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Arangetram: Divya Padmanabhan

Archana Nambiar

In Tamil, Aranga means a raised stage and etram means ascent. This event literally means ‘ascending the stage’ and is a culmination of several years of formal training under an accomplished guru. It is considered a graduation where a guru presents his/her student to the God, public, peers and dance lovers as s/he presents a repertoire consisting of dance items ranging from Alarippu to Thillana.

Divya Padmanabhan, a recent high school graduate from Lexington, is a student of Smt. Jothi Raghavan. She has been learning Bharathanatyam from Jothi for 8 years in Vazhuvoor style and prior to that was a student of Smt. Nina Gulati.  The arangetram was held at The Performing Arts Center at Littleton, MA on July 9, 2011. One could not ask for a better day as the weather was picture perfect!

The program began with Divya’s periappa, Lakshmanan, welcoming all the guests to the arangetram. He said she is the first child to have performed an arangetram in their family! Smt. Jothi Raghavan proceeded to briefly explain the meaning of arangetram and Bharathanatyam, i.e. Bha stands for bhava or expression, Ra stands for Raga or melody, Tha stands for Thala or rhythm and Natyam stands for dance. She mentioned that an arangetram is a proud moment for the guru.

The program began with Divya entering the stage and bowing down to the Gods and receiving blessings from her guru and family. She began her repertoire with a Pushpanjali by offering flowers to Nataraja, the God of Dance. This was soon followed by a Natesa Kavuthuvam in which the dancer praises Lord Shiva, one who is worshipped by Gods and demons alike. She vividly presented Shiva as the one who dances with bells around his ankles and wears the sun and moon as his ornaments. The Alarippu which is a rhythmic piece was done very gracefully and eloquently by Divya. She then presented Jathiswaram, which consists of jatis and theeramanas. After a short musical interlude by the very talented musicians, Divya performed the highlight of the evening, the Varnam. Unlike a traditional Varnam, she presented a unique item in which a few verses from Nalayira Divya Prabandam, a collection of 4,000 Tamil verses composed before the 8th century AD by the Alvars, the Tamil poet saints in south India, called Pachai Ma Malai pol meni. This was a treat to watch as the dancer explains through a combination of intricate footwork and story-telling, the beauty of Lord Vishnu and the temples. Through her mudras and abhinaya, Divya was able to convey the poem embedded in bhakthi towards Lord Vishnu.

After an intermission and a short, well deserved break, Divya performed three Padams. One of the best Padams of the evening was the Aadadhu Asangadhu Vaa Kanna, in which the devotee yearns for Lord Krishna and pleads Krishna to come to the devotee but requests Him not to move since the entire world would move with Him. She then performed Adenamma, in which Lord Shiva dances to the amazement and adoration of his wife, Goddess Parvathi and all his devotees. In this piece, it was evident that Divya is not only good at nritta but also nritya as she so beautifully and effortlessly expressed the nava rasas, i.e. Shringara, Hasya, Karuna, Raudra, Veera, Bhayanaka, Bibhatsa, Adbhuta and Shanta. The last Padam, Alarulu Kuriyaga, in which the poet praises Goddess Lakshmi who dances like the sprinkling of fresh flowers for her husband, Lord Vishnu. The last item of the recital was Thillana in Brindavani Sarang Ragam and set to Adi Thalam, in which Divya elegantly performed complex footwork and enchanting sculpturesque poses with ease. The repertoire ended with a Mangalam in which the dancer graciously thanked the Lord, her guru, musicians and the audience for her successful completion of her recital. The audience rose to their feet and gave Divya a well-deserved standing ovation at the conclusion of the recital.  

Divya is truly blessed to have Jothi Raghavan as her teacher. Jothi has beautifully choreographed the dance items and has been able to bring out the best in Divya. The guru’s hard work and dedication was seen in Divya’s performances. She presented all her adavus very neatly with aramandi and gracefully performed the complicated footwork the dances demanded while equally doing justice to abhinaya. The recital would not have been possible without the support and effort of the talented musicians. On the nattuvangam was Divya’s teacher, Smt. Jothi Raghavan. Smt. Geetha Murali provided the vocal support while Smt. Durga Krishnan played the veena. Both these artists are well known musicians and teachers in the local area. Jothi referred to the following two musicians as familiar faces and ‘local citizens’ who were visiting from India. On the mridangam was Shri. N. Narayanaswamy and on the flute was Shri. H.S. Venugopal.

Divya’s parents, Latha and Padmanabhan were very proud and happy to see Divya complete her arangetram. They thanked her gurus for inculcating the dance and culture in their daughter and also appreciated the support from family and friends. The event culminated with Divya thanking her gurus, musicians, parents, family and friends who made the event possible.

Now, her parents and family can proudly claim that she is indeed the first child in the family to have graduated in Bharathanatyam. Although she has graduated, her learning has just begun!  We wish Divya all the best in her future endeavors as she will soon begin a new chapter in her life as a freshman at Emory University in the coming fall, and we hope she pursues Bharathanatyam in the future.

(Archana Nambiar has been trained in Kathakali for over 10 years from the India International Center in New Delhi and has also learned Bharathanatyam for several years from Yamini Krishnamurthy. )

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