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Temple Celebrates the Tenth Anniversary of Nrityanjali

Ranjani Saigal

On Saturday, March 9, 2002, The Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland, MA celebrated the tenth anniversary of Nrityanjali, a prayer though dance. The basement of the Ashland temple resounded with the sounds of bells and dance music when over a hundred young amateurs and professional Indian classical dancers in the New England area gathered together to celebrate Shivarathri, a special evening dedicated to Lord Shiva, the God of Dance.

This concept of Nrityanjali was conceived by the Shri Bhairava Sundaram, the priest at the temple and was implemented by Shobha Shastry who has been untiringly coordinating this mammoth effort.

Nrityanjali allows us to travel to a time in the past when dance happened in the temple courtyards. As one prays by offering dance itself to the “Divine Dancer” one feels humbled. It is perhaps the only time in the New England area that the audience is comprised of artists who can be considered as experts in their area and yet the dancer dances only to his/her divine audience.

Indian classical dance is a very demanding art form and requires an extraordinary amount of dedication to master it. In this day and age when Bollywood and MTV seems to be ruling children’s lives, it was extremely heartening to see youngsters from the New England area perform classical dance with such passion and prove their technical mastery of the art. Some were as young as four. Middle and high school students performed complex pieces to perfection. Students of local teachers including Meena Subramanyam, Jeyanthi Ramamoorty, Neena Gulhati, Jayashree Bala Rajamani, Ranjani Saigal, Preeta Arun, Sunanda Narayanan and Gretchen Hayden made elegant presentations.

Many senior dancers and dance teachers participated in the event. Vandana Reddy presented Shivashtakam in the Kuchipudi style, while Meena Subrahmanyam presented a special javali “Yenthadi Kuluke” in the Bhartanatyam style. Jayashree Bala Rajamani presented “Nettrandi Neratile” while Sridevi Tirumalai presented a Tillana in Ragam Revathi. Senior students of Neena Gulhati presented Pallavi in the Odissi style while Anjali Nath performed Kathak. It was my pleasure to make a humble offering of Shiva-Ganga, a piece choreographed to Dr. Raghavendra’s music. Dr. Raghavendra is a well known Indian-American musician from the New England area.

This year’s event happened under the direction of the President of the temple, Baluji (T.A. Balasubramaniam) and Solai Annamalai (Chairperson, Board of trustees). Decorations for the site was done by Shobha Shastry . She was ably assisted by Jayanthi Naryanan , Lakshmi and Venkataraman. Girish Menon (a high school student) and Raghav helped manage the audio system. Food arrangements for the evening were done by Sundar Rao (manager of the temple kitchen). Udipi and Gold Star restaurants from the Framingham area donated the food.

The evening at the temple helps you understand the famous quote by Nietche “ I can never believe in a God who does not dance”.

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