About

Hello and thanks for visiting my blog….

After long, I have picked up the courage to write on this blog ….I dedicate this blog to my father late Sri Parankusha Marthand, who taught me the values of life and, more importantly, the values of Indian culture and heritage.

I plan to write something on Indian classical dance, music and culture… and hope it will help me do my bit in service of the India. I recognize the power of internet and feel that this will help me in getting in touch with all my friends who walked with me through the journey of life so far….They say ‘time and tide waits for none’ and in the tide of so many happenings, I lost touch with so many wonderful friends and wellwishers…I hope to get in touch with all of them.. so dear reader, if you are one of the jewels I am looking for, get in touch.. Let us share….Life!!!

I am Swati Mahalaxmi.  I was born in Allahabad and my parents Parankusha Marthand and Smriti brought me up in the salubrious surroundings of Nainital, located in the Himalayan state Uttarakhand (then Uttar Pradesh), India. I am a postgraduate in Ancient Indian History and Culture and also passionately pursue my love for Indian dlassical dance and music. All my endeavours in this direction are humble offering of gratitude and devotion to God and my parents.

MATR DEVO BHHAVA, PITR DEVO BHHAVA, AACHAARYA DEVOBHHAVA!

The Sikshavalli of the Taittireya Upanishad beautifully describes the role of parents and teachers in our lives. Can we ever express what parents and teachers do for their children/students?  Can children ever explain or describe what parents mean to them? Yet I am taking the liberty of making an effort to do so.

I was born into a family where music, dance and theater were a way of life. My father, a mathematician and physicist by profession, was an orthodox Telugu Sri Vaishnava Brahmin and taught me how to conduct life as a ritual. Being a staunch Sri Vaishnava he would see to it that all the Upachaarams of daily worship and duties were impeccably followed and performed by everyone in the household. The yearly festivals from Sankranti to Vaikuntha Ekadashi and Dhanurmaasam, recitation of Divya Prabandhas (including the recitation of the Tirupaavais during Dhanurmaasam or Paavai Nombu celebrations), was the norm. The monthly poojas during Sravana Nakshtram (Our Kula Daivam and Ishta Daivam is Venkatachalapathi) the weekly Tirumanjanams and the daily Suprabhatam and Sahasranamam is what I was surrounded with. What more could I ask for?

He was an intellectual and artist at heart. He played the piano and violin in both Western Classical Music and Karnatic Music and was passionate about theater too. From Kalidaas to Shakespeare to Tagore, it was a wide spectrum.  Acting was his passion. In the early 50s and 60s, in many prestigious  productions, he played the lead roles in Hamlet, Othello,  King Lear,  Macbeth,  Dushyant in Shakuntalam,  Rama in Raghuvamsham, and many plays by Tagore, (although my favorite Tagore’s play was the Red Oleanders Rokto Korobi  and the role of the King was played by my father.) He travelled with the troupe to many cities in India performing and giving lectures on comparative theater.

He kindred the love in me for Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Brahmas, Vivaldi,  Tchaikovsky as much as the passion for English Literature from Milton to Shakespeare to Eliot to Joyce  and reverence for great Mathematicians and Physicist . Of course I could not become a scientist and mathematician like him. But I had a different dream, a dream which was in congruence with his.

He was a very widely read person. His love for reading ranged from Philosophy to History to Psychology Literature and Arts. During our stay and the free time that we had from our work and study we used to read and listen to music amidst the serene and salubrious surroundings of our mountain home in NainiTal.

He ignited within me the deep love and devotion for the great Vaggeyakaras (composers who were also consummate musicians) and for the Classical Dances of India . He advised me to take up Bharatanatyam seriously and my journey for the search of a Guru took me to  Delhi and Chennai  where I had the good fortune  of direct tutelage under  Rukmini Devi Arundale , Vazhavoor Ramaiah Pillai, Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai, Sikkil Ramaswami Pillai, Sikkil Govindarajan Pillai ,Pandanallur Swaminathan Pillai, Kalakshetra T. Devanathan and other great maestros.  Sitting at their feet I absorbed the soul and techniques, the similarities and uniqueness of their schools. According to my father Bharatanatyam is a grand synthesis of all the various artistic and technical highlights, aspects and facets of each of these schools.

After meeting with Vempati Chinna Satyam he agreed that I take classes in Kuchipudi too. He admired and respected Master Garu for his knowledge as well as dance. He was totally in awe of Vempati Chinna Satyam garu’s dance and would tell me to observe and imbibe carefully Master  Garu’s technique and intricacies of the Kuchipudi idiom. Together Master  Gaaru’s teachings and my father’s training  of  the subtle nuances as well as the complex intricacies of movement and mime of the Kuchipudi style,  my training blossomed into a unique form that could have been possible only with the guidance of these two great teachers!

While Sanjukta Ji inspired and advised me to learn Odissi, my father so arranged my stay in Delhi and provided me facilities to enable to learn Odissi from Guru Mayadhar Raut . Under guruji’s guidance and my father’s critical observations, I was able to understand, imbibe and practice the subtle grace, exquisite beauty and the technical strength of the Odissi style.

My father’s single minded dedication to train me into the finer points  of aesthetics and exposing  me to and exploring with me  the wide spectrum of the science of Music and Dance has brought me into the amazing world of performing arts that I never dreamt of knowing had he not guided me. His training has given me an opportunity to look at art in a manner that is a unique amalgam of all that is connected with knowledge, art and spiritualism as a way of Life. The gestalt world view!

The way he used to inspire, guide, teach and give training, reminded me of what Jiddu Krishnamurthi said

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning”.

And

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies that is why you must sing and dance, and write poems and suffer and understand, for all that is life”.

My mother belongs to a progressive Bengali Brahmin family belonging to Nadiad in Navadvip West Bengal.  My grandfather migrated to Lucknow, where she was born and brought up.  A postgraduate in Political Science and English and a BA LLB, she was also a Sanskrit scholar and took intensive training in the Kirana Gharana of Classical Hindustani music.  She is also a well versed in Robindra Sangeet. She was an A Grade artist from Lucknow radio and regularly gave performances. Her brothers were equally talented singers and actors although professionally they were engineers. The legendry composer, singer and film actor Pahari Sanyal was my uncle.

My mother trained me in the Hindustani genre. She also taught me Sanskrit before I received further instructions in Sanskrit from Guru Annagaracharya Swami who was also our family Acharya. She also introduced me to Shri, Devi Ram who was a Sitar lecturer in NainiTal Degree College. He initiated me into Sitar. Later I learnt from Ustad Iliyas Khan Sahib and Pt. Atma Ram.

Thus my parents gave me great opportunities, wide exposure and tremendous support to lead a life enriched by spiritual pursuits, education, thirst for knowledge and art. My father’s tough love and mother’s gentle care is what has made me what I am today.  Who can ever repay what parents do for us? This wonderful gift that we call life and the guidance that we receive from parents to conduct our lives as efficiently and meaningfully as we can, is what is bestowed on us so benevolently and lovingly by God  our parents. The well known Sanskrit saying,

“ Naarikela samaakaara drishyante api  hi sajjanaah”.

Good people are like coconut, hard from outside and soft from inside, aptly describe ideal parents.

I would also like to mention here that I can never forget the 25 years I spent in NainiTal and the other places of Kumaon and Garhwal Hills of Uttarakhand. My father had a deep love for the Himalayas and Nature and he felt that I should be brought up in the lap of Nature in this beautiful and inspiring Himalayan region of Kumaon and Garhwal. My love for Nature and trekking is a gift from my father. It remains a passion to date. Miles of trekking invigorates and humbles me and teaches me lessons that I would have been bereft of if I were not associated with the Himalayan region.

The Himalayas have inspired me to cultivate qualities of compassion, courage, endurance, forthrightness, honesty, humility, kindness, love, patience, resilience, sobriety, serenity, tenacity, tolerance and wonder. They have instilled in me values that continue to guide my life and kindled the spirit of adventure and exploration in me.

Responses

  1. Hello I was searching for you for the last 30 years and today only I was able to find out your details with the help of my niece who has come from US to spend some time with me in Chennai. Let me see if you remember me? I came to your RK Puram flat along with Balram of Vrindaban. I use to come to your house often. infact I came to Nainital and stayed in your house for 2 days. Kuch Yaad aaya ya bilkul hi bhool gaye ho? You cant imagine how happy I am feeling after seeing your blog and to note that you are living in some part of the world. Its a small world Swati. I saw your photo with your disciple and all my old memory became fresh. How are you doing swati and where are you these days. Are you in Florida because I saw your name in google search residing in Florida and working as Professor. Pls write to me per return as I would like to know the details from 1975 when we last met. Let me see if you still remember my name???????

  2. “ Naarikela samaakaara drishyante api hi sajjanaah”.

    Good people are like coconut, hard from outside and soft from inside…..
    Aptly selected simile. Coconuts can beget only coconuts!!!![:)]

  3. Respected Swati Didi,
    You taught me Bharatnatyam in 1973 and 1974 when I was in St.Mary’s Convent in Nainital. You taught me the Alariipu ant Jatiswaram a lot of which I still remember 40 years later.Of course when I was that young I did not realise how much more you were………I just looked upto to you as our Swati didi,our dance teacher.Reading your blog today I know how blessed we were to have you and Mrs.Marthand in our lives.Today when people compliment me or praise me I declare that it was all the wonderful teachers that I have had in my life who are responsible for all my achievements and the failures are because I did not absorb what my teachers were trying to tell me the way I should have.
    I am based in Gurgaon on the outskirts of Delhi and it would be wonderful to meet you if possible.
    Amina Shervani
    aminashervani@gmail.com
    cell 9818273414

  4. I do not know if you will remember me Swati, but I had the good fortune of befriending you, becoming your fan as well as having the opportunity to dance in one of your creations. Thanks…my name is Tuhina (Bhattacharya) and I live in Delhi. Remember I spent a day with you and your family. Please get in touch with me via this blog. Will be looking forward to hearing from you.

    Today I pulled out an old letter you sent me while you were at Rai ofcourse i felt really nostalgic and wish I could travel back in time. Hope you are keeping fit and fine. Will hear the rest from you when you call. I don’t know if you recall, my mother too was born in Krishna Nagar and my grandfather was known in the world of classical music as “Panchu Babu”…hope these clueshelp you to recall everything. Lots of love

    • Dear Tuhina
      I do have some recollection but still need to jog my memory. Thanks for sending a message . Can you tell me when did we meet? were you in the Odissi class in Jagannath Temple? Or were you a Bharatanatyam dancer? please forgive me for this hazy recollection and please give me more information. are you on facebook?
      best
      swathi.

  5. Dear Swati Didi
    Saadar Namaste !!

    Here’s another Dance student of yours from St. Mary’s Convent, Nainital !!

    You & Mrs Marthand taught me Bharatanatyam from 1973 to 1976, after which we moved to Dehradun because of my father’s transfer (He was an officer of the Indian Forest Services).

    It was my honour to have had teachers like Mrs Marthand & you and that is why we learnt one of the most difficult dances so well. I don’t know if you would remember me since you have had so…………..many students, but just to remind you, during school performances in St. Mary’s, i always got the role of the male lead (since i was the tallest in my class). Most of the time it was the role of Krishna. So for any dance performance in the school, i would be the Krishna…….one because of my height & two because of my curly long hair!!

    In fact, even in Dehradun, i continued to learn Bharatanatyam from a very great teacher, Mr Dennis. I even completed my junior diploma in the dance under his guidance and also got opportunities to perform at various occasions, including a UNESCO Dance festival competition. And……..as always in Nainital, here too, i always landed with the male lead which varied from Krishna to Dushyant etc.

    And, if you do remember, i even met you (or rather spotted you & Mrs Marthand from our ground floor house, which had a road right outside our window !!). My mother & I saw you two from our window and immediately came out to meet you and then we all had tea and we talked of Nainital days.
    This was in Krishna Nagar (a locality near Tel Bhawan or some office in Dehradun) and the year was 1984 i think.

    And after that, suddenly today i stumbled upon this Blog of yours. It has been 41 years since 1973, when our association began and till today, i hardly knew anything about you and your parents’ achievements. Today, i feel all the more honoured to have been a Bharatanatyam student who had the opportunity to learn the dance basics from great teachers like Mrs Martand & you and lay a solid foundation.

    It will indeed be great reconnecting with you and talking about the Nainital days. Do let me know where you are based. I will come and meet you. I am in Delhi.

    Please do find time to write back.
    Kind regards

    Manisha Gupta (Nee Agrawala)
    New Delhi

    ipmanisha@rediffmail.com
    mdlogihq@rediffmail.com

    • Dear Manisha
      thanks for the mail and the kind words. Yes I do remember you and remember most of students who were with us in ramnee and am back in touch with them through Facebook. Are you on face Book do get in touch . lots of love didi.

      • great to hear from you Didi !!
        no, i am not on facebook. can you please let me know your email-id?and where are you based ?

        regards
        manisha

  6. Swati, I am soma chakravertty.Do you remember me?We had spent times together at nainital, delhi (tansen marg),kamani. triveni….
    I often wondered where you have disappeared.

    • hello soma di. how are you ? where are you these days? still in delhi? i am so sorry i didnot see your message as i haven’t visited this page in ages. we are in HYD these days. do let me know about yourself .lots of love. swati.


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