Song of Surrender

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

T.K. Mahalingam Pillai

01.11.1917 - 06.12.2002
Birthdays & Anniversaries

Natyacharya Tiruvidaimarudur K. Mahalingam Pillai was a veteran Bharatanatyam guru respected for his dedication to the preservation of traditions and values and for his achievements as a teacher and choreographer. Short in appearance, Mahalingam Pillai was tall in artistic stature.

Mahalingam Pillai belonged to a family of natyacharya-s, who wielded the cymbals for four generations. His ancestors,who hailed from the town of Tiruvidaimarudur in Tanjavur district, included such renowned guru-s as Venkatakrishna Nattuvanar, his son Veeraswamy Pillai, grandson Panchapakesa Nattuvanar, and his great grandson Kuppiah Pillai.

Mahalingam Pillai, eldest son of T.P. Kuppiah Pillai, was born in 1917. Brought up in a vibrant artistic atmosphere, he took to the art of dance and the craft of conducting. Apart from learning dance and music, he also studied Sanskrit, Telugu and Tamil to improve his capacity to understand and project the art. He was initiated into nattuvangam while still a boy. Exposure to dance at home, in the temples and weddings helped hone his skill in wielding the cymbals. He was among the few to be honoured with a 'parivattam'— a special privilege entitling him to serve the deity— at the Konkaneeswarar temple in Tanjavur when he was only seven years old. Before long he was active as a teacher, training a new generation of dancers in Madras, as well as in Tiruvidaimarudur. The Travancore Sisters— Lalitha, Padmini and Ragini— were among his first disciples.

Mahalingam Pillai became the head priest of this Mandir after the demise of his father and brother-in-law. He trained a number of film personalities of the past like Kamini Kaushal, Nalini Jaywant and Waheeda Rehman, although he was not keen to choreograph film dances. Famous dancers like Gopi Krishna, Sitara Devi, Damayanti Joshi and Roshan Kumari also learnt from him. Having settled down in Mumbai, he had a 'cosmopolitan mix' of disciples— Tamilians, Maharashtrians, Gujaratis, Punjabis, as well as students from abroad. He had the reputation of being a conscientious teacher and a strict disciplinarian.

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