Thiruvananthapuram: The 2018 edition of the renowned Nishagandhi Dance Festival is underway in the state capital. Justice (Rtd) P Sathasivam, Kerala Governor, inaugurated the festival at a gala event organised at Nishagandhi Auditorium and also presented the prestigious Nishagandhi Puraskaram 2018 to renowned Bharatanatyam dancers V.P. Dhananjayan and Shantha Dhananjayan at the function. The award comprises a cash prize of Rs 1.5 lakh, a statuette and citation.
Congratulating the legendary dancing couple, the Governor said, “The Nishagandhi Puraskaram that has been presented to them is a token of the love, respect and appreciation that the people of Kerala have for this extraordinary, made-for-each-other dancing couple”. Adding that the dancing couple, who are known all over the world as the Dhananjayans, have been honoured with laurels like Padma Bhushan, Kalaimamani from Government of Tamil Nadu, the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, honorary doctorates and many other awards for their contribution to Bharatanatyam during the last six decades, he pointed out that they have been grooming and contributing to the international art arena, several performers since 1968, the year in which they established Bharata Kalaanjali in Chennai.
“I am certain that this award would be special to both of them, since it comes from their own State. I understand that Dhananjayan hails from Kannur and that Shantha Dhananjayan also has roots in Kerala,” the Governor added.
Inaugurating the Nishagandhi Dance Festival, the Governor said the festival has evolved over the years to be known nation-wide as a mark of Kerala's commitment to the promotion of arts. “Initiated as the Winter Cultural Festival during the eighties, it began to be known as Nishagandhi Dance Festival from 1992. That it took very little time for this Festival to be considered at par with events like Konark Dance Festival, Khajuraho Dance Festival etc., speaks volumes about the quality of the performances and the high profile participation. When it became the Nishagandhi Dance and Music Festival from 2000 onwards, the presence of the maestros added another dimension to the event and attracted many local art lovers. I am told that from 2017, it was dedicated to Dance, so as to focus on the Indian classical dance forms. This year, we are fortunate to have the presence of an array of India's best performing artistes in this festival,” he said.
Pointing out that classical art forms have gained larger acceptance among the tourists, he reminded that the folk arts and artistes remain relatively ignored. “I think we should also strengthen the activities to promote folk arts, so as to encourage and support the artistes who may be struggling due to lack of opportunities,” the Governor said.
Greeting all the noted artistes who have come to perform at Nishagandhi, he also appreciated the audience of art lovers for their genuine interest in making this festival a success, year after year. He also showered appreciation on the Tourism Department and Minister Kadakampally Surendran for organising the festival in a manner befitting the global image of Kerala.
Accepting the prestigious Nishagandhi Puraskaram 2018 from the Governor, Dhananjayan remarked that it is a moment of pride for him and Shanta Dhananjayan that they have been chosen for this award by their home state of Kerala.
Minister Kadakampally, who presided over the inaugural function, said thought the Nishagandhi Festival had started as a dance and music festival, it was made into a dance-focused event so as to make it a much sought after dance event. A music festival, by the name of ‘Monsoon Raga’, was also initiated and this music festival has now become a well-known cultural event. An award, on the lines of the Nishagandhi Puraskaram, will be presented to renowned musicians as part of the Monsoon Raga musical event every year, the Minister said.
K Muraleedharan MLA; V K Madhu, District Panchayat President; and Palayam Rajan, Councillor were among those who offered felicitations. Rani George IAS, Tourism Secretary, welcomed the gathering, while P Balakiran IAS, Director, Kerala Tourismproposed the vote of thanks.
A Kathak performance by Nadam Ensemble led by Murali Mohan and Nandini Mehta enthralled the audience after the inaugural function.