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Category Archives: gurudakshina

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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In India, the Guru (teacher)’s place is very high.

Guru is Brahma – the creator, Guru is Vishnu – the operator and Guru is Shiva – the destroyer. The Guru is the Supreme Lord we salute Him.

Sant Kabirdas placed Guru’s place above the God, because, it is the Guru who gives knowledge about the god.

Main aims of the education are construction of character, intellectual feeling, development of personality, self-purification, relaxation and emphasis on inter disciplinary studies. Education is standard measurement for the culture of a society.

In Indian tradition, place of Gurus is always looked upon and respected as equal to God, Parents and great scholars because they impart knowledge and wisdom to the disciples. In ancient period, the great sages used to be the Gurus, who lived in their ‘Ashram’ or hermitages, called ‘Gurukula’ located in beautiful forests or mountains, away from the social life and its luxuries. These Gurus were master in every aspect of life and had complete knowledge of all the branches of education.

The disciples, irrespective of their family backgrounds, used to go to Guru’s Ashram in early childhood, live with him like a family member of his Guru, serve him like their own parents with dedication and are trained in every aspect of life and philosophy, literature, finance, economics, politics, mathematics, science, administration, fine arts, martial arts etc. Since a disciple lives continuously with his Guru for many years, gradually and unknowingly the habits, character and qualities of his Guru develop in him. It had been a unique system of transformation of knowledge and wisdom.

During course of time, the disciples become well versed in all the branches of knowledge. Once they have finished their education, they have to go through an open examination in front of the family members of Kings, Ministers, Zamindars, Chettiyars, great sages, experts of various streams of education, great scholars, chief of army, connoisseurs of fine arts along with the public. The disciples, with permission and blessings of his Guru, display their talent and expertise to prove them. After succeeding the examination, the disciples offer ‘Guru Dakshina’ to the Guru as a token of their gratitude toward his guru. On acquiring full knowledge, the disciple used to go back to their social life and family to practice their knowledge in their life. Since the disciples acquire their complete knowledge from one Guru only, it is acknowledged as a tradition. Some of the disciples used to opt to be teachers like their Guru, and they pursue their career as teachers to hand over the knowledge, they had acquired from their Guru, to the next generation. Thus, it became a tradition.

Without the mention of Gharana, Guru Shishya Parampara seems incomplete. Different Gharanas are like different flowers and each flower has its own fragrance & excellence. Whatever is considered of high value in Hindustani music, whatever has been contributed to its development, it has all grown under the aegis of the Gharana. In fact, the terms of Hindustani music and Gharana are synonymous. Gharanas are the schools of thoughts and each of them have a different vision for the aesthetic production. The first known Gharana is ‘Kawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana’ of Lucknow of vocal music. These Gharanas were named after the place of their founder Gurus or Ustads. Head of the Gharanas were called ‘Khalifa’ or ‘Ustad’. Later on, many offspring of these Gharanas came into existence by one or the other members of these Gharana, to highlight their own style and individuality. Such Gharanas were known by the name of its founders only. They were very conservative and preserve their compositions in the family only, like own property, which was inherited by their sons only. In absence of their sons, other blood relatives like – son-in-laws and nephews (sons of brother and sister) were included as family members to preserve the tradition; and were promoted according to the preference – son, son-in-law, and nephew; and at last come the disciples. Gharanas were nourished as a family tradition. A Gharana needs a continuity of three generations. In addition to mastering the style of a particular Gharana, artistes of each generation acquired new ideas also according to their individual inclinations and added them to the Gharana tradition.

However, there were monopolies of Gharanas. An Ustad or Guru would never let a disciple come up, regardless of his immense talent; and would promote his own sons or family members having even less talent. Musicians, who did not belong to any strong and well-established Gharana, were often judged harshly and cruelly by the critics; and were looked down only because they did not belong to any established Gharana. A musician, who was member of a certain Gharana might, and often did, change his style, enriching it and expanding it after hearing other musicians and interpreting their ideas in his own way. However, if questioned about this, he had recourse to the shelter of his Gharana. He would claim that there was a precedent for what he had done and would trace it back through his own Gharanas’ tradition. They used to teach only for money.

They never impart full knowledge to the disciples out of the family. They keep deep knowledge in the family only, like their family secrets. Most of the Ustads and Gurus were not thorough in theoretical aspects of the art form, they insist on oral only, practical training and practice. They would not even allow any of the disciples to write a composition. Therefore, many excellent compositions are unknown today; they have finished with the Ustads or Gurus of the Gharanas.

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Attributes of a teacher

Smriti (memory), Mati (insight), Medha (intelligence), Uha (wisdom), Apoha (willpower), and Shishya – Nishpadana (production of good disciples).

Qualities of a good teacher

Qualities like – magnetic glow of an awakened personality, absolute mastery of technique integrating the body and soul of the dance art, a live sense of rhythm and tempo in all their subtleties, expertise in conducting the dance ensembles, acquaintance with the individualities of musical instruments, sound knowledge of tradition acquired from seasoned veterans, capacity to improvise songs and rhythmic sequences, flair for new creation in style, resourcefulness in handling situations, perfect identification and devotion to ideals, and lastly, an intuitive perception of the strength and weakness of a student – makes a teacher of high value.

Characteristics of a good teacher

A Guru should have belief in God, simple & pure life, possession of good habits, proper attitude to the female disciples, and control over his disciples; and should win their confidence. He should be self controlled, knowledgeable, devoted for his work, cultured, disciplined, considerate, kind & caring towards poor but talented disciples, patient while teaching, well versed with Natyashastra and other relevant scriptures, stern and strict to ensure discipline, innovative, creative, update of new developments & inventions in the dance forms.

He should not indulge himself in drinking, smoking, immoral activities, vengeance, laziness, theft, fooling and criticizing others and cheap behavior. He should not be short tempered, overconfident of his disciples, boastful of himself and jealous of others. He should set an ideal for his disciples.

Attributes of a good student

Smriti (memory), Medha (intelligence), Shlaghna (Merit), Raga (devotion and dedicatoin), Sangharsha (Great effort and hard work), and Utsaha (enthusiasm).

Characteristics of a good student

A student should have belief in God, simple & pure life, possession of good habits, proper attitude to the female class mates, and control over himself; and should win his Guru’s confidence.

A student should learn with interest, practice his lessons sincerely, earn good name for his Guru and family, adjust & adapt him to the various circumstances & situations, spend most of the time with his guru and must have a thirst for more knowledge. He should be honest, self controlled, devoted to his work, cultured, disciplined, considerate, kind, helping & caring towards his class mates, patient while learning, innovative, creative, update of new developments & inventions in the dance forms, proud of his Guru and devoted to his art form.

He should not indulge himself in drinking, smoking, immoral activities, vengeance, laziness, oversleeping, theft, fooling and criticizing other class mates and cheap behavior. He should not be short tempered, overconfident and boastful of himself; and jealous of others. He should set an ideal for the other disciples.

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