Rama Devi from Tamil Nadu
Dr Padma Subrahmanyam, a multi-faceted personal—a dancer, research scholar, choreographer, teacher, singer, music composer, author and an Indologist dedicated her life to the cause of promoting, reviving Bharata Nrityam. Her fast footwork for ramification of rhythm with a broad spectrum of artistic expression and
expansion of technique through the use of the entire body with leaps and extension of legs is unique. Dr Padma started teaching at Nrithyodaya of which she is now the President. This non-profit cultural educational research organisation was started by her father in 1942 and deserving students are being taught free of cost. For six decades, she has been continuously performing extensively in India and abroad. She was perhaps the first artist who went and
performed for our jawans in the forward areas in early sixties. Solo depiction of Jatayu Moksham in Ramayana set to overture of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet; Solo depiction of Gajendra Moksham set to music of Miagi Michio of Japan.
Dr Padma is the first to discover the long forgotten grammatical artistic base in Marga i.e., the path shown by Sage Bharata, common to all Desi forms. She teaches classical dance to deserving students free of cost at Nrithyodaya, started by her father in 1942.Through her six decades long research and extensive performance abroad, Dr Padma has literally revitalised the entire Asia’s common cultural links
Dr Padma is the first artist to bridge the gap between theory and practice and has revived an obsolete dance technique, translating
theoretical concepts into practice. It was Padma who discovered that the “108 Karanas” (basic units of dance) are actually movements and not just
static poses. .
Post-Independent India has seen the revival of various regional (Desi) dance forms such as Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathak, Manipuri etc., Padma is the first to discover the long forgotten grammatical artistic base in Marga i.e., the path shown by Sage Bharata, common to all Desi forms. Like how the Sanskrit language co-existed with all the regional languages, the Marga had co-existed with all the Desis till about five
centuries ago. Dr Padma has revived this Marga technique, common to the entire Indian sub-continent and even Asia. Based on her research, she announces her programmes as ‘Bharata Nrityam’. Also, with the same communication technique and using the language of the respective regions, she has choreographed Bharata Nrityam recitals in Tamil, Kashmiri, Hindi, Bengali, Oriya, Marathi, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam languages. She has also used songs from other foreign languages to demonstrate the Abhinaya (communication) technique.
Dr Padma was ordained by the great Centenarian Sage of this century, Pujyasri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal, Jagadguru (68th) Sankaracharya of Kanchi Kamakoti Peetam, to design a new set of 108 Karana sculptures of Lord Siva and Goddess Parvati in black granite, for a temple of Lord Nataraja built recently at Satara in Maharashtra. His Holiness asked her to freeze those movements of the Karanas which are not sculpted in the older temples of Tanjavur, Kumbakonam and Chidambaram (all in Tamilnadu). Dr Padma has made use of ‘the twin figures of Siva and Parvati to bring out the animation of each of the Karana movements. Twelve years after completing her design of these 108 Karana figures, she discovered by the grace of the Sage of Kanchi, about fifty Karana sculptures in the world renowned monument-temple complex at Prambanan in Central Java, Indonesia, belonging to the 9th century AD. The remarkable historic feature of these figures is that they totally tally with Dr Padma’s practical reconstruction of the Karana movements and also have a great similarity with her own designs for the temple at Satara. She has thus been blessed with an irrefutable proof for the authenticity of her reconstruction of the Karanas. This “link beyond time and space” is the subject of a book by an Italian archaeologist Dr Alessandra, who did her Post-Doctoral research under Dr Padma.
Apart from discovering candid links between Natya Sastra and Indonesia, Dr Padma realised through the lectures of Pujyasri Mahaswami of Kanchi, the importance of ancient Tamil literature Tiruppavai and Tiruvempavai being used in Thailand, where she used these in her group presentation Pavai Nonbu, also involving Thai dancers along with her own artistes. She also gave a joint lecture-demonstration on Natya Sastra at the College of Fine Arts, Bangkok along with Achan Chaturong Montri Sat, Thai Professor of Dance. Similarly, her visits to Japan, Cambodia and Australia have considerably strengthened her conviction about Asia’s common cultural links. Padma is a living legend in the field of Bharata Nrityam connecting globally. n