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Posts from the ‘Art’ Category

Thanmayee Krishnamurthy

In our Spring 2020 edition of Performing artists, Arts Editor of Jaggery Srividya Ramamurthy had a virtual sit down with Thanmayee Krishnamurthy.

It is fantastic to talk with you Thanmayee, so tell us did music choose you? (Smiling) How did you get into this form of classical Indian music?

Yes, you could say that. I was born into a family of musicians. My mother Smt. Rajalakshmi is a violinist and my father Sri. Krishnamurthy is an ardent lover of Karnatik music.

My initial training of music was at home under my mother, my grandmother Vidushi Krishnaveni and aunt Vidushi. Rajarajeshwari Bhat. My maternal uncle Vidwan. Vittal Ramamurthy, a world-renowned violinist is also my musical guide. Growing up in such an atmosphere, music was an inevitable part of my childhood. Since 2009, I have been blessed to come under the tutelage of my guru, Vidwan. T.M. Krishna. I had been a very big follower and a fan of T.M. Krishna Anna’s music all along. So, this was a very special moment for me as a student of music.

How wonderful! Blessed indeed. Apart from music what has you’re your other interests academically?

I studied bachelor’s in Computer Science in Nitte Institute of Technology, Bangalore and had worked as a software programmer for two years in Bangalore.

After I moved to the US, I studied my masters in Ethnomusicology from University of North Texas.

Ethnomusicology is a study of music within its social and cultural contexts. My thesis, entitled, “Sing Raga, Embody Bhava – The Way of Being Rasa,” phenomenologically explores the ontological connections between musical experience and rasa philosophy within the South Indian Karnatik vocal tradition. My other research interests include South Indian performance practices with an emphasis on Indian aesthetic, philosophical theories, literature of spiritual and bhakti traditions, and South Indian cultural history.

Apart from Karnatik music and academia, I have always been fascinated by language, literature, and poetry. I have also practiced and performed a form of expressionist poetry in Kannada language, which is popularly called as Bhavageethe. Recently, along with a few literary enthusiasts in Dallas, we released an album on D.V. Gundappa’s Mankutimmana Kagga, very famous literary work that is also referred to as Bhagavad Geethe of Kannada.

Ah! That is interesting. How can an interested person listen to this album?

Definitely. I would encourage them to listen to Kagga Lahiri. Also, here is a Bhavageethe I had recorded for an album in 2013.   

Excellent!!! Can you tell us about your stage performances and any awards or recognitions?

Definitely. I did my debut performance at the age of 11, and since then I have been a regular performer and have given concerts in major music festivals in India and the USA. Including several prestigious venues like Chowdaih Memorial hall (Bangalore), The Bangalore Gayana Samaja, Music Academy (Chennai), Krishna Gana Sabha (Chennai), Shanmukhananda Hall (Mumbai), Vigyan Bhavan (Delhi) and Cleveland Tyagaraja festival (USA), to name a few. As a graded artist of the All India Radio, I have performed in both All India Radio and Doordarshan. 

A few awards to mentions are: 

  • Smt. T. Brinda Endowment Award from Sri Krishna Gana Sabha Chennai 
  • M S Subbulakshmi Award from singing Ragam Tanam Pallavi from Brahmara Trust, Mysore 
  • Yuva Kala Mani award from Mani Krishnaswamy Academy, Mangalore 
  • All India Radio competition award.  
  • Recently, I have been selected for 2020 Texas Folklife Apprenticeship Award from Texas Folklife, Austin, TX. 

That is amazing! Congratulations !! Tell us about your transition from India to the States. How easy or hard was it from a perspective of your musical pursuit??

Honestly, it was not an easy transition as the social and cultural set-up here in the US is not very similar to that of in India. The number of opportunities for a performer (who resides in the US) is lesser compared to those in India. Also, the constant learning process that materializes, while being in the vicinity of one’s Guru is something that I miss staying in the US. I try to catch up with these things by staying in India for 3-4 months a year. However, the most inspiring part of moving to the US was pursuing ethnomusicology, doing my part of research and writing about music, which has definitely been an enriching experience. Ethnomusicology not only has introduced me to different music cultures across the world, but also has given me tools to introspect my own culture, and music. In other words, it has made me unfold and experience music with more sensitivity. 

Do you teach music? What are your experiences as a teacher??

I teach Indian music as a guest lecture for world music cultures and music appreciation courses at the University of North Texas, DentonSouthern Methodist University, and Dallas and Hiram College, OH. These courses are usually attended by both students doing music majors and non-music major students. I usually go to these classes with my Tambura and sing for the students along with explaining the technicalities of Indian music. Teaching these courses have always been an enriching experience, as they give me myriad opportunities to view Indian music from various perspectives. Some of the questions that are raised in these classes are very thought provoking. 

Ah! Can you give us an example?

Well, students are generally enthralled with the process of learning in our tradition, which is intertwined within this unique association, Guru and shishyaThe dynamics of a concert is also something that fascinates these students – where nothing is rehearsed with the co-artists. We meet them on stage at the time of the concert and an entire concert is done all extempore with each co-artist bringing their expertise and their bhava or laya to add the layers to a concert. The raga scheme and the interlayering, I can go on.  

Interesting indeed. Are there any specifics where there is more interest based on these classes.

Yes, like the Jazz majors are interested in knowing more about the improvisation techniques, or manodharma. Along with the technique, there is also an interest in knowing how India musicians masters the art of various styles of improvisation. Some students are more interested in knowing the social structure and its implications on music culture. Recently, I had a session with Opera students who were particularly enthusiastic about the aesthetics of brugas (a type of stylistic speed phrases in Karnatik music). As I mentioned earlier, these sessions/classes have been an opportunity to contemplate and learn more about our culture, society, and music.   

Thank you so much Thanmayee. On Behalf of Jaggery we wish you all the very best.

Thanmayee Krishnamurthy, a student of Vidwan T.M Krishna, is one of the most sought-after young artists in the Karnatik (South Indian classical music) scene today. She is best known for her emotive and expressive style of singing. Although primarily a vocalist in the Karnatik tradition, she also has a penchant for the Bhavageete style of music, which is a form of expressionist poetry. She performs regularly at concerts and musical extravaganzas in India and United States. Reach out to her at her website, Thanmayee Krishnamurthy.

Listen to some of Thanmayee Krishnamurthy’s concerts: Poorvi Kalyani alapana and Seethapati.

Shobana Nair

In our performing arts section, Arts Editor of Jaggery lit Srividya Ramamurthy had a virtual sit-down session with Shobana Nair. Shobana Nair currently resides in United Kingdom. While Shobana also creates artwork with Madhubani, Warli, Gond; She specializes in an art form so unique to Kerala, India. The art form captures vivid expressions and is known for its vibrancy through colors.

This conversation brings to life in knowing about Shobana and also the “Kerala Murals”. Without any further ado let’s begin this conversation with the artist Shobana Nair.

It is so lovely to meet and chat with you virtually Shobana. Can you tell us your background? How did you get interested and learn to do murals?

I was born and raised in New Delhi. I worked in financial services for a long time. However since my father was in the travel industry and mother is a fine art and porcelain artist. This meant that growing up, we got the chance to travel to many unique places around India and explore the varied art forms in India Every state in India is like a country with its unique language, culture, cuisine and of course its art. Since my father’s roots are from Kerala, many of our summer holidays were spent there, so I got the chance to discover many of the temple murals. In one of my recent visits to Kerala, I had an opportunity to learn this art from an artist who has dedicated his life to this art form – Mr Surendran K U.

That’s interesting to know. Father’s home state and mother’s talent in fine arts. Seems like a perfect jugalbandi here.


Is this art form called Kerala Murals or does it have any other name? What is it locally called perhaps in the native language?

Kerala Mural is a form of wall fresco and was a form of expression from the 9th to the 19th century. These paintings are idealistic reproduction of humans, deities, animals and trees with vibrant colors and rich /delicate strokes. The themes usually revolve around epic scenes from Hindu mythology. Traditionally the murals used Panchavarna (five colors), namely red, yellow, green, black and white. These colors were made from natural elements such as cinnabar for red, manayola for yellow etc. These were then mixed with locally available resources like coconut oil and gum from the mango tree. Kerala is the only place that has retained relics which represent the classical traditions of wall mural paintings in India: aside from perhaps the Ajanta/ Ellora in Western Maharashtra.

Any painting art form requires a lot of perseverance, in your mind what is the hardest part of this art??

Kerala mural painting has a meditative quality. It is a slow art that encourages you to look within. The hardest part of the art is the detailing and the intricacy. For example, In Kerala Art, I apply a method calling ‘Stippling’ technique or simply put dot painting. In this process, the paint is applied on the canvas using dots. There are at least 2 or 3 such levels of coating applied to give depth to the painting. These are done using really thin brushes. Although it requires a lot of time and patience, it is also the part that I enjoy the most.

How different is this compared to painting the murals on a wall?

While I haven’t done a Kerala Mural painting on a wall, asking the same question to my teacher, I have heard that there are no major differences in painting the mural on the wall to a canvas. In my own personal take as an artist, painting on a wall requires you to ensure you have the right perspectives. This definitely requires some practice and well thought through process. While that is a relatively easier when working on canvas.

So, tell us more about how you went about from a Financial Services background to creating these beautiful murals?

Although I used to paint before, I really got the idea when we bought our home in London in 2017. I painted wall murals on the staircase and bedroom walls, using Madhubani (Artform from Bihar), Gond (technique from Madhya Pradesh) and Warli (tribal art from Maharashtra) Folk art techniques. This added a great of splash color to our home and was very well received by visitors. This motivated me to start painting professionally. You can see a picture of what I did.

If you lived close by, I would have asked you to commission an artwork on the walls of my home as well. (Both have a great smile)

Well, I can definitely work on commissioning on your walls with my paintings on canvas.

That’s brilliant! We should talk more about that in a minute but interesting to know is that, you are not just into Kerala Murals but also into a host of other art forms.

Yes, A lot of them have been self-learning. I visit a lot of artists and their art form. I have been fascinated to arts in general especially from these little villages. I also like to have them on the clothes like Sari’s etc. I just like the whole vibrancy and simplicity of these arts.

Tell us more about your art shows and exhibits.

I had my first exhibition in Feb 2019 at the Parallax Art Fair in Central London. It was a great experience and my paintings were very well received. I have had participated in several art exhibitions in London and online as well.

But my turning point came when one of my paintings – Map of London in Warli Tribal Art was selected for London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in 2019. With a selection ratio of 10%, given the large number of applicants, this was a great motivation for me. Aside from this, I also display my work on online sites like Etsy, Instagram and Facebook.

That is an interesting way to show the Map of London indeed. What a great idea!

Warli art form is local to a place called Thane in Maharashtra India. In this art form the locals depicts their day to day life in imagery using geometric forms and patterns. Also visiting and going around London with my family and by myself, I saw these in my own artist’s lens, and this art form is what came to my mind. Thus, the seeding idea to represent Map of London in Warli art form.

Wow! I can relate to imagery that stays with you as you see a visual. What are your plans or aspirations for the future??

I aspire to make ‘relatable folk art’ which people around the world can understand and appreciate. My experience with the Map of London in Warli, where I painted a Western city map in a Indian tribal art form, really brought home the possibility that the arts of our cultures can be depicted in far more ways than just the traditional; while at the same time staying true to the techniques passed down to us through the generation. An inveritable East meets West.

In this small way, I hope to preserve and promote the Indian folk and tribal art forms. I keep my eyes and mind open for traditional art forms around the world, but the amazing variety in India are enough for one lifetime 🙂

So, do you commission paintings for individuals that might not be as talented as you are but have an eye for art form and what they would like to see in their homes or other settings?

Definitely! For an artist bringing something to life that a client can relate to forever is the most satisfying experience. Commissioning is a collaborative effort between the client and the artist, a process that I enjoy the most!

Anyone who is keen on commissioning any form of folk/tribal art can reach me on my Etsy, facebook, Instagram or my web page.

Indeed! What advice would you give to others who might be interested in learning Indian folk arts??

Indian folk art is very diverse and vibrant. If you ever get the opportunity to learn any of them, I would highly encourage you to. The Kerala Mural Art form does require tremendous time and patience. It requires hours of study, understanding the use of colors and techniques.

My parents have now retired to Kochi. When I visit them on my holidays, I am continuously fortunate to be able to learn this art form from artists in Kerala who have done this their whole life. The amount of dedication is just mind boggling to me. If you are able to find a teacher like that, you are indeed fortunate, so make the most of that. The vibrancy, the colors and the unique techniques will make it a very satisfying and rewarding experience. This is my very personal take; traditionally these paintings were limited to temples, churches and palaces. However slowly they are making their way into urban homes and offices. There is still lot of scope to develop and promote this art form. More research and reimagination is needed to contemporize and revive this art form. I aspire to contribute to this revival in my own way. It is a whole ocean of possibilities; all it takes is an earnest approach to learning and mastering any art form.

Excellent! It was such a lively conversation with you. Thank you so much for spending your time and talking with us. On behalf of Jaggery, we wish you all the very best.

Shobana Nair is an artist based out of United Kingdom. Her parents would travel to different parts of India and one of the favorite things to do was to visit different artists, tribal artists. She became deeply interested in these art forms so local to each specific region in their travels. Growing up in New Delhi also meant a place of melting pot of different artists showcasing their art forms, having live demonstrations of their artwork. All of these piqued her curiosity and her interests. Shobana was pursuing a career in Financial services, while she thought of painting a wall leading up to the staircase in her new home. This drew so much of appreciation and encouragement from her family and friends. Later a big turning point came when she submitted to the London’s prestigious Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition in 2019. Her art using a Warli painting depicting the map of London. Her art work was chosen at this prestigious academy. This came as a huge motivation and pat on the artist back. While she paints in Madhubani, Warli, Gondh techniques, Kerala murals is a form that she is now focusing more now.

Contact Shobana and see some of her artwork on the following pages:

Nupur Nishith

Tell us a bit about your background. 

I was born in Madhubani district of Mithila region in the state of Bihar in India. Art is part of life in a typical Maithil family, being indispensable to every festival and ritual. Growing up in such environment I took up the Mithila art at an early age observing my mother Dr Mridula Prakash, a Phd in History of Mithila Painting. Even during my years at Business School and professional life at Bank my passion for art continued through participation in exhibitions and conducting workshops in early years in India 

My paintings have been awarded and exhibited at various galleries, shows and publications in India and USA. My paintings were in the store at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA. My painting Dheeya (The Girl Child) won an award at the national juried art show Color organized by Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition juried by curator from Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2016. My paintings are in private collections at many places all around the world. She featured among the popular people involved in social activities by Fame India Magazine – Asia Post Survey in 2017. Hand painted Piano for Sing for Hope was displayed at Central Park, NYC during celebrations of 50 Years of Public Art in NYC Parks in 2017 and also featured on the popular CBS New York Sunday Morning Show and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA. I was honored to be a featured artist for Animodules (3D structures) by Barat Foundation, Newark on display at Nassau County Museum of Art, NY. My art adorns the walls of esteemed venues and homes. I am featured on Meet the Neighbors program by Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.  

How did you navigate towards the arts? And why painting? 

I moved to US in 2011 when my husband had to relocate for work. Since moving to US, I had to restart my career and I preferred to pursue my passion for Mithila Paintings. I spent few years just honing my skills and exploring new avenues such as paper, cloth, wood, ceramic, terracotta, glass, everyday products etc. apart from the traditional paintings on walls and floors. My interest in technology inspired me in taking the art form digital route in a way that the paintings can be showcased in various modes for widespread reach. I used to blog about Mithila Art and my paintings which was truly instrumental in developing my art and art career. I have evolved a unique style of art with an amalgamation of traditional motifs of ancient folk art with modern contemporary themes and tools with global appeal.

Could you share with our readers some history of Madhubani paintings. 

Mithila or Madhubani painting is a style of folk art form practiced by millions of women in the Mithila region of Bihar, India since ancient times. The origins of these paintings are not known, since they were traditionally drawn on walls and floors, and then redrawn over time, when they faded. They are still living because they are an integral part of any Mithila family function, and have been passed diligently through generations from mothers to daughters of Mithila. One view is that this style of painting originated at the time of the Ramayana, when King Janak commissioned artists to do paintings at the time of marriage of his daughter SITA, to Hindu Lord Ram.  When there was little focus on education of girls in India, Mithila paintings probably also served as an informal medium of education. Some Aripans borrow heavily from science with their depictions of Calendar etc. Holding a brush is probably the precursor of holding a pen or pencil.  

In 1934 after a great earthquake in Bihar, the then British Colonial Officer of Madhubani, W.G.Archer, brought these paintings to the attention of outside world. Hence it is also popularly known as Madhubani Paintings. During 1967 draught it was used for providing vocation to the women artists of this area.  This was initiated the visit of Pupual Jaikar, the then Director of the All Indo-Nepal Handicrafts Board, and facilitated by Bhaskar Kulakarni. Traditionally, Madhubani paintings are drawn on floors or on walls, with the help of brush or pen made of bamboo. In some of the paintings even fingers were used as a drawing instrument. With the growth of available media, even modern coloring instruments are now being used on a variety of cloths, paper and canvas. With themes ranging from nature, spirituality, social events and science, these are highly complex intricate paintings having elaborate structure involving different types of geometrical figures and curves.

They also have very rich color patterns, with traditional painting typically utilizing natural colors made of plants. The paintings have to be understood in conjunction of folk stories, folk songs and other folk traditions linked to the occasion. There are paintings for each occasion in a man’s life such as birth, upnayan (sacred thread ceremony), rituals during marriage, and even Death (Aripans, the floor paintings are made in the prayer rituals after death too) and for various festivals such as Makar Sankranti, Kali Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and others. These paintings are also Symbolic paintings, with widespread use of abstraction through symbols and patterns. Different motifs used in the paintings are quite rich in their meaning. The paintings draw inspiration from the folk stories, folk songs and other folk traditions linked to the occasion. Mithila Paintings dwell on heavy abstraction of thoughts by use of symbolism, and were probably the first modernist ideas in art, that went beyond What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get. Extensive use of natural symbols such as sun, moon, navagraha, bamboo, lotus, fish, peacock and serpent; and their interaction with each other in different contexts leave much to interpretation. Each artist of Mithila Painting has his or her own style, and the form of art lets its participants to explore the new. Probably, this is the reason why Mithila Paintings were done traditionally, only as a transient feature and then redrawn, something on which people leave layers and layers of their own imprints. 

How do your creations differ from others’?? 

Over the years, I have evolved my own distinct style by fusing the contemporary ideas with traditional art form using modern tools. Mithila Artform is famous for the details in the paintings in a flat two-dimensional perspective with no shading or overlapping. Taking it to the next level I draw inspiration for my art from my experience and surroundings. I visualize objects and situations in perspective to create the symbolic motifs and designs which makes my art unique and distinct. Mithila paintings use natural and bright colors with symbolic distinct features, which I never hesitate to experiment with while conserving the essence of the art form. I like to work mostly freehand without using any stencils or pattern tools on my projects. I have also incorporated digital medium to Mithila art being one of the pioneers in the process.   

A word of advice for budding artists? Especially those trying to gain a firm foothold abroad? 

I feel honesty and patience are the key. If you are true to your art it will grow. We need to have patience and lots of it just to maintain sanity and encourage creativity and succeed in the Art world. Just Keep Creating!!  

Nupur Nishith is a New Jersey, USA based artist, born in Madhubani district of Mithila region in India.  Growing up in the environment famous for a unique ancient folk art of Mithila / Madhubani Paintings she took up the art at an early age from her mother. Even during education and profession in marketing and banking her passion for art continued through participation in exhibitions and conducting workshops in India. 

Since moving to US she has tried to explore new avenues such as paper, cloth, wood, ceramic, terracotta, glass, everyday products etc. apart from the traditional paintings on walls and floors. Her interest in technology led her in taking the art form digital route in a way that the paintings can be printed in various modes for widespread reach. Her digital paintings have featured in national award-winning film and clothing line for children. 

She has evolved a unique style of art with an amalgamation of traditional motifs of ancient folk art with modern contemporary themes and tools with global appeal. Her paintings have been awarded and exhibited at various galleries, shows and publications in India and USA. Her paintings are also in the store at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA. Her painting Dheeya (The Girl Child) won an award at the national juried art show Color organized by Brooklyn Waterfront Artists Coalition juried by curator from Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in 2016. Her paintings are in private collections at many places all around the world. She featured among the popular people involved in social activities by Fame India Magazine – Asia Post Survey in 2017. Her hand painted Piano for Sing for Hope was displayed at Central Park, NYC during celebrations of 50 Years of Public Art in NYC Parks in 2017 and also featured on the popular CBS New York Sunday Morning Show and on display at Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, USA. She was featured artist for Animodules (3D structures) by Barat Foundation, Newark on display at Nassau County Museum of Art, NY. Her art adorns the walls of esteemed venues and homes. She is featured on Meet the Neighbors program by Hudson County Office of Cultural and Heritage Affairs.  

She also uses her art for social causes where she has made special paintings for NGOs working in the field of education and promotion of creative learning.

She maintains a website, Creative Mithila, to promote Mithila Artform. The name self describes itself where her art is inspired from the traditional ancient art from Mithila though evolved in her own unique style.

CA Rajasekar


In the first series of Jaggery lit’s spotlight on “Artist Profile”, we sat down to talk with CA Rajasekar, violinist and teacher. Below are the excerpts of our conversation.

Welcome Shri Rajasekar Sir to the first edition of Jaggery Lit’s spotlight on performing artists. We are so thankful for your time.

CARVA: Thank you so much for having me here. I think this is a wonderful effort by Jaggery lit to showcase performing artists under “Artist profile”

How did you get attracted to violin? Please tell us about your background and your initial training.

CARVA: I was born into a family of musicians and violinists. I am the fourth-generation violinist in my family. There has been an unbroken continuity in my family in learning this instrument. I was fortunate to be listening to classical Carnatic music and tunes from when I was in the womb. My father Shri. Chittoor Appanna Bhagavathar was a performing violinist. He along with his 3 brothers would practice and perform. There was hence a constant buzz of music at home. I would say I picked up the instrument rather naturally. However, my father initially taught me vocal music when I was about 3 years old.

So, was your father your first Guru or teacher?

CARVA: Yes, my father was my first teacher. As I said earlier, he taught me classical vocal. When I was about 7 years of age, he started to teach the basics of Carnatic classical music on the violin. He would later tell me that I was able to play the Geethams (small songs) with gamakams(musical accentuations given to a musical phrase or a single note, thus producing melodic tunes) as opposed to how a learner would initially learn. Songs are taught to learners as a plain musical note and the accentuations to make it more pleasing to hear like how a musician would sing the song are taught later. This is because the student has to get a hang of how to play the different notes first in the instrument. I later continued my learning from Sangita Kalanidhi Shri Dr. M. Chandrasekar. He helped me hone my skills more and I am ever grateful to him for letting me accompany him on stage on some of his performances.

Was it easy to have your father as a teacher? Was he strict?

CARVA: It was easy in the sense that I didn’t have to travel (laughs) for my classes. He was a teacher who also instilled the sense of discipline. He himself would spend hours practicing. He naturally expected it from all of his students. So as a beginner, I would have to practice at least 2 hours each day. I am thankful to him for setting me straight right in the beginning as the discipline really helped out.

Can you elaborate that a bit more please?

CARVA: Of course! The teaching continued and when I was a teenager, the interest kicked in even more. I would spend hours 6 – 8 hours practicing every day. Music got to me so much that after I finished my 10th grade in High School, I focused on my violin learning totally, that I did the reminder of my High School years by correspondence or home-schooling as you might want to call it.

Oh Wow! That must have been a hard decision for you.

CARVA: Well, I guess so for most people as the primary focus predominantly is on academics. But as far as I was concerned, I was very sure by then; that this is what I wanted to do. And I just went full throttle with it. By 16 years or so I started performing concerts as accompanying violinist. Between 17 – 22 years, I did a lot of travel worldwide being as part of dance group and being part of musical for various famous dancers.

That must have given you a lot of exposure while still being a young adult.

CARVA: Yes, it did. I was always interested in knowing to play Western Classical as well. I had a very curious mind to understand their script and their notation. While initially my father did not agree, he later saw my earnest seeking. I learnt Western Classical from Shri V. S. Narasimhan. He was one of the leading violinists for many famous music directors like Illayaraja and others.

And how did that go? Did you find any major differences?

CARVA: I would say that it helped me fix some techniques. Like I would say bowing for example. It really aided me in overall understanding of the instrument. I would say right now 91% of performing violinists in Classical Carnatic music these days have all undergone training in Western Classical as well. It is really easy for anyone to switch between the 2 classical forms if they have learnt one form very well.

That is amazing. So, tell us more about how CARVA Trust came to existence and also about your Violin Ensemble.

CARVA: Even though I was teaching violin for many years before as an independent teacher, I wanted to create an institute. However, with active concerts and performances throughout I did not have the time to make this more of a reality. In 2000, I created CARVA Trust (C A Rajashekar Violin Academy). I had about 50 students and they were are different levels(beginner/intermediate/advanced). An idea struck me, Why not create a violin ensemble with my students? It would be a great opportunity for the students to get on stage. Personally for me I thought that would be a motivation and encouragement for them. The audiences were enthralled to see a stage filled with violinists performing. Their response was more than encouraging. The auditorium was over flowing with people. Subsequently these continued for 14 years. My students from abroad would come and participate in these as well. I had about 150 students on stage performing the ensemble. It was just amazing.

But these days I am focused on continuing the 2 music festivals that my father had started.

Please tell us about them.

CARVA: Sure. We do a Sadhguru Sri Thyagaraja Swamigal’s Krithi Akhandam Ganam. Akhandam really means continuous, in this case it is continuous music for 24 hours. The songs are compositions of the great Saint. Thyagaraja. However, no song is repeated and there is no break in music either. The musicians render songs as a concert with accompanists. Many of the senior and top artists perform on that day. This is a great opportunity for many junior artists. It is like a cloud burst of music. A great day of music to music lovers.

The second festival is an offering or “Aradhana” to the great music saint Purandaradasa. Usually this is organized by January of every year.

Amazing! Music to all senses, what a great offering! What else is hidden in this artist (laughs)?

CARVA (laughs): Well, I did my “Isai Kalaimani” course from Adayar Music College in Chennai. I did finish BA from The Madras University. I also enrolled myself for MA in music at the University of Madras and was a Gold Medalist. I went on to complete M.Phil and my thesis was on “Teaching methodology and different types of teaching in Violin” where I was a rank holder. Now I teach many students worldwide. Technology has bought all of us closer, just like how this interview is now.

I offer Skype (for long distance students) and also teach at home to seeking students on a 1 on 1 basis.

That is fantastic! Technology has definitely made the world smaller indeed! It has been wonderful talking with you. Finally anything that would advise to students of music?

CARVA: Well, if you are a student of music and more specifically if you are interested in Classical Carnatic music. First and foremost, you need to find a good teacher or Guru. Do spend some time in searching for a good teacher, this usually pays off in the end since you would have a good foundation. Second attend classes regularly. Third; Practice, practice and practice. There is no substitute to this. Fourth, listen to music of great stalwarts and musicians. The more you listen, the more you can understand music. If all of the above 4 are done well with full commitment, it is extremely easy to become a good performing artist. There is no other short cut. I wish and bless all of the students of music. May you find your journey fulfilling!

Thank you so much Sir. It was a pleasure to talk with you. We at Jaggery Lit, wish you many more success and laurels.



Shri. C A Rajasekar is a leading violinist and teacher. He plays classical Carnatic music on the Violin and is based in Chennai, India. He is the founder of “CARVA Trust” (Chittoor Appana Rajasekar Violin Academy) in Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India.

Nalini Rau

In the first series of Jaggery Lit’s spotlight on “Artist Profile”, Srividya Ramamurthy sat down to talk with her. Below are the excerpts of our conversation.

Welcome Dr. Nalini Rau, to the first edition of Jaggery Lit’s spotlight on performing artists. We are so thankful for your time.

Dr. Rau: Thank you so much for having me here. I think this is a wonderful effort by Jaggery Lit to showcase performing artists in the portal.

How did you get drawn to dance? Please tell us about your early days and your initial training.

Dr. Rau: My mother said that I began dancing when I was 10 months old. My first teacher for Bharata Natyam was a beautiful young woman at elementary school. She taught the first few steps, but left when she got married, and the classes ended.

About this time, Guru Shri K. N. Dakshinamoorthy Pillai came to teach near my home in New Delhi. My mother enrolled me in his class. We were a large group of girls.

I remember that first class, Masterji came with Ms. Anne Marie Gaston and Sri Nagaraj. We did not realize at that point what a great lineage we were being introduced to: Guru K N Dakshinamoorthy Pillai, the great nattuvunar, teacher, choreographer and percussionist and the keeper of the Dandayudapani Pillai Bani tradition. He hailed from a family of nattuvunars, dancers and musicians. He was a highly trained percussionist. He had such a rich knowledge and tradition. Masterji, as we called him, was young and vibrant. I was lucky to have him. A great deal of the sound I strain to get from my own nattuvangam comes from listening to his nattuvangam. He was a strict teacher and I was an eager student, soaking in all that I could.

I also learnt for two years from Mrs. Sundari Seshadri: my Guru had left us, upset, that we were not moving onto an arangetram. My mother says that he told my parents that they had a diamond which they had locked in a safe instead of showing the world.

At that time, I had just begun college. I had no teacher and felt lost. Dance was my anchor and I felt adrift. Mrs. Seshadri asked me to come to her class. She also asked me to be part of her troupe. I waited another three years for my teacher to return, began training under Mr. Srinivasan in India Tidings as a trainee journalist and Art critic. At about this time, I again met Mrs. Seshadri at a recital and joined Mrs. Seshadri’s troupe. We were three dancers: Shashikala, Shoba and me. We gave a large number of recitals in Finland and a few in New Delhi. Couple of years later, she left for Bombay, with her beautiful daughter Shashikala moving on to become the actress Meenakshi Seshadri. Masterji, coincidently, returned at that time, and began to teach me again. It was an intense four years. This time around, we were able to go ahead and have the arangetram! It was an intense experience, with the orchestra coming home every day for several weeks.

Much later, after I got married and had my first child, I trained with the Guru couple USK Rao and Chandrabhaga Devi. This came about because I found on my visit to India in the year 1994, that I could not go to Delhi and spend extensive time with Guru KND: both me in laws and parents were in Bangalore and did not want me to go away for an extended period. I wanted to use the time to learn and grow, rather than indulge in a round of shopping and touring. I called Masterji and asked his permission to learn from another teacher while I was in Bangalore. With his permission, I went for a two-hour class every day to Guru USK. They too were affectionate and generous with sharing their knowledge. I then spent a week in Delhi relearning from Masterji and recording music with my Guru. Years earlier, I had met Masterji when I was injured and could not dance. Now, he was overjoyed. I was not dancing my best yet, but he saw me through the eyes of a loving teacher. Masterji later fell ill. I could not visit Delhi again for over a decade. I had given birth to twins, and travel and child care was now a whole new issue. I spent several long summers learning from Guru U.S. Krishna Rao and Guru Chandrabhaga Dev, with my parents taking care of the three children. It involved two hours of travel time, two hours of class time, and a few hours practicing and going prepared for the class. They were from the lineage of Shri. Meenakshisundaram Pillai. I have been blessed with teachers who have been loving and generous with their time and knowledge.

That is amazing to hear about all these great teachers and about your lineage in dance. Please do tell us about your hours of practice.

Dr. Rau: I loved dance with a passion, and it came naturally to me. As a result, I went to most classes prepared. It was not work for me but play. I danced most of the time, either to music I had heard or to beats my teacher had introduced. I used to practice in my head when I was going to school or college. I remember, the first time I learnt ‘dit dit tai’, I was so enamored with the adavu/step that I danced it all the way home from the class to my house on the road. Soon our big group of dance students became smaller and smaller. At one point there were just two students, my friend Sudha Madhavan and me. Soon my teacher started teaching just me. He would come home at 5 AM and teach me till 730 AM. I would run for my Delhi University special bus, still sweating from the practice, with my breakfast toast in hand. I went to the group class in the evening couple of times a week at this time as I used to teach the younger students. After their class, Masterji would teach me. It was again an intense period of juggling graduate school work, internship in India Tidings and dance class/practice. Time appears to be elastic, as transportation to the university alone was an hour each way.

Rhythm was part of you (smiles). How did the transition happen to a performer and as a teacher?

Dr. Rau (smiles): I started teaching first as an assistant, taking adavu and beginner classes for my Guru. I used to teach while we were waiting for him to come to class.

When I came to the US for my graduate studies, I performed at the international events and community events in the campus. I was asked to teach by some who had watched me perform.

When I came back to New York, I began teaching my five-year-old daughter. One of my neighbors, Mrs. Suma Parkadavil,asked me to teach her daughters too. Soon, by word of mouth, students started knocking at the door. And they have been doing so ever since. I sat down and seriously thought about how I would like to teach and worked out a course outline. So, I introduced story-telling, rhymes, play acting and games. I wanted the girls to have fun while they were learning.

I performed from the time I was four years old till I was 29, when I had an injury: I fractured my back. Once I recovered, I began to learn again and then perform and continue to perform to this day. Performing, teaching, learning has happened hand in hand. I realize more than ever how much there is still to learn: Bharata Natyam is an ocean bringing together so many streams of knowledge. I am not sure if one lifetime is enough to plumb its depths.

I must add that some of my own growth has happened in interaction with the artists of our orchestra, and interaction with several dancers it has been my privilege to know. I owe a great deal to my parents too.

And that’s how the dance school “Natya Anubhava Dance Academy” was born? Which year was that and how many students have you trained? Please do tell us a bit about the arangetrams and performances.

Dr. Rau: Yes, the school began in the summer of 1993. We just had our 25th anniversary. I have trained over 150 students. About thirty students have completed their arangetrams. I do not insist that a student must perform an arangetram. I also give the family several options to choose from to suit their budget. Once they choose a live orchestra, some costs become inevitable. I have worked hard at letting the parents decide how much they spend. A student must go on stage only when s/he is able to perform at her very best. The journey is as important as the goal.

As for performances, I have performed as a dancer and as a nattuvunar in various venues: the Lincoln center, Madras Winter festival, the UN, ArtsWestchester, Paramount Theater,Finlandia Talo, New York City Hall, AKKA, Music Hall,World’s religious conference in Queens NY,museums and schools, universities including Jewish Museum, Pelham Art Center, Hammonds, Krannert, Bryn Mawr, University of Illinois.

What are some of your dance productions?

Dr. Rau: Devi Saraswathi, Naukacharitramu, Nari,Jivan, Dasha avatara,Krishna, Govinda Kathe, Sittaya, Agraani, I presented some of my poetry through dance.

I have also collaborated with other artists of other genres as in the project Her Stories (Curator Bibiana Huang Matheis) at Arts Westchester and Akin Museum.

Arts Westchester of New York, while celebrating their 50 years and honoring 50 artists, awarded you an honor. You were chosen for your Choreography. Congratulations again on that! Can you tell us a bit about your influences on your choreography and about how these above productions came to life?

Dr.Rau: My dance ballets and productions are influenced by contemporary issues and things which touch my heart: such as gender and equality issues, corruption, war, strength of women. Naari was based on strength of women. Sitayana retold the story of Sita as a powerful strong person. Agraani told the story of women trail blazers. We showcased how women have overcome real struggles and helped themselves along with helping the community. Govina Kathe was based on respect for universal values. Jivan dealt with the flow of life, and how it is possible to transform oneself and grow. I created and performed a dance on my great great great great grandmother who fought her way out of the rubbles of a fallen Vijayanagara empire in 1565 and trekked from Anegondi to Mysore with protecting the womenfolk and children of her family.

Wow! All of these showcased with a dance form that is thousands of years old.

Dr.Rau: Yes, it is very much possible to do that. The style itself has so much depth and gives us so many tools. It is a meta language. The jathis (Rhythmic patterns) can be used in the time-honored manner in pure dance. I have used them to create a mood or interpret a nuance in a story. When I do not have a song, which expresses what I want, I create a script or interweave the poems I write into the dance productions. This has been for themes where I could not find suitable music, such as the themes of gender equality. However, many of my ballets have retained the traditional interpretations as in Devi Saraswathi, Krishna, Dasavathara, Geeta Govinda and Nauka Charitramu.

Well-deserved award indeed! Tell us a little bit about your other awards and recognitions.

Dr. Rau: My best awards have been the drawings my little students have given me where they say they love me and love dance. And my students who dance really well and yet have the humility to know they can do better and know that they did not come out of the void. And a parent telling me how much the journey with me has meant to them.

To my mother’s delight, there have some awards and recognition from the Arts community: With my Guru’s grace, under the auspices of Natyakalayam, the award of Natya navaratna from the President of India, 50’ 50’s from Arts Westchester, recognition from IACAW in Nov 2018 for contributions made to the Westchester community, and a few accolades from the county office.

Incredible! But that is not all about you isn’t it? You are a linguist as well. You received a Doctorate in Theoretical Linguistics from University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. You received the Uggrasein Award in Linguistics for being a gold medalist at Delhi University.

Dr. Rau (smiles): Yes.

That is power packed! Before we end this wonderful conversation, what would your advice be for young children and dancers out there?

Dr. Rau: Treat your body and mind well. Have a regular discipline in your practice. Be truly respectful and loyal to your teacher and to the Artform. Aim for the stars and do your best. Enjoy the dance. My best wishes and love to all of them.



Dr. Nalini Rau is a leading dancer, teacher, and choreographer of BharataNatyam. BharataNatyam is an ancient classical dance form.

Art – Spring 2019

Nupur Nishith

Amita Bhalla

Interview with Anu Mahadev

What is your background?

I have always harbored a creative side and have worked with several different art mediums. I felt called to become a physician early on and find it very gratifying to take care of others in this way. My specialties are neurology and sleep medicine.

I grew up in Mumbai, India, and came to the US to pursue a career in medicine. I initially did an internship at Duke University, that led to a research position in Neurobiology. From there, I continued my medical training that eventually led me to Houston. My husband, Karan Bhalla, a cardiologist, and I founded our medical practice, Orion Medical 7 years ago, and this is where I work.

My creativity has always been my safe haven, the spark that fuels the rest of my life. Now that I am in the midst of launching my own jewelry line and integrating my artistic side with the other important roles I play, such as wife, mother, physician, friend and a lover of life, I feel I have finally come full circle. For the first time I am not going to my studio to create only when I have the time for creativity, but because I have come to realize that I am an artist and creating is an integral part of my life.

What does your art represent?

At its core, my art represents my inner child, that part that we all possess deep inside, that has the capacity for untethered imagination, dares to dream big without fear of failure, where the curiosity runs amuck and unconditional love is the only love we know.

For me, creating art is a very personal experience where every one of my creations are born from my reflections on spirituality, sentiment and personal experience.

Over the past few years, my quest to understand my life’s purpose, lead me to reconnect with my inner child and awakened my hibernating creativity with a roar. I came to realize that bringing joy to others by way of meaningful and authentic connections is what brings me immense happiness and contentment. My art, I realized, is a channel that allows me to do just that.

What inspired your jewelry collection?

As I asked the universe to bring me what I need to live my life’s purpose to the fullest, I serendipitously found myself in the midst of divine encounters and experiences, that eventually nudged me to mold clay into jewelry.

One of the most poignant experiences of my life has been painting a door in Valloria, Italy, the town of painted doors, in July 2018. The people of this dreamy Italian village, perched atop a hill along the Mediterranean, welcomed my family and me with open arms. Hundreds of people came by to watch me paint and admired my work. All language barriers were broken by our desire to connect with each other over our common love of art and food. This created in me an emotion that I can only best describe as pure joy. I knew at once that needed to create and share my creations with people in order to experience this simple yet significant emotion time and time again.

Then there were all my recent travels to distant lands. Travel I find, resets my mind that usually travels a million miles a minute. My curiosity to understand the local culture took me on long walks armed with my sketch pad, clay and tools, admiring the architecture, landscape, art, and enjoying connecting with people, tasting the food and becoming as much as a “local” as I can become. Time stood still. That’s usually when the magic happens. In the stillness I allow the universe to use me as a channel to create and my jewelry creations started taking life. These creations carry the energy of the place, people and culture that inspired them and also the pure joy that my heart held as my hands worked on them. The experiences happened, the creativity flowed, and thus was born my jewelry collection.

How is your jewelry different from others’?

I make jewelry from clay made of beeswax and other natural ingredients. It is extremely light, durable and does not break. The molding, mixing and carving of clay is unique to each piece and creates tones, textures and one-of-a-kind designs, that cannot be replicated. The clay elements are incorporated with precious stones and this dance of various mediums creates a unique luxury creation, that I like to think of as wearable art.

What advice do you have for women who want to explore their creative side

Creations exist because someone had the courage to express themselves regardless of the fear of judgment. Creativity is not limited to art but in fact is broader than that, and each one of us has a creative side. Release the fear of judgement and give yourself permission to follow your passion and to experience the joy of creating, and allow others to be moved and inspired by your unique gift. Even if you inspire one other person, you have created a positive change in the world.

Having finally realized my life’s purpose, which is to create different flavors of happiness in others and myself through the various roles I play, I have never felt more content and I sincerely hope that others find this sense of inner peace and contentment too.





As an artist, Amita Bhalla creates one of a kind jeweled masterpieces born of beeswax & clay, sculpted by hand and brought to life with exceptional gemstones. Every piece is unique, striking a balance between bold scale and ultra-delicate design. Her work is designed with an expressed sensitivity to the natural world. Each of her jewels was created to be collected, worn and exalted.Amita Bhalla’s work mimics the appearance of a frothing arctic sea. Pristinely white and imbued with an energetic sense of movement, her pieces embody the restless power and beauty of a woman in motion.

Neelima Chikkodi

Painting is a form of meditation for me. It brings peace and balance in my life. As I painted this Ganesha, I envisioned building a temple for Him, I felt humbled by His grace and blessings and I offered flowers at His feet.

This artwork is done in oil on canvas and measures 24 inches x 30 inches.












Neelima Chikkodi is an IT professional living in the Dallas Fort Worth area. She loves to paint in her spare time and enjoys the process of shading and mixing colors.

Rayla R Noel

1.’Trees of the field’ Oil on canvas 12″x 8″
2. ‘Village Green’ Oil on canvas 36″x24″
3. ‘Harvest’ 12″x 8″ watercolour painting on paper.

Three original works of Rayla R. Noel







Art – Fall 2018

Neelima Chikkodi

Sacred Heart

“Texta” is Australian for felt-tip marker and TextaQueen is Australia’s felt-tip superhero.

Renowned for use of the humble felt-tip marker to boldly re-interpret the tradition of the salon nude, TextaQueen explores politics of sex, gender, race, and identity in tangent with ideas of self-image and interpersonal relationships. Texta’s practice articulates delicate interplays between vulnerability and empowerment, intimacy and exhibitionism, and subjective and collective expressions of feminist, queer, and cultural identities.

Sacred Heart

Sub-Cultural Charms

Reclaiming the gothic appropriation of the Indian nose chain while claiming my latent gothic identity, each of the charms represents my cultural influences. A baby’s rattle saying “It’s a Girl,” imposing binary gender from birth. The wedding cake normalizing heterosexuality, monogamy, and marriage. An ABC building block of growing up learning only the colonial language of English. The dollar sign of capitalism. The rosary beads and crucifix of Catholicism, which is often used in gothic nose chains also. The map of India cut out of the map of Australia representing cultural identity, seen both as racial over locational and my dual identity as (non-Indigenous) Australian and Indian. And a family portrait, invisibly embodying many of these influences.

Gandhi Returns

Possibly the most globally famous Indian cultural icon, Mahatma Gandhi was important to the movement for Indian independence from the British through non-violent resistance, yet Gandhi expressed anti-black racism in South Africa and misogynistic sexual behavior towards young women. Here, returned from the dead as a salivating zombie, Gandhi is a literally imperfect figure. I’m questioning our idolization of leaders into one-dimensional icons, how we erase their complexities and ignore their humanity, and the dangers of fixating on hierarchies of leadership. As a self-portrait, I’m contemplating my own imperfections.

Family Tree

Who am I from?
How do I connect to my ancestors?
An elephant never forgets
But when my research tool is Google
Searching: Goa India
It’s “a top vacation destination”
White hippies drumming at sunset to find themselves
Private beach resorts with white chairs along the sand
Each click brought to my screen via the flashy lenses of
Those finding or selling “exotic escape” or “affordable luxury”
Reminders of my heritage
As changed and stolen by colonizers and capitalism

But my body remembers who I am from
My body holds connections
Naked, I arm/trunk wrestle with the long memoried elephant
My ancestors shimmied up coconut palms
And now they float down around me in coconut water
As supermarket chocolate jelly babies called “Chicos”
A rare visible brown consumable of my childhood
I delighted to eat myself while others were eating my otherness

But my body remembers where I am from
My body holds connections
Naked, I wrestle, my arm with the trunk of the long memoried elephant
Both an embrace and a struggle, to connect
My ancestors shimmied up coconut palms to collect their fruit
And now I see them falling down from the coconut palm,
floating around me in coconut water
I see them as chocolate caramel gummy babies
labeled in Australian supermarkets as “Chicos”
A rare visible brown consumable of my childhood
I delighted to eat myself while others ate my otherness
Now I hold my belly over my womb
Pondering the continuation of my bloodline
What I carry and what I may pass on.

TextaQueen has exhibited widely and wildly at white-walled galleries with acronyms such as MCA, PICA, AGNSW, GSCAS, ACMI, and GOMA, and internationally in Belgium, Amsterdam, and Montreal. TextaQueen’s work is held in the collections of Art Gallery of Western Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, National Portrait Gallery of Australia, University of Queensland, Mornington Peninsular Regional Gallery, Monash University of Modern Art, Cruthers Collection of Womens Art, Art Gallery of Ballarat, Artbank, and private collections in Australia, the United Kingdom and North America.

All images © TextaQueen

Delhi Through the Night

The accompanying photographs can form a part of a narrative or stand alone as moments that occur in the city of Delhi through the night. These pictures are reflections on not only the obsession with the old and chaotic parts of the city, but also on the gaze of a middle-class, academically-oriented woman from a relatively small town, who feels more comfortable and safe behind a camera as she walks anonymous through the wide and narrow, intimidating and yet liberating streets of the capital city of Delhi.

walk through the night

walk through the night

on the other side

on the other side

pishaach (demon)

pishaach (demon)





of other spaces

of other spaces

dhaatu (element)

dhaatu (element)

Neha Chaturvedi is currently working on her dissertation. A constantly distracted person incapable of focus both literally and figuratively, prone to spells of hyperactivity conjunct with long phases of laziness, her only companion through long and sometimes anxious walks through the city is her camera. On other occasions, she likes to paint, write, act, or simply linger over nothings.

All Images © Neha Chaturvedi