Pandanallur style

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The Pandanallur style is a style of Bharatanatyam Indian dance. It is mainly attributed to Minakshisundaram Pillai (1869–1964), a dance guru who lived in the village of Pandanallur, in the Thanjavur district in the south Indian state of Tamil Nadu.[1]

The Teachers[edit]

Meenakshisundaram Pillai, whose ancestors were nattuvanars, was a descendant from the Thanjavur Quartet, which refers to four brothers: Chinnaiah, Ponniah, Sivanandam and Vadivel.[2] The works of these four brothers, who were court composers in the early 19th century in Thanjavur, form the main classical masterpieces of Bharata Natyam.

Baroda Guru Kubernath Tanjorkar (1916 - 2007), a disciple of Minakshi Sundaram Pillai, later established Tanjor Dance Music & Art Research Centre in Baroda, Gujarat. Thiruvallaputhur Swaminatha Pillai, also known as T.K.Swaminatha Pillai, was one of the leading disciples of Meenakshisundaram Pillai. He learnt Bharathanatiyam under the Gurukula of Meenakshisundaram Pillai for more than ten years. He also mentored Ram Gopal, who became one of the pioneers of Indian dance in the west.[3][4]

Meenakshisundaram Pillai was said to have been trained by his uncle, Kumarasamy Nattuvanar. He trained several famous Bharata Natyam dancers including Devadasis such as Pandanallur Jayalakshmi, Thangachi Ammal, Sabaranjitam, as well as people from other castes such as Mrinalini Sarabhai, Rukmini Devi, Tara Chaudhri to name a few.

After Meenakshisundaram Pillai, his son-in-law Chokkalingam Pillai (1893–1968) became the doyen Guru of the Pandanallur style. His leading dancer-student was Mambalam Geetha. He also trained other leading dancers such as G. Kausalya, Sucharita, and Indrani Rehman. He shifted to Madras and propagated his dance form throughout the region.

Subbaraya Pillai (1914–2008), Chokkalingam Pillai's son, was the next leading Guru of the Pandanallur style. He grew up in the village of Pandanallur and was an apprentice under his grandfather and father. He trained leading dancers such as Alarmel Valli and Meenakshi Chitharanjan. His granddaughter Vanitha Rajasekar teaches dance in Valasaravakkam, Chennai-87 and other regions of Tamil Nadu.

The great "Amma" is credited to this as well.


The Pandanallur style has a reputation for its emphasis on linear geometry in adavu technique, and for its intensity and understatement in abhinaya.

Pandanallur style is renowned for its masterpieces in choreography: some of the main gems in its repertoire are the Nine or Ten Tanjore Quartet pada-varnams (Sakiye, Sami Ninne, Mogamana, Danike, Adimogam, Yemanthayanara, Yemaguva, Sami Nee Ramanave, Sarasijanaba) for which Meenakshisundaram Pillai composed the choreography: both dramatic choreography which he named simply "hands" as well as the adavu choreography for the swara passages.

Also, part of their heritage are the valuable jatiswarams (in ragams Vasantha, Saveri, Chakravakam, Kalyani, Bhairavi), which are miniature masterpieces of elegant abstract adavu choreography.

Pandanallur style gives a lot of importance to abinayaha. Moreover, stamping the foot hard against the floor is discouraged in this style. Instead, slow movements are used to make the salangai give out a lot of noise.


  1. ^ "Elegance personified". The Hindu. Mar 11, 2005. 
  2. ^ Urvi Pathak (2012). "Guru - Artistic Lineage". Satvikamshiva, 
  3. ^ Leela Ramanathan (October 26, 2003). "Ram Gopal: the legend". Deccan Herald. 
  4. ^ "Ambassador of Indian dance". The Hindu. Oct 24, 2003. 

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