in Chennai (Photo Supplied)
When Madurai R Muralidharan, a dance master par excellence, one of the greatest choreographers and dancers of the Indian classical format of Bharata Natyam entered the Guinness Book of Records on August 1, 2021, it was not a new achievement.
It was a hat trick, the third achievement for the world-class producer, director, composer and guru; except that the feat involved 900 people across the Continents.
It was a triple hat trick since Mr Muralidharan simultaneously entered, for the third time, the Asia Book of Records and India Book of Records.
Many years ago, he was awarded the title ‘Kalaimamani,’ the highest civilian honour conferred by the Government of Tamil Nadu.
A humbling experience
“I was humbled by the dedication and enthusiasm of the participants. They were captured online performing as though they were in front of a large audience. I realised that they were indeed on the world’s stage, with the potential of billions of people watching their movement. They did justice to the great art of Bharata Natyam,” he said.
Mr Muralidharan said that Lord Shiva, worshipped as Nataraja, the Lord of Dances, would have been pleased with the simultaneous performance of hundreds of people.
Madurai R Muralidharan: Master of Bharata Natyam
Tribute to Tamil Language
The dancers were online (Zoom) performing to ‘Tamil Annai’ (Mother Tamil), a Varnam, composed by Mr Muralidharan, paying homage to Tamil the world’s foremost, first and finest language.
This Reporter has often mentioned on community platforms that Tamil is not only the oldest language in the world but also first and among the six languages that are respected as ‘Original Languages’ that are pure and chaste. The other languages that came after Tamil were Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Hebrew and Chinese.
Mr Muralidharan had six reasons to attempt this feat.
They included 1. Supporting the Covid-Relief Fund as a Bharata Natyam dancer 2. Proving that he can teach more than 900 dancers online at the same time 3. Proving that 900 dancers can perform simultaneously online 4. Setting a goal for future dancers to break this world record 5. Spreading the value of Classic Tamil through the art of Bharata Natyam 6. Creating a historic event of precedence
“The online event was the first of its kind to be attempted anywhere in the world. The Grace of Tamil Annai and Lord Nataraja enabled me to donate Rs 10 lakhs (about NZ$ 20,000) to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M K Stalin for the ‘Covid Relief Fund’ established by the Tamil Nadu government. I was privileged to hand over a Banker’s Cheque (‘Demand Draft’) for the amount to him at his Office on July 28, 2021,” he said.
Other Events for Guinness
The first event that gave Mr Muralidharan an entry into the Guinness Book of Records occurred in April 2018 when he trained and put on stage more than 320 Bharata Natyam dancers from all over the world to perform the longest Sankeerna Dhruvam Tala.
The Second achievement was in April 2021, when Mr Muralidharan rose up to the ‘60 Jathis Challenge.’ The event witnessed the participation of 140 dancers from all over the globe executing 60 Jathis nonstop.
“Among the participants who participated in the Guinness entries include underprivileged students who were taught free of charge. They received the same care and coaching as all other students did,” he said.
Madurai R Muralidharan teaches Bharata Natyam to students all over the world (Photo Supplied)
About Madurai Muralidharan
Madurai R Muralidaran of Chennai is a renowned dance choreographer, who has won critical acclaim for his creations in Bharata Natyam. He has about 1000 compositions to his credit.
He has composed and released more than 130 audio albums exclusively for Bharata Natyam artistes worldwide. His compositions reflect innovations in Thalam (rhythm patterns), Ragam (melodies) and Themes.
Mr Muralidharan has composed songs in all 35 Thalams of Carnatic ‘Sooladhi Saptha Thalam’ system, over 120 Varnams, and Jatheeswarams in all 72 Melakarata Ragas. Creating compositions in all 72 ragas is an accomplishment that Shri Muralidharan shares with only one other, the late Dr M Balamurali Krishna.
Guinness and other Records
Mr Muralidharan has composed full Margams (repertoires) in 15 different Thalams.
His 2018 Rhythm Festival ‘Chaturvidham’ presented four Margams set to a rare Thalam.
The Festival culminated with a live class with over 320 students learning the nattuvangam and choreography for an Alarippu set to Sankeerna Jaathi Dhruva Thalam, the longest Thalam in the Carnatic system. This class set Guinness, India Book and Asia Book records for the largest live Bharatha Natyam dance lesson.
His unique compositions include a dance depicting daily life to the soundtrack of a heartbeat, a Varnam on Sun God (Surya), a Shabdam on Jesus, a depiction of Krishna’s dance upon the five-headed snake Kalinga, Kauthuvams on Mother and Father, a Keerthanam on the Indian Independence Movement and pieces on Women’s Empowerment.
His compositions are frequently used by Bharatha Natyam dancers of different styles and from diverse regions.
Mr Muralidharan’s thematic repertoires include Sri Anjaneya, which centres on the stories of Lord Hanuman and Nayaka, exploring different roles in life for males from boyhood to adulthood. He has composed several entire Margams in rare Thalams, including ‘Ashta Dasa Margam,’ in Misra Jati Ata Thalam, Akhanda Margam, composed in Kanda Jati Ata Thalam, and Nava Dhruvam, composed in Sakeerna Jati Dhruva Thalam, the longest Thalam cycle with 29 Aksharas.
‘Madhura Geetham, ‘a Special Publication of The Times of India, recognised him as a Stalwart of Indian Classical Dance and Music. He established ‘Nrithyakshethra Dance Academy in Chennai in 1978 and since then has trained more than 1000 dancers.