Mrinalini Sarabhai’s autobiography ‘The Voice of the Heart,’ published by Harper Collins India in the year 2004, is now available for free download

Monday, November 22, 2010

From Arangetam to Aradhana

When I started Darpana in 1949 in Ahmedabad, the concept of dance was novel and looked down upon. It was not, therefore, till the early 60s that my first local students completed their 7 year basic course. I decided to institute the event of an arangetram, as it had been practiced in Tamil Nadu. For the first twenty or so years of Darpana's graduations, this solo arangetram continued with a couple of thousand young women performing it.

It was not till 1981 that I started feeling that parents of my dance students were bringing a monetary, wealth flaunting tinge into what should be a spiritual and maturing event. I started getting complaints that parents of less well off or poor children were being forced by their offspring to spend as much as the richer kids on the arangetram - buying expensive saris, feeding a thousand people, printing plush brochures, even giving gifts to all the guests. To put an immediate end to this, I decided to rename it aradhana, dedication, and to have groups of girls doing it together so that costs were controlled and shared, and the bhakti aspect of the sadhana was at its core. Girls were not allowed to spend any extra money, saris were given from Darpana, and girls were given jewels from older students. A common invitation card was designed by darpana and printed. The practice still continues in Darpana, while in other arts institutions arangetrams have become close to wedding like events.

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