Sunday, 16 September 2012

Pateeswarar and the art of classical dance drama

As the sun set behind the famous Pateeswarar temple in Perur on Sunday, an explosion of colour, light and soothing ragas engulfed the corridors of the centuries old shrine with dancers from Coimbatore and beyond giving life to grand mythological tales through dance drama. 

Since Friday, over 150 dancers from different classical troupes across the country performed at the famed temple as part of Natyanjali, the annual dance festival held here during September for the past 17 years.
Natyanjali has been an effort to bring back the tradition of performing classical music and dance to temples. 

“Over the years, classical dance and music has become so commercialized and unavailable to common public unless one is willing to shell money on it.  Traditionally, it was not the case. Art was available in temples for everyone to watch and enjoy.  Natyanjali is an effort to bring art back to the temples,” says S. Gurumurthy, convenor of Natyanjail.

Gurumuthy and his team have been taking pains to ensure that this dance festival has been continuing without a break. “We face a lot of hazzles in arranging funds etc. since there is no external support but so far we have been successful and hope to continue to bring the best dancers to Perur for the common public to see and enjoy,” he says.

The organizers could not have chosen a better venue for the event as the Pateeswarar temple where the main deity is Lord Nataraja (god of dance), is soaked in history.  Located on the banks of the Noyyal River also known as Kanchi Manadi,  Pateeswarar temple was built during the Chola era as part of the 36 Lord Shiva temples  built on Noyyal river banks and was called Melai Chidambaram. “Among these 36 temples, the Perur Pateeswarar temple is one of the most popular and considered very sacred,” says historian C. R. Elangovan.

He points out that much before Coimbatore came into existence, Perur was the prominent town even a thousand years ago and was mainly built surrounding this temple.  “Sundaramurthy Nayananar, one of the four top Saivite scholars has visited Perur and sung praises of Lord Pateeswarar that is present in Thevaram,”  Elangovan says.

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