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ABHAI's 'Artists for Artists Welfare Fund'

May 24, 2020

ABHAI - Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India - was established in the year 1987 by a group of artists headed by Guru K.N. Pakkirisami Pillai to bring the artistic community together, to represent their requests and issues to the Central and State Governments and to serve as a unified voice of the artistic fraternity to take up matters of concern and to also help indigent and old artists and artists suffering from health issues monetarily to lead a peaceful life. Since then, the association has grown in leaps and bounds getting into its fold, artists who are teachers, performers, musicians, make-up artists, costumers, technical support artists, photographers, videographers, printers, stage craft persons, resource persons, critics and rasikas. ABHAI has a 3000 strong member base from all over the world now.

Activities of ABHAI include conducting of monthly and yearly Abhivriddhishalas (workshops) by different acharyas and gurus to enhance the learning process amongst members across banis (styles) and to instill a sense of friendship and camaraderie amongst artists of all generations, providing monthly medical assistance to old and indigent artists, giving cash awards on a yearly basis to very senior exponents, orchestra musicians and upcoming dancers, spreading of the awareness and education of the arts by the outreach programs in government aided and corporation schools and assisting artists in times of natural calamities liked floods and earthquakes and now the pandemic as also helping artists during medical emergencies.

So in keeping with this spirit of ABHAI, the 'Artists for Artists Welfare Fund' was launched on the 14th of April 2020, Tamil New Year's Day when the committee members performed a small video of relevant songs pertaining to the current pandemic situation and the need to have care, concern and compassion for the artistic fraternity in particular and humanity as a whole.

The songs that were chosen to be performed were lines of lyricist Sahir Ludhianvi which says "Sabko sanmathi de bhagvan" (Bless everyone with equanimity), verses from Ramalinga Adigalar which talks about "Jeeva karunyam", " Vaadiya payirai kanda podellam vadinain," compassion towards each and every living being, flora, fauna, the sick, the old, the hunger stricken people, and finally lines from "Maitrim bhajatha" of Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi extolling the virtues of restraint, kindness and compassion, this signifying the call for "Vasudeva Kutumbakam". This was followed by an appeal by the President of ABHAI, Roja Kannan. This video was shared across the social media platforms as well as various WhatsApp groups which brought in a very encouraging and satisfying response from not only the artistic fraternity but the general public also.

The list of artists to be assisted was carefully drawn up from requests received by ABHAI over phone, email and also through social media handles; a thorough background check of the same were also conducted and then funding was disbursed online to the beneficiaries. ABHAI opened up its doors to non-members also and spread its network across genres, class, caste, community, gender and geographical boundaries.

Hence the beneficiaries include dancer-teachers, teachers, musicians including vocalists, violinists, flautists, mridangists, tambura artists, make-up artists, costumers, tailors, lighting technicians, stage-craftsmen in the field of Bharatanatyam, also folk dance artists, street play artists, puppeteers, artists from the Irular community and traditional soothsayer communities, and artisans who make and repair musical instruments.

The first set of seven beneficiaries was helped on 18th of April just four days after the Initiative was launched. Since then, ABHAI has done 6 rounds of disbursements and helped close to 131 artists to a tune of Rs. 9.5 lakhs, all donations received from the artistic fraternity itself, and the general public in the true spirit of Atmanirbhar (self reliance).

The work is an ongoing process and ABHAI reassures the artistic fraternity worldwide that it will continue to work for the artists in the true spirit of ABHAI - for the artists, by the artists, to the artists....

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