Dr Narthaki Nataraj sets an example for the Transgender Community by her sheer perseverance in becoming one of the best Bharatanatyam exponents in India
Bharatanatyam exponent Kalaimamani Dr. Narthaki Nataraj performs at Kilpauk Rajaji School event, Thamizhamudhu where she set all her compositions in Tamil
In a live wire Bharatanatyam performance held at Tech Centre, Kilpauk Rajaji School in Chennai on December 21, 2018 seasoned artiste, Kalaimamani Dr. Narthaki Nataraj, as usual, performed pretty well. Nevertheless, what made the evening more exciting was her unique choice of song selection that attracted the audience like never before. Dr. Narthaki Natraj had handpicked only Tamil compositions to spice up the evening. The Bharatanatyam exponent started off with a composition based on Silapathikaram, that set the evening mood electrifying.
When the first performance ended, Narthaki had already set the momentum. Following that composition, her second composition was by Naamakkal Kaviraayar, that really set the tone for the forthcoming events to unfurl. Subsequently, other compositions including the famous, “Thaara Bhaarathiyan‘s composition, Verunkai Enpathu Moodathanam, set the tone for the proceedings that are yet to be performed. Narthaki’s Bharatanatyam performance gave the
feeling that the art form has been presented in a contemporary taste.
When Narthaki performed to the compositions such as Devaram, Dhivya Prabandham and Aandaal gave a totally different experience to the audience. Probably, Narthaki might have thought the evening should not have a slant of spiritualism. Nevertheless, when she performed the composition of Silapathikaaram, the rasikaas might as well would have wondered where can one find better feeling of spiritualism than the Silambu!
Narthaki performed Thamizhamudhu, compositions of Silappathikaaram (Janaki Vari, Vettuvavari Paadaikal), Bhaarathiyaar, Bhaarathidaasan, Naamakkal Ramalingam Pillai Erode and more, as part of Bhavan’s Marghahi Naatya Vizha at .
Dr. Narthaki Natraj learnt the craft of Bharatanatyam from none other than one of the stalwarts of the artform, KP Kittappa Pillai, who was a direct descendant of the Tanjavur Quartret brothers (considered the fathers of Bharatanatyam). Pillai trained Dr. Narthaki on rare compositions which was in vogue during ancient times at Tamil temples. What is more, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj had broken out from her social stigmas purely out of her sheer talent and merits rather than taking refuge in her differential status in the society. Furthermore, Dr. Narthaki Natarj is the recipient of SNA Puraskar Award from President of India. Again, she is the outstanding category empannelled artiste at ICCR and a Top Grade artiste in the national channel, Doordharshan. Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is also a recipient of Fellowship Award from the Union Ministry of Culture, Government of India. In fact, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is the first Transgender Awardee of the Honorary Doctorate from Periyar Maniammai University, Tanjavur. And that is not all. Dr. Narthaki Natarajan also had bagged the title, “Nrithya Choodamani” by the elite Krishna Gana Sabha from Chennai.
More accolades followed Dr. Narthaki Nataraj in the form of Kalaimamani from the Government of Tamil Nadu. Recently, Board of Education, Government of Tamil Nadu has included Dr. Narthaki Nataraj’s life story as lessons for Eleventh Standard (high school) students in their Tamil Language textbook as part of the Government endeavour to promote gender equality and further impart life’s lessons from this legend.
Last, but not the least, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is the first Transgender artist to have gained this kind of recognition. Dr. Narthaki Nataraj believes in maintaining and propagating the pristine purity of the Nayaki Bhaava Tradition. In that process, the Bharatanatyan exponent has been able to elevate audiences to a loftier plain.
Wherever Dr. Narthaki Natarajan had performed, she has left an indelible mark, thus eliciting vivid experience among audience. In few instance where the audience were moved to tears and many people who had witnessed her performance had reported divine experiences during her Bharatanatyam performance. Dr. Narthaki Natarajan had performed at all leading dance festivals in India and overseas destinations including the US, Canada, Japan, Australia, the UK and other European countries.
To mark her devotion to the divine dancer, Lor Shiva, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj has named her Institution, “Velliambalam Trust – School of Dance. Here, along with her friend Shakti Bhaskar, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj trains many Indian as well as overseas students on the traditional repertoire of Tanjavur Quartets and further propagating and promoting social reforms through her art.
SNA Puraskar Award
Kalaimamani Award from the Government of Tamil Nadu
Senior Fellowship from the Union Ministry of Commerce, Government of India
Outstanding category Artiste in ICCR
Top Grade Artiste in Prasar Bharathi
Nrithya Rathnakara from Cleveland Thyagaraja Festival
Nruthya Choodamani Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Chennai
Honourary Doctorate from Periyar Maniammai University
Currently, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is preserving and propagating rare compositions of Thanjavur Quartet and exponent of Nayaki Bhava Tradition as practised in ancient Tamil Literature. Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is being widely held as a role model by Transgender community for having braved social ridicule and exclusion for the ultimate success and acceptance achieved in the realm of dance through sheer hard work, perseverance and passion.
She learnt and practised under him in Gurukul (Full time residential) for 14 years and specialized in the Tanjore style Nayaki Bhava tradition. She also trained under him on rare compositions as was practised in ancient Tamil Temples.
Narthaki believes in maintaining and propagating the pristine purity of the Nayaki Bhava tradition. In that process, she has been able to elevate audiences to a higher plane. Many audiences have been moved to tears and some have reported divine experiences during her shows.
According to Indian culture, the art of dance is aimed at experiencing divinity. Spiritual pursuits through performing arts have been underlined with deep religious sanctity. The search of the Soul – Jeevatma – for the Supreme – Paramatma – is the underlying current that runs through the entire process of self realisation in Indian art and culture.
The basic approach of our spiritual search revolves around the concept of a single supreme force, that is neither male or female, although this ultimate power is worshipped as Ardhanari in Saivism and Vishnu as the Sole supreme male according to Vaishnavism. In the performing arts, particularly in Indian classical dance traditions, this is represented as Heroine – Nayika or Nayaki and Hero – Nayaka – inter-relationship and its emotional manifestations ranging from devotion – Bhakthi – to romance – Shringara – to eroticism. This is also known as Nayika or Nayaki Bhava, Madhura Bhakthi, Madhurya Bhakthi or a “divine transgender state.”
Empathy and Not Sympathy
“Empathy is what is required and not sympathy. Don’t look at me and differentiate me with my gender, which is connected to Aatma. Look at what I have achieved and treat that with empathy. How, as a human being, I have faced odds and accomplished as a human being and not looking into which gender brought glory”, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj says.
Tamil Nadu Government Recognition
For the first time in India the Government of Tamilnadu has imparted the successful life story of transgender Bharathanatyam legend Dr. Narthaki Nataraj’s life story as a part of Tamil language text book for Class XI students.
Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is quite busy with slew of assignments as she is performing at the Margazhi Music and Dance Festival, 2018-19. She has already finished three programmes in this month so far including Sruti Lec-Dem Mela 2018 held in Dakshhinamoorthi Auditorium, Padma Seshadri Higher Secodary School in Mylapore, Sree Ayyappa Baktha Sabha Mandalam Makaravilakku Festival 2018 held at Sree Ayyappan Guruvayurappan Temple in Mahalingapuram again in Chennai; Kartik Fine Arts Annual Music and Dance Festival at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Mylapore and Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Natiya Vizha 2018 at TAG Auditorium, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Hall, Kilpauk.
Going forward, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is fully busy with more programmes making her schedule really tight. On December 26, 2018 she is performing at Narada Gana Sabha Annual Music and Dance Festival in Narada Gana Sabha Main Hall, TTK Road Chennai in the evening at 7.00 PM. Again on December 29, she is performing at Aneka 38th Natya Kala Conference 2018 Lecture Demonstration at Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Main Hall, T Nagar in Chennai at 7.00 PM. Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is also performing Bharatanatyam recital at Brahma Gana Sabha Annual Music and Dance Festival at Sivagami Petachi Hall in Luz church Road, Mylapore Chennai on January 4, 2019 at 7.15 PM. Besides that, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is also the Chief Guest (Arangetram) at Chinmaya Heritage Hall, Chetpet on January 6, 2019 at 6.00 PM. She is again performing at Velliambalam Trust School of Dance at Sree Ayyappan Guruvayurappan Temple, Mahalingapuram Chennai on January 13, 2019 at 7.00 PM. Last, but not the least, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj is also taking part at an event pertaining to Balasaraswati Centenary Year Valedictory Function by Dr V Raghavan Centre for Performing Arts at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Hall in Mylapore on February 9 2019 at 6.00 PM.
The Indian.News is trying to chase her to have an exhaustive interaction with Dr. Narthaki Nataraj, as she is perennially busy, at least she has agreed to give audience next year….with lot of Ambiguity. On behalf of The Indian.News Team, I wish the great exponent of Bharatanatyam, Dr. Narthaki Nataraj to scale more heights and look beyond, thus inspiring millions of Transgenders to lead a life of dignity.