Rediscovering the Spirit at Tennangur

Text and Photos by Mr. Rajendra Kumar.

Aruna Sairam

Said the Guru to the student-‘Breathe from your lower abdomen. Feel your breath’.

The student took a breath..

Guru said ‘Deeper .. deeper’.

The student tried hard.

The Guru banged the student’s lower abdomen with his fist and the student was flabbergasted

But there……… the miracle happened.

The student felt very different right from that moment.

The Guru was a German and the student is better known by the name the name Aruna Sairam .

Her journey as a musician is quite interesting.

Gifted with a great voice and with an intellect that could grasp all intricate details with ease, she did succeed in becoming a musician. But what was lacking was that ‘feel’. When she sang ‘sa pa Sa’ she was not feeling free. That is when she decided to take the help of the Guru.

Now she is able to transcend all barriers and feel the music as she sings.

This ‘feel’ is what is needed by an artiste-be it a musician or a dancer.

Smt.Aruna Sairam narrated this to the group of dancers at the Dance Camp in Tennangur.

Could there have been a better place or forum to narrate this journey?

Tennangur, a small and beautiful village near Vandawasi in Tiruvannamalai district in Tamizh Nadu has a magnetic aura.

The first thing that strikes us as soon as we step onto the village is the serenity. We feel relaxed, and the mind is uncluttered.

That is why Natyarangam, the Dance wing of Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai has been conducting this camp for the last 9 years in this village.

This Camp is different from the other camps/workshops. The participants are not taught anything. They undergo an experience that goes a long way in learning about the finer elements in life.

Art is nothing but the use of imagination to express ideas and feelings in an aesthetic way. The classical art forms of India have a structure but there is lot of scope for creativity and imagination within this structure. This creativity or imagination cannot be taught. It is an experience by itself. This is what is the aim of the camp.

The participants undergo an experience during the camp that finally gets reflected in their works and in their life as well.

Let us take the Aangika sessions for example. Prof.Chandrasekhar- the Convenor of the camp for 9 years now-asked the participants to stand still and express themselves only through their eyes to Questions/Statements like ‘Hello’ ‘How Are you?’ ’Why didn’t you come yesterday?’ etc.

The participants were then asked to perform Allaarippu using only the eyes..

This experience made the dancers feel the importance of eyes in dance.

The ‘Thatti Namaskaram’ that is done before and after any practice session/performance has almost become a ritual and it is a fact that many dancers do this mechanically.

Participants realized this fact only when they did the Namaskaram in the camp.

Balancing ourselves has become an integral part of our fast paced life.

In an art form like Bharathanatyam , balancing plays a very important role. After all, is art not a reflection of life?

Dancers were asked to stand in a single legged posture. It was a revelation for many dancers since they could not hold on to this posture for a long time.

Uddhatha and Sukumara prayogas can be applied to any adavu.But how and where these are applied? The participants danced to the same jathis for both the prayogas..

This way they experienced the difference.

Jathis have emotions. Not just by the way they are rendered…but by the way the syllables are composed.

For example, in Prof.Chandrasekhar’s production ‘Aparajita’ when Devi gets the Astras from Devas, she shows the ‘Attahasam’ and the jathis go like this: Ha Ha Ha Ha…

Innovation within the parameters..Tat adavu

In a similar vein, the seventh thatadavu that is usually performed in Chathushram was performed in Khanda jaathi Dhruva talam.

The participants understood the rhythm better..

While composing a Teermanam, one of the devices that could be used is the stress on one particular adavu. The Kambodi varnam –Naadanai Azhaithu vaadi- composed by Prof.Chandrasekhar has one teermanam that has 23 ‘Talaangus’.When one of the participants performed this, others watched this with awe and admiration.

Aahaarya -–make up and costumes-is important not just during a performance but also when one goes to class/practice. The importance of wearing practice costumes and be presentable was stressed during the session conducted by Prof.Chandrasekhar.

During a performance, dancers must choose the costume as per their body structures.

A short person must not wear costumes with broad borders. Heavily built dancers must not wear stripes. And a strict ‘no’ for stitched costumes for men.


What is Poetry?

Anything that is beautiful and graceful..

There is poetry in a beautiful dance performance.

Dancers must have the sensitivity to appreciate poetry. This helps them understand and appreciate the dance more.

Dr.Sudha Seshaiyyan made the participants realise this.

There are essentially three levels of understanding in appreciating poetry:


2.Vaakyaartha- Sentence

3.Dhwani-Inherent tone (hidden meaning)

Though the first two are important, one must concentrate on the third part to experience and feel the poetry.

Poetry must be interpreted like how a painting is interpreted.Dancing at Tennangur

Some of the participants danced to pieces like ‘Kakkai Chiraginile’ and ’Maitreem Bhajatha’ and the interpretations of each dancer were different.

Is it not true that what one experiences is totally different from that of the other’s?

Music and dance are inseparable.

Smt.Aruna Sairam brought out the Musical aspects in dance wonderfully

An expert in Abhangs, she sang in a voice soaked in devotion and the participants responded..

The Morning sessions of yoga by Anil Kumar and the one session lecture by Dr.Kannan Pugazhendi made the participants realise the importance of the harmony between the mind and the body.

Finally, the spontaneous dancing by the participants during the Dolotsavam and the Garuda Sevai in the Panduranga temple said it all..

What makes an artiste?

Creativity, imagination, expression, communication, passion, aesthetics, spontaneity…

But an artiste is incomplete without the internalization and the ‘feel’…

And this what the German Guru made Aruna Sairam realise..

And this is what the Tennangur camp makes us realise…

About the Author :

Mr. Rajendra Kumar describes himself as a “Fine Arts Enthusiast”. Passionate about Music, Dance and Literature, he regularly attends the Tennangur Camp organized by the Natyarangam wing of the Narada Gana Sabha. An articulate writer himself, he shares his appreciation of music in his blog, He resides with his wife Manjari, a Bharathanatyam danseuse, and kids in Chennai.

2 responses to “Rediscovering the Spirit at Tennangur

  1. Really a great experience reading this real enthralling event and felt as if i was present during the Tennangur…event….!! Its a great event and exposure to the souls ..want to enjoy the naada and nrutya..poetry and many other..!!!..feeling a lot to participate in this event…!!!

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