I haven’t seen Rabindranath Tagore. Indeed I was born long after he had passed away. But he is intricately associated with every facet of my life. I am a dancer and as such don’t work with words. But I have a propensity to think and love to think a lot. I don’t know whether I will be able to pen down my thoughts adequately. Even so, when I was asked to say something about Rabindranath Tagore, I could not say no. Because what I am today, however inconsequential that may be, has been possible only because of him. Not only me; many people from the elite and cultured classes, especially women who are associated with dance, would agree with me.
I am a student of Rabindra Bharati Vishwavidyalaya. In that sense, I am that much closer to him. During my college days when I went to his ancestral home at Jorashanko, we had a professor Dr. Shankarlal Mukhopadhyay. He was an ardent admirer of Rabindranath. During lectures he would recount dramatically, “When I walk down the pebbled road of the house, I get goose bumps even thinking about the fact that Tagore walked down the same path some day.” We laughed about it and even imitated him at times. I had never imagined that I would be writing this somewhere. But today I don’t have any reservation in admitting that when I think about it now, I can’t help feeling the same. Especially thinking about those library steps, where we sat and indulged in idle chatter and where Tagore sat after his wife’s death and penned a very famous song about the fatality of life. I didn’t experience this earlier. It could be due to the lack of maturity, experience or depth then , or the abundance of gratitude that I feel for him as a dancer now. In the beginning of the 20th century due to many reasons, the elite had lost respect for dance as an art form. Calcutta understood dance as a variation of the nautch girl’s performances. Even during the worst phase of dance, it is astonishing to think that in Shantiniketan, amidst other important work, Rabindranath thought afresh about a movement around dance. Tagore’s contribution to the renaissance of dance as an art form is memorable. Dance, which was earlier an embodiment of physical beauty took on spiritual connotation, thanks to Tagore. He put dance at the same level as other subjects in the curriculum. The ever reaching effect of this has been the fact that, today, the women from cultured upper middle class families (Otherwise referred to as Bhadraloks) in Bengal are continuing their education in dance.
He would participate in many dance programs. He would include the women folk from both his family and other cultured families in the various programmes that he would conduct. Gradually he brought back the lost respect towards dance as an art form. It would take reams of paper to detail his dance philosophy, structure, vision and creation.
I have learned under the tutelage of several notable dance gurus like Padma Shree Guru Damayanti Joshi ji and Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj . I have learnt Rabindranritya as well. Today, as a Guru myself, I have made it compulsory for students to learn Rabindranritya out of my gratitude towards him and to propagate his philosophy of dance. I have garnered a lot of respect and accolades as an artist and guru with the blessings of my gurus. But I am also conscious of the fact that had Rabindranath Tagore not brought back the respect for dance as an art form in the minds of people I would not have been able to learn, let alone reach this stage. So thinking about the depth of my gratitude as a mere performer and guru towards him makes me extremely proud. Today the fact that I live with dignity, proudly introduce myself as an artist and dancer and the amount of respect that I have gained in this field all of this has been possible due to him. I will be eternally grateful to him for this. I am not at all embarrassed to admit that I am indebted – forever indebted to him.
Arteastic is grateful to Smt. Moli Siddharth for writing this piece on invitation. Smt. Moli Siddhart is a renowned Kathak dancer with an MA (Gold Medal) from Rabindra Bharti University Calcutta. She is also a Nritya Bivakar (Kathak and Rabindra Nritya) from Bangiya Sangeet Parishad (West Bengal),Nritya Prabhakar (Kathak) from Prayag Sangeet Samiti (Allahabad), Nritya Visharad (Kathak) from Pracheen Kala Kendra (Chandigarh),Nritya Bhushan (Bharat Natyam) -from Pracheen Kala Kendra (Chandigarh), Sangeet Prabhakar (Rabindra Sangeet) from Prayag Sangeet Samiti (Allahabad), Sangeet Manjari (Hindustani Classical) from Bangiya Sangeet Parishad (West Bengal) and Nritya Sree (Odissi) – Bangiya Sangeet Parishad (West Bengal).
Among her several achievements, a few are:
• Recipient of a National Award – “Rabindranath Tagore Rashtriya Kala Samman – (Nritya)” of Madhya Pradesh for the year 2013.
• Recipient of the Women’s Achiever Award, 2018 by Young Environmentalists Programme Trust.
• Author of a book on Kathak theory using simple question answer methodology for the ease of use of students
• Times of India released a music album of an anthology of her writings called ‘Antare Acho Tumi’
Smt. Maya Chatterjee,
Late Smt Bela Arnab,
Late Padmashree Smt. Damayanti Joshi ,
Guru Rabindra Atibudhi. (Odissi)
under the guidance of
Padma Vibhushan Pandit Birju Maharaj,
Smt. Saswati Sen