Over the past two months, more than 600,000 Rohingya people have been driven from their homes, had their land destroyed, and endured torture and rape while searching for safety. Remember what happened in Rwanda? Now, pay attention to Myanmar.
The Rohingya are often described as among the most persecuted people on earth. They are a predominantly Muslim ethnic group, and despite having lived in Myanmar’s Rakhine state for centuries, they’re refused citizenship. For years, their movement has been restricted, and they have been denied access to education, health care, and other basic services.
Under the guise of fighting insurgency, or terrorism, the Rohingya have suffered what the UN has called a “textbook case” of ethnic cleansing. Since 25 August, almost half the Rohingya population in Myanmar has been driven out – one of the fastest movements of people in recent decades.
Bangladesh has opened its borders and is doing what it can, which is a lot for the most densely populated country on earth, already fighting poverty and the consequences of climate change.
The international response to the Rohingya crisis has fallen far short of what’s needed. The UN appeal is still underfunded, and world leaders have not put sufficient political pressure on the government.
Myanmar is no longer a pariah state; it has a democratically elected government and has been flooded with foreign direct investment over the past few years.
The corporations who have invested in this region must speak up and divest, unless human rights are respected, or they too will be complicit in these horrendous acts.
This Friday, world leaders will gather at the Asean summit but the Rohingya crisis is nowhere on the agenda. We call on leaders to pressure the Myanmar government to stop these atrocities, grant the Rohingya citizenship, and allow them to return to a place they call home.
Countries must fully fund the UN appeal and close the funding gap that is leaving traumatized children without basic food, water, and shelter. Finally, member states of the United Nations must assess what diplomatic efforts can enable them to fulfill their responsibility to protect the Rohingya.
We must not be bystanders to this genocide. We cannot allow people to be slaughtered and burnt out of their homes, while the world watches.
After every atrocity, we say: “Never again.” We must mean it.
“All that has a beginning by necessity must have an end. In destruction, truly nothing is destroyed but the illusion of individuality. Thus the power of destruction associated with Lord Shiva has great purifying power, both on a more personal level when problems make us see reality more clearly, as on a more universal level. Destruction opens the path for a new creation of the universe, a new opportunity for the beauty and drama of universal illusion to unfold. As Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram or Truth, Goodness and Beauty, Shiva represents the most essential goodness.”
The term ‘yoga’, for many, means physical postures, and that too twisted, impossible ones. But that’s not the rendition of yoga I am referring to here.
Yoga simultaneously means to be in perfect tune. Your body, mind, spirit and existence are in absolute harmony. When you fine-tune yourself to such a point where everything functions beautifully within you, the best of your abilities will just flow out of you.
When you’re happy, your energies always function better. In fact, when you’re happy, you have ceaseless energy. Even if you don’t eat or sleep, it doesn’t matter; you can go on and on. So just knowing a little happiness liberates you from your normal limitations of energy and capability.
Yoga is the science of activating your inner energies in such a way that your body, mind and emotions function at their highest peak.
When your body and mind function in a completely different state of relaxation and a certain level of bliss, you can be released from most suffering. You come to your office, and you have a nagging headache.
Modern science tells you that the whole of existence is just energy manifesting itself in different ways. Though all of us are made of the same energy, we don’t function at the same level of capability. What you call capability, talent, ability or creativity, these are just a particular way in which your energy functions.
The same energy, in one plant, creates rose flowers; in another, it creates jasmine. By gaining a bit of mastery over your own energies, you will see things that you never imagined possible, you will do them simply and naturally.
The same mud with which we construct huge buildings, is also used to build little huts. What you call a computer is dug out of the earth. We thought we could only dig mud and make pots or bricks out of it. Now we dig the earth and make computers, cars, and even spacecraft out of it. It’s the same energy; we have just started using it for higher possibilities. Our inner energies, too, are like that.
There is a whole technology of applying this energy for higher possibilities. Each one of us must explore and know this. Otherwise, life becomes limited and accidental; you get to do only what you’re exposed to. Once you start activating your inner energies, your capabilities happen in a different sphere altogether. Yoga is a tool to find ultimate expression to life.
Bani means tradition. It’s the dance technique and style specific to the guru/school. These are named according to the village of the guru (with the exception of a couple banis).
Here’s a breakdown:
Pandanallur (for the sake of brevity, I’m grouping Pandanallur and Thanjavur styles together). This style stems from the Thanjavur Quartet, four brothers who worked in the early 19th century Thanjavur Royal Court as musicians and dance composers. This style mainly draws from their repertoire, maintaining some of the oldest compositions in dance. Pure dance movements are linear and geometric, and abhinaya is more classically stylized rather than realistic. They’re also responsible for creating the current structure of the Margam.
Alarmel Valli - Learned from the doyen guru of Pandanallur, Chokalingam Pillai (who descended from the Thanjavur Quartet) and his son Subbarayya Pillai. She’s a little more fluid with her movements, owing to her training in Odissi.
T. Balasaraswati - The famous Balasaraswati was a student of Kandappa Pillai (also a descendant of the Thanjavur Quartet). Her style is renowned for it’s exquisite abhinaya, though the nritta is not as polished as the other styles. In my estimation it’s what I would imagine the Devadasis used to dance like. Beautiful abhinaya, but unrefined nritta.
Students of Kalakshetra and Rukmini Devi - Rukmini learned from Pandanallur Meenakshi Sundaram Pillai (father in law of Chokalingam Pillai), and made several changes to the Pandanallur bani, creating the Kalakshetra style. It’s even more linear and geometric, and certain moves are exaggerated (like the torso bending in the arudi here). Abhinaya is also very stylized and unrealistic, and there is less emphasis on overly sringara based items.
Vazhuvoor - Created by Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai, this style is more feminine, emphasizing laasya over tandavam. Most traditional performances begin with a Thodaya Mangalam in praise of Gnana Sabesa, the reigning deity of Vazhuvoor town.
Chitra Visweswaran - Chitra learned from Ramiah Pillai the doyen guru of Vazhuvoor. Very fluid and feminine, with realistic abhinaya. Lots of poses as well.
Padma Subramaniam - Also a student of Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai. Here you can definitely see the realistic abhinaya. Her nritta is a little different with more emphasis on poses and karanas and she developed a different style later on, calling it BharataNrityam.
Kamala Lakshmanan - Star disciple of Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai, she also performed dances for Tamil Cinema, many of which were choreographed by her guru.
Sumitra Nitin & Sunanda Narayan and Rhadha - Radha is Kamala’s sister and also learned from Vazhuvoor Ramiah Pillai. As you can see there’s little more linearity and precision. Also note how the knees are bent in the dith-ith thei’s instead of extended out.
Priyadarsini Govind - Student of Rajaratnam Pillai, who was a disciple of Vazhuvoor Ramiah. To contrast her with Chitra Visweswaran, you can see she’s very precise with linear movements. Malavika Sarukkai, another student of Rajaratnam, is also similar.
Mellatur - Created by Mangudi Dorairaja Iyer, who revived Shudda Nritta and Perani (dancing on clay pots). His style eschews items praising living patrons (thus most of the Thanjavur Quartet repertoire) and encourages dancers to stamp the floor softly, focusing on the sound created by the salangai.