If you’re passionate about music and would like to excite the artist in you, Nrityagram has much in store for you. Tucked away in the countryside forests of Hessarghatta, this is a place where nothing exists, except dance. Also called as the Dance Village, Nrityagram is basically India’s first modern Gurukul founded by the famous Odissi danseuse, Ms. Protima Bedi. It’s not only a "Gurukul" which imbibes ancient Indian traditions of a student residing with his master but it is also an architectural delight. With stone and brick facades, landscaped rock gardens, fountains and a waddling parade of geese, this marvelous cultural village combines a form of ethnic, western, and contemporary looks. Ideally suited for meditation, dancing and living a stress-free life, Nrityagram trains students from throughout the world in distinct areas of traditional Indian dance, including Bharatanatyam, Odissi, and Kuchipudi. Perhaps, it’s a community of dancers in a forsaken place amidst nature.
The history of Nrityagram goes back to 1990 when the well-known Odissi dancer, Protima Bedi laid the stones of the Gurukul. While her idea was to develop a traditional Gurukul to teach all forms of Indian classical dance like Odissi, Mohiniattam, Kathak, Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali and Manipuri, the Dance Village also became a well-known resort for meditation. Designed and developed by the well-reputed Indian architect Gerard daCunha, the village was characterized by mud buildings, verdure, and a composed peaceful environment. Eventually, the Dance Village became quite popular in the neighborhood for its vernacular architecture. With hundreds of artists flocking to the Gurukul every year, the Nrityagram Dance Ensemble made its first international debut at New York in 1996. It received rave reviews and applauds worldwide. Gradually, Nrityagram gained much fame and popularity under the guidance of Protima. But when she suffered from a mild heart attack, Lynne Fernandez, a Delhi-based theatre actress, and light designer became actively involved in managing the institution. Eventually, Protima formally handed over Nrityagram to Lynne Fernandez on 10 July 1997, who became the Managing Trustee of the Gurukul. The same year in August, Protima Bedi set off on a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar. It was there that she died in the Malpa landslide, near Pithoragarh on the night of 18 August 1997. Since then, Nrityagram grew by leaps and bounds. Today, it is well known for some of the best ensemble work, high level of good technical support and perfect dance presentation. Among the different dance forms, Odissi gurukul has been functional under Bijayini Satpathy who was the first student of Nrityagram. Also, Surupa Sen who first came as a student in 1995 later became artistic director of Nrityagram. Even today, students and Gurus work in the fields within the Nrityagram and grow their own food. Every year, Vasanta Habba festival is held in February to celebrate the arrival of spring. Artists from all around the world flock to Nrityagram to perform at the amphitheater during this festival.
With its wonderful ambiance and ethnic look, Nrityagram attracts several artists throughout the year. Even though you might not be an artist, this unique dance village has ample attractions to offer such as Temple of Dedication, Amphitheater, four Gurukuls, walking trails, and manicured lawns. It encompasses several mud houses, a yoga center and many guest cottages too.
Temple Of Dedication
The mystic temple stands erect near the Hesaraghatta Lake, welcoming people to Nrityagram. Built-in 1998, it depicts Protima Bedi's Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra in various dancing poses. Decorated with panels depicting the elements, dance motifs, mudras and designs from costumes and ghungroos, the temple reveals skilled art and craftsmanship. Apart from the beautiful carvings, it also has a granite rock scooped out to hold water and a flame that stays lit throughout the day. Made of mud and fire, the Temple of Dedication is a true form of nature’s elements and one must visit it when touring Nrityagram.
Nrityagram Dance Village is widely known as the first contemporary Gurukul in the country. In fact, it’s one of the major artistic and cultural hubs in Karnataka too. Here, you can find different gurukuls for different dance forms such as Odissi Gurukul, Mohiniattam Gurukul, and Kathak Gurukul. These Gurukuls have their partitions adorned with amazing stone sculptures. Based on the old guru-shishya tradition, classes take place six days a week for eight hours per day.
- Odissi Gurukul: Created in the fashion of early Orissan Temples, the Odissi Gurukul stands out remarkably amongst the other architectural buildings. It is popular for some of the best group works in Odissi dance form.
- Mohiniattam Gurukul: It reveals a pastoral feel with a hidden dance hall and a sloping thatch roof.
- Kathak Gurukul: Meandering pathways lead to this Gurukul, Built-in granite and red-brick stone, the Kathak Gurukul is distinct from its large airy windows and rock-filled archways.
Apart from these dance forms, these Gurukuls also provide training in other Indian classical dance forms like Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Kathakali, and Manipuri.
Nrityagram is famous for its yearly spring festival called Vasantha Habba. It is held every year in the first week of February to celebrate the arrival of spring. During this festival, an all-night dance and music program is held where music and dance connoisseurs from around the world execute. Perhaps, it serves as the best platform for artists to get in contact with the finest abilities in this field.
The mud buildings are engulfed with well-maintained gardens that make it a relaxing area. These beautiful gardens develop everything from flowers and fruits to vegetables and pulses