Dancing in gratitude to their guru

Manjula (in blue saree) leading rehearsals for a Navarathri dance performance at the academy.

Hindus are thought to respect teachers as according to a Tamil saying, “he who imparts education, is God Himself”.

Vijayadashami, which is the 10th day of the Hindu festival of Navarathri, is thus a day for all teachers, said Manjula Moniraj, the founder of a bharatanatyam dance academy in Klang, Selangor.

“Most gurus will have a huge celebration with their students on the 10th day of Navarathri.

“It is compulsory for dance and music students to come to class and pay their respects to their guru on this day,” she explained.

Daarshini Adhittan, who has 21 years of experience as a bharatanatyam dancer with the Manjula Narthana Kalalayar Academy, said Vijayadashami was an auspicious day for Indian classical dancers to seek the blessings of their teachers.

“It is believed that by expressing gratitude to these four creators – our mother, father, guru and God – we will see positive changes in our lives,” she explained.

Navarathri is a nine-day festival that celebrates the Divine Feminine.

This year, the festival is taking place from Sept 26 to Oct 5.

Daarshini: Hindus believe that by expressing gratitude to their gurus during the festival, they will get blessings in life.Daarshini: Hindus believe that by expressing gratitude to their gurus during the festival, they will get blessings in life.

The nine days of Navarathri are dedicated to Goddess Shakthi in three forms – Durga (the first three days), Lakshmi (the next three days) and Saraswathi (the last three days).

Saraswathi pooja, which falls on the ninth day of Navarathri, is when Indian classical dancers and singers will place their dancing props or musical instruments at the feet of the goddess until the next day.

By doing so, it is believed that their dancing and musical skills will receive the divine blessings needed to flourish until the next Navarathri.

Navarathri is when the love for classical Indian dance and music shines most bright, with various performances lined up throughout the festival.

While several classical Indian dance forms are performed during Navarathri, bharatanatyam is the most popular among celebrants in Malaysia.

“Facial expressions, steps as well as hand movements and gestures vary for the depiction of each goddess, and there are different stories and lessons told in each performance,” said Manjula

“There are also drama performances, where dancers dress up as gods or goddesses, and the stories told are based on what is requested by temples,” she added.

Navarathri celebrates the defeat of the demon Mahishasura by Durga, signifying the victory of good over evil.

Apart from that, Manjula said it was very important for performers to maintain a vegetarian diet during the nine days and nights.

“We believe this is a ritual that must be followed strictly before getting into the character of gods or goddesses for performances,” she explained.

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