Tucked away in the countryside forest of Hessarghatta, near Bangalore, India, is a wonderful place called ” Nrityagram”(Dance Village) and it’s annexe, “Kuteeram”( The Dwelling). The road to this little bit of heaven is a mud-brick one, amid a thick grove of jack-fruit, coconut, betel-nut, and banana groves. Farms and villages surround this peaceful island. Sheer luck, in the guise of my enthusiastic friend, and some planning made us visit Nrityagram this Sunday.

Nrityagram is the dream child of the famous Odissi danseuse, Ms. Protima Bedi, (who died in an avalanche on the way to Mansarovar). You don’t have to be a dance expert to visit this haven for artistes and the culturally inclined. This place is not only a “Gurukul” which imbibes ancient Indian traditions of a student residing with his master, it is also an architectural delight. Stone and brick facades, landscaped rock gardens, wrought-iron chairs, fountains, and a waddling parade of geese, compliment this extremely peaceful zone, ideally suited for meditation, dancing, praying and living a stress free life. The material used to build this marvellous cultural village is all locally available and combines a form of ethnic, western, and contemporary looks.

Nrityagram has three “ashrams” which teach three different Indian classical dance forms: Bharatnatyam, Kathak, and of course, Odissi. We were impressed to see how diligently the dance gurus were teaching young children from adjoining villages. Here, the children and adults live, stay, learn dance and even academics. Poor children are given encouragement, and those showing promise go on to higher education like medicine and engineering. This feature is a refreshing change from thos e profit-driven, money oriented excluisive enclaves, catering only to the rich. Those wishing to master any of the dance forms live here for a period of around 4 years.

A part of this retreat has been leased out to a hotel, which serves guests, on prior request, a sumptuous buffet lunch. We tucked into a range of delicacies ranging from salads, pasta, rice, vegetarian food and also lip smacking Mughlai food. We had to force ourselves to make space in our tummies for the delicious butterscotch ice cream, gulab jamun in kheer, and “cham cham”. Thereafter, we took a short walk, admiring the walking trails, the rooms available for renting on hire (cute cottages, with room numbers written artistically with wrought iron), manicured lawns, and stopped by to see a group of management students from a local management institute, playing “Dumb Charades” and later some active sports.

We enjoyed our Sunday immensely in this Haven of Peace, away from the chaos of city life, strife, and stress. If anyone is looking for a short break away from worldly troubles, then I would recommend “Nrityagram” and it’s adjoining complex, “Kuteeram” in the list of options. I salute the lady called Protima Bedi who had the vision, courage, and spirit to turn her dreams into reality. The best part of her dream is the idea of charity and sharing knowledge…which is the greatest gift ever.

A chance visit to this lovely sanctuary of dance, unfolded many delights. Anyone with a keen eye for nature, beauty, and art would love this place. In this article, I have tried my best to present a first hand account of my experience at Nrityagram.

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