Dancing at Kedarnath, a lifetime & wonderful experience

Bharatanatyam dancer Nalla Rama Devi in recent times is the only dancer, who along with her students, performed outside the Kedarnath Temple in the summers of 2019. Recalling that performance in a chat with Natyahasini, Rama Devi says that it was a lifetime and wonderful experience. “I have been to a few States and countries till date, but in all, I liked performing at Kedarnath a lot, as we felt lot of positive energy there,” she says. 

Rama Devi mentions that they started their journey to perform in the sacred Himalayas on May 12, 2019 and reached Rishikesh the next day. “The beautiful Ganga Harathi at the Triveni Sangam was followed by our dance performance, which was witnessed by lakhs of pilgrims and received lot of applause. The Pandits at the Ganga Ghat honoured us with the Rudraksha Mala and Lord Shiva’s blessed shawl. On May 14th morning, we started off to Badrinath Temple, which was a difficult 13-hour Ghat road journey. The temperature there was -2 to -4 then. Even after a strenuous journey, we could perform on May 15 in traditional Bharatanatyam attire,” says the multi-talented dancer.  She states that during the performance, which was witnessed by the visiting pilgrims, they did not feel the bitter cold, but once the program ended, they felt the chill enter the spine. “The energy to perform was bestowed on us by the Lord of Dance, Nataraja – Lord Shiva,” she expresses. The dancer has the privilege of performing in many big temples like Sitarama Temple in Bhadrachalam, Srikalahasthi Temple, Shiva temple in Srisailam, Shiva temple in Paapikondalu… etc. in the Telugu states.

Visit To Lanka: The Bharatanatyam dancer, who has performed in Malaysia, Dubai, Vietnam, Sri Lanka and Indonesia in 2018 & 2019, says that they enjoyed their visit to Sri Lanka the most, as it relates to Hindu mythology. “Since my childhood, I have heard about the Ramayana, the abduction of Goddess Sita by Demon King Ravana to Lanka, so to see the place connected to mythology was very interesting,” says the founder of Sri Vari Padalu Bharatanatyam Dance Academy. The dancer further says that they also gave performance inside the Shaktipeeth Temple in front of Mata Shankari Devi. “We are willing to perform again if we get an opportunity,” she says. If the pandemic hadn’t stuck, Sri Vari Padalu students would have been flying their flag high giving more performances across the globe. 

Not one to sit on past laurels, Rama Devi keeps motivating herself and her students to diversify. She feels sorry that as a kid, she did not have such opportunities. “Because of the lockdown there have been no live programmes, but since normalcy is returning, opportunities to perform are coming. My students recently took part in three advertisements and a song for a film,” she shares. She also utilised the lockdown time to grow her dream garden. “Before the pandemic, I used to go to the Gym daily for two hours, now I am using this time in my garden for watering and gardening. I have started growing different varieties of vegetables, fruits, flowers, herbs. Also, we stopped purchasing leafy vegetables & vegetables from outside,” she states. 

Jyothsna Chandra

Organic Farming: The Green Thumber announces that almost any fruit or vegetable plant can be grown in a container, provided the container is large enough. “You can easily grow herbs and all varieties of vegetables and fruits. There is lot of difference in organic vegetables and you can spot the difference when you start eating these veggies and fruits. Then you will always try to grow your own food,” she says. The dancer adds that she prepares Jeevamrutham (village method) at home. She thinks that using this is helping her maintain a good garden. 

Recalling her dancing journey, Rama Devi says that her father worked in the Singareni Collieries and her mother was a homemaker and they had no idea about art and music. But still encouraged her and she is the first classical dancer in her entire family. “My mother joined me at Guru Girija Devi garu’s class, who taught Bharatanatyam and English, to learn alphabets. But I started copying the adavus taught in dance class, observing this she informed my mother,” she says.

Learnt Kuchipudi Also: Born and bought up in Kothagudem, Bhadrachalam in Khamam District, Rama Devi had the privilege of learning under great gurus like Smt. Sithamahalxmi garu, Smt. Indira Hema garu and Smt. Rajeshwari Sainath garu and also had the honour of sharing the stage with them during Bharatanatyam recitals. “My quest for knowledge led me to Smt. Dr. P. Rama Devi garu, who encouraged and taught me the Kuchipidi dance form. I have the good fortune of performing in both the dance forms,” says the artist. 

After completing her graduation, Rama Devi took up a corporate job, but continued to learn and perform dance. With encouragement from her husband Anand Ganesh and children Rohitha and Jyothsna, Rama Devi quit her job and founded Sri Vari Padalu in 2015. Armed with a Certification from Potti Sree Ramulu Telugu University under the guidance of Smt. Indira Hema ma’am, she not only trains children in this beautiful art, but also adults.

Vijayawada Prog: Rama Devi shares that her daughters too are dancers. “After the establishment of Sri Vari Padalu Bharatanatyam Dance Academy, the first out station stage show along with my daughters was in Vijayawada through Natyaswara (Anna Rao Sir). Dancing with my daughters is the charm and beauty they brought to me. This is a turning point I can say for the recognition of the Academy. Teaching them along with my students, I treat them as students only,” she admits. 

Her eldest daughter Rohitha says that her mom introduced her to classical dance forms when she turned a teenager, but in the beginning, she resented it. “As I began to learn the dance it became very interesting and now it’s an important part of my life. My mother is very supportive! She is very strict and punctual when it comes to dance. She has kindled a lot of interest and love for the art form in me,” says Rohitha.

The youngest daughter Jyothsna Chandra shares that her mother started teaching her dance when she was six years old. “I like to learn new songs and perform in different shows. Initially, my mom was not strict, but now she is very strict and wants us to be sincere in learning dance,” says Jyothsna. 

Sharing her future plans, Rama Devi says it is to look after the Dance Academy and do Organic Farming. While Rohitha wants to explore new dance forms and walk in the footsteps of her mother, Jyothsna too wants to learn new songs, dance forms and perform in different cities and pursue Agricultural Studies.

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