An American Learning Indian Culture
Bharatanatyam is a form of classical Indian dance, popularly seen in South India. One of the popular schools of Bharatanatyam dance in Arizona is the Ponnambalam Golden Temple of Fine Arts.
“Ponn” means gold in Tamil and “am Balam” means temple. Both of these create the synonym for “Kanaka Sabha” in Sanskrit, where Lord Natraja, the Hindu God of dance, an avatar of Lord Shiva, performed at the holy place Chidambaram in Tamil Nadu.
The Ponnambalam Golden Temple of Fine Arts, which has centers in Bangalore and Mumbai, is a non-profitable organization formed by artists, art lovers, and art critics with the sole aim of propagating and promoting the Indian classical art forms of music and dance, according to a flyer about the dance school.
Under the guidance of Guru Ranjani Ganesan Ramesh of Kalakshetra, a student of this dance school moved to Arizona and is teaching young girls and adults in the Valley to dance to Bharatanatyam.
Ramya Ranganathan is a popular Bharatanatyam dance teacher in the Valley. She commenced PGTFA’s Arizona chapter in 2014. Since then, she and her students have performed in many Arizona venues and let her branch of the dance school succeed.
Ranganathan said she was only a newborn baby when her maternal grandmother saw her and decided that she should be a dancer.
“She said I have the face and feet of a dancer,” Ranganathan said.
Ranganathan started learning dance at the age of eight under Guru Malathi Thothatri. After eight years under Thothadri’s tutelage, she performed her arangetram, which is a debut on-stage performance for an Indian classical dancer, after which she “performed in different dance festivals and sabhas in Chennai." Ranganathan studied for a total of 12 years under Guru Thothadri.
Ramya Ranganathan (center) performing with two other dancers at Pima Hall at the Memorial Union on Arizona State University's Tempe campus on April 8th, 2017
Ranganathan started her advanced training under Guru Ramesh after she got a job at Intel in Bangalore.
“I took advanced training under her and performed in the Bangalore and Bombay crowd because her school is based in Bangalore but her family is from Bombay,” Ranganathan said. “I had to travel quite a bit, shuttling between the two.”
Ranganathan said Guru Ramesh taught her the Kalakshetra style of Bharatanatyam dance and how to take dance to the spiritual level.
“She taught me that dance is for everybody,” Ranganathan said.
When Ranganathan moved to the US, she took a break from dance due to having children and doing her Master's at the University of Southern California majoring in multimedia creative art technologies. However, her teacher Guru Ramesh guided her to start the Ponnambalam Golden Temple of Fine Arts Arizona chapter in 2014.
Every year, Ranganathan hosts the Jagadananda Karaka, which is a “platform to promote the youth talent, encouraging and showcasing the youth talent within Arizona.”
“This was the second year we conducted the Jagadananda Karaka and we plan to continue doing it every year,” Ranganathan said.
Through Jagadananda Karaka, Ranganathan is currently trying to raise funds to build a temple called a Ramashramam for an auspicious idol of Lord Rama in Selaiyur in Chennai, Tamil Nadu in India.
This particular idol of Rama is that of his “pattabhishekam” or crowning ceremony after returning to Ayodhya after his 14-year exile.
The key aspects of the idol are shown in the picture of the flier below.
A description of the auspicious features and symbolism of the particular idol of Rama that Ramya Ranganathan is raising funds to build a temple for in Selaiyur, Chennai.
“I want to request all the noble hearts of Arizona and worldwide to provide financial support to be able to consecrate this Sri Ananda Rama in the Ramanasramam,” Ranganathan said.
Ranganathan said that donations can be sent to the Thirunamacharyan Trust, the details of which are included in the flier she provided.
Ranganathan said you can also reach her for donations or ideas for funding via Facebook or email.
Manisha Rewani [MBA]
AirCrews Aviation Pvt. Ltd