Kala Korner by DeeCee
A fascinating story

Despite his ill- health, Kalasuri Panibharatha was on stage at the John de Silva Theatre recently, obviously appreciative of the praises showered on him for his service to the arts, by university dons and others.

The occasion was the launch of the biography - Panibharatha Charitapadanaya - by Anura Priyalal Sirisena who graduated from the Peradeniya University with an upper second class from the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Panibharata's is a fascinating story. Hailing from the 'Algama Parapura' - the generation of dancers from Algama in the Hatara Korale, he had two big names in his immediate family circle - Algama Siriya Gurunnanse and his son Algama Kiriganitha Gurunnanse. Panibharatha, Kiriganitha's elder brother Pabanchi Guru's son, was to make a name for himself just like the other two.

Born on February 24, 1920, his father was keen to make the young Panis a Veda Mahattaya. He was sent to Ratnapura to be understudy to Tibbotuwawe Veda Hamuduruwo. But a visit to the Saman Devale where his father's brother was due to perform, changed Panibharatha's entire career. He was so thrilled watching him that he decided to give up learning medicine and take to dancing. "I knew it was in my blood," he recollects. From then on he became his uncle's pupil and learnt the entire gamut of dancing and drumming.

It is not easy to find someone who has devoted his entire life - over six decades - to the cause of dancing. Being essentially a simple man from the village, Panibharata had to face immense problems in his career. He did not have influential friends in the city. It was a bitter struggle right through.

"He has not got what he deserves," Professor Tissa Kariyawasam told the audience. "He was a hard worker. He knew what he was saying and what he was doing. Yet not many appreciated his work. He has not been honoured the way he should be." He should know because Panibharatha was head of dancing at the College of Fine Arts when he was the administrative head, after it was taken over by the Kelaniya University.

Panibharatha is indebted to S.L.B. Kapukotuwa, one-time Director of Education who was an ardent supporter of local arts, and J.D.A. Perera, the renowned artist who was head of the paintings section in Technical College and later became head of Heywood School of Fine Arts. Panibharatha got his break when he was selected as the drummer for the well-known dancer Chandralekha, J.D.A. Perera's wife. A tour of India with her in 1938 helped him a great deal and when he was awarded a scholarship to Santiniketan in 1944, he made full use of the opportunity to prove his talents. It was after his return from India in 1948 that he took the name 'Panibharatha' on a suggestion by three influential persons of the day - S.L.B. Kapukotuwa, Professor G.P. Malalasekera and DB Dhanapala.

Panibharata acknowledges with gratitude the immense service of D.B. Dhanapala, as Editor of the 'Lankadipa', in uplifting the image of the local artistes. He was the first to address a dancer as 'Mahatha' (Mister) giving up the word 'Gurunnanse'.

The book records in detail the yeoman service rendered by Panibharatha in the cause of dancing including the innovative forms of drumming he created. The Godage publication is thus a useful guide to get a glimpse of one aspect of our rich culture while paying tribute to a worthy individual.

Rhythm of a lifetime

State support for artistes

So what of state support for our artistes? Director, Cultural Affairs Department, Lakshman Perera said there are various projects to support artistes, including a programme to assist underprivileged artistes by giving Rs. 2000 a month. At present, 1800 artistes island-wide benefit from this scheme.

When any artiste receives the 'Kalavibhushana' title, it comes with a fixed deposit of Rs.10,000 that can be withdrawn whenever the artiste wants to. However, this title is awarded only to artistes above 60 years of age and is meant as a pension, he explained.

There is also an insurance scheme called 'Kala Devi' where artistes have to pay a sum of Rs. 75/- per month to obtain the benefits which include Rs.10,000 for any handicap or lifetime ailment, Rs.15,000 for hospitalization annually and Rs. 25,000 at death.

In addition to these, each Kalayathana receives a sum of Rs. 3-6,000. The Department also recently launched an identity card scheme for artistes to give them free transportation in public buses and trains, the opportunity to watch two films screened by the National Film Corporation annually free of charge, and half rate lodging facilities in any Mahaweli bungalow in the island.

"I agree that the monetary assistance is insufficient. But we have a big problem with funds. We have a budget of twenty-eight lakhs for Kalayathanas and another twenty-eight lakhs to spend on underprivileged artistes. And each year thirty Kalayathanas and under privileged artistes are added to the list," Mr. Perera said.

If assistance for medication etc is required family members are expected to make a request to the Cultural Affairs Department at Sethsiripaya.

Mr. Perera said that as for a long-term benefit scheme, the only option is for cultural institutes themselves to take up the cause. The Department could then assist their project, he added.

However, benefits and support have to be requested and many artistes are not aware of the assistance available or how to get it.

Some complain that although in theory help is available, bureaucratic red tape stands in the way. For instance, although identity cards have been issued to some artists, the necessary seals that authorize the privileges are missing, artistes say.
Thus, do they really benefit?

'Jeng jeng tirikita, jeng takata taka
Jeng jeng tarikita jeng'

The 'thammatte' and other drums often heard from his house are silent. Instead, we are greeted with a smiling 'Ayubowan'. Now 82, the once graceful and energetic dancer and drummer, Sithrachari Panibharatha is no longer in the limelight.

For three years now, he has been forced to take time off from his beloved dancing and drumming, due to an ailment in his knees. He is not happy with the situation but has come to accept it.

His muscular body, now aged, yearns to dance a 'kasthirama' or a 'kohomba kankariya' but he is barely able to walk. A family member, often a grand- daughter or a sister helps him to move around his home at Rajagiriya.

"It is nice to see someone walking through that door. Few people come to meet me nowadays, since I fell ill," he says with a tinge of regret. "I cannot dance anymore as my knees are not as strong as they used to be. I have been under medication, western and ayurvedic, for three years now."

Panibharatha, a pioneer in the arts and cultural revival in Sri Lanka at a time when traditional artistes were taking to other professions, today spends his days amongst the souvenirs of a glamorous past.

Among his notable achievements are the formulation of a National Traditional Dance Troupe, helping launch a school (Heywood) for arts and cultural studies, being instrumental in formulating the curriculum for dance and music and promoting the status of traditional dancers and musicians in Sri Lanka. He has also held the position of Chairman of the Arts Council for many years and was an advisor on cultural matters and policy making until recently.

His paintings, sculptures, and photographs decorate his house. The awards are many. He received the title of Kalasuri and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Kelaniya for his contributions to National Arts and Culture (a lifetime achievement award). He was also awarded the Bunka Prize in '98 ( presented by Japan- Sri Lanka Friendship Cultural Fund), the National Achievement Award in '97, Sahashra Pranama in 2000 and the Sithru Award.

He had the privilege of playing the first opening 'magul bera' theme on Radio Ceylon in 1928, and dancing at the Albert Hall in London and at the Kerala Kala Mandalaya in India. He has also performed with the National Dance Troupe in many countries. He still finds it difficult to walk past a drum or an 'udekki', without remembering the 'good old days'.

As he spoke to us, his body moved in the rhythms and actions of dance, his voice rising and falling in tune, sometimes in a 'kavi' and other times in words. "I am rich in culture and art and I have received many honours throughout my lifetime, even though I may be poor in a material sense.""It was I who brought together artistes scattered over the island and instituted a school of dance. I have brought dancing this far. Some of my students are Channa Wijewardene, Prof. Mudiyansae Disanayake and even the late President R. Premadasa," he said with pride.

Sometimes he paid teachers out of his pocket and made arrangements for students who passed out to obtain employment as professional dancers and artistes. Many believe his greatest contribution to the arts was the revival of dance through the modification of traditional dance cultures (i.e Sabaragamuwa, Pahatarata and Udarata) to suit the present without which traditional arts may not have survived.

Yet there is a regret that for all his contributions to the country he now has only the pension for having taught dancing for over twenty years at Nalanda, Royal and later the Mirigama Senior School.

He does not ask for help. "I received Rs. 50,000 about ten years ago, and of course Rs.10,000 as Kalavibhushana. No other assistance, even to help me through my illness which cost me about one lakh during my initial hospitalization," he said, not as a complaint but as an answer to a question as to whether there is any state assistance for artistes in need, who have contributed immensely to the preservation of our heritage.

"There is an urgent requirement to bring together traditional artistes to form an institute which provides them employment and thereby support the continuation of the art form while re-establishing traditional arts. Maybe they could extend it to support a pension scheme for these artistes if everything goes well," he says in parting.

Striking a balance

"All medicines are made by man; Man is not perfect and medicines made by man are not perfect. We should therefore integrate all medicines for the betterment of man," asserts Dr. Selvakumar Selvathurai who offers integrated medicine at his new clinic, Devi's Integrated Medical Centre in Colombo 3.

The Centre, the first of its kind in the country has been operational since mid-March and is equipped to treat a variety of illnesses such as arthritis, asthma, migraine, sinusitis, goitre, diabetes, ischaemic heart disease, skin disorders like leucodermia, impaired vision and hearing, sports injuries and other cosmetic treatments.

Acupuncture, ayurvedic massage, homeopathy and aromatherapy in different combinations are used for long term, effective healing. The team at the clinic consists of Dr. Selvakumar whose speciality is Auriculotherapy (Ear Acupuncture) although he is also trained in Homeopathy, Dr. Svetland, an aromatherapist and Mr. Chandana, an ayurvedic physiotherapist.

Although acupuncture originated in the foothills of the Himalayas, the Chinese preserved it and gave it back to the western world, even though Allopathy had gained prominence with the discovery of antibiotics and the x-ray machines. The eastern (Chinese) form of acupuncture was however restricted mainly to the body.

It was French neurologist Paul Nogier, considered the pioneer of auriculotherapy who contributed to the advancement of ear acupuncture.

Auriculotherapy in simple terms is ear acupuncture. It applies the principles of acupuncture to specific points on the ear. Auriculotherapists believe that healing processes can be promoted by working with these points on the ear, because the ear contains many blood vessels and nerve endings that, when stimulated, influence the organs and bodily functions. Using electrical impulses on the skin of the ear, problems could be detected in the internal organs and thereby illnesses diagnosed.

Since then experiments conducted in the West and China indicate that auriculotherapy is effective in both treatment and diagnosis of conditions.

How auriculortherapy works can be explained as follows: If a person has a Tennis Elbow, a point in the ear or the 'ear elbow' shows sensitivity. When this point on the ear is stimulated, it works back to the brain to initiate the healing procedure and it sends impulses to the elbow to heal itself, thereby activating the body's own healing mechanism.

The auriculorscope (machine used to find the sensitive point of ear) is used to probe different points on the ear. When it gets to the points that have cellular damage, the sensitivity gets heightened and the conductivity increases on the machine to show what part of the human body is pathologically ill. The process of acupuncture therefore is the keyboard entry that initiates the healing mechanism and brings about the healing process.

What the team at Devi's Integrated Medical Centre strives for is - not just to identify disease but instead try to find out what type of person has the disease and treat the person holistically. Should a person have a frozen shoulder, it could be treated within seconds through acupuncture and mobility could be restored. However that would only be treating the symptom. They would rather understand the root cause. The frozen shoulder could be an indication of a problem connected to the spine, the ribs, the heart, asthma or even diabetes. Once this is understood they would through integrated medicine treat the root cause and make the person whole again.
Towards this Dr. Selvakumar blends the western form of acupuncture (ear acupuncture), scalp acupuncture and the eastern (Chinese) body acupuncture.

3 1/2 year old Muskie Mam, a premature twin, suffering from Cerebral Palsy has been taking treatment at the centre for the past seven months. The condition caused by foetal stress has resulted in epileptic attacks, spasticity of limbs and low immune system due to which diseases are easily manifested. This child from Kurunegala is now being treated with non-retention acupuncture followed by acupressure at the same point to strengthen immune system, ayurvedic massage, crniaosacral massage (of the scalp), homeopathy and aromatherapy. "He is responding well to the treatment - the attacks are less frequent, he is able to balance himself better, recognises others and recalls his brother at home," says Mujeem, father of the child.

Having worked at Switzerland for 15 years, Sri Skandarajah transferred all his savings through a colleague before returning to Sri Lanka. To his disappointment, he found no trace of his hard-earned income on his arrival. Skandarajah now is depressed and prefers to be in seclusion. Urged by the doctor he now comes into the clinic for acupuncture, homeopathy, nerve strengthening ayurvedic massage and counselling.

An injection given on Suzanne Jeyarani's hip to treat a lump in the throat when she was just a year old affected a nerve in the leg and since then her leg below the knee is useless. But from the treatment she received here she now feels her cold leg warming up.

Among the other interesting cases at the clinic are those suffering from the excruciating pain of Trigeminal Neuraegia (pain on one side of the head, affecting eye, chin and cheek), asthma and migraine.

Having trained in General Medicine, Homeopathy and with a PhD in Auriculotherapy in Norway, Dr. Selvakumar has practised integrated medicine techniques widely in Norway, Austria, Switzerland and Germany. He has now returned to serve his motherland. He also sees patients at the Kalubowila Hospital. Incidentally, it was Prof. Anton Jayasuriya from the Kalubowila Hospital who initiated Dr. Selvakumar into acupuncture and accompanied him to China to study the subject.

Dr. S. Svetland, the Russian aromatherapist who has also worked with Dr. Selvakumar in Europe uses products made from essential oils of plants and takes care of the cosmetology cases. Using micro current she does non-surgical face-lifts, wrinkle removal, body shaping, complexion improvement, cellulite and acne treatment. With the use of her creams and lotions, she helps with clinical cases to aid relaxation and stress relief.

Although Dr. Selvakumararecommends allopathy / western medicine for emergencies, he believes strongly in activating one's own healing mechanism. "We need to strike a balance between the different forms of medicine - the answer is integrated medicine," he says.

All women police stations in Tamil Nadu provide a much needed help-line for women
No longer silent victims
By Dilrukshi Handunnetti
Visiting Kanyakumari (Cape Comorin), a conservative little town in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, I was delighted to notice something that appealed to my rather feminist eye. Adjoining the small red- brick police station, I saw a help-line established for women in distress and to my joy, a women's police station.

The help-line I gathered, was meant for women to send urgent messages seeking help, all free of charge. The centre had three volunteers and was quite active.

At 8. 30 a.m., the women's unit was already recording complaints. Two women were seated before a woman constable, and yes, they certainly appeared to be more comfortable relating their tales of woe to fellow women, though they are in uniform.

The station was manned by women police constables. They spoke very little English, and I spoke no Tamil, but we managed to communicate. While answering my queries using her little knowledge of English and more body language, Inspector Shashikala was turning around and firing instructions to a woman police constable about recording a statement.

The complainants were both sari clad, one a new bride who had been harassed by her husband and mother-in-law over the lack of a substantial dowry. The other, a middle aged woman, complaining of a domestic dispute. It seemed obvious that in this traditional town, the women's unit was a great source of encouragement to women to come out and record a statement against their own families, masters or spouses.

" It is not easy for these women to open up. The Indian women have silently suffered, especially with regard to the provision of dowries. Things are changing now. But, still a woman without a pot of gold is worthless in the eyes of many a man," explained Inspector Shashikala.

This police station, I gathered was established in December 2001, just four months ago by the Tamil Nadu police to facilitate the women who would feel more comfortable visiting a police station completely run by women.

" A long felt need," noted IP Shashikala who thought that it was the only way to make women volunteer information to the police, not just personal information but more general information that could help the authorities.

Guruswami Janaki, a bubbling young sub inspector helped me with the police records so far maintained. SI Janaki happily noted, however, that so far they haven't had to deal with a single rape charge, another criminal offence that is frequently committed in the Tamil Nadu state.

According to the women police unit, their prime concern is to settle disputes immediately without proceeding towards complicated inquiries. And if it is dowry related, they try to explain matters to the husband and seek an assurance from him that his wife would be returned home only on a firm pledge of fair treatment.

No, things are not easy, especially in India where dowry related harassment is still a serious concern. The need is for attitudinal changes mostly, explains SI Janaki, laughingly admitting that the very thought of marriage became repulsive to her when she sees some of the brutally assaulted women who come seeking their help.

Being police officers did not alter things in their favour either. It obviously affected them too, as women. " I think that makes us feel more sympathetic towards these victims of harassment, "said Janaki.

Occasionally, these women police officers are made to assist in major crime busting operations, depending on the directives of the Tamil Nadu police. Otherwise, their duties are mainly confined to registration and investigation of dowry related issues, all petitions referred by women on behalf of women, tracing stray or runaway women and children, counselling in domestic disputes and minor offences, guarding and escorting female prisoners etc. The 11 member unit has only two officers but maintains a 24 hour service nevertheless.

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