I spent the past week in Chidambaram, at the Natyanjali Dance Festival that is held every year on the occasion of Mahasivaratri at the magnificent temple dedicated to Lord Nataraja.
My team at KutcheriBuzz web casts some of the recitals on all five days of the Fest while I provide the reportage.
While the stage in the eastern prakaram of the temple provides the space for dancers from all over the country and abroad to offer their ‘anjali’ the mornings often end up with animated conversations at the kalyana mantap where artistes and their guests are served breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On one morning, we had a conversation with scholar-teacher Dr. B. M. Sundaram and the livewire secretary of the Natyanjali Trust, A. Sambandam who is also an advocate.
We talked about the nadaswaram tradition in temple spaces and Sundaram, who has researched, documented and written on this artiste community said that Chidambaram is possibly the only temple where this tradition continues in its best form. And it can be witnessed at its best during the Navaratri and Arudra celebrations when the artistes perform as the procession winds its way through the mada veedhis from and to the temple shrine- an all-night affair.
Spaces and traditions are closely intertwined.
The nadaswaram conversation in Chidambaram brings me to the condition of spaces in our neighbourhood.
Spaces for art and for recreation, spaces for conversation and for the environment.
Last week, the community in CIT Colony in the Mylapore neighbourhood enjoyed the civic success they had achieved. They worked hard with the city’s civic body to convert a disused play area into a neighbourhood park.
Now, residents here can go for their daily walks, let their children indulge in fun games and sit around and chat as the sun goes down.
This space is now their own.
Importantly, they seem to be aware that unless they take charge of the space and maintain it, it may slide into a condition that the playground was in until recently.
The city’s civic body undertakes many development works. Though some of them are fancy and isolated which end up as wasted money, the ones that do serve a neighbourhood must be managed by its residents.
Story sessions, a walkers club, monthly music concerts, yoga classes . . . organised, hosted and managed by local groups will keep these places alive.
Spaces need our sustenance. So do the arts.