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After demolition of the ancient institutions like Nalanda and Takshashila, in India, Gharanas were the only source of training in music and dance. The great musician, scholar, music educationist, writer and revivalist of Indian music, Pt. V.N. Bhatkhande said that the sound of music must come from every house of India, because we are member of a natural music lover society and have inherited it from our tradition. Pt. V.N. Bhatkhande and Pt. V.D. Paluskar started a revolution in the field of music education by opening music institutions. In contrast to the Gharanas, their aims were to provide opportunity for training the people having musical aptitude and interest to produce talented artistes, intelligent teachers, wise audience to appreciate good music and musician; and to teach theoretical aspects along with the practical training, which was excluded wholly, or partially by the Gharanas. (For more details, please refer to Guru Shishya Parampara)

The aims of music education are – entertainment of the society, intellectual feeling, education of our culture through music, tranquility, purification of the mind and soul, development of personality and emphasis on inter-disciplinary studies. The main elements of music education are – teachers to impart knowledge, talented students to adopt the knowledge, syllabus to be taught to the students, methods of music teaching and examination system for the assessment of the students’ progress.

After demolition of the ancient institutions like Nalanda and Takshashila, in India, Gharanas were the only source of training in music and dance. The great musician, scholar, music educationist, writer and revivalist of Indian music, Pt. V.N. Bhatkhande said that the sound of music must come from every house of India, because we are member of a natural music lover society and have inherited it from our tradition. Pt. V.N. Bhatkhande and Pt. V.D. Paluskar started a revolution in the field of music education by opening music institutions. In contrast to the Gharanas, their aims were to provide opportunity for training the people having musical aptitude and interest to produce talented artistes, intelligent teachers, wise audience to appreciate good music and musician; and to teach theoretical aspects along with the practical training, which was excluded wholly, or partially by the Gharanas. (For more details, please refer to Guru Shishya Parampara)

The aims of music education are – entertainment of the society, intellectual feeling, education of our culture through music, tranquility, purification of the mind and soul, development of personality and emphasis on inter-disciplinary studies. The main elements of music education are – teachers to impart knowledge, talented students to adopt the knowledge, syllabus to be taught to the students, methods of music teaching and examination system for the assessment of the students’ progress.

Guru Shishya Parampara in Bharatanatyam

Music and dance were something divine and therefore highly individualistic while it had to be taught in a rigorous manner to an enlightened disciple, the style of a Guru in many cases, did work as an inhibiting factor in ultimately developing the disciple’s own genius. It is like an ocean and no one individual can master every technique without the able guidance of Guru, which highly makes ‘Guru Shishya Parampara’ as an important system still prevalent in classical music and dance.

This tradition was prevalent in northern as well as southern India also. It is known as ‘Gharanas’ in north and ‘Sampradayas’ in south India. In the various fields of fine arts, many ‘Sampradayas’ exist. It is known as ‘Banis’ or ‘Mats’ also. In western countries, these terms are prevalent as ‘Schools’.

The ancient art of Bharatanatyam has been handed down from generation to generation under the Guru Shishya Parampara. Sattanar’s ‘Koothanool’, Ilangovan Adigal’s ‘Silappadikkaram’ and Tirutakatevar’s ‘Jeevakachintamani’ have revealed a lot of material on dance and its training system. ‘Silappadikkaram’ has an elaborate chapter ‘Arangetru Kattai’ on Bharatanatyam dance training, its essential elements, its various aspects, qualities of a Guru and Shishya, qualities of a dancer, auditorium, stage setting etc., where dancers are referred as ‘Koothiars’, dance Gurus as ‘Koothiliyars’, ‘Nattuvanars’ and ‘Melakkars’, Musicians as ‘Panars’ and music composers as ‘Orunars’.

Vidyarambha

At a tender age of seven years, on a very auspicious day a disciple is initiated into the training of Bharatanatyam. A dancer should have good health and personality and if the training is started too early, her or his growth may be inhibited that would effect his or her physical appearance. The initiation is a proper ceremony. The parents take the child to Guru and offer him coconut, betel leaves, betel nuts, fruits, sweets and flower garland. The formal training commences with the teaching of ‘Guru Namaskar’ (paying obeisance to the Guru). The Namskar is performed by the disciple while standing in Samapada (both the feet join together) hands in Shikhara Hasta, thumb facing upwards placed in front of the chest, stamps both the feet alternately – right and left, sits down on toes in ‘Muzhumandi’ posture, touches the floor (obeisance to mother earth) and Guru’s feet, moves hands upwards in a circular motion, joins both the hands in Anjali Hasta above the head and bring them down in front of the chest. It is a respect to the Guru for accepting him or her as a disciple. Now the formal training of the first lesson by the Guru starts with teaching of basic stance of Bharatanatyam – ‘Araimandi’, the feet are placed on paddy, the body is straight, legs are bent at the knees and stretched towards sides, heels are joined together with toes facing sides and hands are placed on the waist. The Guru starts the first footwork – ‘Tatta Adavu’, in which the body assumes Araimandi posture and sole of the two feet struck the paddy alternately. To conduct the classes, Guru uses ‘Tattakazhi’ consists of – Talakkol, a wooden stick and Tattamain, a rectangular wooden piece. The guru beats with Talakkol on Tattamain and recites the respective syllable of the ‘Adavu’Taiya Tei’. Simultaneously, the disciple is trained in basic dance exercises also to prepare his or her body appropriate for the rigorous movement and foot works to be taught afterwards.

Once the disciple’s body is prepared for further lessons, the proper training of Bharatanatyam begins. Gradually the hand gestures, ‘Nritta Hastas’ are introduced to combine with footwork. Generally, hand gestures convey some meaning, purport or significance; but such gestures are also executed with Adavus only for embellishment, aesthetic beauty and ornamentation. When these gestures are used in such a manner, they are called Nritta Hastas. It may be single hand – Asamyuta Hasta or double hand – Samyuta Hasta gesture.

The repertoire of Bharatanatyam is designed in such a manner that it gradually enables a disciple to adapt the intricacies of the dance. Training of Adavus combines with the training in movements of feet, head, neck, eyes and hand gestures along with other major and minor parts of the body also, to display various emotions, feelings and specific effects. After proper training and practice of basics, the disciple’s body and mind becomes mature enough to learn the regular repertoire of Bharatanatyam. The training of regular syllabus of Bharatanatyam starts with Alarippu, moves to Jathiswaram, Shabdam, Varnam, Keertanam, Padam, Javali and concludes with Tillana. Normally, it takes five to six years to complete and get perfect in the syllabus of Bharatanatyam.

Arangetram

Once the disciple has completed and practiced the syllabus ‘Margam’ of Bharatanatyam, he or she is ready for the maiden performance ‘Arangetram‘. Arangetram is a ceremony similar to an examination when the disciple, after the completion of training, presents complete Margam of Bharatanatyam as the first public performance at the ‘Natyamandapa’ of a temple in front of the dignitaries, like – Gurus of dance and music, critics, Scholars and connoisseurs of fine arts.. On completion of the training, the disciple offers ‘Dakshina’ to the Guru as a token of thanks. Guru Shishya Parampara is a very rich tradition of training of Bharatanatyam, still prevalent in practice.

A disciple constantly stays with the Guru for a minimum period of five years to be trained in Bharatanatyam, from childhood to become a teenager. During this period, he or she not only learns the grammar of dance from the Guru, also inherits his qualities, habits and character; and becomes emotionally closed to each other. Thus, gradually and unknowingly Guru’s image develops in him or her. Guru becomes his or her ideal. Guru’s personality develops in the disciple and reflects the sign of Guru, which distinguishes him or her from the disciples of other Gurus.

A tradition, still practiced in Bharatanatyam, is the Guru conducts the orchestra ‘Nattuvangam’ in the disciple’s performances. Therefore, a disciple remains attached and associated with the Guru for further training and help. Training in such art forms never ends; it is like churning the ocean. In the process, a unique relationship, attachment and understanding develops between the Guru and Shishya that lasts for many more years in future, sometimes until the end of life.

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