For Lakshmi Annabathula Mangathayru, old-age is just another phase of life and it does not dither her from her dance. She loves dressing up in her vibrant ‘Pattu saris’, colorful hair-clips and jewelry and is seldom seen without any of these- all for her still radiant youthfulness. The awards and laurels she received over the years do not matter much to her. Her array of awards even includes, the Central Govt Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award for Rural Folk Dance of India for 2017. Lakshmi mam’s passion for her dance is probably what keeps her moving, when most people at her age would have opted for an easy retirement. Her bouts with several surgeries and ailments that she underwent over the years, even her most recent eye surgery, never incapacitated her from her dance- which is her soul.
Lakshmi Mangathayru is trained in the traditional Andhra Folk dance- the much popular Allaya Sampradayam style of dancing. Two of her famous dances include ‘Golla Kallapam’ and ‘Bhama Kallapam’. Ask her about her dance and she is all smiles and all prepared to give us a class with a performance too.
“I learned my first dance steps from my grandmother, who was a professional Allaya Sampradayam dancer. She started learning Golla Kallapam from when she was five and she performed the dance at the age of 13 after learning the art to perfection. She continued to dance until the age of 55. She even received the Andhra Govt. Sangeetha Nataka Academy Award for her contributions. I obviously was trained in Golla Kallapam. Golla Kallapam is wholly based on Vedanta principles. Golla Kalaapam or Golla Natakam was written by the Saint Poetess, MaathrusriTharigonda Vengamamba in the 18th century. Golla Kalaapam is majorly an effective argument between a milkmaid and a Brahmin priest on the intricate caste system. The poem is all about the verbal squabble between the two people of two different castes to establish the true meaning of the word “Brahmin.” The line of the poem does speak for itself about what the dance is all about. ” As she continues speaking about her untainted passion, it’s clearly evident that she has completely mastered her art and is now focused on spreading her art through her many students to the world at large.
Lakshmi mam continues her explanations about her dance dramas with an unparalleled zest and definitely makes sure to keep her listeners engrossed-the inherent traits of a true artist. She explains, “Golla Kallapam and Bhama Kallapam are two different dance dramas. Golla Kallapam is purely Vedanta talks between the temple priest and the milkmaid, who is believed to be the incarnation of Goddess Saraswati. Bhama Kallapam is all about the love between Lord Krishna and Satyabhama. It has more of ‘sringaram’ in the dance. My grandmother performed Golla Kallapam nearly for 50 years of her life. She in fact propagated the ancient text written by Vengamamba to the common people through her dance.
My sister and I have been performing dance from when we were little girls- my sister at the age of 13 and me at the age of 10.” she says.
Over the years many scholars have made many changes to the two texts, says Lakshmi mam, however, she says, their family of dancers follow the texts written by Subha Rao. She and her family of female dancers call themselves the ‘Devaganitas’, meaning those dedicated to the service of God and not ‘Devadasis’ as such dancers are usually called. “We are four branches of Devaganitas” she says. “We also follow the ‘NattuvamelaKacheri ‘ format of dance performed by the Tamil Nadu Devadasis, where we perform the Varnam, Javelli, Padam, Thillana and so on. We also have the Abhinaya Sampradaya wherein the dancers sing and perform the dance. So the styles of dance we have adopted over the years or through different generations are very vibrant and very much engaging to the audience.”
We ask her how happy she is to get the Central Govt. Sangeetha Nataka Acdemy award and she says “All I can say is we are happy we received this recognition for our efforts to promote this traditional folk art of our state. It’s our proud family lineage that has been handed over to us over many generations. ”