The education of a king was not considered complete without a reading of the texts on music and dance. And both court and temple dancers were initiated into the art by the king himself. The Pallava king Mahendra Varma even wrote a dance drama, 'Matta Vilasa Prahasana,' the only one of its kind to have been enacted for more than 1,000 years.
An inscription in the Big Temple at Thanjavur (Tamil Nadu) gives the names of the 407 dancers, the villages they came from, the street in which they lived in Thanjavur and the door numbers of the houses allotted to them. Natya acharyas, udukkai players, veena players, those who sang Sanskrit compositions, those who sang Tamil compositions, madhalam players, conch players and gandharvas, a chief accountant to manage financial matters, assistants to the accountant, launderers, tailors, those with skill in fixing gems to garments, Chakkiyars and a Superintendent to oversee everything were also appointed, and their remuneration was also specified in inscriptions.
Dancers Somanaadi, Kallarai, Echumandai, Aravam, Eduthapadam, Porkesi (the golden haired one!) were given houses to live in, in addition to arable land. Not that they deserved less, for they were well-versed in music and dance. Their names are unusual, but that is not to be wondered at, for they lived a thousand years ago. These are the names of some of the 407 dancers appointed by Raja Raja in the Big Temple.
(Dr. R Nagaswamy, former director, Department of Archaeology, Tamil Nadu, in a lecture on 'Rajaraja's Inscriptional Document on his Endowment for 400 Dancers at the Thanjavur Temple.' - 'Legal document in stone' by Suganthy Krishnamachari, The Hindu Friday Review, Sept 17, 2010)

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