Challangai Puja was on the day of the arangetram for me. However, I have decoupled the arangetram from the Challangai Puja so that the student is motivated along their path of training and also to increase the impact of the dance on stage. The dancer should prove worthy of the Challangai before wearing it. Parents should not push for challangai poojai before the student has proved themselves worthy. The teacher will make the decision when to have Challangai Puja.
If we wait for everyone to have arangetram, it will be too long. Further, arangetram is generally a big money spending affair. Not all dancers can afford it. My contribution to the student is to do it for them and hence the costs of all challangai pujas for all batches since the start of the school have been borne by the dance class. We will provide the priest’s dakshina and the temple's donation.
Unlike other schools, we take the trouble to do an elaborate challangai puja with a priest for the following reasons :
to make sure it sticks in the student's brain that this has something to do with Hindu Religion and Indian culture,
they understand that their dance was meant to be an offering for the Gods,
that the challangai is not to be taken lightly,
to give an opportunity to different priests in the area to come to our class and help them in a small way to make a living,
to make sure the priests in the area are treated by us with honor and respect and they think of us when there is an event in the temple etc.
Most of the priests in the area have visited us and know of us and love our dance and more importantly fondly remember their experience doing the puja in our school. Please help propagate that experience.
If you are new to From Within and already have challangai, please participate in our puja in February. If you have not experienced the elaborate puja, it is quite a fulfilling experience! Just let your teacher know if you would like to have your bells blessed.
After the challangai puja, all students will dance with the bells on. That would generally be the first time.
We firmly believe that God is one and no one greater than the other and we need all of them and all the faiths. Whatever brings a feeling of peace to the heart is God and in our case Dance itself takes us to a different plane. Regardless, we encourage all students of non Hindu faith to see their respective Gods of choice in their devotion. But we are unable to change our practices to embrace universality. We will stick to the original Hindu tradition because if we start questioning and glossing over the details, the Art that originated in the temple and is so close to the lifestyle of Hindus will lose its soul. Thanks for understanding. Some places are not for free thinking regardless of how modern we are. Working with traditional Bharatanatyam is one of those places. I have seen so many experiments that go South rather quickly.
Steps to the challangai puja:
You will receive a preliminary planning mail that you/ your children will have the challangai puja. Generally we do an annual puja each year. We will find an auspicious time (subamuhurtham). We always hire a local priest to perform the puja.
Challangai Puja a big event and second only to an Arangetram. Please show it proper respect and attend it after you've confirmed your participation.
Tips and Customs Regarding the Dancer's Bells:
Challangai or the dancer’s bells are the single most beautiful accessory of the dancer. They are not just bells but should be treated with respect by the dancer. Please carefully read the instructions below concerning the challangai
Obtaining the challangai:
Stitch the dancers bells on cloth or Rexin or other non leather material. It should look somewhat like the picture to the right.
Make the bells adjustable to adjust to dancer’s growing legs.
It is not stylish to own many different pairs of bells. Buy one and keep for life.
If the teacher gives the student their own (teacher’s) challangai, the student is blessed and should take responsibility to further the art of Bharatanatyam.