parivartana. Anything can be called dance; Naatya is not only meaningful communication between performers and the onlooker but also communication between the divine and ordinary.

Bharatanaatyam guru V P Dhananjayan is the founder of Bharata Kalanjali in Chennai.

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