The templeRangbaghRitual dances


VILASINI NATYAM refers to the Bharatham or solo dance- tradition which prevailed in those regions of Peninsular India where Telugu cultural forms were practiced for many centuries. Andhra Bharatham’s past and present history was initially researched by the renowned Telugu cultural historian , late Dr.Arudra .

Noted dancer Swapnasundari had taken up independent pursuit of the Telugu people’ Bharatham from the early ‘nineties, by directly learning from the descendants of erstwhile temple & court dancers of Telugu regions.

From 1994, Dr. Arudra guided Swapnasundari by monitored her dance-training under the hereditary Telugu hereditary female dancers while simultaneously guiding her in the historical aspects of Andhra Bharatham. The successful reclamation of Andhra Bharatham and its recasting as Vilasini Natyam is the result of their pioneering efforts.

In 1995 Dr Arudra renamed the Bharatham of the Telugu temple and court dancers as Vilasini Natyam , with support from fifty eminent cultural personalities and sixteen direct descendants of the erstwhile temple and court dancers of Telugu-speaking South India. He also designed the present format for teaching & performing Vilasini Natyam which encompasses all the variations of Andhra Bharatham that have developed over centuries in various regions.

Together the cultural-historian Dr.Arudra and dancer-scholar Swapnasundari, realigned the temple-court performing tradition with the established history of the Telugu people. The long and distinguished past of Vilasini Natyam is rooted in the history of Southern India itself. The mighty Vijaya Nagara Emperor Krishna Deva Raya who ruled from his capital in Hampi, was initially responsible for consolidating & spreading Telugu culture extensively from east to west coast and in large parts of Southern and South-eastern India. The Telugu Nayaka kings who ruled over the two cultural capitals of Madura and Thanjavur were Governors to the Rayala empire. Consequently a powerful Telugu cultural centrum came to be established in the Kaveri belt. The Maratha rulers of Thanjavur added to the Telugu artistic corpus shaped earlier in the Telugu Nayaka courts.

History thus shows that Telugu culture flourished over a very large expanse of Southern and South-eastern India until only a hundred years ago.

After India gained Independence from the British colonial rule , South India was reorganized and separated into individual modern-day states as they are known today. Though a necessary move at the time , the separation impacted the course of development of traditional art-forms as these came to be vested with state-wise affiliations. Some solo dance-traditions gained strong post-colonial identities but some others like the Bharatham of the Telugu hereditary female temple-court dancers did not receive adequate attention at that time. Therefore critical historical facts about this tradition remained unknown to the general public . In this scenario, the efforts made by Dr.Arudra and Swapnasundari to re-establish a the solo Bharatham of the female hereditary temple and court dancers of Telugu origin as Vilasini Natyam have drew critical acclaim from the public and media.

Vilasini Natyam includes a Northern school – i.e., the dance technique& repertoire followed by hereditary female dancers in the North and North-coastal areas of present day Andhra Pradesh and erstwhile Northern Circars ) & a Southern school which encompasses the techniques practiced by Telugu-speaking hereditary dancers in the South and South-coastal areas of present-day Andhra Pradesh and the Telugu-dominated areas of the erstwhile Madras Presidency.

Both schools of Vilasini Natyam are being performed extensively by Swapnasundari over the last decade & half. Consequently, the distinct identity of this came to be recognized and widely admired. Sangeet Natak Akademi ( India’s National Arts Council) has categorized Vilasini Natyam as a major performing tradition of the country and has honoured an upcoming Vilasini Natyam dancer with its Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar for excellence in this style. Today, important dance festivals continue to feature full solo concerts Vilasini Natyam by several artists who have taken up its pursuit.


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