From temple to world stage – 2 [Article to celebrate Rukmini Devi Arundel and initiate the awareness]

Sakthi Foundation

From temple to world stage – 2 [Article to celebrate Rukmini Devi Arundel and initiate the awareness]

When festival processions happens in rural side of the state still we can see various folk arts performances in which women take a major role in Karagam, raja-rani dance, False wooden leg horse dance etc.

Still it is no doubt few women artist undergo unaccepted behavior with public and the art is being blamed for that and usually the artist community are looked with a wrong respect.

Two Tamil movies – Thillana Mohanambhal and Karagattakaran brought out the real respect for these artists.

When few misuse the freedom the whole class gets punished. Same way it is not the mistake of the arts, it is the mistake of the artist who use that.

Sringara bhava – emotions of love as nayaki-nayaka bhaava is the foremost technique used in all literatures, arts and devotion in our nation. But the inner theme is being wrongly implemented to attract the royal men, rich men and slowly the art for spiritual transformation declined towards physical-emotional love of human nature.

Most of the temple, royal court dances and music used the above said technique and started gaining a bad name.

Sangeetha mumoorthigal deviated music form purely towards devotion.

The art form misused by few Devadasis made everyone to be looked with a wrong vision – biased attitude of mankind. So when social workers started reforming the Devadasi system they also stood against the fine arts without real awareness.

Rukmini Devi who was born in the temple city Madurai was aware about these issues and she was made to re-work to refine the great SADIR ART for the welfare of man’s spiritual evolution.

She was a woman born and brought up in Madurai – city of Meenakshi [* Madurai city is being designed as Raja Mathangi Yantra – energy of creativity and awareness. This is the reason for many artists are born in this city from M.S.Subbulaxmi – Vadivelu actor] she naturally had the sangalpa through previous birth and awareness about the issue. Her strong spiritual backup and support through Dr.Arundel made her to learn sadir at her 30s and work further.

It is like a fiction when we read her life. The way she has come out of her orthodox family restrictions as a Bhramin woman make us to raise our eye brows with shocks and surprise.

But at the same time as we say to our parents her mother Seshammal was very much supportive and she gave the freedom to evolve as a ‘’pudhumai pen’’ [Modern woman]

Initially Rukmini started doing few dramas based on Indian, Western literatures and then she stepped into sadir.

She says that she has seen many world dances of various patterns but not a single good south Indian dance. She was craving to see that. Her brother Yagna was her next support. He took her to observe and see 2 Devadasi family girls’s sadir in Madras Music Academy in 1932. They were Jeevarathnam and Rajalaxmi.[photos given]

Rukmini was overwhelmed with the performance and she wanted to learn which was considered to be a greatest sin in an orthodox family.

Thiruvalaputhur Kalyani was a famous Devadasi and Sadir performer. She took her lessons from Pandhanainallur MeenakshiSundaram Pillai. [Meenakshi – mathangi energy for creativity decided to reform the arts] Her daughter was Jeevarathnam.

Within few days Rukmini’s brother introduced her to another great Devadasi Sadir dancer called Mylapore Gowri Ammal. She was well known for her symbolism and gestures [abinayam and bhavam]

She learned dance from Meenakshisundaram Pillai’s brother. With lot of obstacles she went to Pandhanainalloor and met the tutor for dance lessons.

Pillai himself was in confusion about a high caste woman dancing sadir.

Rukimini felt very hard to make him to accept her as his student.

Pillai’s son-in-law Ponnaiyah Pillai understood the craving nature of Ruknimi and recommended Pillai to start his lessons to Rukmini.

Before that he tested her musical skills and few steps patterns.

Then he asked her to dance for a song and Rukmini could not have any singer. Ponnaiah himself sang for her and got promise that no one outside should come to know about his musical support to her dance.  This is because again caste was a big issue.

After seeing Rukimini’s dance Meenakshisundaram Pillai was much touched with the dedication she had for the art and says, ‘’I will make you to dance better than Pudhukottai Ammani, Thiruvaroor Gnanathammal, Tiruvalaputhur Kalyani who are the great dancers of the nation’

Vadivelu nattuvanar [one who spells the jathi swarams] was chosen by Rukmini to assist Pillai and he was made to settle down in Madras. [See the efforts a woman has taken to reform an art] He was also very old by this time.

Rukmini danced from morning 7 to evening 7 with an hour break for lunch. But it was very difficult for her to get a good appreciation from her Guru. But Rukmini’s mother was just witnessing her daughters work and supported her mentally. Very often small shows were also performed before visitors.

Mother says, ‘’Where did you get this talent from? It has not been in our family at all’’ [It is previous birth’s package]

In one time Rukimini won her Guru’s trust and he allowed her to teach his students and also asked her opinion about their quality.

But Pillai was delaying Rukmini’s stage performance.

Dance that changed the fate of Sadir attam….

Annual Convention of Theosophical Society came.

Mylapore Gowri encouraged Rukmini was a stage performance but it was objected by Pillai.

But when Rukmini was ready for the show Pillai left Madras and sent Chokkalingam Pillai back. Rukmini gave her first stage performance with many compositions which she learned from Gowri and Pillai.

After this program many people started looking the Sadir as a different one. Celebrities like C.P.Ramasamy Iyer, Srinivasa Sasthri, Arundel and few other great political people accepted.

Prejudice against Sadir was so much and Rukmini face much stress from Dr.Muthulaxmi Reddy who banded Devadasi system through law. Dr.Muthulaxmi Reddy met Rukmini’s mother and advised her to stop Rukmini from further dancing Sadir.

Newspapers appreciated as well as many papers spoke nasty comments about a Bhramin woman’s Sadir.

Rukmini says, ‘’On the whole, I felt I had managed to convert the orthodox Madras crowd to my point of view. But it was not easy to win over some of the members of Theosophical society. Many who did not understand felt it was not at all the proper for the wife of the president to dance even though he supported and encouraged me’’

Rukmini continues….’’Dr.Besant and Dr.Arundel were working for the political freedom for India. I thought that a cultural renaissance would be equally meaningful – that a country which was losing its identity would be best served by a revival of its traditional arts.’’

 Thus Rukmini Devi Arundel made a renaissance in the Sadir attam and brought to the world’s view. She is the main reason for many changes in the dance form. Today the Bharathanatyam – old Sadir alone gives space for any good transformation.

Let us accept the arts and music and try to implement them for the real spiritual transformations and not for fame-money and awards.

Let us stop commercializing a good art form…..

I could not learn directly in Kalashetra, but I lived near Kalashetra and saw few dance programs. But I was blessed by God to learn Montessori techniques from Kalashetra where Dr.Montessori lived for 9 years with Rukmini Arundel. Today our Uni5 centers can never leave their blessings.

 With regards,

Dr.M.Madeswaran [16.4.2015]

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From temple to world stage – [Article about Rukmi...

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