The bestower of Knowledge and Wisdom, the tree bearing the branches -- The Guru. A teacher instructs, a Guru inspires. The Guru sets an example and since dance [Natya] is a spiritual pursuit, the teachers are called Gurus after some years of experience and stand out through their well - trained disciples.
Gurus are indispensable in order to tread the best and safest path. Natya opens up a broadbased spectrum, generous enough to accommodate all people irrespective of any caste, sex, or creed provided they have the required potential and dedication.
The disciples gain knowledge at the feet, near the Guru literally and in the ancient Gurukula system, the disciples offered diligent and arduous service to their Gurus including Pada-Puja [offering obeisance at the feet] to receive blessings.
The Guru occupies a godlike position and the presence of a Guru is essential to master the art which can hardly be learnt well with mere technological tools that is through videos or online classes. There are hardly any traditional families of dance Gurus anymore.
My Guru, Sri K Kalyanasundaram is one such renowned octogenarian from the Tanjavur Parampara of the great Isai Vellalar Nattuvanar communities who have set benchmarks in the field. Today, students lack commitment and are in a hurry to pick up bits and pieces as if it is a cafeteria.
Guru-bhyo Namaha is being replaced by Google-onamaha and the mouse and the fingertips are the keys! What touches my heart as a teacher is the earnest eagerness to learn , excel, practice and innovate. Humility is a must, else one cannot acquire or receive the best.
I rarely appreciate intervention from others during training sessions with students, as I consider my role as a foster parent where dance is concerned. Each student is different and this is a divine art which cannot be taught from blackboard to the book.
In dance training, we literally elevate the disciple and doorways to the physical, emotional and spiritual sheaths need to be opened up to get the finest result. One moulds clay and when its form shines, who is the happiest? There are moments when I see a creative spark in a disciple and immediately give a laudatory remark. But I chide often and tell them to become their worst critics as well.
This life-long relation is unique and of highest value. But when the seed grows into a sapling, a plant, a fruit-bearing tree, the farmer sometimes gets forgotten, but that is a way of life and teaches the Guru not to be possessive of students.
They have to take wings and fly to great destinations and if they cherish gratitude, they are fortunate ones, as it is the past births’ merits that one gets to learn arts as these.
No price tag can justify this intellectual asset which fulfills the heart. All of us still continue to learn every day, isn’t it? I always believed that a teacher is one who assists self-discovery ultimately.
There are different types of Gurus according to Swami Narayanananda: Dhatuvadi: One who leads the disciples through the practice of various kinds of sadhanas.
Chandana: Like a sandal tree, he transforms others by his sheer proximity.
Vichara: He refines the intellect and teaches the disciples to distinguish the true from the false, the eternal from the transient.
Parasa: Like the philosopher’s stone, he reaches the disciple to the goal by his mere touch.
Kachchapa: Like a tortoise, he brings change by his mere glance.
Chandra: He operates like the rays of the moon on the moon-stone ■ Darpana: His being reflects the Truth to the disciple ■ Chhayanidhi: Like the mythological precious stone of the name, his very voice turns the baser nature into the divine ■ Krauchapakshi: This bird feeds its young ones by just thinking of them; the Guru of this type does likewise.
Suryakanta: Like the concentrated rays of sun focused on an object, his glance suffices to lift the disciple to his goal.
(The author is a Bharatanatyam dancer and teacher)