Monday, 5 September 2011

My mentor Dr. K Venkatalakshamma (1906 – 2002) - Dasappa Keshava

Though my guru, the late Dr. K Venkatalakshamma, was not born in a Devadasi family, she was appointed as a temple and court dancer by the great King Nalvadi Krishnarajendra Wodeyar. When Venkatalakshamma was an eight-year-old girl, she was brought from her village Tangli (near Kadur in Karnataka) by her grandparents to Mysore, to learn Bharatanatyam under the guidance of the well-known dance guru Jatti Thayamma. Thayamma was appointed as Asthana Vidushi when she was just fifteen years old. She went on to be honoured by Dr. S Radhakrishnan with the title ‘Natya Saraswati.’ Venkatalakshamma learnt the art of dance in the gurukula system and her ‘Ranga Pravesha’ was celebrated when she was twelve. She also learnt music and Sanskrit from Asthana Vidwans and performed with her guru for nearly 30 years. It was the time when the Mysore style of dance was at its zenith and in full bloom.

Venkatalakshamma used to tell me often about the great experiences she had during her service at the palace. It seems there were two different types of service: one, ceremonies in the court took place in the presence of the King and royal family only during major festivals, like Ganapati Mahotsava, Balipadyami, Dasara and the King’s birthday. The second used to be a general ritual which used to take place on all the religious days in the palace temples, where dancers and musicians - appointed as Asthana Vidushis and Vidwans - would offer or present their art to the deity. 

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