His sudden demise has created a void that positively is tough to be crammed. Because, he was like a bridge between the previous and the current. Without the presence of such individuals, it’s troublesome for artistes to undertake any research or analysis into the assorted fascinating sides of this style.
The entire dance fraternity is shocked over his passing away. Gurus like him didn’t simply train the repertoire, they handed on the custom and tradition.
Known for his untiring efforts to promote the artwork, Guru Herambanathan represented an age-old legacy in Bharatham, and held aloft the flag of the Thanjavur bani. I bear in mind the two-and-a-half-hour lecture he delivered for the BFA and MFA (Bharatanatyam) college students of the SASTRA University at Nrithyodaya, Chennai. He opened their eyes to the gorgeous heritage of Thanjavur, that has been a seat of tradition.
In Thanjavur, the artistes had been categorised as belonging to ‘thattu’ (nattuvangam), ‘muttu’ (enjoying mridangam), and ‘aattu’ (dancing) households. Guru Herambanathan belonged to the hereditary ‘Muttukkaarar’ household, who performed mridangam for Sadir.
Apart from the deep data of talas that he inherited, and showcased when performing the nattuvangam or accompanying as a percussionist, he additionally started instructing dance.
He made historical past by turning into the primary dance teacher from Isai Vellalar group for the Bhagavatamela actors in Melattur. This Bhagavatamela troupe, beneath the stewardship of Mahalingam, made Herambanathan arrange the dance parts of their natakas. He even grew to become an integral a part of the orchestra. As a outcome, one received to see an awesome mix of the Bhagavatamela and Nattuvamela.
When I convened the Thanjavur utsavam, on behalf of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi, in February 2022, guru Herambanathan gave a lecture on the adavu strategies and instructing methodology with demonstration by his younger college students. His unassuming nature made him a real pal of the fraternity.
It is a matter of nice solace that his sons, Swaminathan and Hari, will proceed the centuries-old custom.
The author is a veteran Bharatanatyam dancer and scholar.