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Dance Homage to Lord Nataraja

By Girish Modi
January 2012
Dance Homage to Lord Nataraja Sujaya Dixit and emcee Shyam Sunder watch as priest performs puja. (Photo: Girish Modi)

The Hindu Temple of Atlanta in Riverdale celebrated Lord Shiva on November 13th with a variety of devotional dances in honor of Lord Nataraja, choreographed and coordinated by Bharatnatyam dance teacher Sujaya Dixit. Sujaya is a devotee of Lord Nataraja and has presented annual dance programs every year for the past ten years.

Nataraja (King of Dance) is a depiction of the Hindu god Shiva as the cosmic dancer who performs his divine dance to destroy a weary universe and make preparations for god Brahma to start the process of creation. A Tamil concept, Shiva was first depicted as Nataraja in the famous Chola bronzes and sculptures of Chidambaram. The dance of Shiva in Chidambaram forms the motif for all the depictions of Shiva as Nataraja.

This year’s program started with prayers and offerings to Lord Nataraja with help of the priest. Then emcee Shyam Sunder introduced the first item, a prayer to Lord Ganesha performed by Chandini Kanan, Monisha Narayan and Varsha Anbil, students of Bhavini Subramani.

Nataraja Anjali—salutation to Nataraja—was performed by Sujaya Dixit’s students, Aruna Srinivasiah and Shivina Kumar. Five students of Neelima Gaddamanugu (Meenu Reddy, Geetika Jape, Meghana Nuthivana, and Salini Vemuru) then danced in praise of Lord Krishna. Next were prayers to Lord Nataraja of Chidambaran, performed by Anusha, a student of Padmaja Kelama, in Nataraja’s Anand Tandav form.

A folk dance in Kuchipudi style was performed by Reneeta Basu, Anjli Kumar, Kamini Manivannan, and Anusha Kumar, students of Sasikala Penumarthi. They presented various attributes of Lord Nataraja. Parvati Kanela honored the students and their teacher Sasikala.

The sixth dance was a Meera bhajan, “pag ghunghroo bandh,” sung in semi-classical Carnatic style and performed by Malathi Krishnan. It expresses aspiration of self-giving to Krishna. Dr. B. K. Mohan honored the artist, and Sujaya honored Dr. Mohan with a few words and a gift as a token of gratitude.

The next item, a Durga dance performed by an American girl named Asha (real name Ashley), was the most outstanding dance of the program. It began with devotion to Durga: Asha balanced a sword on her head while performing various steps. Then came praise of Durga: Asha danced with one diya (oil-lamp) on her head and one diya in each palm, and it was an awesome spectacle. She was honored by Hema Mikhilhani, and Sujaya reciprocated.

The eighth and final item was a graceful dance to the bhajan in praise of Lord Shiva and Shivani (Parvati) sung by Ama Kurani and performed by Sujaya Dixit. She called on stage Jayanthi Srinivasan and honored Purushi and Mr. and Mrs. Narsihaman.

After Sujaya thanked all involved, including the temple authority and community for supporting her work for last ten years, two priests came on the stage and all the performers participated in the aarti before taking the aarti to the Shiva Temple as a ritual. And before the audience left, they were served prasaad.

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