Young Artists Dance on Pot
In December 2009, 48 students of Sri Rama Nataka Niketan, Secunderabad, danced for an hour on clay pots to enter the Limca Book of World Records. In December 2011, they bettered their feat by presenting 50 students for the Indian World Records. The official World Record website describes it as, “… a visual treat… perform amazingly on the brass plate and inverted mud pots with three small brass pots on their head with lit candles in their hands for 60 minutes (non-stop).”
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‘Deepa Tarangini’ was presented in Chennai at Bharat Kalachar on a smaller scale, with 10 young dancers (between the ages 10-13) for 15 minutes. Entering a darkened stage with lit candles and small brass pots, the dancers waited patiently for the music to begin. It was a sort of well-coordinated drill that they followed. On the first drawn-out “Om,” the young artists climbed onto gaily painted mud pots, the second saw the dancers sit down in a muzhumandi stance, on the third and fourth, they placed the brass pots on their heads and then a candle in each hand.
These agile dancers did not need any warm-up. Thus ready, they struck a one-legged pose to start their presentation. They wowed the audience with their balance, timing and co-ordination as they struck poses like the karana sculptures in ancient temples of Thanjavur, Kumbakonam and Chidambaram. Some of them were acrobatic feats and provided excellent photo ops for the rasikas.
There was also movement on the pot when the smiling, nonchalant performers turned around on one leg or when they performed the stamping tattu-mettu steps. The music was mainly instrumental, with an occasional alapana (Prema Ramamurthy) in Ragamalika. It was melodic and low(Dattatreya).
Though the ‘Deepa Tarangini’ is the most celebrated of their choreographies, Gurus V.S. Ramamoorthy (a.k.a. Sivagami Ramamoorthy) and Manjula Ramaswamy also pride themselves on their other choreographies such as the dance dramas. This, they declare, was inspired by cultural reformer E. Krishna Iyer’s ‘Plate and Pot Cosmic dance’ that he had learnt from Sadir artists. A chance perusal of an article on this in an old Sruti magazine inspired them to try to reconstruct it. The rest is history.
Sri Rama Nataka Niketan, premier a Bharatanatyam dance institution in Secunderabad, Andhra Pradesh, was established in 1970 as a training ground for young dancers in Bharatanatyam. The children here are admitted after they complete seven years of age. Even in their initial period of training, they have to practise the Karanas.
The institution has been presenting ‘Deepa Tarangini’ since 1980. The lit candles are based on the concept of dispelling the darkness of ignorance – ‘Tamaso Ma Jyothirgamaya’
V.S. Ramamoorthy, founder of the Niketan, and daughter Manjula Ramaswamy say they owe it all to the late E. Krishna Iyer who say was the inspiration to revive the plate and pot dance.
It is thus not surprising that apart from receiving glowing tributes from critics and writers, Deepa Tarangini, presented by 50 students has won a place in the Limca Book of Records, Asia Book of Records, India Book of Records, Unique World Records (formerly known as Global World Record), World Amazing Records and World Records India. The group has performed at festivals across the country.
Watch the group at Kamaraj Kalai Arangam on December 25, 9 a.m., for ‘Chennaiyil Tiruvaiyaru.’