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Bharatanatyam legend Guru Geeta Chandran presented arangetram of disciple Mehak Chawla

Guru Geeta Chandran released another fledgling into infinite skies with the arangetram presentation of disciple Mehak Chawla on Mahashivratri, Saturday, February 18th, 2023 at Triveni Kala Sangam Auditorium, Mandi House, New Delhi.

Mehak Chawla, daughter of Rita and Raman Chawla has been learning Bharatanatyam since the past twelve years is ecstatic on the most important day of her life as a Bhartanatyam Dancer. She pays an ode to her Guru saying, “Dear Geeta Akka: You are special to me in so many ways. In you I have found a true Guru; you have truly lit my path and shown me direction. To me, you are a manifestation of the Goddess, the divine Mother whose presence and blessings have brought miracles to my dance. You have always and always invoked the best in me, and only stoked the positive, and for this I feel deep gratitude to you and thank God for leading me to you.

An arangetram is an important occasion in the career of any Bharatanatyam dancer. After twelve years, sometimes even decades of arduous training, when the Guru is confident that the disciple can sustain a solo performance, the arangetram is announced. It is an honour to the Guru, a momentous rite of passage, that marks the first milestone in the disciple’s journey into the ocean of Bharatanatyam. In the 35 years that Geeta Chandran has mentored students at Natya VrikshaMehak’s is the 50th arangetram performance that Guru Geeta Chandran is presenting.

The Gurukul

Geeta Chandran founded NATYA VRIKSHA in 1991 when six students came under her tutelage; NV has since grown to embrace many more disciples. Currently, nearly 200 students are being trained under NV.

Inspired by the traditional Guru-Shishya model of imparting education, the teaching pedagogy at NV incorporates elements of shruti-drishti-smriti (hear-see-imbibe). To disciples, NATYA VRIKSHA is a second home, a creative cocoon that feeds all the senses.

The South Indian languages (Tamil and Telugu) in which this dance form is traditionally based are unfamiliar to most of the students coming to NATYA VRIKSHA where there is a good representation of students from the north, east and west of the country, as well as the south. Geeta takes special care and interest in imparting the meaning and ideas underlying the lyrics the disciples learn.

Geeta also familiarizes her students with our ancient epics, legends and mythology, which form the foundation of the Indian classical dance experience. The library at NV is also an open resource for students and is also often the starting point for Geeta’s own solo work as well as the collective’s choreographies.

NATYA VRIKSHA also encourages inclusivity and the attitudes and values that Geeta forges, makes NATYA VRIKSHA an enlightened new-age institution.

The Guru

Vidushi Geeta Chandran is synonymous with Bharatanatyam the classical dance that she has practised for decades since her journey began at the age of 5 under the tutelage of her first Guru Smt. Swarna Saraswati who hailed from the traditional Daasi Parampara. Since then, her dance voyage has embraced intense learning under several stalwart Gurus. Yet, Geeta has imprinted Bharatanatyam with her unique personality where delicate shades of abhinaya are offset by extremely challenging nritta sequences. Her vast knowledge and training of Carnatic music further imbues her dance with a unique flavour.

A widely feted artist and star-performer, Geeta Chandran uses her deep skills in Bharatanatyam as ‘force multiplier’ for the widest range of classical dance issues that have engaged her focus: exploring linkages between body and mind; forging relationships between solo dancing, group dancing and choreography; actualising the connects between the artist and society; and using dance as a medium for expressing abstract notions of joy, beauty, values, aspirations, myth and spirituality.

Dancer/Choreographer Geeta Chandran is Founder-President of Natya Vriksha, the cultural organization that she founded in 1991, and which is established in New Delhi as a leading centre for training in Bharatanatyam in its most composite form. As a prominent Guru who is imparting invaluable classical dance knowledge to future generations, Geeta’s inspired contribution to Bharatanatyam’s teaching/learning pedagogy steeped in both tradition and modernity is widely acknowledged as a contemporary milestone in dance theory.

In her mission to “en-dance the universe,” she engages in a strategic range of dance-related activities: performing, teaching, conducting, singing, collaborating, organizing prestigious dance festivals and seminars, writing, and motivating a wide variety of youth audiences.

Geeta Chandran has received honours and awards from all parts of the world. Among her large stable of honours and awards are the PADMASHRI (2007); the CENTRAL SANGEETA NATAK AKADEMI AWARD (2016); and the TAGORE NATIONAL FELLOWSHIP (2018-2021). She is recipient of the NRITYA PERUNJYOTI 2020 title bestowed by ABHAI, the Association of Bharatanatyam Artists of India. The Indian Fine Arts Society (Chennai) has bestowed on Geeta its prestigious NATYA KALASIKHAMANI title and honour for 2022.

The Shishya

Mehak Chawla came under Geeta Chandran’s tutelage at Natya Vriksha in 2017.

Currently teaching at the Ambience Public School, Safdarjung Enclave, she has over eleven years’ experience of teaching Indian Classical Dance in schools & institutes and has been since 2012, an examiner with Akhil Bhartiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal, Mumbai.

She is the recipient of the Venkatraman Iyer Award of Excellence, Gurukul Anubhav Scholarship – SPIC MACAY, where she took a month-long intensive training of Kudiyattam under Guru Margi Madhu Chakyar.

Mehak holds a Bachelor’s degree in BCA, GDIT, B.A. & M.A. in Dance, Post Graduate Diploma in Yogic Science, Post Graduate Diploma in Cultural Management, Foundation & Certificate course is “Yogasana” and “Pranayama & Meditation” from the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga under Ministry of Ayush.

Mehak has performed at various dance festivals such as MANSA Dance Festival, Odisha Parba Festival, at International Yoga Festival conducted by Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga, at Tirupati for Nada Neerajanam – TTD SVBC (Shree Venkateshvara Bhakti Channel), Delhi Shristi National festival of Music and Dance, and the Natyanjali festival, to name only a few. She has also organized seminars & workshops nationally & internationally for Hansraj College, University of Delhi; Amity University, Haryana; Institute of Advanced Sciences, Dartmouth, USA. She along with her team at Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts (IGNCA) curated a 5-day Event “Changing Narratives 2020”. She also played a role in short film “Binnu Ka Sapna” directed by Kanu Behl.

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