Twice a year, the Chhandam School of Kathak holds a ceremony, in which students receive their Ghungroo, or bells, for the first time. This is a milestone in the study of Kathak dance. Receiving ghungroo is an honor and a privilege – it urges students to strive for excellence and commitment to their own personal development through riyaz (practice). Each student’s ghungroo is blessed by Pandit Chitresh Das and presented to them. Leading up to Chhandam’s Fall 2012 Ghungroo Ceremony, Chhandam Youth Dance Company members Mayuka and Atmika Sarukkai, share their thoughts on receiving their ghungroo for the first time.
By Mayuka Sarukkai, Age 15
Four years ago, I remember holding a string of bells before me, weighing them in my arms, and feeling immense pride at being able to call them my own. I remember my nervousness as I watched the procession of new ghungroo recipients receive their individual blessings. I remember the moment when Dadaji took a piece of sweet between his fingers and placed it between my lips. I remember feeling a powerful connection to something much larger than myself ― little did I know that I stood on the verge of discovering a new-found respect and appreciation for the vastness of an art form that would forever change my outlook on life.
Ghungroos symbolize a deep connection between the dancer and the dance; perhaps that relationship is a result of the time and effort every dancer must invest into the ghungroo-stringing process: to thread each bell onto the string, to tie each knot with precision, to count and recount the number of bells, to tend to each blistered finger. . . I know that the hard work involved in stringing the ghungroos was not only a gratifying experience; it also meant the production of a tangible object that embodies the incredible joy — and the practice and determination — involved in deciding I was ready to take it upon myself to study dance at a more serious level.
Receiving my ghungroos marked a new milestone in my study of kathak dance ― the bells carry the weight of an important responsibility that was being passed into my hands to carry on a legacy of appreciation, preservation, and promotion of the arts. Every time I wind my bells around my leg before dancing is a reminder of that responsibility and of the enormous privilege I enjoy in being a part of that legacy. The ghungroo ceremony itself was a testament to that connection with a heritage that spans generations and carries a significance that extends far beyond the individual dancer. Four years after receiving my ghungroos, I know I am still far from fully understanding the full extent of the impact of this legacy; but I do know that the lessons I’ve learned in these years will live with me for a lifetime.