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30th August 1998

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Dancing since seven

By Roshan Peiris

Anusha Balendra was caught young at the age of seven to learn the intricate and well disciplined art of Bharatha-natyam. Anusha Balendra

Married to Ayaru, a civil engineer and living with him in Zambia she nevertheless did not give up her dancing. She gave recitals in aid of charity and taught batches of thirty to forty girls at a time.

Anusha who learnt a lot from her elder sister Neila Sathyalingam also received inspiration, guidance and a love for Bharatha-natyam from her mother a respected and venerable lady in the Tamil community Mrs. Manonmany Balendra. Her father was a dentist.

Anusha, we recall was always exciting to watch on stage, as she danced her way through with well disciplined feet, an equally disciplined mind and eye movements so very important in this form of dancing.

She learnt her dancing from the famous teacher Kamala Johnpulle. "Bharatha -natyam is much more than dancing. It was a sort of spiritual experience meaningful to my way of life by teaching discipline," she said.

"At Ladies College I taught in the primary school although it had nothing to do with dancing. Bharatha- natyam I feel endows ones nature with discipline and helped in my general teaching. I owe a great deal to my mother and sisters. I gave recitals in Botswana and danced on TV in Singapore as well," she said

It is perhaps a record that Anusha who has been dancing since she was seven does so at fifty-two-years as well.

Going against tradition


Traditionally Sinhalese Buddhists avoid having funerals on Fridays. No one is quite sure why. But when Venerable Piyadassi had given instructions that his funeral should be held within three days, the decision was made to cremate his body on Friday. Everyone agreed. And so it was that the simple funeral ceremony was held at Pedris Park in Havelock Town on Friday, 21 August.

The Chaitya in Isipathanarama was a fitting backdrop to the simple ceremony, which was attended by a large crowd representing both the clergy and the laity. Leading the clergy was the Most Venerable Agga Maha Pandita Madihe Pannasiha Maha Nayake Thera who had associated with the Venerable Piyadassi for 62 years from the days they were both pupils of the late Pelene Sri Vajiranana Maha Nayake Thera, the founder of Vajirarama.

Pannasiha Maha Nayake Thera who is now the head of Vajirarama announced that Ampitiye Sri Rahula Maha Thera would take over the functions of 'Vajiramadhikari', a post that Venerable Piyadassi held. This was in keeping with the 'Kathikavata', ecclesiastical code prepared by Pelene Maha Nayake Thera. Rahula Maha Thera too belongs to the first batch of the Maha Nayake Thera's pupils.

The yeoman service rendered by Venerable Piyadassi in the propagation of the Dhamma both here and abroad was stressed by the monks and laymen who delivered funeral orations. The President's condolence message was read by Cultural & Religious Affairs Minister Luxman Jayakody.

The speakers had a word of praise for the young monk, Daranagama Kusaladhamma Thera of the Sambodhi Vihara for his dedication and commitment in looking after Venerable Piyadassi during the past few months when he was critically ill. "I have lost a friend, teacher and mentor", Kusaladhamma Thera said adding that under his guidance he was able to organise a lot of religious and social service activities. Kusaladhamma Thera, along with the President of the Sambodhi Vihara Dayaka Sabha, Chandima Silva, has initiated the setting up of a 'Piyadassi International Dharmaduta Centre', a fitting tribute to Piyadassi, the Wondering Monk.

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