Thursday, July 30, 2009

temple entry

As a self respecting Hindu, I feel hurt seeing the sign "Non Hindus not allowed beyond this point" in Hindu temples. Why and where did we get this non Hindus not allowed idea? My feeling is that it came from a British HR and CE officer who wanted to prevent neo converts to Christianity from going back to temples. Why why would we not allow Christians and Muslims into our temples? In Madurai for conference, I went to the Meenakshi temple with a bunch of college students who were volunteering at the conference. They all came up to the sanctum, took the sacred ash etc and gave me their names as we sat down for dinner at a restaurant later. Michael, John, George, Charles! They told me they have been visiting the temple since their childhood and have had no problems. They are devout Christians who attend Church every Sunday. They say only foreigners are prevented and purification done if a known Indian Christian has entered. Meera Jasmin, the Malayali actor had to pay a fine of Rs.10,000 for having entered a temple. Her problem was not being born a Christian but being a recognisable face. If a person wants to enter a temple, there is a purpose to it. Not all Hindus go into the temple to worship. If I can go into a temple so should Meera Jasmine. I have taken some foreigners into temples. These are people who study theology and why cant they enter the temple? Since in any case purification is performed when a celebrity non Hindu has entered a temple (when scores have been entering without the knowledge of others), entry should be opened and once a year major purification can be done for the satisfaction of purists (sic). My friend who is a major donor to a major temple is welcomed into the sanctum each time he goes there. Technically, he should not be allowed. He is a Jain and not a Hindu. If a Jain and Budhdhist can be allowed in, why can we not allow others? I have visited Churches in different parts of the world and Dargas. I have not become a less Hindu nor have the places been polluted by my presence.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

National pride

I am still getting circulated mail that NRIs are very hurt that former president Dr.Kalam was frisked by the Continental airlines security. Why? that an airline staff did their job? that too three months after the incidence? If Dr.Kalam had taken offence, he could have easily walked out and into an Air India counter. We are not angry that a woman walking with her husband in Mumbai after a new year party was molested and the arrested molesters were released because they belonged to a political party. We are not angry that girls sitting in a bar in broad day light which was perfectly legal thing to do were beaten up. But we are ashamed that Dr.Kalam was frisked and he did not mind. Many who have forwarded these mails asking for a ban on continental airlines are waiting for their green card or applied for citizenship in the US! and their pride is hurt that a former Indian president was a gentleman!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Why is the woman the lesser in a marriage? She has to make all sacrifices. Particularly at a wedding it is the girl's family that has to make all arrangements, be on their toes to please the groom's people, take criticism with a cringing smile. Yet it is they who are losing a girl. The boy's family not just gets the girl but also a life long servant maid, a nurse, a cook, a sexual partner for their son and the mother of their dynasty. Why? Why? should the girl's family be subservient to the boy's family. A girl, working as a servant maid in a house, got married recently. The boy's family demanded a motor cycle, TV, fridge and 5 sovereigns of gold along with the girl. The girl's family moved heaven and earth trying to get all these. I am so angry that the girl did not put her foot down and say I dont need this marriage. Why cant the girls ask the man to go to hell? Is marriage so necessary?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Vasantha and me

Vasantha with money and VRD with Gandhi. As the managing trustee of The Aseema trust, I do not charge a fee for the work I do. So when there was some money that was given to me as reimbursement, I decided to ask for a picture to be taken for the rare thing happening to me. Aseema's finance manager Vasantha Parthasharathy who tries to save money for the organisation and tries to restrict my spending is an angel and my man friday. I dont know what I would do without her.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Chidambaram Natyanjali

The Chidambaram Natyanjali festival holds a special place in my heart. I used to be a part of SAHER (Society for Archaeological, Historical and Epigraphical Research) as a participant in their courses on these subjects and went to tours of monuments with Dr.Nagaswamy in the seventies. He was planning Natyanjali festival and I became a part of the organising group assisting him in Chennai and writing about it for the Indian Express in the first few years. I danced there too. See the first picture of me dancing in the first Natyanjali in 1981. I am wearing Shanthakka's costume. This picture was taken by dear friend Sunda who was with BBC and passed away in Australia. Mrs.sundaralingam, daughter Subhadra and Son in Law Sanchayan remain great friends.
In the picture below (which I scanned from Sruti Magazine), I am standing on the left watching Pt.Durgalal and Jayant Kastuar dance kathak inside the temple in 1984. Jayant had come to Chennai to assist his Guru Pt.Durgalal in his lec dem at the Natya kala conference. I interviewed Pt.Durgalal for Sruti Magazine and became a good friend of Jayant who was then doing his PhD at JNU. I wrote about Pt.Durgalal's performance at Chidambaram in The Indian Express. There is a lovely picture of Pt.Durgalal swirling taken by Gajendran who was then with Indian Express and later retired from The Hindu. Will scan that article and put in this. I had danced in the same space "Enneramum undan sannidhiyil irukka vendum iyya" sung by Prof.C.V.Chandrasekhar who spontaneously decided to sing for me.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Amazing story of a blind musician

When Veeraswar Madri, who works to promote Hindustani classical music in Chennai asked me to be the chief guest and inaugurate a Hindustani music festival in Chennai slated to begin this evening, I had demurred. But I am very happy that he persisted and I agreed. He sent me a catalogue of an old festival to acquaint me with Ganayogi Panchakshara Gawai (the festival is in his memory), the great musician who was blind. I read that and then I searched the Internet for more information on the Gawai. What I got into was a journey into a most fascinating life. Born blind in a poor but musical family in Hanagal taluk (Bellary district) in 1863 and named Gadigayya, he and his elder brother Gurubasavayya were musically gifted children. Hanagal Kumaraswamy, a wealthy patron of music, once came to their village and heard the blind brothers sing. Impressed with their talents, he told their parents that he would train them. The older brother died a few months later due to Cholera. Panchakshara (a title given later for his extra ordinary talent by Gowrishankar Swamiji and became the formal name), however, went through formal musical training, both vocal and instrumental. He studied under competent musicians of his time - Sadigappa Gavai from Siralkoppa and Neelkantbua Mirajkar. He learnt Carnatic music in Mysore. He began a sanchari pathashala (travelling music school) in 1914. He moved from village to village through the districts of north Karnataka, sometimes on foot, or by bullock cart, bus or train. He would stop at a village or small town where he would gather musically talented children and teach them. He made a special effort to draw blind children to his school. After great difficlties, even after petioning Nalmadi Krishnaraja Wodeyar, the King of Mysore, he later established Veereshwara Punyashrama, a unique institution of Hindustani music in Gadag in north Karnataka, to use the power of classical music to bring about economic empowerment and social transformation. The modest ashram located in Gadag, has perhaps done more for the dissemination of classical Hindustani music than any institution of music in the country past or present. On a rough estimate, over 20,000 students, the majority of them from poor backgrounds and a sizable number of them visually impaired, have passed through the ashram since its formal inception in 1944. Pachakshara Gawai taught them music free and also fed and clothed them. For the majority of these students, music is a source of economic sustenance. Less quantifiable, but perhaps of greater long-term significance, is the role of these students as agents of cultural transmission. They have nurtured, preserved and transmitted the classical music tradition through their links with schools, colleges, homes and performance halls and made North Karnataka, the hub of Hindustani classical music. Panchakshra Gavai had met Gandhiji and wore only khadi. After his death, his disciple Putturaj Gavai, also blind became the one to lead the ashram which established ten institutions in Gadag . (A primary school, a high school, a pre-university college, an arts college, a teachers training college and a Braille school. Also the Pandit Panchakshara Gavai Music College.) Putturaj Gavai used to seek donations to his institution by getting himself weighed against coins given by poeple. He is said to have had more than a 1000 such Tulabharams. Every June, Gadag town commemorates Panchakshara Gawai in a festival of day and night Hindustani music which is attended by all in the town and surrounding places. Picture I took of panchakshara gavai is from the life size laminated picture that was kept on the stage while I went up to inaugurate and give my speech at the SGS Sabha. Balesh and party played Shehnai before that. Bhaskar, the violinist who accompanied the little children who sang a beautiful song in Kannada on Panchakshara gavai told me later that I was his teacher in his kinder garten. I am getting old I know but happily.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


Pictue shows the destroyed train track of Dhanushkodi on December 22., 1964 and how it is today. Visiting Dhanushkodi was a surreal experience. Vishalam, traditional to the core in her habits, modern to the core in her thinking, wanted to go to Rameshwaram prior to Kashi to do the rituals for her late husband. I decided to go along as I had been thinking it would be great to go to Rameshwaram. While she was busy with the rituals, I decided to to Dhanushkodi, the ghost town. Dhanushkodi, a once bustling town had been swept away by 20ft high tidal wave on a cyclonic night in 1964. It is eerie to see remnants of the town in the broken down buildings and mounds of sand where houses had stood. There is a railway track and a tar topped road and a broken wall of a major railway line. This was a land and sea connection to Srilanka before the 64 cyclone. People would get off at Dhanushkodi lands end and take the boat to talai mannar. The sea gushes in even today at night and tourists are taken around in jeeps on the sand when the sea receds in the mornings. It is a fantastic ride. this is supposed to be the place where rama worshipped Siva, a Linga made of sand by Sita. He is said to have broken the bridge he built on the advice of Vibhishana after Sita had been rescued. We also went to Kodandarama temple that had also been washed away and rebuilt only in the eighties. Ramayana comes alive in these sites.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I did a session for the refresher course of the new recruits for English departments of Government Colleges all over Tamilnadu at the department of English, University of Madras on communication skills as learnt from ancient Indian performing arts texts, Mahatma Gandhi and his way of reaching out and the messages he gave the world with his bodily action, his writings, his silences, his fasts, his walks and his death seeing it through the eyes of a student of Indian dance and drama. Some of the participants have already booked me to go and give talks to the students in their colleges. I realised no picture had been taken. So I took these with my cell phone after the session. I had sat up the previous night and read up all I could on Gandhi - Periyar - Ambedkar to be able to answer questions that I thought might surely come up. But no one talked about it. Only a question on Kasturba came up. Then while I was packing my laptop to leave, one man came up and asked me why Gandhi died saying Hey Ram and not Om Namah Sivaya. I had no answer to that question. In fact Kalyanaraman who served in Gandhi's office at the time of Gandhi's assassination, says he did not say Hey Ram as the bullet killed him the second it hit him. Well it is his word against Abha and Manu's. Abha had held Gandhi as he died. She said he had said Hey Ram. My question is does it matter whether he said it or not?

Friday, July 10, 2009

at Bala vidya mandir school

prize winners of the poster contest on "be the change you want to see" who were given prizes at the assembly by V.R.Devika.

New Project

The Aseema Trust's new project "Using Media to create Awareness of Reproductive Health and HIV and AIDS among Adolescent Girls " has begun at Avvai Home. This project is to use the learnings of the earlier project "Using Traditional Performing Arts as empowering tool for vulnerable girls" which we conducted in partnership with world education 2006 - 09. A workshop on programme planning and development of logic model, programme planning matrix etc was conducted by Konda Reddy of World Education with our partner in this project Nalamdana. We later had a meeting with Nalamdana to plan and now have started the skills of Bharathanatyam dance training session at Avvai Home with the girls of TVR School (age 10 - 15) and the teacher trainees ( 18 years). A rewarding experience to talk to these wonderful girls. Since I was doing the workshop myself there are no pictures to go with this. I will make sure some one takes a picture next time.... Devika

Sunday, July 5, 2009


Please view the spin a yarn project site
there is also a video of me spinning on the Charkha. view it
I found another you tube video which is interesting see
There is also one with Mahatma Gandhi himeself at the spinning wheel see
Also see

Saturday, July 4, 2009

rain in Chennai and Charkha

It is raining in Chennai! WOW! unbelievable. It feels so good. Been lazy and not done any posts but today I uploaded a video on you tube. Spin a yarn charkha spinning tips. Just check it on you tube. Also working on a booklet on Charkha and Khadi fundamentals for children. I also realise I can update the Aseema trust website through this blog. So this is going to get more professional. It is thundering outside and I have a ac on. It can be so hot even with the rain in Chennai.