Feliciating Smt. R. muthukannamal., Sadhir Dancer from Viralimalai,Trichy. She was honored today (17/3/2018) with the DakshinaChitra annual award for her excellence and lifetime contribution to Sadhir dance. She is also called as the mother of Bharatanatyam.
She is one of the few surviving artistes who can impart sadhir dance to future generations. The characteristic style of Sadhir is that the performer dance and sing at the same time. As a dance form, Sadhir underwent many challenges and it eventually gave birth to Bharatanatyam. Like Sadhir, the artists who practiced the dance form also faced challenges. But some artists didn’t give up. Without any sponsorship and support, they tried to make Sadhir popular. R Muthukannamal, the last Devadasi -Sadhir dancer from Viralimalai, is one among them.
Sadhir is a precolonial temple dance in TamilNadu which later transformed into Bharatanatyam. Born in Viralimalai, 28 km from Trichy, 89 years old Muthukannamal and her family were closely associated with temple dance practices in the Muruga temple as well as in Pudukottai Shiva temple there. Muthukannamal had been a Devaradiyar trained since the age of eight, under her famous Nattuvannar father and grandmother. King Rajagopala Thoondaiman had gifted agricultural lands to their family for their services. She is the seventh generation of the devadasi tradition and the only surviving dancer of the 32 contemporaries at the Muruga temple in Viralimalai.Muthukannammal still performs Sadhir.
There was no support to the dance form from anyone.But she sticked to Sadhir and popularised the dance form.To create awareness about Sadhir and also to popularise the contributions of Muthukannamal, former Madras Art College principal and veteran sculptor G Chandrasekaran (fondly called Chandru) made a sculpture of Muthukannamal at his art school for the disabled in Tiruvelveli in 2017. The sculpture in clay symoblised the challenges of an artist in keeping alive a dance form under odd circumstances.
Courtesy: Times of India
In ancient times, Sadhir Dance was performed in temples and in royal courts and the name ‘Sadhir’ to this classical dance style was given by the Maratha rulers.