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Music And Dance Add Color To Temple Celebrations

Ranjani Saigal

The music and dance events coordinated by the Youth Cultural and Educations Program Committee held at the Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, MA , held in conjunction with various religious events brought back memories of festivals held back home in India. Those fortunate to attend these events were sure to be awed by the exceptional presentations - be that of seasoned artists like, Vainika Durga Krishnan, Hindustani vocalist Swathi Panda, Carnatic vocalist Geeta Murali or young performers who are learning music and dance from the various schools in New England.

“Thai Vellikazhamai”, the auspicious Friday in the month of Thai, dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi featured a Veena performance by Durga Krishanan. Sriram Ramgopal, a high school student from Andover, MA (student of Dr. N. Ramani) played the flute while Vasanthi Sridhar, a freshman from Harvard (student and daughter of Sandya Sridhar) presented a vocal recital accompanied on the violin by her younger brother. Her impeccable rendition of the difficult Diskhitar Krithi in Kambhoji Ragam , “Maragatha Vallee” was a treat for the listeners. Shivani Srivastav (student of Sridevi Thirumalai) presented the Lalgudi Tillana in Ragam Bridavani and the Purandara Dasa kriti , “Bhagyadha Lakshmi Baramma”. Suhas Rao a middle school student from Norwood (student of Tara Anand) presented Thyagarajs’a “Chekkani Raja “on the violin. The youngest performers for the evening were Arun Saigal, a middle school student from Burlington and Ulhas Rao an elementary school student from Norwood (students of Pravin Sitaram) who presented a lovely duet on the Mridangam.

Feb 14, Valentine ’s Day, brought all the lovers of the art of Indian Classical dance, to the basement of the temple to be part of Nrityanjali – an offering of dance. The event was organized as part of the Shivarathri celebrations. Over 130 performers of all ages, different dance styles and skill levels presented a panorama of dances. The program lasted for over eight hours. Students of Sunanda Narayanan, Preeta Arunkumar, Meena Subramanyam, Sridevi Thirumalai, Ranjani Saigal, Poornima Risbud, Sudha Totapally, Kajol Parekh, Divya Narayanan, Jayashree Bala Rajamani, Neena Gulhati, Jeyanthi Ramamoorthy and Berline John presented a range items. The repertoire ranged from the familiar pieces like Kauthuams, Pushpanjali, Aadenamma, Idathu Padam Thooki Aadum, Sabhapathiki Vera Daivam, Shabdams to more recent compositions like Govindan Kuzhal Osai, Aadava Shivane etc. The presentations by senior students were at a very high standard and could easily compete with the best in India. Newcomer Divya Narayanan’s Mohiniattam presentation was excellent as was Mari Shakti’s Bharatanatyam presentation.

Feb 15th was another special day dedicated to Lord Nataraja. The event began with Raga Alapanai of different ragams by Carnatic vocalists Geeta Murali and Dr. Vishwanathan. Ragams like Ahir Bhairav and Hindolam considered special for Nataraja was rendered. This was followed by bhajans sung in the Hindustani style by vocalist Swathi Panda. Vishnupriya Samudrala, a high school student from Westborough (student of Durga Krishna) played Swami Dayananda Saraswthi’s composition, “Bho Shambo” on the veena. Bharatanatyam dancer Thenu, a newcomer to the area from Singapore, presented the Nataraja keertanam “Adi Kondar”. Her presentation was excellent. Rasika Murali and Suhas Rao, middle school students from Norwood (students of Tara Anand) played Harikesha Nallur Muthiah Bhagavathar’s “Gan ganapathaye namo namo” on the violin. The performance ended with Mridangam duet by Arun Saigal and Ulhas Rao. Gauri Shankar, senior Mridangam artist provided accompaniment for all the musicians.

These presentations are clear indications that New England is certainly a fertile soil that sustains Indian classical dance and music. Teachers and parents must be commended for working hard to ensure the continuation of these art forms in New England by teaching them to the youngsters. The youngsters deserve our special congratulations for their skilled presentations.

"The temple belongs to all. We welcome everyone to use the facilities of the temple. Please send us suggestions for events you would like to hold at the temple and we will certainly give it serious consideration" said President Solai Annamalai. If you would like to check out such events please checkout the temple website at www.nehti.org.

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