Madurai R Muralidharan presenting check for Rs 1,000,000 to Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin
in Chennai (photo provided)
When quintessential dance master Madurai R Muralidharan, one of the greatest choreographers and dancers of the Indian classical format of Bharata Natyam entered the Guinness Book of Records on August 1, 2021, it was not a new achievement.
It was a hat trick, the third achievement for the world-class producer, director, songwriter and guru; except that the exploit involved 900 people across continents.
It was a triple hat trick as Mr. Muralidharan entered simultaneously, for the third time, in the Asia Book of Records and the India Book of Records.
Many years ago, he received the title of “Kalaimamani”, the highest civilian honor awarded by the government of Tamil Nadu.
A humiliating experience
“I was touched by the dedication and enthusiasm of the participants. They were captured online performing as if they were in front of a large audience. I realized that they were indeed on the world stage, with the potential for billions of people watching their movement. They have done justice to the great art of Bharata Natyam, ”he said.
Mr Muralidharan said Lord Shiva, revered as Nataraja, the lord of the dances, was said to have been pleased with the simultaneous performance of hundreds of people.
Madurai R Muralidharan: Master of Bharata Natyam
Tribute to the Tamil language
The dancers were in line (Zoom) on ‘Tamil Annai’ (Tamil Mother), a Varnam, composed by Mr. Muralidharan, paying homage to Tamil, the world’s first and best language.
This reporter has often mentioned on community platforms that Tamil is not only the oldest language in the world, but also the first and one of six languages respected as “original languages” which are pure and chaste. The other languages that came after Tamil were Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, and Chinese.
Mr. Muralidharan had six reasons for attempting this feat.
They included 1. Supporting the Covid-Relief Fund as a Bharata Natyam dancer 2. Proving that it can teach over 900 dancers online at the same time 3. Proving that 900 dancers can perform simultaneously online 4. Secure a goal for future dancers to break this world record 5. Spread the value of classical Tamil through the art of Bharata Natyam 6. Create a historical event of precedence
“The online event was the first of its kind to be attempted anywhere in the world. The grace of Tamil Annai and Lord Nataraja allowed me to donate Rs 10 lakhs (approximately NZ $ 20,000) to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, MK Stalin, for the “Covid Relief Fund” established by the government from Tamil Nadu. I had the privilege of giving him a bank check (“sight draft”) for the amount at his office on July 28, 2021, ”he said.
Other events for Guinness
The first event that brought Mr. Muralidharan into the Guinness Book of Records occurred in April 2018 when he trained and directed over 320 Bharata Natyam dancers from around the world to perform the longest Sankeerna Dhruvam Tala.
The second achievement took place in April 2021, when Mr. Muralidharan rose to the “60 Jathis Challenge”. The event saw the participation of 140 dancers from around the world performing 60 Jathis nonstop.
“Among the participants who took part in the Guinness entries, there are underprivileged students who have received free education. They received the same care and supervision as all the other students, ”he said.
Madurai R Muralidharan teaches Bharata Natyam to students around the world (photo provided)
About Madurai Muralidharan
Madurai R Muralidaran from Chennai is a renowned dance choreographer, who has received critical acclaim for his creations in Bharata Natyam. He has about 1000 compositions to his credit.
He has composed and released over 130 audio albums exclusively for Bharata Natyam artists around the world. His compositions reflect innovations in Thalam (rhythmic patterns), Ragam (melodies) and Themes.
Mr. Muralidharan has composed songs in the 35 Thalams of the “Sooladhi Saptha Thalam” Carnatic System, over 120 Varnams and Jatheeswarams in the 72 Melakarata Ragas. Creating compositions in the 72 ragas is an accomplishment that Shri Muralidharan shares with one other, the late Dr. M Balamurali Krishna.
Guinness and other records
Mr. Muralidharan composed complete Margams (repertoires) in 15 different Thalams.
His 2018 Rhythm Festival ‘Chaturvidham’ featured four Margams on a rare Thalam.
The festival culminated with a live class with over 320 students learning nattuvangam and choreography for an Alarippu staged on Sankeerna Jaathi Dhruva Thalam, the longest Thalam in the Carnatic system. This class set Guinness, India Book and Asia Book records for the greatest live Bharatha Natyam dance lesson.
His unique compositions include a dance depicting everyday life on the soundtrack of a heartbeat, a Varnam on the sun god (Surya), a Shabdam on Jesus, a performance of Krishna’s dance on the five-headed serpent Kalinga , Kauthuvams on Mother and Father, a Keerthanam on the Indian Independence Movement and articles on women’s empowerment.
His compositions are frequently used by Bharatha Natyam dancers of different styles and regions.
Mr. Muralidharan’s thematic repertoires include Sri Anjaneya, which focuses on the stories of Lord Hanuman and Nayaka, exploring different roles in the lives of men from childhood to adulthood. He has composed several whole Margams in rare Thalams, including ‘Ashta Dasa Margam’, in Misra Jati Ata Thalam, Akhanda Margam, composed in Kanda Jati Ata Thalam, and Nava Dhruvam, composed in Sakeerna Jati Dhruva Thalam, the longest Thalam cycle with 29 Aksharas.
‘Madhura Geetham,’ a Times of India special publication, recognized him as a mainstay of Indian classical dance and music. He established the ‘Nrithyakshethra Dance Academy in Chennai in 1978 and has since trained over 1000 dancers.