Phalgun Krishna 7, Vik.Samvat 2072. Yugabda 5117: 1 March 2016

1. festivals: Ramakrishna Jayanti 2. MAHAMAHAM FESTIVAL CONCLUDES, AT KUMBAKONAM
3. Non-political committee should decide eligibility for reservation: Bhagwat 4.  We are bonded by our tradition of spirituality, says Modi
5. Hindu Dharma Seminar for Teachers BY HSS Dallas and HUA 6.   'Research For Resurgence'
7.  Govt to set up Sanskrit cells in IITsto research ancient science 8. Mahatma Gandhi Day in Colorado
9. Yoga in School - Sanskaar SHAKHA - Dallas 10.  Bharat sends aid to cyclone hit fiji
11. Pakistan's Sindh allows Hindu marriages to be registered 12.  Similarities between Vedic, Latvian cultures
13. ISRO upbeat as indigenous cryo engine passes test 14. Bharat Ranks First in Milk Production
19. Amar Singh appointed as Police Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur 20. 7,000 Hindus in Malaysia wrongly documented as Muslims





Bharatanatyam with benefits


1. festivals: Ramakrishna Jayanti, falls on Phalugun Shukla Dwitiya (10th March 2016), the day on which revered saint Ramakrishna Paramhans was born at Kamarpukur in West Bengal in 1836. He became a priest of Dakshineshwar Kali temple and dedicated his life to Bhagwati Kali. He was married to Sarada Devi who later became his spiritual counterpart. Young Narendra who transformed into Swami Vivekananda by Ramkarishna was one of his famed disciples. He founded Ramakrishna Math which works for the welfare of poor and spread the spiritual movement known as Ramakrishna Movement worldwide. Belur Math is the headquarters of Ramakrishna Math and Mission. -goTop


2. MAHAMAHAM FESTIVAL CONCLUDES, AT KUMBAKONAM: The nine-day Mahamaham festival, known as the 'Kumbh Mela of the south', concluded in Tamil Nadu's Kumbakonam on February 22, with conduct of the most important event 'theerthavari', witnessed by lakhs of people. The theerthavari event is considered the most sacred to take a holy dip in the Mahamaham tank.

Over ten lakh people took a holy dip in the Mahamaham tank on this occasion. To the chanting of Vedic 'mantras' by the 'Sivacharyas' and the 'Bhattacharyas', accompanied by resounding play of traditional musical instruments including Nadaswaram in the backdrop, the 'theerthavari' ritual - bathing the principal deities - both at the 'Mahamaham tank' and on the Cauvery bank for the Saivite and Vaishnavite deities, came as the high point of the festival.

The 'Mahamaham' occurs once in 12 years when devotees sprinkle holy water on them and others. -goTop


3. Non-political committee should decide eligibility for reservation: Bhagwat: Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh Sarsanghchalak Mohan Bhagwat said on February 22 in Kolkata that a non-political committee should be formed to decide eligibility for reservation. Bhagwat also told an interactive session of a Chamber of Commerce that a time bound program should be chalked out regarding it.

"Many people are demanding reservation. I feel a committee should be formed to decide who are eligible for reservation. The committee should be apolitical so that there are no vested interests," Bhagwat said, adding, "Which section of the society should be brought forward, for how long they should be given reservation - a time bound program should be chalked out regarding it. The committee should be given powers for execution." -goTop


4.  We are bonded by our tradition of spirituality, says Modi: "We are not people bonded by communities, communities come and go with time, different sects and traditions develop. But we are bound by an unbreakable bond of spirituality, this is what provides us strength," Pradhan Mantri Narendra Modi said. He was addressing a function in Kolkata to mark the centenary celebrations of Gaudiya Mission, a Vaishnav missionary organization following the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a 15th century spiritual leader from eastern Bharat, and one of the pioneers of the Bhakti movement.

Referring to the teachings of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and other saints of the period, Modi said "seeds of Bharat's freedom struggle were sown with the Bhakti movement." Speaking on social and religious reformers of the country, Modi said: "In Bharat, you must have seen that in every age when the society is ridden with evils, it is from the Hindu society that a reformer emerges and challenges the existing system." -goTop


5. Hindu Dharma Seminar for Teachers BY HSS Dallas and HUA: On February 15th, three workshops were conducted for the teachers of four different schools i.e. Pinkerton and Lakeside elementary in Coppell, Old Settlers Elementary in Flower Mound and Middle School West, Coppell. Altogether more than 150 teachers attended the workshop conducted in collaboration with Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS) and Hindu University of America (HUA). Teachers were curious to know about daily Bharatiya life style, dynamics of relationships especially that of arranged marriages, upbringing of kids of Bharatiya origin and current status of caste system in the country and elsewhere. They were also interested to know about diversity of Bharat such as languages, food, clothing, life style and Gods. -goTop


6.   'Research For Resurgence': More than 700 academicians, researchers, bureaucrats, politicians and decision makers/policy makers from corporate houses attended the 'Research For Resurgence' conference that sought to chalk out a framework for ensuring research in the laboratories/academic institutions is made applicable for the development of Bharat. The conference held during 11-13 February was aimed at initiating a paradigm shift in research orientation so as to make it indigenous, holistic, integrated, and meaningful, and also imbibe an all-perspective 'Bharatiya' approach.

Smriti Irani, Union HRD Minister, inaugurated the three-day conference in the presence of Devendra Fadnavis, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, and Prof Aniruddh Deshpande, senior educationist. The conference 'Research For Resurgence' was organised by Bharatiya Shikshan Mandal and supported by Bharat Niti.

"Why demonize Bharatiya Science? Why demonize what was good in ancient Bharatiya Science?" Irani asked during the inaugural ceremony. "When I say modern Physics is exemplification of Indic knowledge, it is seen as saffronization attempt, but when I say that this is scientist Oppenheimer’s statement, it becomes acceptable." Fadnavis announced on this occasion that his government will set up 'Model Laboratories' on the lines of one developed by IIT Bombay in all districts of the state. Prof Deshpande, the senior educationalist and a patron of the conference, said, "Resurgence does not mean sticking to old prescriptions. It has to be a product of actualization (anubhuti)." -goTop


7.  Govt to set up Sanskrit cells in IITsto research ancient science: Premier engineering and scientific institutes run by the Centre, including the IITs, should have a Sanskrit cell to help students study ancient literature related to their fields, a panel set up by the education ministry has recommended. It also wants these institutes to let students opt for internship in Sanskrit institutions for credit during the course of their study. "If financial support is provided to such students their talent could be utilized in unraveling the scientific knowledge hidden in Sanskrit literature through small but focused projects," told the panel headed by retired IAS officer N Gopalaswami to the government.

The panel - that was tasked with coming up with a 10-year roadmap for developing the language - recommended introducing Sanskrit as an optional language in undergraduate programmes and integrating it with other subjects. "Atharavaveda, Vaisheshika Darshana etc. are acknowledged treasure house of scientific concepts; there are hundreds of works like Siddhanta Shiromani, Vriksha Ayurveda.., which are of great relevance in the context of research and innovation," the Gopalaswami panel said. The panel also advocated setting up model Sanskrit-medium schools in every state. -goTop


8. Mahatma Gandhi Day in Colorado: An historic event for Colorado occurred on February 12, 2016, when both state legislative chambers - the House of Representatives and the Senate - honoured the life of Mahatma Gandhi in a joint resolution.  House Resolution 1008 stated that Mahatma Gandhi "dedicated his life to fighting injustices with nonviolence and peaceful resistance," and has "left behind a legacy of peace, nonviolence, and acceptance of others in his efforts for justice, unity, and freedom."  The observance was initiated by Sudhir Verma, Sanghchalak, Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh Denver, and sponsored by House Representative Dr. Janak Joshi, originally from Gujarat, the sole Bharatiya legislator in the state. A dozen House Representatives and Senators, all of non-Bharatiya origin, joined Joshi to speak on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, in enthusiastic support of the Resolution, which was unanimously adopted by both the House and the Senate.

The same day, Colorado's Governor John W. Hickenlooper issued a proclamation declaring "forever after, February 12, 2016, as Mahatma Gandhi Day in the State of Colorado," stating that "Colorado is home to an active and engaged Bharatiya diaspora and our Bharatiya-American community has made significant and lasting contributions to our civic, cultural, religious, and economic heritage." -goTop


9. Yoga in School - Sanskaar SHAKHA - Dallas: Sanskaar Shakha of HSS USA organized a Sun Salutation Demo at Liberty Elementary School from 9-11 February. The Yoga demo, which was as part of their PE (Physical Education) session; included a warm up session with students, demo for the poses, doing the actual yoga for all and then fun (Shakha style) games for the kids. Total 620 students participated in 13 sessions of 40 minute each. 9 karyakartas planned and executed Yoga in School event with the help of 2 PE teachers. -goTop


10.  Bharat sends aid to cyclone hit fiji: Bharat rushed financial and material aid to Fiji that suffered the biggest cyclone in recorded history. Tropical Cyclone Winston, a category 5 cyclone, hit the Pacific Ocean island nation on February 20, claiming 44 lives. Bharat extended 1 million dollars as immediate assistance. The relief material such as basic food supplies, medicines, tents, kitchen sets etc. was airlifted from Chennai to the Fiji capital Suva.

The National Disaster Management Authority, Ministry of Home Affairs coordinated the relief operations with the Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Food Processing, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Defense, Indian Red Cross Society and NDRF.

The island nation of Fiji was hit by category five cyclone Winston with wind speed 325 km and waves up to 12m high. The cyclone has caused widespread damage to the housing stock and power disruption in the island nation. -goTop


11. Pakistan's Sindh allows Hindu marriages to be registered: Sindh province in Pakistan has become the first in the largely Muslim country to give Hindus the right to register their marriage officially. The bill was passed on February 15 by lawmakers in Sindh - home to many of Pakistan's three million Hindus.

Christians, have a colonial-era law recognizing their marriages. However, Hindus have never had any legal framework to register their unions until now. Under the new law, Hindus above the age of 18 in Sindh can register their marriages. It can be applied retroactively to existing unions. The National Assembly is considering a wider bill on recognizing Hindu marriage rights, including issues such as inheritance, divorce, and child maintenance. -goTop


12.  Similarities between Vedic, Latvian cultures: Addressing the two-day conference on Indo-Baltic cultural similarities, Dr Vladis Steins the leader of the Latvian delegation, a former Member of Parliament and a social leader and a guru from Latvia informed the gathering of scholars about similarities between the two cultures, peoples and customs. The two-day conference was organized by International Centre for Cultural Studies (ICCS) Pune to explore the similarities in Indo-Baltic cultures.

Dr. Vasant Shinde, Vice-Chancellor, Deccan College Post-Graduate and Research Institute - deemed university, delivered the key note address. Scholars of Sanskrit -Vedas and Upavedas, Indology, archaeology, history participated in the academic programs.

During the academic sessions Dr. Jayashree Sathe, Pro Vice Chancellor spoke on significance of Agni in Vedic culture Dr. Lata Dani spoke of the footprints of Vedic culture in the world. Dr. Prasad Joshi spoke of linguistic connection between Bharat and Latvia. Dr. Hema Kshirsagar gave a very interesting speech about women's education in ancient Bharat. Dr. Manjushree Sardeshpande enlightened the audience with her studied presentation on Comparative Study of Latvian Poet Laureate Aspazija and Bharat's Nobel Laureate Ravindranath Tagore. -goTop


13. ISRO upbeat as indigenous cryo engine passes test: Indian Space Research Organisation's (ISRO) bid to acquire the capability to launch heavier satellites into orbit received a boost on February 19 with the successful hotbed test of the cryogenic engine for the upper stage of the GSLV Mark 3 rocket. The long-duration test at the ISRO Propulsion Research Centre at Mahendragiri lasted 640 seconds.Using Liquid Hydrogen at -253 degrees C and Liquid Oxygen at -193 degrees C as propellants, the high-thrust cryogenic engine (CE20) generates power of approximately 2 MW. Developed at the Liquid Propulsion System centre (LPSC) here, the engine had already undergone two short-duration tests for engine ignition and steady state performance. ISRO chairman A.S. Kiran Kumar termed the test as a phenomenal achievement in the shortest time. -goTop


14. Bharat Ranks First in Milk Production: According to the Economic Survey 2015-16 presented on February 26 in the Parliament by the Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Bharat ranks first in milk production, accounting for 18.5 per cent of world production, achieving an annual output of 146.3 million tonnes during 2014-15 as compared to 137.69 million tonnes during 2013-14 recording a    growth of 6.26 per cent. Whereas, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported a 3.1 per cent increase in world milk production from 765 million tonnes in 2013 to 789 million tonnes in 2014.

The per capita availability of milk in Bharat has increased from 176 grams per day in 1990-91 to 322 grams per day by 2014-15. It is more than the world average of 294 grams per day during 2013. -goTop


15. NINE-DAY CAMP TO PROMOTE SOCIAL VOLUNTARISM: Samartha Bharata, a voluntary organization dedicated to promote social voluntarism, organized a 9-day residential camp from January 23 to 31, called Social Transformation Empowerment Programme (STEP) in which 67 youth participated. Eminent personalities including Dr Deviprasad Shetty, Swami Paramananda, Shri Mukul Kanitkar, Dr MK Shridhar, Shri Ravi Iyer guided the youth.

STEP was divided into two phases. Phase-I was a weeklong orientation camp to enable volunteers to understand the lifecycle of social transformation initiatives, and to interact personally with leading social activists and their activities. Phase-II was a six month long execution activity where social volunteers pursued and worked in a social project of their choice under the guidance of a social activist or NGO. -goTop


16. CONGRESSMEN WELCOMED AT SANGH KARYALAYA:  Sometimes things take interesting turn. Congress workers in Indore organized a march towards the RSS office on February 22 insisting at hoisting tricolor there. As the march, headed by Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee Chief Arun Yadav and other Congress workers began, the police stopped them in midway fearing clash between the RSS and Congress workers. But what happened at Sangh Karyalaya stunned all. As the Congress workers reached there the swayamsewaks welcomed them by putting tilak on their forehead and later on accompanied them to hoist the national flag at the Karyalaya. After hoisting the flag, veteran Sangh pracharak Shri Prakash Solapurkar, welcomed the Congress workers and said that such interactions need take place. All the Congress workers were given refreshments at the karyalay. -goTop


17. BHARAT LEADS IN CSR SPENDING GROWTH: After the new Companies Act made it mandatory for companies with a net worth of Rs 500 crore or with annual turnover of Rs 1,000 crore to spend under CSR, Bharat's total CSR reporting increased by 27% in 2015, the maximum among 45 countries surveyed by international audit firm KPMG.

The performance of Bharatiya origin companies is far ahead compared to foreign-based companies operating in Bharat. While companies based in Bharat have a target of Rs 5,779.68 crore for 2015, they have spent Rs 4,708 crore. But out of the target of Rs 710.12 crore for foreign-based companies, only Rs 406.17 crore has been spent. Among Bharatiya companies, the private sector has performed far better than the public sector. Against the prescribed amount of Rs 2,306 crore, PSUs spent Rs 1,628 crore (71%). -goTop


18. ISRO BOOSTS SPACE COOPERATION WITH ASEAN NATIONS: In wake of boosting the Space Cooperation between Bharat and Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), at the behest of Government of India, is working towards the establishment of a Satellite Tracking & Data Reception Station and Data Processing Facility in Vietnam for ASEAN Member countries. This facility is intended to acquire and process Indian Remote Sensing Satellite data pertaining to ASEAN region and disseminate to ASEAN Member countries.

ISRO has launched the fifth (IRNSS-1E) navigation satellite onboard Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle 'PSLV-C31' on January 20 from Sriharikota.  -goTop


19. Amar Singh appointed as Police Commissioner of Kuala Lumpur: A Bharatiya-origin Sikh Amar Singh has been appointed the Police Commissioner of Malaysia's capital Kuala Lumpur. With this, he becomes first person of Bharatiya origin (PIO) and first Malaysian Sikh to achieve the highest police rank in the Muslim-majority country. Prior to this appointment, he was serving as deputy director of CID Amar Singh is a third-generation policeman from his family. His father Ishar Singh and maternal grandfather Bachan Singh were policemen in Malaysia.  -goTop


20. 7,000 Hindus in Malaysia wrongly documented as Muslims: Nearly 7,000 Hindus in Malaysia have been wrongly documented as Muslims on their national identity cards, according to a group of NGOs in the Muslim-majority nation. The problem was widespread throughout Peninsular Malaysia and involved mostly practicing Hindus from the lower income group who are documented as Muslims, Malaysia Hindu Sangam president Mohan Shan was quoted as saying by The Malaysian Insider.

Islam is the largest and state religion of Malaysia accounting for 61.3 per cent of the total population. Hindus account for about 6.3 per cent. -goTop


21. SHRI VISHWA NIKETAN: Pravas: Shri Saumitra Gokhale samyojak Vishwa Vibhag returned from his tour to Malaysia and Singapore. Dr Ram Vaidya sahsamyojak returned from Nepal. Visitors: Jagdish Sewhani, Arun Kankani - USA.


FOOD FOR THOUGHT: If we think, "Dharma will protect itself; everything is God's will". When human beings act with enthusiasm and the proper understanding of Dharma that is when God's power protects us. That is when God starts walking alongside us, resting His arm across our shoulder, addressing us as Sakha(friend). - Amma, Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi -goTop




Dr Shreerang Godbole

Veer Savarkar did his stupendous work in the field of social reform after undergoing nearly a decade and a half of hellish prison life.  He was never motivated by narrow considerations of politics, power, pelf and  popularity

Swatantryaveer Vinayak Damodar Savarkar is largely known as a revolutionary freedom fighter and exponent of Hindutva.  It is not widely known that he was also an outstanding social reformer. The fiftieth anniversary of Savarkar's atmarpan (embracing death by self-denial of food and water) which falls on February 26,  provides an excellent opportunity to evaluate his contribution as a social reformer.  In his vigorous campaign for social reforms through his thoughts, words and actions, he had to face hostility of the religious conservatives as well as the Government that also with very meagre resources.

Savarkar penned his views on social reform and rationalism.   During his internment in Ratnagiri, he penned 'Jatyuchchedak Nibandh' (Essays on abolition of caste) and 'Vidnyan Nishtha Nibandh' (Essays on Scientific Temper). His drama 'Ushaap' (Antidote to a curse) deals with untouchability, kidnapping of women, shuddhi and the duplicity of conservatives.  He penned down poems on specific occasions such as temple entry. 

A Lifelong Social Reformer

It has been alleged that Savarkar carried out his campaign for social reform not because he had any sympathy for the lower castes but because he wanted to gain their support for Hindu consolidation.  The following passage conclusively nails this allegation, "To regard our 70 million co-religionists as 'untouchables' and worse than animals is an insult not only to humanity but also to the sanctity of our soul. It is my firm conviction that this is why untouchability should be principally eradicated. .. When I refuse to touch someone because he was born in a particular community but play with cats and dogs, I am committing a most heinous crime against humanity. Untouchability should be eradicated not only because it is incumbent on us but because it is impossible to justify this inhuman custom when we consider any aspect of dharma. Hence this custom should be eradicated as a command of dharma. (1927, Samagra Savarkar vangmaya, ed. SR Date, Maharashtra Prantik Hindu Sabha, Pune, 1963-1965, Vol 3, p.483; hereafter abbreviated as SSV, SSV 3: 483).

Another charge hurled at Savarkar is that he carried out social reform only because his political activities were forbidden by the British and he forgot about social reform after his unconditional release.  In a letter written in 1920 from the Andamans, Savarkar wrote, "Just as I feel that I should rebel against foreign rule over Hindusthan, I feel I should rebel against caste discrimination and untouchability."   This letter was written before he had made up his mind to consolidate the Hindus. His tours as President of the Hindu Mahasabha were never complete without a visit to the homes of the ex-untouchables.  He used to deliver lectures in the Ganesh festivities only on condition that these lectures would be open to ex-untouchables. 

Path-breaking Work

Though Savarkar was a lifelong champion of social reform, the period of 1924 to 1937 may be broadly considered as the phase of social reform in Savarkar's life. Ratnagiri district in Coastal Maharashtra was a bastion of conservatives.  Hindu society was bound by the following seven shackles in the social sphere. In 1925, Savarkar started a survey of the locality of the Mahars (incidentally Ambedkar belonged to this caste).  He started organised mass singing of bhajans.   He ensured that children of the so-called low castes such as Mahars, Chamars and Valmikis compulsorily attended school by distributing chalk and slates and giving monetary incentives to their parents.  While exposing the caste based segregation in schools, Savarkar made a presentation on behalf of the Ratnagiri Hindu Sabha in 1932 to ICS Officer Lamington who had been given special responsibility of the 'lower' castes.  Savarkar said, "Once the children are educated together, they will not observe caste hierarchy in later life.  They will not feel the need to observe caste division.  Therefore the Government regulation of 1923 must be strictly followed.  In addition, the Government should abandon the title 'special schools for low caste children'.  This very title creates a feeling of inferiority among children attending the school". (Balarao Savarkar, ibid, p. 159).

To ensure that untouchability disappeared not just from schools but also from homes, Savarkar visited numerous houses, accompanied by people from different castes, on the occasion of Hindu festivals like Dussehra and Makar Sankranti. Through gatherings of Hindu women, Savarkar ensured that women from ex-untouchable castes applied kumkum to women of 'higher' castes. Savarkar gave monetary assistance and raised a musical band of the ex-untouchables. He took a bank loan for this purpose. On May 1, 1933, Savarkar started a cafe open to Hindus of all castes including untouchables.  This was the first pan-Hindu café in the whole of Bharat.  He had employed a Mahar to serve water, tea etc.  Anyone who visited Savarkar had to first go to this pan-Hindu café and have at least a cup of tea. This seemingly simple act required great courage in those days.  

In the 1920's, inter-caste dining was unthinkable.   But Savarkar carried out this programme undaunted.  Savarkar's campaign for social reform encompassed all castes.  The Brahmins would not share meals with the Marathas who in turn would not share it with Mahars and Chamars; the Mahars and Chamars in turn would not share meals with a Bhangi. Sometimes, Mahars would challenge Savarkar to share meals with them.  Savarkar would readily comply but at the same time would ask them to drink water served by someone lower in the caste hierarchy. 

Savarkar organised the shuddhi (purification or reconversion) of those who had left the Hindu fold under threats and inducements. On February  22, 1933, amidst much fanfare, he organised a bonfire of the statue of untouchability.  He lent his support to Dr Ambedkar in his Mahad and Nashik campaigns against untouchability.  

Patitpavan Temple

Savarkar wanted to start a temple that would be freely open to all Hindus.  In this revolutionary venture, Savarkar found loyal associates in men like Bhagoji Seth Keer, Dr Mahadav  Ganpat Shinde, Kashinath Laxman Parulekar and others. On Mahashivaratri day i.e. March 10,  1929, Shankaracharya Dr Kurtakoti laid the foundation stone of this temple. Then Shivu Chavan.  Any Hindu who had a bath could perform puja.  The priest of this temple was not necessarily to be a Brahmin by birth.  The temple had a trust with one member each from the Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra and untouchable communities and one representative of Keer.   Savarkar felt that the entire Hindu society was in a degraded state under foreign yoke. Hence he called the temple 'Patitpavan temple' (redeemer of the degraded).  The temple was inaugurated on February  22, 1931 by Shankaracharya Dr. Kurtakoti.  The Chamar leader Rajbhoj of Pune washed the Shankaracharya's feet with his own hands.  Hitherto, the untouchables were denied the right to pay obeisance to the Shankaracharya directly.

Little wonder then that Savarkar's tireless efforts elicited admiration from those who differed with him in his political beliefs.  The Brahmo Samaj leader and head of the Depressed Class Mission Vithal Ramji Shinde visited Ratnagiri in February 1933.  After seeing Savarkar's work, he exclaimed, "I am so pleased with what Savarkar has achieved that I pray to the Lord that he should give the remainder of my life to Savarkar so that he may fulfill my ambitions and aspirations." 

Savarkar did his stupendous work in the field of social reform after undergoing nearly a decade and a half of hellish prison life.  He was never motivated by narrow considerations of politics, power, pelf and popularity. The least we can do in his memory is to follow the ideals for which he staked his home and hearth! (The writer is practicing diabetologist and writes on social issues. He has contributed to the making of


Bharatanatyam with benefits

Priya Menon

When Bharatiya origin twins Poonam and Priyanka Shah decided to combine Bharatanatyam with their daily 'popping' exercises, and post a video of their routine on the internet, it soon went viral."We are learning hip-hop and practise our training 'exercises' for popping every day, so we just combined the two forms," says Chicago-based Priyanka, who along with her twin is now in LA trying to pick up hip-hop dance styles.

While the twins may be focusing on dance fusion, there is now a renewed interest in the health benefits of Bharatanatyam. "It gives a wonderful cardio workout, improves blood circulation, tones muscles and is good for bone density as it is a contact exercise," says danseuse Alarmel Valli.

Dancer and choreographer Anita Ratnam says Bharatanatyam has both physical and mental benefits. "The basic stance of araimandi (a squat in which knees are turn ed sideways) and keeping the torso steady while the hands and lower limbs are moving helps with balance," she says, adding that memory and imagination are stimulated as you have to remember long sequences and improvise when you forget on stage.

Practitioners also say the dance form is highly beneficial for the eyes. Dr Amar Agarwal, ophthalmologist, says it gives the eye muscles a good workout. "When you roll your eyes from side to side, you are actually using the muscles of the eye, which help in the movement of the eye," he says.

All poses and mudras go a long way in rejuvenating and restoring weak parts of the body, says dancer Roja Kannan. "For instance, the chinhamudra called Hamsasyam in dance, wherein the first finger and the thumb are joined together at the tips and the other three fingers are opened up facilitates the circulation of blood flow from the fingers to the other parts of the body while also having a calming effect on the mind," she says, adding that arthritis, muscle degeneration, nervous disorders, tennis elbow, tendonitis, and knee ailments can be restored by dance therapy.

Dr A V Satyanarayana, director, Shristi Center of Performing Arts and Institute of Dance Therapy, Bangalore, uses Bharatanatyam to keep pregnant women fit. "I design dance sequences that create flexibility and mobility, strengthen the back and pelvic floor and also the respiratory system," he says.

According to Mumbai-based paediatric orthopaedic and spine surgeon Dr Ashok Johari, the lateral gliding movement of the neck, commonly used in Bharatanatyam, helps treat children born with torticollis, in which the head is tilted to one side. "It is now a standard manoeuvre in physiotherapy," says Dr Johari. He has made a presentation on the link between dance and therapy at the Scoliosis Research Society of America.

The dance form also has great impact on mental and emotional well-being. Nalini Prakash, a US based dance/movement therapist for instance, uses dance and movement in her work with individuals who have mental illness. "I have used elements of Bharatanatyam, like the navarasas to work with some of my patients who struggle with impulse control and anger management," she says. (Times of India, February 28, 2016)  -goTop

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