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Aanthirumanjanam - Dancing Through Rain And Shine

Ranjani Saigal

Aani Uthiram, or Ani Uthram, is an auspicious day in the Tamil Month of Aani (or Ani) and is dedicated to Lord Nataraja (Shiva).  The festival is also known as Aani Thirumanjanam and is observed on the Uthiram Nakshatram day.

It is popularly believed that it was on Aani Uthiram day that Lord Shiva appeared before Sage Manikkavachakar under a Kurundai Tree and offered upadesha (advice). Sage Manikkavachakar is the author of Thiruvachakam.

At the Sri Lakshmi Temple in Ashland this event was held on June 20 2010.  It was few years ago that Priest Bhairava Sundaram suggested the creation of this event to include festivities with dance and music. The event has really grown and this year multiple dance styles , Odissi, Bharatanatayam and Kathak were represented.

The event was held in the open ground in front of the Nataraja Chariot. Vyjayanthi Prasad served as the coordinator and MCEE for the dance items. The event opened with Jeyanthi Ghatraju presenting Shri Vigna Rajam Bhaje. This was followed by two sisters Mari Shakthi Muthuswamy and  Mari Chandra Murugan presenting Nee Indha Mayam.  Two watch two adult dancers perform in such a synchronous manner was a real treat. Being sisters their movements and mannerisms was really identical and blended beautifully.

Varshini Mohankumar,  and Vennela Mannava students of Jeyashree Bala Rajamani performed Nataraja Anjali and an invocation piece . Sapna Krishnan was joined by her students Niveda Baskaran, Meenu Rajendraprasadstudents to perform Shivashtakam. It is also rare to see Guru and students dancing together and that was a beautiful treat. Abinaya Shine and Svetly dePaula  , students of Jeyanthi Ghatraju performed Shankara Shri Giri.

The dancers were dancing outside with no shade and dancing in the 90 deg heat was intense. The thought was uppermost on most dancers mind as Vinodini , a visitor from Tennessee and a student of Radhika Shurajith presented Ullegallam Unarndu followed by Shri Chakra Raja . I am sure
her dancing must have pleased the Divine Mother for out of the kindness of Her heart she let showers cascade down.  This did not deter Vinodini who completed her beautiful rendition of the piece. But the showers made the dance event move to inside the temple and made it easier for the dancers to perform.

The event proceeded with Gayathri Vijayakumar and Prerna Patil , students of Ranjani Saigal performing Yar Adinar and Shankara Srigiri respectively. Shobha Narayanan a student of Shobha Sharma and a student at the Boston Conservatory in Musical Theater performed a picture perfect rendition of Idadhu Padam. Such perfection is rarely seen in one so young.

For me it was truly a delight to present Bho Shambho along with my daughter (and my student) Amrita who was home after graduating from college. The practice for this event made for great bonding experience.

Thenu Rajan then presented a padam on Raja Rajeshwari followed by Suja Meyappan's Natanam Adinar. Both teach dance in the Boston area and are cousins.Varsha Iyer,Surbhi Daryani, Priya Sagar, Aleevelu Raparti and Neha Bhambhani who are students of Sangeetha Vijeyasarathy presented Bhoomanjali, Mallari and Jathiswaram.

Students of Meena Subramanyam Shalini Sreedhar, Sindhu Sreedhar, Avantica Shinde and Jeffy presented Thillana. Kalpana Balachunder , yet another in the Boston area presented Sabhapathikku Vera Deivam. 

Vasantha Pallavi by Mita Banerjee along with  her daughter,  Augustina Carando & Sarav Chidambaram who are students of Mouli Pal in Oddisi Style was wonderful. This was followed by a Kathak presentation by  Shefali Jain and Rucha Khisti students of Gretchen Hayden. The program came to a close with Nattakurinji Varnam by Nivedita Ramesh who is a student Sridevi Thirumalai.

The dance presentation was followed by Tabla presentation by students of Nishikanth Solwalkar. Overall a blissful afternoon coordinated beautifully by Vyjayanthi Prasad.

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