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Updated: January 6, 2011 02:24 IST

75 years of significant contribution to classical arts

Liffy Thomas
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VISIONARY: Rukmini Devi Arundale, founder of Kalakshetra.
Photo: THE HINDU ARCHIVES.
VISIONARY: Rukmini Devi Arundale, founder of Kalakshetra.

One of the finest cultural academies dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art turns 75

One of the finest cultural academies dedicated to the preservation of traditional values in Indian art, especially in the field of Bharatanatyam and Gandharvaveda music, turns 75 today.

The Kalakshetra was founded on January 6, 1936, after Rukmini Devi's arangetram at the Theosophical Society in Adyar during its annual convention. She was a revolutionary who took this art form to a larger cross section. “Until then it [Bharatanatyam] was taboo in society. She gave a new life to the art and her mission was art in education,” says senior dancer V.P. Dhananjayan, who joined the institution in 1953.

Well-known personalities such as E. Krishna Iyer, film director K. Subramaniam, C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer and S. Radhakrishnan were others who supported Rukmini Devi.

The institution was inaugurated by S. Radhakrishnan, former President of India, with just one student, Lilavathi. Later Rukmini Devi Arundale's niece Radha Sriram [Radha Burnier, now the President of Theosophical Society] was initiated into naatya training under a tree. She was also the first diploma holder of Kalakshetra. “That Naatya vriksha (tree) has now become the big banyan tree of Bharatanatyam,” adds Mr. Dhananjayan.

Kalakshetra functioned on the Theosophical Society campus until 1963 and then shifted to Thiruvanmiyur, where it now functions.

G.Sundari, former assistant secretary at Kalakshetra, who worked there for over 30 years, says it was an unusual job managing the administration, but she did it, as she loved it. “Vidwans treated us like their own daughter,” she says.

The institution has produced many stalwarts in the field over the years and continues to do so.

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Liffy Thomas should better read Natya Shastra before she links Gandharvaveda music (with its 22 sruti system, the Jatis (instead of Ragas, and so on) to Kalakshetra. The connection is very remote at best. As for E. Krishna Iyer, his comment about Rukmini Devi should have been mentioned: 'There is no need to say that before she entered the field, the art was dead and gone or that it saw a renaissance only when she started to dance or that she created anything new that was not there before.'

from:  Ashwini Shankar
Posted on: Jan 11, 2011 at 13:12 IST

Glad The Hindu remembered this historic day that proved to be a watershed day for history and heritage of Bharatanatyam. Actually, it was 30 Dec 1935, when Rukmini Devi performed her path-breaking Bharatanatyam repertoire , for the Annual convention, which woke up Madras and Jan 6th is the earliest, after New Year's festivities, that all trustees of the Theosophical Society could get together and announce the formation of A Temple of Indian Classical Arts, re-christened Kalaskhetra later. But that's another story and needs another article!

from:  Ashish Mohan Khokar
Posted on: Jan 7, 2011 at 20:06 IST

Thank you for a well compiled report reminding the old generation of the old Kalakshetra and inspiring and reminding the new generation that 'past is the foundation for the present to build a future. Many are not aware of the Kalakshetra's birth date,so The Hindu takes the credit of letting people and Kalakshetra alumni know the exact date of Klakshetra's founding date as 6th January. 75 years of growth is phenomenal in the history of an Art institution. Hope Present Kalakshetra management is planning to celebrate the year in a befitting manner.

from:  V.P.Dhananjayan
Posted on: Jan 6, 2011 at 06:37 IST
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