On July 17th two young dancers fulfulled a dream, dancing for Lord Siva Nataraja in the Kadavul temple mandapam. Shreya is 16 and her sister Akshaya is 11. Their mother, Usha Venkatesh, had arrange for the family to fly to Kauai from Arizona just for this special offering to Siva. The sisters danced their hearts out and visitors were amazed at their grace and discipline. Akshaya danced for Lord Ganesha and Shreya offered her dance to Siva Nataraja.
For some, it was the first Indian dance they had ever seen. Their father played a solo mridangam piece for all to enjoy while waiting for the auspicious moment.
Returning home, the girls wrote of their experience, shared below:
Shreya Venkatesh: Since I was five years old, I have been learning the art of Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance. Depicting the divine poses present in the Lasya by Goddess Parvati and in the Tandava by Lord Nataraja himself, Bharatanatyam conveys devotional praise and beautiful stories to any audience. What is most amazing about Bharatanatyam, and what sets it apart from many other dance forms is that it can explain complex ideas and stories to inform people about Indian culture and social issues. Perhaps most fulfilling for the dancer, Bharatanatyam can incite awe, joy, and devotion from the audience through sharp, precise movements and artful expressions.
Yet, although these facts are important in understanding Bharatanatyam, they do not come close to expressing the reason for my love of the art form. Bharatanatyam is one of the few forms of dance in which the dancer can actually convey emotion through facial expressions and movements, also known as abhinaya. While it may be strenuous at times, it gives me so much joy to explain Indian mythological stories through dance to an American audience and watch them appreciate different cultures and values. Given the opportunity to dance at the Kauai Hindu Monastery was a blessing and I was happy to hear that the attendees could embrace their devotion for Lord Nataraja through my dancing.
To me, dance is freedom and comfort. Being able to create something beautiful using only my own movements is something amazing that only dance can provide. I enjoy putting effort into making my style of dance excite an audience and getting them interested in the stories I tell. To put it simply, dance is the language I know best. If I could speak the words, they would be powerful, but those words would never capture the depth and meaning that dance can.
Akshaya Venkatesh: I started taking Bharatanatyam classes when I was six years old. Dancing at the Siva temple in Kauai was an amazing experience. I really felt I was able to show my devotion to God through my dance at the Siva temple. I wanted to dance to a song that talks about the lord of good fortune, Ganesha. We worship Lord Ganesha before beginning any new task and seek His blessings to remove any obstacles along the way.
I always love to perform and while dancing, I forgot about the huge crowd of people; I felt like God was the only one watching me. The Siva temple is the only Hindu monastery in Kauai and it is incredible how much dedication and time being devoted by the holy gurus at the monastery for the Hindu deities. Being able to dance in front of God and the gurus was a huge honor on an auspicious day such as Guru Purnima.
Dance is precious to my sister Shreya and me, and we were so happy to be surrounded in the mandapam by 108 tandavas (dance poses) of Lord Nataraja carved in bronze, 54 on each side when we danced for the Lords. This experience was the highlight of our visit to Hawaii trip!