Adult Indian Dance Student - 2021

Nataraja Pathu (Song to Lord Nataraja)

By Preethi Sriram

Indha ulageerezhu men alithai chollu, ini unnai viduvathillai, Eesane, sivakami nesane, yenai eendra, thillai vaazh natarajane.

Translation - Please tell me, why did you create these two times seven worlds, I am not going to leave you, Oh God, Oh darling of Parvathi, Oh Nataraja of Chidambaram who gave birth to me.

The lines above are from a Tamil Song to Lord Nataraja (The Lord of the Dance) written by Muniswamy Mudaliar and translated by P.R Ramachandar.

Music is one of the most integral parts of dance. At least for Indian classical dance, without poetry and music, it is hard to have dance. I wish to explain the importance of music in dance from my experience this past year.

When I was sick for a day this past year, I became delirious. I was mad and upset and cursed the divinities for the pain. It was a completely vulnerable time, and at that moment, hurt and trying to find answers- I.e.- “why this pain? Why this creation? Why this suffering?" I was raging and burning (due to probably a high fever) and hurled my frustration at the creations.

Like the poet who wrote the Nataraja Pathu (though not as beautiful, nor with any sort of poetry attached), I became the questioner, asking “why?" and “take pity on us" and “how cruel" and “give us reprieve."

Yet, one of the things that gave me solace was listening to mantras/slokas/bhajans. Strangely, I kept singing to myself all the mantras and slokas I knew. I could not recall much of it. All I wanted to do was listen to the devotional music.

In the past, where would one have turned to in this moment? It would be hard to summon a priest to chant. Or it would be challenging to try and find a private musician at that very moment to sing the specific songs that one would desire to take us to a place closer to a greater consciousness.

But the next best thing to that is the current accessibility some of us are fortunate to have through the internet.

I asked our home device to play songs to my desires. After, I slept a little better. I felt blessed just that it continued playing and did not stop. I listened in my feverish haze. I thought to myself, if I ever am in such a moment of sickness in the future, or worse, to have bhajans/shlokas playing to help me.

Technology seems to be a great connector. For instance, during the pandemic, many dances and performances that would have been live, were offered online. Instead of having to travel somewhere, the options available to be able to view shows increased.

Also, during the pandemic, I have been taking the dance classes online, an option that may not have been available only a few years ago.

There are shows in the past I could only have wished of seeing, or having to see by travelling, that now I could participate through watching on the internet. Of course, seeing live in-person performances is always preferential for many, but sometimes it is not always possible.

Many of us have family in various countries or locations, and while seeing them in person is always the optimal scenario, there may be circumstances that they cannot travel to certain events.

We live in such amazing times that people can potentially livestream their events. Now, if our relatives in another country do not have the means to attend the salangai Pooja or arangetram, they can watch through their phones, computers, laptops or other devices, if the event is organized to have that set up.

Afterwards, you can live chat with your family as well to get their thoughts and blessings.

Those who may be homebound or even to go further, hospitalized, can still participate. Technology can lessen that distance between people and the arts and provide greater accessibility as well to those who may need it the most.

Hopefully, even after the pandemic, many performers think about these aspects of a show and implement the livestream aspects to those who cannot physically attend.

Not only will it broaden their reach, but it can also, on the individual level, improve the quality of a person's life who may not have the means or abilities to travel, whether it is near to their house or another country.

Dance and arts are a connector and a form of communication and let us utilize technology to reach those who may most need it.

For me, the music and dance has eased some of the anxieties of the pandemic and having technology to help us access these forms of communication has been the most essential in these trying times.

Source: Hindupedia.com/en/Nataraja_Pathu_(Tamil)

This series of articles is about the journey and unique insights of an adult dance student learning classical Indian dance. An introduction to the experiences and a perspective of taking classical Indian dance as both an American and an Indian, and how this shapes her personal journey, begins this series. Further articles will delve into specific topics and experiences from the perspective of the adult student.

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Preethi Sriram is a classical Indian dance enthusiast and lifelong learner of dance. Contact: SriramPreethi@hotmail.com