Whatever I have achieved, whatever I am today is only because of the grace and blessings of the Divine Mother, Adya Parashakti Maa Mangala Gauri. She is my only mother and the sole support on my journey. At the young age of nine I lost my own mother, and my father passed away when I was in my fourth year of college. Since then I have been an orphan, surrendering everything to the Universal Mother and taking shelter at her holy feet. When I was a young boy I was skeptical of the simple faith practiced by those around me. I wondered at those people who worshipped stones and idols with so much sincerity and devotion. But the course of my life changed forever one day as I returned home in the dark through a graveyard where a corpse was being burned. Out of fear I found myself calling on the Divine Mother for protection. Like a loving mother who only needs to be called once by her child to run to his aid, she was as if just waiting for my call to come into my life. Suddenly she revealed her power to me and filled me with super-human strength. This happened just at the point in my life when I began learning dance and music. I know now that she was preparing me to assume my life’s calling and giving me the strength to endure the many hardships of an artist’s life.
When I look back over the ups and downs in my life and career, I see that it is all a part of her divine plan. I never thought from those lonesome and humble beginnings that I would now be surrounded by so many talented students who make me proud every day. I never had any intention to start an organization like rudrakshya. I saw a need for a gurukul where there would be harmony between Guru and disciples and where students, teachers, friends and community members would all feel at home. I wanted to create a space to nurture the talent in young dancers and give them the training and confidence to succeed as artists in their own right. I have been blessed with many talented and hard-working disciples and many wonderful supporters and well-wishers. Thanks to the combined efforts of many, rudrakshya Foundation is an ever-growing success.
One of the most important aspects of rudrakshya’s work is to promote wider acceptance of the male aesthetic in Odissi dance. I had the great fortune to study for two and a half years at the Odissi Research Center under the guidance of Padma Vibhushan Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra. Both he and his prime disciple, Smt. Sanjukta Panigrahi, were very influential in my life. Through Guruji’s impeccable technique and incredible skill I understood the inner science of dance and music. Sanju Nani was a great help to me. She was a great example for me of a brilliant artist and was someone who did a lot to support young male dancers like myself. In the Odissi Research Center at that time, I remember my frustration as a male dancer in a situation where male dancers were regularly passed over in favor of females when roles were being assigned. It was a regular occurrence to find a girl playing Radha and another girl playing Krishna. As it is, in Vrindavan there were many gopis and only one Krishna, and when that singular male role was again assigned to a girl, wouldn’t all of us boys feel pain ? With no scope to get onto the stage, many inexperienced boys took to becoming early gurus. But with insufficient training and lack of artistic maturity, what real knowledge would they be able to impart?
When I myself began teaching and I saw many talented young men with an interest in pursuing dance as a career, I thought that it was high time for the system to change. Why shouldn’t boys be highlighted ? That was when I resolved to focus on teaching young boys to be perfect dancers and effective teachers. I started creating choreographies that would suit boys and highlight their strength and vigor. I didn’t want to force the male body into feminine-looking movements. I wanted to shift the balance in Odissi from being solely a women’s profession to being something which could be practiced with equal success by both men and women. And I am happy because more boys are dancing now and dancing well.
But my work is far from over. To accommodate the ever-growing influx of students from around the globe who are interested in learning dance at rudrakshya Foundation and to expand our capacity to serve the dancers in our local community, I have a dream of shifting our gurukul from its current location to a piece of pristine land which I have purchased 10 km outside of Bhubaneswar. This would be a permanent location where we could create the ideal environment for living a life of dance and music. With the blessing of the Divine Mother Mangala Gauri this vision will become a reality.
I pray that my next life and the life after that should also be devoted to serving this art. I think that my children are really wonderful and I love them unconditionally. We are truly a family. Anyone from any corner of the universe is welcome to Rudraksh to share our art. That is the true message of rudrakshya Foundation the world is one family and through sharing our art we promote universal brotherhood.