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ARAYER SEVAI and KAISIKI NATAKAM

From: Anita Ratnam (anitaratnam_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Tue Apr 13 1999 - 18:57:48 PDT

To all devout Sri Vaisnavas on the net:

I am involved in a five year project - initially supported by a senior
fellowship from the Government of India and now continued with
personal resources - to reserch the performance ritual of ARAYER
SSEVAi and trace its links to modern day Bharatanatyam in the areas of
religion, theology, social studies, performance and faith.

I have completed a major portion of my work and presented the first
lecture at the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in London on March 12 this
year. It was very well received specially from many Sri Lankan tamils
who were astounded by the poetic and evocative poetry in the
Prabandham. British scholars and dance students were amazed to hear
the slow chanting of the arayers and the unbroken tradition of almost
1000 years of performance practice.

It was during my research that I met the senior arayer in
Srivilliputtur and Alwar Tirunagari and saw the pitiable plight that
they are in. They receive a meagre 300 rupees every month as
government salary since they are past their prime and the salary does
not come sometimes for six months. They are nort considered as
artistes and although they continue to serve the Lord as their life's
mission, they are living in total penury. Only the families in
Srirangam are in good condition but these two temples are also a vital
part of the Sri Vaisnava Heritage.

As part of my research, I began a sustained suport for the families of
one arayer in Alwar Tirunagari and five artistes in my ancestral
temple town of Thirukurungudi.

The senior Arayer in Srivilliputtur Srinivasa Iyengar is very ill and
needds a cataract operation. He is totally bed ridden and his family
are on very hard times. Last year Arayer Sarangachari of Alwar
Tirunagari died en route to hospital. His elder son is continuing the
tradition although in a very anaemic manner. their plight is really
terrrible and needs to be highlighted to Sri Vaisnavas everywhere.

KAISIKI NATAKAM: This is the only remaining temple threatre ritual
which has direct connections with the 1st centur text called th NATYA
SASTRA revered by all Indian performers of classical dance. The form
exists only in the temple town of Thirukurungudi and is in the process
of total extinction. A five year research and revival process in
underway details will be available on our website www.arangham.com in
the next two weeks under the category RITUAL AND REVIVIAL.

So much needs to be done for both forms. I strongly feel that the
government takes far too long to act and requires endless reams of
paperwork and xeroxs sent to New Delhi.

I do not want to feel alone in this battle. I feel that this is OUR
tradition and hope that I can hear from some of you with suggestions.

as always,

anita ratnam