Who hasn`t heard of the Mohini Attam dancer Ms. Gopika Varma? The artiste par excellence who started learning Mohiniattam at the age of 10. Not everybody,however, knows of her lineage. Such is her humility, accessibility and simple way of life.
"I am proud of being called a professional Mohiniattam dancer," proclaims Gopika Varma, who, is the `first daughter-in-law` of the Travancore Royal family. The Travancore kings have been famous connoisseurs of fine arts.
Gopika Varma is married into this royal family, which gave birth to great artiste-kings like Swathi Tirunal. She lives with her husband Prince Pooruruttathi Thirunal Marthanda Varma and her only son at their tastefully maintained home, `Ramalayam` in Adyar, Chennai.
Dance is an integral part of Gopika Varma`s life. Her school is called Daasya.
She has just completed her work on Mudras in Mohini attam and is releasing her book - `Hasthaa` which has text in Malayalam and Sanskrit with meanings and English transliteration. This book comes with a VCD and is a simple way to learn the nuances on one`s own.
"This is an auspicious month and so we are releasing the work" she said.
Talking about Onam, in a voice that cannot keep out the joy and excitement, she says she is going away to Kerala - with her family to celebrate Onam in traditional pomp and splendour, befitting the Royal family of Travancore.
To her, the joy is not in the pomp or show. It is in the simple things of life.
She says, " I have to pay my respects to the elders, seek their blessings and rejoice at the gifts they give me. These are my delightful rights. In turn, as the oldest daughter-in-law, I give away `Onam kod` ( the traditional sari sets of Kerala) to younger relatives. These are my pleasant duties. It is not as if we don`t buy clothes otherwise.... the pleasure in giving and receiving on Onam is special. So is the Onam Sadya, or feast. And the putting up of the `Oonjal` (swing) under a tree in keeping with tradition and vying with the young children to swing on it!".
She wishes every one a very happy Onam and hopes that the coming year would be a colourful and happy year for all.