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Padmasri Bharatakalaprapoorna, Acharya Dr. Nataraja RamakrishnaGuru Deva Nataraja Ramakrishna

 

Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna is the most respected Acharya in Dances of Andhra Pradesh. He revived Andhra Natyam, one of the most ancient classical dance forms of India. He recreated the "Perini Sivathandavam", the militant male dance tradition of the 10th century AD. He has revived 'Navajanardanam', a great Prabandha dance tradition that was performed in Kunthi Madhava Temple at Pithapuram in the East Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh. Dr. Nataraja Ramakrishna choreographed and staged "Sri Venkateswara Kalyanam", "Kumara Sambhavam" and "Megha Sandesam". He has written over 40 books on dance traditions of Andhra Pradesh and ancient dance forms and served as a Chairman of the Andhra Pradesh Sangeeta Natak Academy.

 

Guru Deva Nataraja Ramakrishna immersed in danceAs a dance artist, Guru, scholar, Musicologist, he has been propagating classical dances in Andhra Pradesh for over 50 years. For his outstanding contributions in reviving Indian Classical dance, he has been conferred with countless awards including 'Nataraja', Padmasri and Bharatakalaprapoorna. At the age of 87 years he is still actively researching and teaching dance to hundreds of adoring students through Guru-Shishya Parampara. Bharatakalaprapoorna Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna, a connoisseur of arts, India is proud of, especially Andhra Pradesh. But for his dedication and devotion the 2000-year-old spiritual art of Andhras, Andhra Natyam, would have been a dead art in the pages of history. Responsible for reviving long forgotten art forms like Kuchipudi, Perini Sivatandavam and ancient spiritual dances Agama Nartanams and Navajanardana Parijatam, he is one of those few artistes who have dedicated his life to dance. For him, dance is his life partner; disciples are his children while his inheritance is his knowledge of art of dance.

Bestowed with many an award and reward, the great Guru Nataraja Ramakrishna is still a very simple, warm and humble person. A rarity these days! Born into a noble family of Andhras in Bali in 1923, he left his family and property for the love of art since he father did not approve of it. Spending his boyhood in Ramakrishna Math at Madras and Mahatma Gandhi's ashram he soon left and came in touch with great gurus like Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Vedantam Laxminarayana Sastry, Smt Naidupeta Rajamma and Pendyala Satyabhama under whom he learnt various forms of art.

     The turning point in his life was his dance performance before the royal assembly consisting of scholars, poets, art critics and the elite of Nagpur city. Since then he learnt various languages and dance and music forms and became an erudite scholar in Sastras and a linguist in five languages. Patronisers of his art included many, even the great Maratha ruler of that time.

Dr Nataraja Ramakrishna traversed in all the traditions of dance art in India, studied and practiced them. After careful study of all the dance forms heGuru Deva Nataraja Ramakrishna came to the conclusion that the dance art of Andhra Pradesh was the richest of them all, which made him settle in the land of his forefathers. In those days, it was taboo to witness or learn dance. It was at this crucial stage that Nataraja Ramakrishna took up the task of propagating the great divine art of Andhra Pradesh, which soon spread all over the state. But for his ardent endeavors this great treasure of art would have been lost forever in the annals of Andhra history. He established Nrityaniketan in 1955 at Hyderabad to impart training.

A believer that folk art forms are as important as the classical forms of art helped propagate Chindu Yakshaganam, an ancient folk form of Telangana and revived other folk arts like Tappetagallu of Srikakulam and Vizianagaram districts, Veera Natyam and Garagalu of East and West Godavari districts, Devadasi dance and dance tradition of temples performing Adhyatma Ramayana. He also helped and encouraged dance artistes like Dommaras, Guravayyalu, Urumulu and Veedi Bhagavatulu.

The great dancer, scholar is the sole artiste who practiced Satvikabhinaya, the soul of Indian dance art and is the first artiste in Andhra Pradesh to write and compose the story of Lord Venkateshwara as a Nrutya Nataka (ballet), in which he introduced all the dance and music traditions in ritual, classical, folk and tribal forms of the state.

Any other person who has achieved so much and done so much for dance would have rested by his laurels. But not Nataraja Ramakrishna. He still has the same zest to pursue his other dreams. First and foremost on his list is to make everybody realise that it was the Golconda ruler Abdul Azam Tani Shah who was responsible for promoting Kuchipudi. "It is because of him that we are now proud of our dance, Kuchipudi. But his name is forgotten.

One of his dreams saw the light of day when after five years of hard work on April 15th, 2000. Dr. Anjaneya Reddy, CMD, APTDC, declared Rs 5 crore for building a cultural village in memory of Taramati and Premavati, great artistes of the Mohd. Adul Qutb Shah era in Hyderabad.

 

Source - Guru Kalakrishna, Ms. Ushasri Ummadi, Primetime Prism magazine

 

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