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Padma Shri Guru Adyar K. Lakshman (December 16, 1933 – August 19, 2014)

Guru Adyar K. Lakshman is world-renowned in the field of Indian classical dance and music. He and his brother were discovered by a representative of Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale (the founder of Kalakshetra College of Fine Arts) as youngsters and provided scholarships to the school. Both boys showed unusual musical and rhythmic talent. Adyar began his education in the Kalakshetra school at the age of 11, thus terminating his academic learning at second grade. Referring to his alma mater in a documentary of his life, Laksham says, "It is this institution to which I owe all my honours, titles and name."

His initial interests were in singing and nattuvangam (the act of conducting or accompanying the Bharatanatyam dancer with the set of cymbal instruments called the talam). He had to be convinced that Bharatanatyam was not only for girls! Even after being persuaded that dance is a wonderful form of exercise, Bharatanatyam competed with his obsession for cricket. His early training and exposure to the classical arts came from Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale herself. One experience he relates about Smt. Arundale is, "As a young boy, I was much interested in cricket and used to play the sport, till Rukmini amma sent a servant to fetch me from the grounds. She gave me an ultimatum of 24 hours to choose between cricket and dance. I decided to go for dance." 

In 1948, he completed his undergraduate program in three subjects: Bharatanatyam (dance), Nattuvangam (cymbals) and Carnatic music (vocals). Never desiring to end his passion for growth in the arts, he went onto complete two post-graduate degrees, the first in Bharatanatyam in 1956 and the second in Nattuvangam and Percussion (Mridangam, double-sided drum) in 1966.

His first steps into teaching began at Kalakshetra. He taught dance, music, nattuvangam, mridangam and the Sanskrit language. He was the chief dance instructor at Natyalaya for 13 years, from 1956 to 1969.  Shri Lakshman eventually established his own school, the Bharatha Choodamani Academy of Arts. The school has branches in India and abroad. His pupils speak very highly of him. His disciples remember their guru as a stern teacher and a task master, but also as a compassionate person who respected all styles of Bharatanatyam. 

Throughout his lifetime, Guru Lakshman has received the highest accolades. In 1989, he was awarded the Padma Shri from the President of India, considered to be the fourth highest civilian honor. In 1991, he was the recipient of the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, the highest Indian recognition bestowed upon practicing artists.

On his 75th birthday he declared, "May the maker grant me the same vigour and concentration that I have today. I want to carry on my nattuvangam even when I am 100." The legendary guru passed away in the year 2014 at the age of 82.

References:

http://www.adyarlakshman.com/AdyarKLakshman/About.html
http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/article69923.ece
http://sangeethas.wordpress.com/2008/02/29/know-about-nattuvangam-the-rhythmic-sound-play-of-cymbals/
http://www.angelfire.com/la/adyarlakshman/asguru.html