RangbaghVilasini NatyamRitual dances

In the past centuries, rituals of worship were considered incomplete without sacred dances which were customarily performed only by consecrated temple-dancers. In British-ruled India, a ban was imposed on the performance of worshipful dances in temples. These temple-dances were researched and recovered by Swapnasundari by correlating the dance techniques which she directly obtained from some of the last living artists from this traditionwith the textual base for classical Indian dance.

Though born well after India’s Independence, Swapnasundari has become the first Indian dancer in post-colonial India to revive ritual dancing in its true sense and to re-link it with the temple which was once the forum for diverse artistic activity. This remains a momentous achievement for the dancer who found an appropriate forum for temple dances in the 350 years-old Sri Ranganatha Swamy temple in Rang Bagh, situated 17 kms from the centre of Hyderabad. The bold initiative of re-aligning temple-rituals with worshipful dances was taken in 1996 by the managing trust of this temple. This heralded a new chapter in the post-colonial history of Indian dance. 

Today, the performance of ancient ritualistic dances through Vilasini Natyam is an established feature here. This is the first and only active temple which has re-aligned major rituals of worship and dance. Another liberal move made at Rang-Bagh temple is the inclusion of male dancers of Vilasini Natyam in the performance of ritual dances within the temple.

In order to ensure that  temple-dance does not become extinct again the Rang Bagh Trust, in association with Swapnasundari is conducting regular Master classes in Vilasini Natyam . Systematic coaching in the technique and repertoire of this style is imparted to select students. Vilasini Natyam exponents are the only present-day dancers to regularly perform ancient dance-rituals inside a live temple as a part of religious worship.

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