Dance in the Liturgy

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Indian Dance and Music

7. KALAI KAVIRI, Tiruchirappalli [Trichy], Tamil Nadu. [See also Fr. Saju George SJ, pages 67 ff.]

Kàlai Kàviri was started in Tiruchirappalli [also Tiruchi] by Fr. S. M. George [now elevated as Monsignor] in 1978. He was its director 1977-2002. Kàlai Kàviri started a dance school, Kàlai Kàviri Natyapalli, in October 1983, offering diploma courses in Bharatanatyam and Mohini Attam.
1. The New Leader, a Catholic fortnightly from Chennai, September 1-15, 1997 provides the following information.

Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts founded by Fr. Susai Maria George, 1978, the Communicaton Centre of Trichy Diocese*, has started a five-year degree course in dance (Bharatha Natyam). Bishop S. L. Gabriel of Trichy institutes its part time Mohiniattam course. He said the Church is proud of Kalai Kaviri which promotes cultural arts and uses them to convey the Good News.

*Most Rev. Antony Devotta, the Bishop of Trichy, is the Chairman for the Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council’s Office for Social Communications which includes the Santhome Communications Centre and Tamil Maiyam in Chennai, which is where a priest, Fr. Jegath Gaspar Raj, produced an audio CD at a cost of Rs. 1.5 crores [Rs. 15 million] in praise of the Hindu deity Shiva [who is also Nataraja, the presiding deity of Bharatanatyam dance]. See the report

2. About Kàlai Kàviri EXTRACT

Kàlai Kàviri is both a Troupe of 12 dancers and the name of the College of Fine Arts of 260 full-time students from which the Troupe is drawn.


Kàlai Kàviri has been the dance performer for 45 Hindu temple festivals in the last ten years as well as cathedral and church functions too numerous to mention.

Kàlai Kàviri has performed for Pope John Paul II in Rome, as well as for Hindu and Buddhist leaders;

Kàlai Kàviri is fostering a twin policy of encouraging Hindu students to enrol and also of encouraging Christians to adopt traditional dance in spite of some cultural resistance among both Christians and Moslems. In both ways, there has been success. While the College has grown rapidly in the last ten years, 53% of its students have been Christian and 46% have been Hindu.

3. Church Liturgy and Inculturation EXTRACT

[I]t is Kàlai Kàviri's prime duty to bring the Church into the main stream of the Indian culture… As a first step, we integrated these within the communication apostolate of the Church. We started by using Indian dance, music, drama and literature to communicate the Good News and social development values… We searched for ways to contribute to the art of dance, Bharatha Natyam, and South Indian Classical Music, which have been generally ignored by the Church in the past… The idea of giving systematic training in dance inspired us to start a Part-Time School for Bharatha Natyam in 1983…

All these contributions by Kàlai Kàviri over 25 years in the field of promoting fine arts have given a new cultural image to the Church. The pioneers of inculturation in the 17th, 18th centuries and the post Vatican period were within the Church circle. By contrast, Kàlai Kàviri's cultural contributions have been flowing as a major force outside, to merge with mainstream Indian heritage. Kàlai Kàviri has thus made the presence of the Church a fully Indian contributing force in the cultural field.

4. Kàlai Kàviri Collegiate Arts – Movement into Wholeness EXTRACT

In their two England tour months in 2004 and 2005, they danced at 11 cathedrals, 8 Hindu temples, 20 churches, 8 theatres, 12 school workshops, 2 melas, one prison, one city festival, and a Royal inauguration by HRH Duke of Gloucester.

For preference, Kàlai Kàviri dances at multi-ethnic locations, and especially where there is an inter-faith dimension.
Indian classical dance has a long history of liturgical performance for temple worship. Kàlai Kàviri University College of Fine Arts has choreographed this tradition for church worship and scriptural themes as well as for Hindu temple festivals. These use a sophisticated language of movement, expression and gesture to communicate. The effect for the West is a new spiritual dimension with the colour, grace, reverence and energy of South Indian dance drama.


5. Kàlai Kàviri College of Fine Arts, south India
Kàlai Kàviri College of Fine Arts is affiliated to the Bharathidasan University of Tiruchirappalli and is part of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Tiruchirappalli and is subsidised by the Tamil Nadu State Government after having been given its accolade of 'Best Cultural Institution for the Year 2000'.
It offers Bachelors, Masters and PhD programmes in Dance and Music and at present has 260 full-time students and some 800 part-time students of all faiths and operates a programme of open access with special assistance to students from poor, rural and outcaste families. Short courses and summer Certificate and Diploma programmes are also available. A new ‘world-first’ Off-Campus degree programme has recently been launched.
Further information is available at or; also at http://www.kalaikaviri_ or
6. What Kàlai Kàviri Offers – Creative Movement Workshops EXTRACT

Body preparatory exercises - especially from Kalari martial arts* and Yoga**.

Theme development – techniques and games from Bharatanatyam and South Asian folk dances to express stories, thoughts, ideas and emotions


**See YOGA and a half dozen other articles on yoga at my web site
7. Who are they? The Kàlai Kàviri-ni quartet EXTRACT

Picture of a member of the "Kàlai Kàviri-ni quartet"

Liturgical dance in sacred spaces

Bharathanatyam’s roots are in sacred dance even though there have been successful efforts to secularise it.

Kàlai Kàviri’s wide repertoire has been adapted:

either for temple hall stages for which the Kàlai Kàviri main troupe is a regular and popular performer, some 50 temples in India over the last decade and already eight in the UK; or for the sanctuary of cathedrals and churches both during and after liturgical services, whether eucharistic or otherwise.

For instance for six parts of the Mass, there are special dances which have been described as three dimensional psalms and which could also be used as part of Evensong. Using them, the main troupe has danced twice for Pope John Paul II in 1987 and 1990;
or with inter-faith potential when interspersed with readings from different scriptures or reflection or meditation.
So the Pope watched a Bharatanatyam recital. That’s terrible! Says Cardinal Arinze on page 12,

Somebody can say, "But the pope visited this country and the people danced". A moment: Did the pope arrange it? Poor Holy Father -- he comes, the people arranged. He does not know what they arranged. And somebody introduces something funny -- is the pope responsible for that? Does that mean it is now approved? Did they put it on the table of the Congregation for Divine Worship? We would throw it out! If people want to dance, they know where to go.”

The story of creation according to Kàlai Kàviri has nothing in common with the Christian tradition:

8. 50.

[From a box in the above web page:] In every piece of music there are three aspects, viz.
(i) the meaning of the song (ii) the laws of music & (iii) the sound of the song.
Similarly in 'Om'*, there are three aspects (i) the mere sound, a mantra as pronounced by the mouth; (ii) the meaning of the syllable which is to be realised through feeling; and (iii) the application of the 'Om' to your character, singing it in your actions and so within your life.

The Quest for Music Divine [EXTRACT from]

Music and dance when viewed in Indian tradition are fundamentally one spiritual art, an integral yoga and a science of harmony…

According to the Vedas, the Divine Mother Vak (Vag Devi) sang the whole creation into being. God's eternal life-force, Para Sakthi, entered or rather assumed the perennial causal sound Nada through the monosyllabic seed-sound Om (Pranava). Thereby the phenomenal world with its multiple forms evolved. This process of physical, vital, mental and soul contact or holy communion with God aims at complete harmony, perfect integration, and absolute identification with God, in all His manifested as well as unmanifested Lila (divine play and dance) at the individual, cosmic and supra-cosmic levels of existence… It is possible to trace each human sound or word back to its source by retracing step-by-step to the positive source, until the body of Brahman called Sabda Brahman is reached:
"In the beginning was Prajapathi, the Brahman" (Prajapath vai idam agtre aseet)
"With whom was the word" (Tasya vag dvitiya aseet)
"And the word was verily the supreme Brahman" (Vag vai paraman Brahman)
Indian music is said to have originated from the Vedas and music was considered one of the best forms of worship. Carnatic music is said to have evolved from sacred music, but though it moved through time in the realm of 'art music', the content never changed. Many ragas (recitative songs) are named after Gods, and it is believed that each God has a favourite raga.

In his book The Tao of Physics (1976), the physicist Fritjof Capra** explores the similarities between modern physics on the one hand - its interpretation of the dance of matter, both on the earth and in outer space - and, on the other hand, the Hindu view of the rhythmic process of creation and destruction, birth and death, all of which is symbolised in the dance of the God Siva. It also reminds us that the manifold forms in the world are maya, that is not fundamental, but illusory and always changing as He keeps creating and destroying. What He creates is an endless flow as He dances. This is the Dance of the Universe and the Dance of Life. **A leading New Ager! [See Vat. Doc.]

The origin and development of classical dance as portrayed in the Siva Pradhosha Stotra is dancing in the golden hall of the temple. All the divine beings take an active part in this blissful moment of the dance: Saraswati plays on the veena, Indra the flute, Brahma on cymbals, Vishnu on the mirudangam, while Lakshmi sings. Meanwhile, the Gods, demi-Gods, Apsaras, Yakshas, Gandharvas all stand around to witness the celestial dance and music of the Divine Choir.
Indian culture today has a distinct identity enlivened through temple traditions whose mission was to take art to the people and to convey a message, thereby eradicating their ignorance and lifting them to the path of Divyagyana, enlightenment.
Why is Indian classical dance so different from any other genre, both of the West and the East? What has shaped its distinctive 'Indian-ness'? How is it that regardless of the features and peculiar characteristics of each of the seven forms, namely Bharatha Natyam, Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchupudi, Kathakali and Mohiniattam, it is possible to say that all seven are parts of a single whole?
More than any other of India's several art forms, Indian classical dance provides a mirror view of the ancient Hindu conception of the universe, and the nature of reality. As a medium of expression, it gives scope for the most mundane and the most profound concepts to be expressed. Secularism and religion have existed in history without conflict, because secularism is not understood as being irreligious. Hence it is not correct to view Indian Classical music and dance as religious art only. The same dance technique has been used in temples, royal courts and in sabhas.
9. Kalai Kaviri Temple Programmes EXTRACT

Temple Programmes we have given at Hindu Temple Kumbabishekams*** and institutions: [a long list]

***meaning “Consecrations”. Kalai Kaviri performs at consecrations of Hindu temples and deities.
10. Public performances of Kalai Kaviri-Ni EXTRACT

Rochester Cathedral – Sunday Eucharist, 30 Sept 2007 11am

Conference of Bede Griffiths Sangha, Park Place Pastoral Centre, Fareham, Hants 21-22 July 2007

St Bede’s RC Church, Basingstoke, Sunday Parish Mass, 1 July 2007

St Swithun’s RC Church, Yateley, Hampshire, Sun 29 April 2007

Leeds University RC Chaplaincy Mass, Sun 22 April 2007

St Austin RC Church, Parish Mass, Wakefield, Sun 15 April 2007
Holy Trinity RC Church, Parish Mass, Brook Green, Hammersmith, London W6, Sun 22 Oct 2006

Diwali Celebrations, Balaji Temple, Oldbury, Birmingham, Sat 21 Oct 2006 51.

Click on the link for an exhaustive list. The Bede Griffiths Sangha [above] is as New Age as Catholic can get. See my reports on the CATHOLIC ASHRAMS and KRIPA FOUNDATION - WCCM, link given earlier.
11. Off-campus courses in Bharatanatyam by R. Krishnamoorthy for The Hindu July 23, 2008 EXTRACT
The world’s first off-campus degree programme in Bharatanatyam offered through a joint venture of Bharathidasan University and Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts, Tiruchi, is taking firm root in India and abroad.
For the Bachelor of Fine Arts, Master of Fine Arts and Diploma courses that are offered under the distance mode, the enrolment is poised to go up to 350 during the current academic year, from 220 last year. Enrolment started with 45 students in 2004-2 005. It increased to 62 students in 2005-2006 and 170 in 2006-2007.
Those running dance schools, dance teachers, performing artistes, or those employed in any other profession, or doing any degree in any discipline in regular colleges, and housewives have enrolled for these courses. Reputed cultural centres and art centres in India and abroad seek to be recognised as coordinating centres for the Off-Campus Degree Programme.
Says Rev. Msgr. S.M. George, Founder and Director of the Off-Campus Degree Programme, who is also the Founder of Kalai Kaviri College of Fine Arts belonging to the Catholic Diocese of Tiruchi: “The off-campus programmes have revolutionised the concept of promoting and popularising the fine art forms across barriers.”
Impressed by the concept, Bharatanatyam artiste Saraswathi promoting the cause of fine arts with Padma Vibhushan Dr. Balamuralikrishna for the past 20 years and Director of Vipanchee Natyalaya, Chennai, recommends her students who have dance schools all over the globe for admission to Kalai Kaviri Off-Campus programme.
The website provides more information. Application forms can also be downloaded.
12. Narthaki - Your gateway to the world of Indian dance

Rev. Fr. L. Anthuvan, the present Director, under his able guidance, upholds the vision of Kalai Kaviri and the Off-campus Degree Program in Bharatanatyam. Email:  
As in the Archdiocese of Bombay [Gyan Ashram, Atma Darshan, Sangeet Abhinay Academy] and in the Diocese of Mangalore [Sandesha Lalitkala Mahavidyalaya], we find that the teaching and recital of the so-called “Indian classical dances” like Bharatanatyam and Odissi have been institutionalised. Here we see the same in Kàlai Kàviri in the Diocese of Trichy.

Kàlai Kàviri performs in the sanctuaries of Hindu temples as much as they do in those of Catholic cathedrals. Even more shocking, despite the Church’s strong disapproval of such aberrations, the troupe performs in “the sanctuary of cathedrals and churches both during and after liturgical services, whether eucharistic or otherwise.

Kàlai Kàviri accepts that Indian classical dance provides a mirror view of the ancient Hindu conception of the universe, and the nature of reality”, that “Indian classical dance has a long history of liturgical performance for temple worship” and that “many ragas (recitative songs) are named after Gods, and it is believed that each God has a favourite raga”.

New Age stuff like the Martial Arts and Yoga go where Bharatanatyam goes. We have already seen that earlier. So do the “Om” symbol and mantra, and a myriad of Hindu rituals and paraphernalia from the Arati to the Kuthuvilakku [Hindu sanctuary lamp] to the idol of the “Lord of the Dance”, Nataraja/Siva. Kalai Kaviri performs at consecrations of Hindu temples and deities.

The Kàlai Kàviri site itself admits that it experiences “resistance among both Christians and Moslems” to Bharatanatyam and other such classical dance forms.
On the following page [53], we see that the Bishops of the dioceses of three Indian states, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttaranchal, jointly set up an institute, the Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra, to promote Hindu dances like Bharatanatyam. Its present head is Most Rev. Raphy Manjaly, the Bishop of Varanasi. The first of two photographs is of a Bharatanatyam sequence and one can imagine the spiritual consequences of its being performed in parishes and schools as in the list in item no. 5., below. Imagine also what happens to the Faith of those catechists -- who are mandated to transfer that Faith to our children -- who held their national conference at this centre under the auspices of the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India [CCBI], picture on the right on page 53.

The only “Victory of Good over Evil” is that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and I cannot see that being communicated through the recital of Bharatanatyam in all of my research for this article.
It is interesting to note that the Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra is the progenitor of the NBCLC (National Biblical Catechetical & Liturgical Centre), Bangalore’s Nrityavani dance troupe, see pages 54 ff. 52.

8. NAV SADHANA KALA KENDRA, Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh; a tri-diocesan enterprise

1. Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra, EXTRACT
Nava Sadhana Kala Kendra is a college of dance & music situated in a beautiful tiny long stretched pollution free green suburb, near Tarna, Shivpur, of the cultural city - Kashi. … It was founded by the honourable Bishops of UP, Uttaranchal & Rajasthan in July 1996 to promote Indian Arts & Culture. One of the thrusts of this college is to train the students to achieve certain professional quality in Bharatnatayam & Hindustani Vocal Music…
Nav Sadhana Kala Kendra is affiliated to Indira Kala Sangeet Vishwavidyalaya, Khairagarh, Chhattisgarh (University of Dance, Music & Visual Arts) with a status of permanent affiliation. The college is hopeful of obtaining autonomous status in future. It also has UGC recognition.

Email Address: Phone: +91-542-2282236 Fax: +91-542-2280830

2. History of Bharatanatyam

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3. Photo gallery

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