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Kerala Tourism’s Nishagandhi award for Bharati Shivaji
  • January 2017

Celebrated Mohiniyattam danseuse Padma Shri Bharati Shivaji will be conferred the prestigious Nishagandhi Puraskaram at this year’s edition of Nishagandhi Festival dedicated solely to dance forms of art. 

Announcing this at a press conference at Trivandrum on Wednesday, Mr. Kadakampally Surendran, Minister for Tourism, Kerala said “Smt Bharati Shivaji is recognised for her untiring efforts to advance Mohiniyattam over the past four decades,”

Honorable Kerala Governor Justice (retd) P Sathasivam will bestow the honour on the ace Mohiniyattam exponent at the inaugural event of the spectacular seven-day annual show hosted by Kerala Tourism on the sprawling lawns of Kanakakunnu on Friday (Jan 20).

The award carries a purse of Rs.1, 50,000, citation and a statuette. A jury comprising Mr. Sunil Kothari, Author and Dance Critic , Dr. V. S Sharma, Art Critic and Sanskrit Scholar, Dr. Venu V IAS, Principal Secretary of Tourism, Kerala, Mr. U.V. Jose IAS, Director of Kerala Tourism, ,  Mr. C.P. Nair, Former Chief Secretary of Kerala and Ms. Saraswathi Nagarajan, Art Critic and Journalist  selected the winner of the Nishagandhi Puraskaram.

Bharati Shivaji was born in 1948 in the temple town of Kumbakonam, in Tanjavur district of the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu, and had her early training in Bharatnatyam under Lalita Shastri and Odissi under Kelucharan Mohapatra. Later, on advice from Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay, renowned social reformer, she took up research on Mohiniyattom, the traditional dance form of Kerala. After obtaining a research fellowship from Sangeet Natak Akademi, she traveled to Kerala and pursued research under Kavalam Narayana Panicker, a scholar of the Temple Arts of Kerala and former vice-chairman of Sangeet Natak Akademi. Shifting her focus from Bharatnatyam and Odissi, she started training Mohiniyattom under Radha Marar and, later, under Kalamandalam Satyabhama, and also had a training stint under Kalamandalam Kalyanikutty Amma, considered by many as the Mother of Mohiniyattom.

She is known to have incorporated postures, movements and music from other Traditional art forms of Kerala such as Ottamthullal, Kaikottikali, Thayambaka and Krishnanattam into Mohiniyattom, a legacy from her tutelage under Kavalam Narayana Panicker.

The Government of India awarded her the fourth highest civilian honour of the Padma Shri, in 2004, for her contributions to Indian classical dance  and she also won Sangeeta Nataka Academy award  an and Sahitya Kala Parishad Samman.   

She is known to have contributed to the evolution of the dance tradition, by adding more languor to the already languorous discipline,  and by adapting it to other dance forms such as ballet; her Mohiniyattom adaptation of the Swan Lake of Tchaikovsky, choreographed along with her daughter, Vijayalakshmi, is one such effort. Her productions include adaptations of Bhanusinger Padavali of Rabindranath Tagore, Chandrotsavam of the Manipravalam, Somastuthi from the Rig Veda, and the Devagita, from Ashtapadi.

She had founded the “ centre for Mohiniyattom” at New Delhi, a dedicated facility for promoting the dance form and co-authored two books, Art of Mohiniyattom and Mohiniyattom.   In 1986, Shivaji published her first book, Art of Mohiniyattam, co-authored by Avinash Pasricha. The book documents her researches under Sangeet Natak Akademi fellowship and a subsequent senior fellowship from the Department of Culture under the Ministry of Human Resource Development and is a reference book on the subject. She published another book, Mohiniyattam, co-written by her daughter, Vijayalakshmi, herself a noted Mohiniyattom performer, in 2003. The book deals with the history and evolution of the art form and comments about the styles and techniques, repertoire, music, costumes and jewellery associated with it. She has performed on several stages in India and abroad and has taught many Indian and foreign students. She also continues her research by visiting temples and gives lecture-demonstrations on the dance form at conferences and seminars.


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