“Time stood still “and created a tranquil mood, as the octogenarian sang and interpreted a small segment of a Javali at the request of this writer; age had not withered her artistic skills. Watching Kadur Venkatalakshmamma described as the “Glory of Karnataka” was a rare opportunity which had left a lasting impact on this viewer. Spending a couple of hours by her side, after driving all the way from Bangalore to Kadur and to Venkatalakshmamma Nagara (V.L. Nagara) around the time of her 96th birthday was an unforgettable experience.
Thursday, May 29, happens to be the 108th birth anniversary of this legend of Bharatanatyam, who as a court performer, teacher and later as the faculty of Arts at the University of Mysore, made immense contribution to the Mysore style of the art form. Venkatalakshmamma, a disciple of the renowned dancer, Jatti Thayamma, equipped herself to become a multi-faceted artist, with several accomplishments that embellished her performances.
Even as a young girl of eight, she got trained in the study of different aspects of Indian heritage, art and culture; her skill in Sanskrit, be it Sahitya, Sastra, Gadya, Padya or other aspects of the Devabhashaa, was well appreciated by pandits. Her mastery over Amara Kosa as well as her interest in vocal music was amazing. Her immense potential in the realms of the fine arts, after studying up to the eighth standard, received wide attention; she became the Aasthaana Nartaki at the age of 33 and served the Mysore Royal court for three decades.
During those years, Venkatalakshmamma attained higher proficiency in vocal music also, training under stalwarts in the palace of Nalvadi Krishna Raja Wodeyar, at that time.
Noteworthy among her performances at the royal court were those at the Navaratri Mahotsav, Gauri-Ganesa festival and most important, the Coronation and wedding of the scholar-aesthete King of Mysore, Sri Jayachamaraja Wodeyar.
Several prestigious awards, including Padma Bhushan in 1992, were bestowed on Venkatalakshmamma who gave her best to train several students , while heading the Department of Arts at the Mysore University and also privately.
Her firm belief in Sampradaya, her excellent dance and musical achievements, her deep commitment in propagating the Mysore School of Bharatanatyam and the musical values that enriched her dance, her generous sharing and guidance to students of dance, brought her an exalted position in the field of Bharatanatyam.
Years may pass on but the memory of seeing this doyen, who remained a picture of tranquillity and embodied in her a rare blend of scholarship and humility befitting the statement “Vidya Dadaati Vinayam,” remains fresh and etched in gold .