Sunday, December 13, 2009

Shiva, Nataraja and Orion

V.R.Devika gave an illustrated talk on Shiva, Nataraja and Orion at the literary club of Gymkhana club of Chennai on 12th December 2009. It was organised by club member and Chennai favourite gourmet cook and cook writer and textile expert Sabitha Radhakrishna.
more pictures at

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Fundraising with Nalamdana, Kalakshetra and Perch

PERCH volunteers did a very loving flower kolam on 21st and 22nd November 2009 at the entrance of Kalakshetra koothambalam. PERCH the theatre group headed by Rajiv Krishnan had offered their very successful English plays based on the famous Malayalam author Vaikkom Mohammed Basheer's short stories for fund raising for the activities of Aseema and Nalamdana. We at Aseema use traditional performing arts for message dissemination and Nalamdana uses theatre. We are partners in projects with World Education. It was Nitya Balaji of Nalamdana who suggested we have the fund raiser jointly and we went along though we were doubtful if we can raise any funding and sell tickets at all. The plays are brilliant and provide vignettes of life of ordinary people in Kerala in fun filled action packed stories. I asked Leela Samson an amazing woman who heads Kalakshetra for the space. She readily agreed to give us the Koothambalam as we do our projects in Besant Arundale school and Besant Theosophical schools run by Kalakshetra foundation. We had a really good time. On 21st I thought there may not be more than twenty people but more than three hundred people turned up with Tamil film actors Surya, his wife Jyothika and brother actor Karthi turning up long before the crowd began to come in. They stayed till the end and enjoyed the programme. On 22nd I thought there would be a bigger crowd. there was a crowd, but not bigger than the Saturday crowd.
We had the satisfaction of a perfect coalition event with all partners, Aseema, Nalamdana, PERCH and Kalakshetra coming together in great camaraderie. It was worth doing even if to discover the possibility and values of friendship and team spirit.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gnanasamudhra award to V.R.Devika

more pictures at
Samudhra magazine for the arts awarded "Gnanasamudhra" title to V.R.Devika for her work in linking arts and education during their 7th anniversery celebration on 15th November 2009. The award was presented by philonthrophist Nalli Kuppuswamy Chetty and Mrs.Y.G.Parthasarathy, dean and director of Padma Sheshadri Schools. Dr.Srinidhi Chidambaram inaugurated the function by lighting a kuthuvilakku and Mr.Natarajan, former director of Doordarshan and Mr.Nagai Muralidharan participated. The citation reads "Samudhra is proud to confer the title "Gnana Samudhra" on V.R.Devika art educator, writer and critic during its 7th anniversary celebration in recognition of her innovative approach in linking art and education and using it as an effective tool especially among children. May God Almighty bless her with long life and strength to continue rendering service towards the cause of fine arts" signed by Dr.Nalli Kuppuswamy Chetti, Patron and Dr.Radha Bhaskar, editor.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Childrens Day

14th November Children's' Day.
V.R.Devika was chief guest at a sharing session with children with social and economic disadvantages organised by play school Yellow Bus at Shastrinagar women's association premises. They presented costume dance and a puppet show for children and gave them gifts. There were some collage work also. Kalanjiyam, our partner organisation came and distributed free audio Cd's of Pappara Mittai consisting of stories told by children to children. V.R.Devika did some story telling too.
more pictures at

Reinventing Education

On November 11 and 12, V.R.Devika, managing trustee of the aseema trust took part in a two day conference on smarter education for a smarter planet conference organised by IBM in its reinventing education project of activity based learning for primary schools. She is on the advisory board of IBM's reinventing education projects. She introduced our partner organisation Kalanjiyam to IBM.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Ashok Leylands School

A session on gandhi for classes 8 , 9 and 10 of Ashok Leyalands school in Hosur on 6th November got great response from students. Wonderful interactions.
Afternoon was a presentation on Traditional Performing arts in Education for teachers with story telling. Wonderful response again. Teachers were really full of fun and great participants.
Pictures are at

the drive to Hosur from Chennai was just beautiful with a very good road, a very pleasant weather and great scenery. Driving back from Hosur to Chennai was very interesting. We lost our way and were on the way to Salem and had to turn back to come to Chennai. The rain in Chennai was just unbelievable.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Kathai Aruvi with Kalanjiyam

more pictures at
We had a workshop on Gandhian ideals in education and story telling for schools teachers from various little villages in Kalanjiyam centre at Kalluppatti village near Madurantakam. Please see the mail below. We gave away 20 sets of Kathai Aruvi sponsored by Ramanan Lakshminarayanan. Raviraj and his wife Mansa Devi bought 5 acres of land at Kalluppatti and have been doing great value addition to panchayat and governement schools around that area. They are cultivating the land and all the produce is for the children. Amazing work with Kalanjyam staff being the women in the area who go around to the schools and see to clean toilets, health cards for children, ensuring children wear slippers and look for other needs of the school. They are doing a library and strengthening the govt primary schools in the area. check out
This is a reaction from Raviraaj
Dear Devika,
Greetings from Kalanjiyam. I, Mansa and all at Kalanjiyam were extremely happy with your visit today and all will cherish the time you spent with us. As always, I learned a great deal from you, as did our staff. The program today will be very useful and valuable for our teachers who participated. They will really benefit from the Kathai Arivu and hope that you will come again to give more inputs to our children and teachers in this regard. We will share with you on how the teachers use the Katahi Arivu in the near future. Primary Schools participating today were:
from Kalpat, Dharmapuram, Periya Vellikkadu , Chinna Venmani Periya Venmani, Ariyanur,. Melakaandai, Kizhakaandai, Maruvalam, Zamin Endathur, Ozhavetti, Athivakkam, RC School, Pavunjur, RC School, Nelvaipalayam, DGSEA Vilvarayanallur, Gurukulam, Maduranthakam, Thiruvangunam, Melapattu, Mambakkam, Kandaracherri, Maduranthakam, Nelvai, Vedavakkam, Nethapakkam, Nesapakkam
with regards

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Ahimsa Devi

Ahimsa Devi The Aseema Trust is very happy with the success of the performance of "Ahimsa Devi" a dance on attributes of non violence choreographed by V.R.Devika and Premnath with the students of Avvai Home. This choreography was a part of discourse on non violence along with a project on reproductive health, sex and sexuality and HIV Aids that we are doing in parternship with World Education. Sessions on HIV and Aids were done by Nalamdana and on sex and sexuality by Raviraj of Kalanjiam, our partner organisations. Bombay Jayashri sang the sixty Sanskrit names of Ahimsa Devi's attributes with Ananthanaryanan on Mridangam and Ganapathy on percussion. Music direction and recording was by Sai Shravanam A Tamil translation of the words written and tuned by Lakshmi, music teacher at Avvai Home was sung by the girls before the performance. The girls also enacted a play on HIV and AIDS and sang a song on health and empowerment from their sessions with Nalamdana
report in the Hindu Young World
Tuesday, Oct 13, 2009
Setting Ahimsa to dance
Students of Avvai Home presented "Ahimsa Devi" in dance form to a rapt audience.
The girls explained how Ahimsa devi grants protection, bounty, access to knowledge and happiness.
Expressions : Explaining the significance.
You know Ahimsa as something that Mahatma Gandhi preached and followed till the very end, but did you also know that Ahimsa was personified as a Goddess in Jainism? Twenty six girls from Avvai Home enlightened all present at their school about the concept and her various names. “Ahimsa Devi” was a production conceived and organised by Aseema Trust as a part of their extended Gandhi Jayanthi celebrations.
In dance form
The girls, dressed in knee-length cotton sarees and pyjamas, depicted a third of the Goddess’ 60 names through dance that was set to a song sung by Bombay Jayashri, accompanied by Ananathanaryanan, the Veena exponent of Kalakshetra and musician Ganapathy on Mridangam, Tabla and Pakhawaj. The soulful music blended well with the smooth choreography by guru Premnath, a long-term associate of Aseema in its workshops.
In the dance, the visibly nervous but excited girls explained to the audience how Ahimsa Devi grants protection, bounty, access to knowledge, generates happiness and bears our sins.
“When I was reading a book on Ahimsa, I stumbled upon this ideology of the Jains where a concept is personified as a Goddess, just like how we have personified ‘Mother India’.
I was also reading about the 60 different names that she has and then it struck me that it would be interesting to make it into a dance production. That’s when I started working on it,” explains V.R. Devika, Managing Trustee, the Aseema Trust.
The girls, all of them students of Std XI, who participated in the programme were also equally enthusiastic about having a different outlet apart from just academics and also put up a social awareness play on HIV AIDS as it was important to raise awareness and educate their fellow students about it.
Apparently, the girls were involved in a discussion about the “Ahimsa Devi” production and they examined each name and its significance, and also suggested possibilities of concepts like how Ahimsa ensures wealth — possibly, by not destroying the environment; we only stand to benefit from Nature’s bounties in return.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Gandhi Jayanthi 2009

The Aseema trust held the following events for Gandhi Jayanthi 2009

1. 1st October 2009 - Video clippings and talk on Gandhi by V.R.Devika at Janaki MGR College

2. Video clippings and talk on Gandhi by V.R.Devika at L.M.Dadha School.

3. "Creating a Sahridaya" Workshop for school teachers at Balamandir resource centre.

4. Spinning on the Charkha with students from Avvai Home at Nageswara Rao Park.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Tamil heritage group talk and video

Mr.Badri Sheshadri has put V.R.Devika's talk on traditional performing arts in education on video in his blog. See it in this link

Photographs at

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A truly generous and great artist

Bombay Jayashri is truly a great artist. Here is my story. ICPR (Indian Council of Philosophical Research, New Delhi), sent me a book "Ahimsa - from Mahivira to Mahatma" by Dr.Geeta Mehta to review for its journal. In its Jainism chapter, I came across the description of a Goddess Ahimsa Devi and her sixty names. Immediately, I thought of a dance production on it. My idea was to discuss these sixty names and their meanings with the girls of Avvai Home and get them to perform a small dance for their peers. (Ahimsa is Sanskrit for non-violence in case you did not know) Audaciously, I sent an email to celebrated Carnatic vocalist Bombay Jayashri asking her if she would sing them like a viruttam and record it in her home and give it to me to work with adding I would understand if she was too busy. My joy knew no bounds when she called me within minutes of my sending the mail and said she would like to do it well and that she will fix a time and date with a recording studio she knows and will come and do it. She was at the Resound studio of Sai Shravanam in Parameswari Nagar at 8 am and gave a superlative recording within minutes. She made the sixty names into three groups and chose the ragas Revathi, Kalyani and Darbari Kanada and sang so soulfully that it gave me goose pimples. I wanted to add percussion and Veena. Sai Shravanam is a genius with recording and mixing and an extremely talented musician himself having learnt the Tabla from Zakir Hussain and accompanied celebrity singers and dancers including Aruna Sairam, Bombay Jayashri and Chitra Visweswaran. He is a graduate in computer science, has an MCA and a certificate examination in music production from Berkeley University. Has done a stint as a speech and sound specialist at the Computer Science Department of the Indian Institute of Technology – Madras and has created quite a few albums which are doing very well. Sai Sharavanam brought in percussionist Ganapathy and got him to play Mridangam, Tabla and Pakhawaj for the three different ragas in three different tempos and then got Ananathanaryanan the Veena exponent of Kalakshetra to play ragam and tanam, added a few effects of nature, recorded my commentary and did a mix (all recorded in different sessions) and voila, we have a superlative music piece for 24 minutes. All the musicians and the music director worked with touching enthusiasm and affection and did not even talk about money. This I feel is a great reward for the work that the Aseema Trust is doing and now Premnath (dance graduate of Kalakshetra doing great work in north Madras with a very good school of dance and music and art that he calls Rukminidevi Natyakshetra and a great resource person for Bharathanatyam for Aseema) and I are really very nervous to work with such high quality music with 25 girls of Avvai Home in their NSS camp. We only have an hour each for four days. Let us hope the same luck that got us this great music will stand by with us when we get the girls to perform at Avvai Home in Adyar at 3.30 pm on 5th October 2009- - ---------V.R.Devika
The Aseema Trust’s Gandhi Jayanthi engagements.

25th – 30th September NSS Camp at Kanathoor. 1st October – “Creating a Sahridaya – M.K.Gandhi” talk with power point presentation of video clippings by V.R.Devika 10 am MGR Janaki College, 1 pm L.M.Dadha School, Choolaimedu. 2nd October – 10 am - 3 pm - “Creating a Sahridaya” Workshop for school teachers by V.R.Devika and Priya Nagesd of Samanvaya at Balamandir resource centre. 6 pm - Sarvodaya International presentation “Vande Mahatma” by Swarnamalya at Nageswararao Park. 5th October – 1 pm – Spin a Yarn – Besant Theosophical School, 3 pm – Avvai Home. 6th October – Spin a Yarn – 10 am Children’s Garden School, 7th October – 10 am - Navbharath Matriculation, 12 - Vidyodaya. 8th October – 10 am Suddhananda Vidyalaya.


Monday, September 7, 2009

Dance session at Avvai Home

7th september dance session at Avvai Home for school girls and teacher trainees with V.R.Devika and Vasundhara Thomas.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Traditional performing arts in education

V.R.Devika gave a presentation on the lessons she learnt from traditional performing arts of Bharathanatyam, Therukoothu, Oyilattam and Devarattam for use in teaching in the classroom on the occassion of teachers day (September 5th which happens to be Dr.Radhakrishnan's birth anniversary). Video clippings shown were of Mahatma Gandhi's dandi march, Therukoothu Tugil, Pillaiyyar, padukalam, Jakkamma shrine in Kodangipetti village, Devarattam at a wedding in Kodangipatti, Kottaipatti Senraya Perumal temple festival and Devarattam and Sevaiattam there with clippings of a large number of children dancing in productions based on these forms. Demonstrations of Bharathanatyam adavu was done by Premnath and Koothu mantapam was done by Ashwini Kashi with Devika. Preetham helped Devika to edit longer videos and taking clippings from them for power point presentation. The leture was organised by Tamil Heritage Group with Prof. Swaminathan, Dr.T.K.Ramachandran, Annamalai, Badri Sheshadri and Kannan. The Spin a Yarn booklet and poster on spinning was distributed by The Aseema Trust at the programme.

aruna sairam at SOS Children's village and chatnath homes

September 3rd 2009

A great concert for children by Aruna Sairam at SOS Children's village. Accomponied by J.Vaidyanathan on mridangam and Padma Shankar on violin, she enthralled the children with her little affectionate narration and great singing. Rhythmical and interactive. Great. She did this concert completely free of charge when I told her about sos village she was happy to come and sing there for children. Om Shakthi in honour of mothers, Vaarathirundal (Kanthimathipillai tamil) , Ganapati abhang and Ooththukkadu Kalinga Narthana tillanna for children. It was a memorable evening. The Aseema trust is happy to have organised it.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Inter Faith

The Aseema Trust was invited by the US Consulate General Chennai to be part of the organising of an inter faith dialogue meeting with Anju Bhargava, representing the Hindu faith in President Obama's interfaith advisory committee with college students at Stella Maris College. The Aseema Trust facilitated the focus group discussions. Some group presentations were just fantastic. In the evening there was a discussion about inter faith programmes at the Us consul general's house. Anju Bhargava was asked a lot of questions by Harmony India and at the end of it there was an Iftar for the muslims who had taken part in the discussions.

Friday, August 21, 2009


A workshop with school teachers on Swaraj, Swadeshi and heritage education at Dakshinachitra by V.R.Devika on 21st August 2009 had powerpoint presentation on Nataraja icon and the cosms, Swaraj and Swadeshi as talked about by Mahatma Gandhi, the mysteries of Mamallapuram and a tour.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Therukoothu at Swanubhava

The Hindu : Friday Review Chennai : Colourful slice of culture
Online edition of India's National NewspaperFriday, Aug 07, 2009
Colourful slice of culture

Music, dance and folk arts… Svanubhava 2009 offered students a complete artistic experience.
PHOTOS: R. Shivaji Rao EXCHANGING MUSICAL IDEAS: Therukoothu performance in full flow
A ten-year old is in a tearing hurry, and has no time to answer my questions.
She’s running off to watch Pt. Birju Maharaj’s Kathak performance, organised as part of Svanubhava, the festival of classical music and dance for students.
I manage to corner Apoorva and Ananya from Pune. They are not students of music or dance, and do not know Tamil either, but this doesn’t seem to pose any difficulties. “Music is not constrained by language barriers,” they aver.
S. Balaji, a student of the Government Music College, and Tilak and Saravanan, former students, say, “Lectures by practising vidwans are extremely useful.”
Petra and Lida, both from the Czech Republic, like the air of informality that characterises Svanubhava.
Students at Kalakshetra.
The relaxed atmosphere helps students to shed their inhibitions and participate in interactive sessions such as Neyveli Santhanagopalan’s lec-dem on Tiruppugazh.Discourse on Tiruppugazh
As always, Santhanagopalan connects with the audience at once with his gently bantering tone, which, however, does not distract from the seriousness of his purpose, which is to popularise Tiruppugazh among youngsters.
The lec-dem begins with a brief introduction to the life of Arunagirinathar, the author of Tiruppugazh.
Santhanagopalan teaches the audience anga talam, and sings a verse in the talam, and the audience keep beat.
What’s more, there’s an unexpected treat waiting — they are given copies of the hymn and they sing along too. While research in the area of music therapy has focussed on the raga aspect, maybe research into the beneficial effects of talas should also be taken up, Santhanagoplan suggests.
What did the audience think of the programme? Ramna and Archana from Kerala have decided to include Tiruppugazh in their Bharatanatyam performances in future.
A section of the auidence.
Ramya Shridhar, a sixth grade student from Chicago, says proudly, “I now know all about anga talam.” Balasubramanian, a first year post-graduate student of music, is lost in admiration of the children who were part of a percussion ensemble. “I am glad Svanubhava had an exclusive tala vadya concert. I hate it when people go out during tani avartanam. Hopefully such programmes will bring about a change in the attitude of future audiences.”
Unnikrishnan’s full bench concert the following day, is a good idea, for the students who, the previous day, heard a tala vadhya concert, now see how different percussion instruments can be used in a concert. The gethu and konnakkol are big hits with the young seekers. Avudayarkoil Subramaniam explains the difficulties that the gethu, a stringed percussion instrument, poses.
S. Karthick says aesthetics are imperative in konnakkol, and it must not be a hindrance to the vocalist. Sukumar and Rajesh, students of the Government Music College, say, “We didn’t know that there is much more to konnakkol than mere routine reciting of jatis. Besides, we had never seen the gethu before.”
In his lecture on how to structure compositions, P.S. Narayanaswamy recalls how Semmangudi’s sangatis would suit the raga bhava and the sahitya. For example, he wouldn’t sing Veena Kuppa Iyer’s Ananda Bhairavi varnam like other tana varnams, but would add spurithams. In structuring compositions, Semmangudi ensured that his sangatis were suitable for all types of voices. That is why his patanthara is popular. He gave different types of embellishments to different kritis in Kharaharpriya. For example, ‘Rama Nee Samanamevaru’ can be sung even by beginners. ‘Chakkani Raja’ is for those with more gnanam. ‘Navasiddhi Petraalum’ has a completely different flavour.
A person in the audience wondered what influence P.S. Narayanaswamy has on his students. A.S. Murali had a pithy answer: “Our guru’s influence is obvious in the way we sing.”
In the discussion on guru sishya paramapara, Padma Subramaniam, Chitra Visweswaran, Kamalakar Rao and O.S. Tyagarajan emphasise that a guru discerns the potential and the limitations of a student and teaches accordingly.The folksy touch
A new addition this year is therukkoothu by Purisai Duraisami Kannappa Thambiran Parambarai Therukoothu Mandram. V.R. Devika gives a brief introduction to the art of therukkoothu. We learn that E.Krishna Iyer even tried to persuade the Music Academy to include therukkoothu in their programmes.
The theme for the day is ‘Panchali Sabatham’ from the Mahabharata. “Panchali Sabatham is usually a six-hour programme in villages, but here we pruned it to 40 minutes,” says Purisai Sambandam. “We have used three viruttams and 15 songs.” Since it is considered inauspicious to end with Panchali’s oath, the programme ends with Dushasana tiring out, when he is unable to disrobe Draupadi.
“There are ten adavus in therukkoothu that involve the use of the legs, but with the songs and the body movements, this number increases. There are jathis in koothu, and we teach the jathis and their adavus,” explains Sambandam.
Neyveli Santhanagopalan.
Ramdharshan, a fourth standard student, and Mokshavati, a fifth standard student, find the koothu lively, but cannot follow the story. “It would help if they told us the story first,” they say.
There is more to come in this year’s Svanubhava. To quote Santhanagoplan, students can look forward to “many more divine experiences from Svanubhava.”

SWARAJ workshops at Dakshinachitra

August 10,11,12,13, 2009
V.R.Devika designed a workshop for school students and teachers on the topic of "SWARAJ" and "SWADESHI" at Dakshinachitra. Issues discussed were what Swaraj actually means apart from political independence and democracy and elections. students were asked to come up with meanings. A powerpoint presentation with video clippings of original mahatma gandhi footage was shown to students. Then they were asked to go explore Dakshinachitra and come back and sit in smaller groups, deliberate among themselves on what they had seen and heard the morning and recall it in words on chart papers and then present it to the larger group. The first 93 class IX boys and girls from Uthandi government school had a game with Priya Nagesh on Swaraj which had different tasks assigned to children who had to look after their role in the group. then the students discussed that freedom also meant cooperation and recognition of rights of others. Spinning on the Charkha was tried by several students and then a quiz on the poster exhibition of Tamilnadu's contribution to freedom struggle put up by Roja Muthiah Library was held and a lacquer decorated pen was given as prize for each correct answer. The second day the workshop was shifted to Thirupporur school as Tuesday is a holiday for Dakshinachitra. Class XI was engaged in a conversation on Swaraj and given a demonstration of Spinning. A workshop is scheduled again on 18th August as the powerpoint could not be presented. The third day, students were given the brief on what, why, how, who, where of Dakshinachitra.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CCD Sevayur Madurai teacher's workshop

August 1 and 2, 2009
V.R.Devika gave a two day workshop on Gandhi and education for rural school teachers at Sevayur an and half away from the city of Madurai. It was organised at the CCD sadhana centre. Organised by Priya Nagesh of Samanvaya knowledge trust, apart from Devika, Meenakshi of Puvidham a great earth lover who runs a school which teachers children of farmers to not just learn the letters but also love nature and learn to farm with Madhavraj a committed teacher in her school gave teachers glimpses into child friendly learning methods. There was also spinning on the Charka. An amazing experiment that is happening there with farming, education and self sustenance through the efforts of Mr.Muthu who is spearheading CCD and its community projects is simply amazing. CCD has been facilitating a process of developing the local resource base, building on the traditional knowledge and skills, and improving the community access to mainstream resources. The scale is awesome and the feeling of participation and warmth is very palpable. To know more, go to