Culture, Origin and Greatness

This weekend, Mr. Ragothaman brings  two very interesting articles to our notice . 

 India counts because it is a strong nation, a smart country, a growing economy. And India appeals because it is a vibrant democracy. But if India impacts it is because India has men and women who have something of her classical greatness in them. 

Says Gopalkrishna Gandhi (Grandson of Rajagopalachariar and Gandhiji) (

He recounts how around 50 years ago,  Rukmini Devi, on her tour of the US, was introduced at Jacob’s Pillow, Massachusetts, the centre for world class dance festivals, by Ted Shawn, as “the regenerator” of the classical dance of India. And the legendary Balasarasvati, at the same venue, was introduced like this: “Tonight, you are in the presence of greatness.”

Not too many Indians can be introduced like that in the world today.

He further adds..

 The best credit to the culture that is shared comes when the sharing is egoless and logo-less. And when it is given as an offering, not as a sale.

Probably the last quote in part explains why not so many of us can claim greatness. But in the absence of magnanimous patrons and sizable “Art Support” governmental initiatives , Art as an offering and artists driven only by passion are going to be hard-to-come-by???

And well then if there were two big names in BN 50 years ago, today we easily have at least a 200. So it is indeed going to be harder to find a USP for each artist. It is indeed way harder to make a name for oneself in the Art today and the difficulty in my opinion will continue to rise.

Ok then…The next article is  titled ” Bharata Natyam-– Who gave it the name?” by B.M. Sundaram in  Madras Musings Here he traces the origins and historical usage of the term ” Bharata Natyam”. For those of you frustrated with the two min. shallow program-intro speech with bits and pieces of  googled data , that invaraiably starts with ” the term BN was coined by RD or EK Iyer”… here is something that may soothe your souls.

The late Dr. Arudra, writing in Sruti(Dec.1986/Jan.1987), quoted Rukmini Devi (Kalakshetra Journal, Vol. XVII – 1977): “So far as I know, I was the first person, when I began to dance in the early 1930s, to give the (new) name to the dance and since then the word Bharata Natyam has been acceptable in common use.” He, however, questioned this statement. Rukmini Devi had her first real introduction to this art only on January 1, 1935. She recorded this fact (28th Conference Souvenir of the Music Academy). A person who, by her own admission, did not understand the art until after she encountered Meenakshisundaram Pillai and his disciples (Sabharanjitam and Nagaratnam) in 1935, could not have thought of naming it as Bharata Natyam earlier than that year.

Dr. V. Raghavan, during a dance seminar organised by the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi in Delhi, stated that he first started using the name Bharata Natyam and it soon became popular. Arudra wrote that Raghavan actually used the word Bharata Natya for the first time in his 1933 article titled Bharatanatya Classical Dance – The South Indian Nautch (in the background of the controversy over the art) (Sound and Shadow – Madras, Vol. II, Issue 6, 1933). A leading dancer wrote in The Hindu (7.12.1997) that “it was in the mid-thirties that E. Krishna Iyer first coined the term Bharatanatyam for the Sadir dance”

But BM Sundaram in this paper, provides evidence from History and Literature of much earlier instances of usage of the term .

Whenever I come across exercises dealing with deconstruction and analysis of term and coinage-origin- trace, I always remember Muthuswamy Dikshatar’s keerthanam in Devagandhari.. Can you guess why???

One response to “Culture, Origin and Greatness

  1. Hi Sangeetha,
    Possibly he used the word Bharata natya in the composition? I could not find the lyrics so couldn’t confirm my guess.

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