The art of true discipleship

The art of true discipleship

Imagine a century-old varsity that promotes and practises dance, music and many other art forms of India in their traditional form? Well, Kerala Kalamandalam, a deemed university located at Nelluruthi in Shornur district, Kerala, is all this and much more.

On our way back to Bangalore from Palakkad, we happened to pass by Nelluruthi. Having been an avid bharatanatyam and mohiniyattam dancer since the age of three, it was but natural for me to be interested in this place. Moreover, my first dance guru, being an emeritus Kalamandalam student, had by default stirred in me the liking for this great varsity. So, visiting this place was almost like a dream come true.

The university, which is located on a sprawling campus, is open to public throughout the year. Visitors just need to take an entry pass at the entrance to visit the campus which is divided into three arenas — for dance, music and art forms.

At Kalamandalam, the training follows the gurukula pattern where the relationship the disciples share with their teachers is considered supreme. Training in the various cultural forms takes place in small huts assigned to each art/dance form respectively. Such training goes on 24/7 in the campus. These training sessions hardly involve any conversation between the teacher and the taught. On the other hand, it involves a pure classical and divinely fruitful dialogue of bhavam and abhinaya.

As we passed through several huts where training sessions were on, we came across a class in kathakali where adolescent boys with well toned bodies displayed mudras and swayed to the rhythm of music drummed and sung by their guru. All the huts had boards displayed outside, which labelled the art form being taught there and a short description about the corresponding art form. All the students, being very young, left me spellbound by the dedication they showed to their chosen field of art. The teachers, draped in mundu, had clean shaven faces to display the expressions vividly, and in full abhinaya.

We happened to witness a training session where a dance form was being practised by a student with his teacher giving the music for the same. The boy’s expressions spoke volumes of not just the hard work he was putting into his practice, but also of the respect he owed to both his guru and the art form he practised. It was at this precise moment I realised how practice and dedication go hand in hand at Kalamandalam. The sparkle in the eyes of students and their enthusiasm to exude the postures of abhinaya and bhava seemed so natural that one would find it difficult to believe they were still students and not experts in their chosen field of art. No wonder, students coming out of such disciplined institutions stand out in a crowd and end up being the last words in their areas of specialisation.

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