Suvarna Pooja to Guru Vempati Chinna Satyam
- B Venkat
Photos courtesy: Venkat Vempati

May 6, 2010

"Suvarna Pooja" and conferment of the title "Natyacharya" by Government of Andhra Pradesh on Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam took place on 29th April 2010, World Dance Day, at Kalabharathi, Visakhapatnam. The organizers were Visakha Samskrutika Sabhaa Samakya, Visakha Art and Dance Academy, and District Cultural Council.

"Kuchipudi walked all its way to Madras (now Chennai). A journey of a young man on foot to the cultural capital in search of employment turned out to be a call from future as Chennai welcomed him, and as destiny would have it, ensured through him that Kuchipudi spreads to the entire world."

The above description from Dr. Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, the Chief Guest, speaks volumes about the contribution of Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam to Kuchipudi. Visakhapatnam celebrated the visit of Dr. Vempati on the eve of World Dance Day. It was almost like The God of Dance descended to the City of Destiny.

The program started with Kuchipudi Kalakshetra students performing invocatory pooja and offering salutations to Lord Nataraja. Minister Balaraju initiated the proceedings and declared it as an official government function. A grand gesture indeed. He acknowledged the contributions of the maestro on behalf of the Government of Andhra Pradesh and bestowed Dr. Vempati with the title "Natyacharya," a citation, shawl and a cash award. Tt was explained that the felicitation was done at Visakhapatnam, as the master was unable to attend the same at Hyderabad, held a few days back.

Nedunuri Krishnamurthy, who spoke later, described him as a synonym for Kuchipudi. S Chellappa, Principal Secretary, Tourism, Culture, and Youth Advancement, Andhra Pradesh, read a poem in his praise in Telugu ending with the punch line "Vempatey Kuchipudi," meaning "Vempati himself is Kuchipudi."

Lord Shiva, Lord Nataraja, Siddendra Yogi… speakers showered heartfelt praises. They talked about his meticulous approach and eye for perfection, simplicity, "aparigraha" (he never charged fee for the students), and simple lifestyle. Many important facts that make Dr. Vempati a legend were brought to everyone's notice. Kuchipudi Art Academy has trained well over nine thousand students over the years. Most of the top Kuchipudi dancers have learnt from Dr. Vempati. Dancers from different nationalities, religions, languages, learnt the art from him and now teach across the globe to thousands of students.
It was Andhra University, Visakhapatnam, that conferred Honorary Doctorate on Dr. Vempati Satyam back in eighties and awards poured thereafter, reminded Dr. Prasanna Kumar. MVVS Murthy thanked the Guru for establishing Kalakshetra in the city over twenty six years back.
There was a festive atmosphere as the students and disciples performed "Suvarna Pooja" (offering gold coins at his feet), to him and his wife Samrajyalakshmi. His son Venkat Vempati and family members attended the event. A message from Minister of State, HRD, Dr. D Purandeswari (his student) was read out. DV Subbarao considered it a fortune to have "Nadha Brahma" and "Natya Brahma" on the same stage. He was obviously referring to Nedunuri and Guru Chinna Satyam. Other dignitaries included CSN Raju, Collector Syamala Rao, and D Dakshina Murthy.

Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam, by his very presence, commanded deep inner reverence from one and all that intuitively sought his blessings. Accomplished dancers were overwhelmed and waited to gain a photo opportunity with almost a childlike enthusiasm. He humbly folded hands and with his gestures touched the hearts of all the visitors, whether it was by way of offering a rose to a senior student, an autograph to another, or a smile and an affectionate pat to yet another.

What followed after the felicitation was absolute Kuchipudi delight. Vempati Srimayi chose the most sensuous kirtanas that called for delicate abhinaya in praise of Lord Krishna (Pasyati Disi Disi – a Jayadeva composition), Puraya Mama Kamam (Naryana Thirtha) and Singara Murthi (Annamayaa). It was an outstanding performance and would stay with the connoisseurs for a long time to come.

Kuchipudi Kalakshetra students performed Ananda Tandavam (C Narayana Reddy) and ended the show with Hindolanam thillana with about forty juniors and senior students joining in the item.

Dr Alekhya Punjala who attended the Suvarna Pooja had to say about the legend: "A personification of the Kuchipudi art form who spread this fragrance all over the world so that the connoisseurs of dance could savor this vibrant and beautiful art for years to come."

The day before:
Guru Vempati paid a visit to (now re-christened) "Dr. Vempati Kuchipudi Kalakshetra" on 28th of April 2010 and graced the dance performances of the institute's students. He inaugurated the renovated dance hall and mini-auditorium. The efforts of Surapaneni Vijay Kumar and GRK Prasad came in for praise by one and all in this context. Vijay Kumar is now the President of Kalakshetra.