Madhumitha Srinivasan on the rare opportunity that she enjoyed of being a part of the dance performance to mark the 1000th anniversary of the Big Temple.
The closest one could get to an ethereal experience recently was watching a 1000 dancers sound their anklets in unison at the famous Big Temple in Thanjavur. The scene was probably similar to the one witnessed by King Raja Raja Chola 1000 years ago: grandly lit temple, an entire town wearing a festive look, and thousands gathered for a visual and aural treat around the temple courtyard with dignitaries to witness it. The setting couldn't have been more perfect for a Guinness record.
A chance to perform at this prestigious setting came my way, and pondering over the fact that opportunities like these come only once in a lifetime - 1000 years to be specific - I jumped at it.
The buzz around the 1000 years celebration of the temple and the Guinness record attempt started months before the actual event. Organised by Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam and supported by the Government of Tamil Nadu, the workshops, CDs, registrations, instructions, preparations and practices ensured that the months rolled by in a flash.
Then it was time for the actual performance. The best part of such events is the excitement surrounding them, the experiences we gain and the memories we cherish. This one was no exception. It started from the journey by bus along with my friends from dance class.
Many skills were put to test: sleeping at odd angles, ability to gauge a bump and hold on to the handle at the right moment even with your eyes closed, brave the chill and wake up to the sound of your dance DVD playing at six in the morning and revising in between yawns... all in the bus. Now, how many can boast of that!
At Thanjavur, we found out that we were among the lucky few who got to enjoy the luxury of a hotel room, where we could rest after a sumptuous breakfast and before the call for a tasty lunch. Here you learn how to take power naps while sharing a bed with three other people and yet sleep comfortably.
The hotel was a busy place with dancers, teachers and organisers running all over the place either to get things in order or just to catch up with friends who had arrived from places as far as Sri Lanka, Goa, Hyderabad and Palakkad too.
The event was all the more exciting because of this; we got to meet dancers from all over India and form new friends though there was not much time for it; but on stage there was more and plenty. We'll get to that.
The long wait
The performance was scheduled to begin at 6.30 p.m. but the dancers were asked to be at the venue by 3:00 p.m. The reason? Heavy security due to the Chief Minister's arrival and crowd control. After taking our positions on the well-carpeted 1000-year-old stage around the Nandi in the temple courtyard, we realised how little drops do make a mighty ocean, ‘and every drop is equally important,' added a wise friend.
Then for the next three hours we had nothing to do, except to for pose for photographers now and then, if you were lucky enough to be in the first few rows on the vantage side of the stage. The rest had to make do with chatting with their friends and last minute revisions. The volunteers ensured we had enough water but excusing yourself for a restroom break was a tough call. But still we had our fun on stage despite the prying eyes of the cameras and the audience. The nadaswaram recital that opened the evening was a treat as was the devaram recital.
Then finally it was our time. The thousand, and in fact more, dancers were on their feet. Just the spectacle of all of us taking our positions attracted applause from the crowd. Soon the dance pieces – a customary invocation to Lord Vinayaka and Karur Devar's verses on the Thanjavur Peria Kovil were performed, blurring the lines between the past and present.
As if in a flash, it was over. Only the applause and the weariness of post-performance remained. Finally, more than the anticipation of having set a Guinness record, the thought that someday, when the temple celebrates another millennium, there would be a mention of our performance kept us smiling and at peace through the journey back home. After all, how many of the things you have done would be remembered after 10 centuries?!