Sonal Mansingh’s disciple leads Pashupatinath’s prayers in Nepal

March 2nd, 2011 - 2:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, March 2 (IANS) As hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees Wednesday celebrate Maha Shivaratri, the festival of the deity worshipped as the lord of all living beings, a 46-year-old classical dancer from New Delhi is leading the ritual worship at the hallowed Pashupatinath shrine in Kathmandu.Santanu Chakraborty, the disciple of Indian doyenne Sonal Mansingh, renowned for her mastery over both the Odissi and Bharat Natyam dance forms, will be performing inside the grounds of the 7th century temple with his students, praising Shiva through a Bharatnatyam recital.

Chakraborty, who accompanied Mansingh during her performances all over India and abroad, says it is a unique honour and thrilling moment to be allowed to pay tribute during a festival that draws the largest crowd in Nepal.

The son of migrant parents from Bangladesh, Chakraborty was born in 24 Parganas in West Bengal but was brought up and educated in New Delhi.

“During our time, few men dared to become dancers by profession,” says Chakraborty who acquired a degree in painting from Delhi Art College. “I began attending my guruji’s classes secretively, without the knowledge of my family.”

It was Mansingh’s constant encouragement that gave him heart and after additional training under V. Krishnamurthy, he felt he could become a professional dancer.

Chakraborty came to Kathmandu two years ago, when the Indian Centre for Cultural Relations started a full-fledged Indian Cultural Centre in the Nepali capital.

On Wednesday, he and eight of his students will perform “Ananda-tandava” during a 30-minute show before the shrine, just ahead of the elaborate aarti programme at night.

It will be followed by a second performance at the Kirateshwar temple up a hillock close to the Pashupatinath temple.

“Though Shiva is regarded as the destroyer and his tandava is the dance of annihilation, we like to focus on the moments of joy associated with the god, like when he is in the company of his consort Parvati,” says Chakraborty.

“Shiva also stands for truth and beauty and his mythical abode Kailash has a special relevance in Nepal, the land of the Himalayan ranges.”

Though salsa, zumba, B-Boying and other modern western dances are taking over young people in South Asia, especially Nepal, Chakraborty says he has discovered that classical Indian dances, especially ballets in praise of the Hindu gods, can still draw youngsters, especially boys.

“There are almost a dozen young boys in my class of 50,” he says. “It is an encouraging sign. This is probably because Nepal is still a Hindu nation at heart.”

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at

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