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Bharatanatyam - The Tamil Heritage
By Nritya Kalanidhi Lakshmi Viswanathan

This book gives an overview of all aspects of the richness and beauty of Bharatanatyam through the ages with all that went to influence and shape the Art. The sections of this book is inspired by a book on ballet authored by ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn. Each chapter connects Bharatanatyam through the ages with early pastoral dances, with the ancient traditions of worship, celebrations of life, Temples and rituals, palaces and kings and patronage and so forth.

This book published in 1984 was a product of the author’s research as a junior fellow of the ministry of Culture. The author has traced the roots of Bharatanatyam as a South Indian Art from time immemorial. Thus, each chapter connects Bharatanatyam through the ages with early pastoral dances, with the ancient traditions of worship, celebrations of life, Temples and rituals, palaces and kings and patronage and so on.

Many references in old texts like the epic Silappadikaram, and Sangam literature, contextualises the art of dance in society in ancient South India. It takes the reader on a journey of discovery where dance finds inspiration in the old Bhakti poems of saints, the Shaivite and Vaishnavite Nayanmars and Alvars . One also finds the inspiration for sculpture and paintings as seen in ancient temples, linked to Bhakti literature as was the art of dance inspired by the passion of poets.

The Cholas, Nayaks and Marathas who ruled Tanjavur left their influence on all the arts including dance. It paints vivid word pictures of the art of dance in the context of Royal dynasties and their patronage through the ages with the epicentre at Tanjavur. Dedicating four hundred dancers to his big temple- the Brihadeeswara of Tanjavur was the early Renaissance of all the arts effected by Raja Raja Chola. Sacred and secular aspects of the art of dance ruled the practice over centuries, with the focus on the dedicated artists, the Devadasis who were the torch bearers of the legacy of music and dance for centuries. Their role in temple and royal court is etched in the history of this art.This book gives an overview of all aspects of the richness and beauty of Bharatanatyam through the ages with all that went to influence and shape the Art. The decline of temple ritual dance and the royal palace patronage brings us to the modern re-christening of the dance as Bharatanatyam. The author has also shared her own experiences of being a student of hereditary Gurus. The chapters is inspired by a book on Ballet authored by the great ballerina Dame Margot Fonteyn.

About the author

Lakshmi Viswanathan is a Bharatanatyam dancer steeped in the culture of TANJAVUR. She has performed in every major festival in India, and is a regular during the Chennai December season.

She has widened her horizon in the field of art by not only performing in India and more than ten countries abroad in prestigious forums, but also uses her erudite scholarship to reach many people with her engaging articles in arts journals, newspapers and dance portals. Her insightful authorship of acclaimed books such as Bharatanatyam the Tamil Heritage, a biography of Bharat Ratna M.S.Subbulakshmi – Kunjamma Ode to a Nightingale, Women of Pride the Devadasi Heritage, and Kapaliswara Temple, have earned her a special place in the world of dance. She is currently editor of the prestigious Kalakshetra Journal.

As mentor and teacher she has contributed to the training of students. Her choreographic works like Banyan Tree, CHATURANGA and other productions have been landmark artistic events based on new and original themes. Recently she premiered MY TYAGARAJA – the life of Bangalore Nagratanammal, a famous Devadasi artist , a dance theatre production.
A respected artist of the renaissance of dance in India, she brings to her audience, a special amalgam of intellect, innovation and attractive poise.

Many awards and titles have been conferred on Lakshmi, including the national Sangeet Natak Akademi award and the prestigious NRITYA KALANIDHI award from the Music Academy Madras recently with the great choreographer Mark Morris of New York as the chief guest.She received the prestigious KALIDAS SAMMAN award recently at the inauguration of the Khajuraho Dance Festival where she performed to an appreciative audience.

Noted for her Abhinaya, Lakshmi makes her dance visual poetry with poignancy.

Lakshmi Vishwanathan, a prime disciple of Guru Kanjeevaram Elappa Pillai, is an exponent of the Thanjavur style of Bharatanatyam. She is also a trained vocalist. She is the author of several acclaimed books: Bharatanatyam – the Tamil Heritage, Kunjamma – Ode to a Nightingale, Kapaleeswara Temple, Women of Pride -The Devadasi Heritage. Her film ‘The Poetry of Dance’ was commissioned by the Festival of India. The Mamallapuram Dance Festival started in 1991 was Lakshmi’s brainchild. She has served on several arts committees. She has served as Vice President of Music Academy (Chennai) and is a member of South Zone Cultural Centre.

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