Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir

Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, Mumbai, enters into its 64th year. These golden years depict the undaunted and dedicated service of the Guru Parampara to the ancient classical Indian art form of Bharatha Natyam, universally acclaimed to be an epitome of Indian cultural ethos, and unfolds a significant phase of the saga of seven successive generations, which deserves to be etched in letters of gold.

It was the year 1945. When the alien rule was in its dying embers,our country at the threshold of Independence and Bombay, the dynamic centre of Indian resurgence, was pulsating with pride everything that was nationalistic, be it social, political, economic or cultural. 

In such atmosphere was founded the Kala Mandir in Bombay by Guru Sri A. T Govindraj Pillai, assisted and enthused by his wife Smt. Karunambal.

Govindraj Pillai

Born on 22nd June 1914, in a family devoted to music and dance for generations, Guru Ayyampettai Thyagaraj Govindraj Pillai had first started his music lessons from Veerabhadra Pillai. Later he has been thoroughly trained in the intricacies of Carnatic music by the veterans Vidwan Markhanda Pillai and Vidwan Venugopal.

By sheer dint of hard work and intense devotion to the art, Guru Govindraj Pillai has reached the pinnacle of fame which very few could accomplish. It was just after he has married the only daughter of Bharatha Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai, that the genius of Guru Govindraj Pillai came to be recognized in the filed of dancing. Smt. Karunambal has been a great source of inspiration and of immense help to Guru Govindraj Pillai in imparting tuition to the students. He has amassed huge knowledge in Bharatha Natyam technique from the vast treasures of Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai’s erudite scholarship.

The longfelt need of the art lovers of Bombay for a traditional dance academy was at realized with the birth of sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir. With

the blessings and active participation of Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai, Guru Govindraj Pillai founded this model dance academy in Bombay in early 1945 to propogate this art of Bharatha Natyam in its pristine purity, beauty and vigour.He has not only imbibed all that is to be learnt from great masters, but he has also succeeded in teaching this art to innumerable devoted students.

In recognition of his very distinguished and meritorious services in the field of Bharatha Natyam, The Tamil Nadu Sangeet Nataka Academy, Madras conferred on Guru Govindraj Pillai the prestigious title of ‘Kalaimamani’ and the award of the best Bharatha Natya Vidwan of 1971. Majestic in his nattuvangam and melodious in his singing, Guru Govindraj Pillai had conducted over 2000 arangterams and nearly 10000 concerts in India and abroad. Notable amongst these concerts include the prestigious performances in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur in 1973, and in Sydney during the Sydney Festival in 1977. On the invitation of the Sangeet Natak Akademi and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations he led a troupe of 30 artistes to Nepal where he presented the wellknown dancedrama”Vasanthavalli” in the year 1982. Unassuming, amiable, gentle Guru Govindraj was the embodiment of simplicity, sincerity, devotion and sterling character. His legacy is continued by his son Guru Vasant Kumar.

Kuppiah Pillai

Born in 1895 in Thanjavur to Panchapakesa Nattuvanar, the king of Abhinaya, who wrote the book in tamil, Abhinaya Navaneetham. He spent his childhood mastering the art of bharatha natyam , and lanuguages , sanskrit, telugu and tamil, a scholar par excellance, he was credited to making many a students, great dancers.

Bharatha Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai being honoured by Indira Gandhi, then Prime Minister of India.

Bharatha Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai was the prime architect of Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, regarded today as an institution par excellence for Bharatha Natyam. His " Kamala Chakram", a lotus wheeled compendium depicting the matra -based complex 108 talas, besides the popular 35 ones, is invaluable to all students of music and dance. He was the first Natyacharya to be honoured with the Fellowship of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi.

Spreading its wings far and wide, the has carved a niche for itself, training a thousand and more students and etching its own path to maintain the rigour and vigour of this art millenair and for preserving and propogating the tenets of Thanjavur style, the sine quo non of which is " aesthetic grace", all this was possible only with the great guidance of bharatha Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai.

Bharatha Vidwan Guru T.P. Kuppiah Pillai receiving the the Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowship, the first by a Nattuvanar, belonging to a the Thanjavur tradition to receive the award.

He was a store house of knowledge linking the past with the future and through his son in law, Guru A. T. Govindraj Pillai and sons, Guru Mahalingam Pillai and Guru Kalyanasundaram, he became the pivotal figure in Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kal Mandir, and his compositions and teaching style is still continued to this date.

Mahalingam Pillai

K Kalyanasundaram

Presently, as a Director of the Sri RajaRajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, Guru K Kalyanasundaram is the torch - bearer of the Tanjore tradition of Bharatha Natyam. With his innovative and imaginative choroegraphy, he has distinguished himself in unique presentations at the Manifestations Of Shiva ( World Shiva Meet, Philadelphia, March 1981 ), the Sydney Arts Festival and the Singapore Arts Festival. Full length productions of the compositions of Saint poets Purandaradasa, Adi Shankara and Thyagaraja; dance dramas Vasantavalli, Thyagabrahmanjali, Sri andal, Charanapaduka, Skanda Leela, Pancha Kanya, Sri Krishna Leela, have been very well received by the critics and connoisseurs. Guru Kalyanasundaram's students have featured at prestigious dance conferences and festival. In November 1986, along with other eminent gurus of other classical dance styles, a widely acclaimed presentation of " National Integration Through Dance ". In 1988, he was awarded the Sharandev Fellowship by the Sur Singar Samsad for his outstanding contribution to the art of Bharatha Natyam and the title of Natya Kalanidhi.Exclusive compositions of Mahakavi Bharathi( presented at Bharathi’s Centenary Celebrations at his birthplace Ettayapuram in 1981)and Saint Purandaradasa( presented on his 500th birth anniversary at New Delhi in 1984) are notable among the presentations of other composers.

With his troupe, he has toured extensively, presenting recitals in Australia, Europe, USA, Canada, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia. In 1989, he led a 10 - member dance troupe to participate in the First International Arts of China and presented a programme at Singapore to celebrate the centenary of Jawaharlal Nehru.

His latest presentation Jaya Jaya Krishna and Pancha Kanya have been widely acclaimed. Guru Kalyanasundaram had a successful cultural tour of Colombia, Mexico and Japan in 1992. On the joint invitation of Kanada Sangha of Toronto and Ontario Arts Council and the Sampradaya Dance Academy , Canada, he had choreographed and presented a special production Purandara Vandana in August 1993.

In 1996, March, with his troupe, he had a successful trip of North America, where he presented two of his productions, Vasanthavalli and Jaya Jaya Shankara.

The latest offerings ‘Mahathmanjali’ an unique production based on the noble ideals of Gandhi and ‘Nandanar’ a moving dance drama of the great devotee of Lord Nataraja presented at Los Angeles in July 2002 have received great admiration.


The success of this venture led to the migration of father -in - law, the patriarch maestro, Bharatha Vidwan Sri T.P Kuppiah Pillai and family from Thanjavur, that repository of our ancient art and culture, to Bombay, the city of dynamism and growth.Starting with just four students, the Kala Mandir, in course of time, grew into a large banyan tree, with sons Guru T.K. Mahalingam Pillai and Guru K. Kalyanasundaram adding their mite.

The Rajarajeswari Gurus have an illustrious lineage of ancestors dating back to more than two centuries. Sri Venkatakrishna Nattuvanar was patronised by the Maratha Serfoji II of Thanjavur. The second generation of Sri Veeraswamy Nattuvanar and his sister Chinnaappa Ammal were followed by the renowned Sri Panchapakesa Nattuvanar who was the Samasthana Vidwan of Thanjavur and Ramanathapuram courts. He was also honoured by the royal houses of Baroda and Mysore. An adept in Abhinaya he is credited with compiling in Tamil the " Abhinaya Navaneetham ", a monumental treatise on Abhinaya, a practical guide specially on Hastabhinaya.

His only son Bharatha Vidwan Kuppiah Pillai was the prime architect of Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, regarded today as an institution par excellence for Bharatha Natyam. His " Kamala Chakram", a lotus wheeled compendium depicting the matra -based complex 108 talas, besides the popular 35 ones, is invaluable to all students of music and dance. He was the first Natyacharya to be honoured with the Fellowship of the Central Sangeet Natak Akademi.

His son-in-law Sri A.T.Govindraj Pillai and sons Sri T.K.Mahalingam Pillai and Sri K. Kalyanasundaram, along with daughter Smt. Karunambal and daughter - in - law Smt. Mythili Kalyanasundaram have helped the institution to blossom into what it is today - a legend of unalloyed, pristine Bharatha Natyam. Spreading its wings far and wide, it has carved a niche for itself, training a thousand and more students and etching its own path to maintain the rigour and vigour of this art millenair and for preserving and propogating the tenets of Thanjavur style, the sine quo non of which is " aesthetic grace".

Smt. G. Karunambal

Smt. Karunambal, the present Principal of Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, is the daughter of Bharatha Vidwan Guru T.P. Kuppiah Pillai, belonging to the great Thanjvur Nattuvanar Parampara . She is the fourth generation of dance gurus tracing her lineage which started from Venkatakrishna Nattuvanar, her grand father Panchapakesa Nattuvanar was author of abhinaya Navaneetham.  The Gurus were the asthana vidwans of the Samasthanams of Baroda, Ramanathapuram and Thanjavur.

Smt. Karunambal.is known for her strict disciplined teaching , is most loved and admired by hundreds of her disciples. It is only after her marriage to Kalaimamani Guru A.T.Govindraj Pillai, founder of the Kala Mandir, and with the blessings of her father Bharatha Vidwan Guru T.P. Kuppiah Pillai , she taught dance along with her husband from the day the school was founded in 1945. She taught deligently and trained many brilliant students, Damayanti Joshi, Kamini Kaushal, Nalini Jayawant , Guru Mani of Kalasadan, Praveena Vashi, Sudha Chandrasekher, Lakshmi Iyer, Jayam and Asha Amarnath are well known among hundreds of her disciples. She was the leader of the Cultural troupe of the Kala Mandir that performed in 15 cities in America and Canada in 1995, as part of the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Kala Mandir.

During the Golden Jubilee Celebrations she handed over The Guru A.T.Govindraj Pillai rotating to be given to the best bharathanatyam dancer, in the Mumbai University Youth Festival  held every year. Presently , she continues to be the guiding force for the gurus, teachers and students of the Kala Mandir.

 

Smt. K. Mythli

Born in 1940 in Thanjavur to Smt. Rajalakshmi and Sri Ratnasabapathy, from a family of musical lineage, being the neice of none other than the great Nadaswaram Chakravarthy T.N. Rajarathinam Pillai, Mythili was given in marriage to Guru Kalyanasundaram , grandson of the Abhinaya exponent and Natyacharya  Panchapakesa Nattuvanar.

She spent her childhood listening to the great music concerts held at her uncles house and also at Smt. Kamalambal, the famous dancer of yester years..

Trained in the thanjavur style of dancing , Mythili at the young age of seven years did her arangetram , trained by Pandanallur Meenakshisundaram Pillai and under the watchful eyes of eminent danseuse of that time Smt. Kamalambal, who also conducted the performance. She performed for about eight years after that at various places in and around Thanjavur. Smt. Kamalambal was trained by none other than Kandasamy Nattuvanar, grandfather of Guru K.P. Kittapa Pillai. Her performances were well appreciated by the great gurus of that time as at that young age she used to do Tamara Saksha sabdam and Khamas varnam, with great finese. Among her many perfomances were Sarabhendra Bhopala Kuravanji staged in the Sangeetha Mahal at the Thanjavur art galleryin 1955, and the arangteram and many other performances that were conducted in the grand hall of Guru Ponniah Pillai's house in Thanjavur.

Soon after her marriage was actively involved with Sri Rajarajeswari. Extremely adept at teaching dance , she is one of the senior Directors of the institution, giving constant guidance to the students from her vast experience spanning more than five decades in this field. Her indept understanding of the students, lovingly called Mythili Mami, by one and all, she is the loving mother of the students, constantly taking care of their needs backstage. A constant source of inspiration to her husband , Guru Kalyanasundaram, she is credited for having designed the costumes of all of his major works which, includes the major group presentations and ballets, performed in major cities in India and abroad, in countries like Nepal, China, Singapore, United States of America and Canada.


Presently, Mythili Kalyansundaram is one of the senior directors of the Kala Mandir, imparting her vast knowledge to the disciples of the institution.

Vasant Kumar


Guru G. Vasant Kumar, son of Kalaimamai Guru A.T. Govindraj Pillai, founder of Sri Rajarajeshwari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, hails from the family of traditional Natyacharyas (Dance Teachers) representing the seventh generation of a legacy of ancestors patronized by King Serfoji of Thanjavur, the royal courts of Baroda and Ramanathapuram. He has imbibed this great art form from his grand-father, Bharatha Vidwan Guru Kuppiah Pillai, father Kalaimamai Guru A.T. Govindraj Pillai, mother G.Karunambal and his maternal uncles Kalaimamai Guru T.K. Mahalingam Pillai & Kalaimamai Guru Kalyanasundaram.

Currently as one of the Directors of the Kala Mandir Guru Vasant Kumar has trained many students and has conducted innumerable programs both in India & abroad, to name a few :

  • Switzerland,
  • The middle East, Dubai, Sharjah, Muscat
  • The United States of America.
  • He has presented the disciples of the Kala Mandir at many National Festivals in major cities like New Delhi, Calcutta, Chennai, Chandigarh, Bangalore, Mysore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Vadodara, Surat, Bahvnagar, Nagpur, Nasik, Pune.
  • Has a very unique style of presentation & is credited to be the first to sing a jathi in a particular raga format for a Jathiswaram.
  • Has contributed immensely to the art of Bharatha Natyam through his imaginative choreography.

M. Vishwanath

Guru M. Vishwanath hails from an illustrious family of Nattuvanars who have been practising and teaching the Tanjore style of Bharatha Natyam for several generations. He is the grandson of Bharatha Vidwan (Late) Sri T. P. Kuppiah Pillai and the son of Kalaimamani (Late) Sri T. K. Mahalingam Pillai of Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, Mumbai.

He received his training in this divine art form from his grandfather Bharatha Vidwan (Late) Sri T. P. Kuppiah Pillai, maternal uncle Kalaimamani (Late) Sri. A.T.Govindraj Pillai, paternal aunt, Smt.G. Karunambal and father Kalaimamani (Late) Sri T. K. Mahalingam Pillai & his uncle Kalaimamani Sri K.Kalyanasundaram.

He has also been trained in Carnatic Vocal by Sangeeta Vidwan Sri S.Ramachandran and in playing the Mridangam by Mridanga Vidwan Sri K.R. Chandramouli.

Guru M. Vishwanath has been teaching Bharatha Natyam for the last 27 years. He has prepared several students for their Arangetrams. He has presented his senior students and choreographed for several prestigious programmes, charitable functions, etc.


He has toured and conducted shows in various places in India. He has also conducted a show titled, ‘Dance of the Immortals’, for the Shakti School of Bharatha Natyam, LA, USA, in 1985.

He is one of the Directors of the Kala Mandir and continues to impart training to his students in Mumbai.

K. Harikrishna



Lauded for his choreographic excellence in the thanjvaur bani of the Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir, Guru Harikrishna is a dynamic choreographer, composer and nattuvanar, who has acquired extensive knowledge and expertise through long years of training, research and performances.

He is the disciple and son of the legendary dance Guru , Natya Acharya Guru Kalyanasundaram and nephew of Bharatha Vidwan Kalaimamani Guru T K Mahalingam Pillai. He represents the Thanjavur tradition of bharathanatyam , is the seventh generation in an illustrious lineage of natyacharyas (master teachers) who were honoured at the the royal courts of Baroda and Ramanathapuram. His great grandfather, Panchapakeshanattuvanar was the author of Abhinaya Navaneetham, a treatise in Tamil on the theory of bharatanatyam.

As one of the directors of Sri Rajarajeswari Bharatha Natya Kala Mandir,
Guru Harikrishna is actively involved in teaching, conducting dance camps and workshops , conducting performances and arangetrams, creating new work and staging them for which he has received rave reviews for his music, choreography and nattuvangam. Guru Harikrishna Kalyanasundaram has a distinctive approach to creating new classical repertoire and has created several new compositions for dance which have been showcased by dancers in India, USA and Canada.


Choreographer, composer and conductor, has acquired extensive knowledge and expertise through long years of training, research and performances. Harikrishna Kalyanasundaram has a distinctive approach to creating new classical repertoire and has created several new compositions for dance which have been showcased by dancers in India, USA and Canada.

Not resting on its oars, the institution has trained the current generation of Gurus Shri G. Vasant Kumar, Shri M. Vishwanath and Shri K. Harikrishna who have already proved their mettle to carry on the parampara tradition. The Gurus of Rajarajeswari have blazed new trails in adapting the training to the needs of changing times, inculcating Gurukula norms in institutional coaching and giving a new facade to presentational format. The Gurus have been adept in adapting polyglot lyrics to Bharatha Natyam so as to instill National Integration in true sense. The versatality of the Gurus shines through the dance dramas, the ballets, the ekaharya depictions they have choreographed , in all of which, the aesthetic grace of the Thanjavur Bani glows unalloyed

Bharatha Vidwan Guru T. P. Kuppiah Pillai
Fellowship of the Sangeet Natak Academi
Kalasikhamani - Tamil Nadu
Guru A. T. Govindraj Pillai
Kalaimamani - Tamil Nadu Govt
Natya Kalanidhi - Tyaga Raja Sabha, Coimbatore
Guru T. K. Mahalingam Pillai
Award from Sangeet Natak Academi
Gaurav Puraskar, Govt of Maharashtra
Kalimamani Tamil Nadu Govt
E Krishna Iyer Medal - Sruti Foundation
Sarandev Fellowship - Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai

Guru K. Kalyanasundaram
Award from Sangeet Natak Akademi Natya Kalanidhi - Tyaga Raja Sabha, Coimbatore
Kalaimamani - Tamil Nadu Govt.
Sarangdev Fellowship - Sur Singar Samsad, Mumbai
Natya Selvam - Tamil Eyal Isai Nataka Mandram.


Over the years, a number of students have won the National Cultural Talent Scholarships both at the Junior and Senior levels. And many have established their own schools both here and abroad for carrying on the Thanjavur Bani.

Cultural Delegation & Foreign Tours:
Australia, France, Germany, U.K, Switzerland, Holland, Singapore, Indonesia, China, Nepal, U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, Colombia, Japan & Malaysia

Major Fund Raising Programmes:
Prime Minister's Relief Fund, Koyna Relief Fund, Drought Relief Fund and a host of other efforts for helping academic and cultural institutions.
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