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Vilasini Natyam

The unique Nrtta and Abhinaya of Vilasini Natyam (the temple, court and theatrical dance traditions of the telugu Devadasis) and its extensive repertoire are widely admired. Following the abolition of their dedication to temples, the dance style earlier practiced by the Devadasis had declined. This style has subsequently been resurrected, rejuvenated and recast as Vilasini Natyam.

Post-Independence history has been created by Swapnasundari and her disciples in the 400 year – old Vishnu Temple (Rangbagh, Hyderabad) where Vilasini Natyam is dance in the worship rituals during the Brahmotsavam. Performance of worshipful dances gradually declined from 1948 with the banning of Gudi-Sevas (temple services) by consecrated dancers.

Near-obsolete temple dances were revived by the internationally renowned dancer Swapnasundari, after painstaking research and by direct learning from some of the last living Kalaavanthulu (traditional dancers) of the Telugu land. It was during Brahmotsavam of the temple at Rangbagh in 1996, that she initially performed these dances.

Thus, for the first time in Post-Independence India, dance was restored to temple-worship as an integral part of it, by a premier professional dancer who belonged to an entirely different social background than the earlier temple dancers. This move closed the gap between traditional dance and the temple, that had arisen over half a century ago on account of the prevailing societal factors of the times.

Anupama Kylash has been training for some years now in Vilasini Natyam from Padmabhushan Swapnasundari.

She has trained in all three aspects of Vilasini Natyam i.e.,

  1. The temple tradition [Alaya Sampradaya] which includes rituals connected with worship in temples in accordance with the ‘Aagamas’.

  2. The court tradition [Kacheyri aata] which includes ‘nrtta’ and ‘nritya’ presentations like ‘Swara Pallavis’, ‘Salaam-daruvus’, ‘Varnams’, ‘Keertanas’, ‘Padmas’, ‘Javalis’, etc. Padams and Javalis are presented in a unique style peculiar to the Andhra Kalavanthulu called ‘Meyzuvani’ which is a chamber presentation of ‘Abhinaya’ and the dancer elaborates on the song in sitting posture.

  3. Theatrical presentation [Aata bhagavatham]. The Andhra Kalavanthulu have a highly developed theatrical performance structure. They used to present the ‘Parijatams’ based on the story of Lord Krishna and his favourite consort Satyabhama, for nine consecutive night in 9 Janardhana temples of Andhra, hence this presentation become popular under the nomenclature ‘Nava Janardhana Parijatam’.

Anupama has trained in presenting extracts from this elaborate extensive ‘Parijatam’, slokas, daruvus, dwipadas and kandarthas unfolds the love story of Satyabhama and Krishna. The presentation is replete with nrtta, abhinaya and elements of ‘natya’. Almost all the songs in the excerpt have been retained as per their original Raga base.

The unique feature of this Parijatam presentation is, that the dancer is adorned in the traditional wooden hand crafted jewellery called ‘Ganiyam’ which was worn by the ‘Kalavanthulu’ of yore for the ‘Bhagavatham’ presentations.

After presenting a two-hour concert of Vilasini Natyam on the 28th July 2006 I have also performed this unique tradition on several other occasions ex:

  1. Millennium festival in Chamba, Himachal Pradesh – 2006.
  2. Three day festival of Vilasini Natyam organized by India International Centre (IIC) Delhi – October – 2006
  3. Three day festival of Vilasinin Natyam in Chennai organized by Raghavan Center for performing Arts and Koochipudi Dance Centre Delhi January 2007.
  4. Paper presentation ‘Sangeetam in Vilasini Natyam’ – Natya Kala Conference – Chennai – 2007
  5. Presentation of Padams and Javalis of Mahakavi Sri Dasu Sreeramulu – Jan 2008 – Hyderabad
  6. Nishagandhi festival – Kerala – Jan – 2008
  7. Abhinaya Sudha – Feb – 2008, Hyderabad. [Abhinaya presentation in ‘Meyzuvani’ format]


Anubhav – Centre for Music, Dance & Literature
#Flat No.411, Central Park Apartments – I, Nature Cure Hospital Road, Ameerpet, Hyderabad – 500016.
Ph: 040-66366080, Mobile: 9848237538, email: anupamakylash@yahoo.co.in

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