PROFILE OF THE YEAR:
By Dr Dhanpaul Narine
In 2018, Rudra Jayanta Bhagawati was returning to India with warm memories. He was sent by the Government of India to teach classical dance to Guyanese. Jayanta was based at the Indian Cultural Centre (ICC) in Georgetown, but he traveled around Guyana to meet with the people and to get them interested in dance. The ICC happens to be the oldest outpost of India’s Mission abroad. It is more than forty years old and has produced many wonderful Guyanese talents. The classes are free and are open to all Guyanese and Jayanta is proud of its achievements.
The ICC has produced talents such as Malini Shah, formerly Marilyn Bose, Philip McClintock, Mathadayal Persaud, Indranie and Nadira Shaw, Muntaz Ali, Devika Singh, Mark Westford, Donna Mendonca and Andre Sobrian, among others. The dance teachers at that time were Pratap Pawar and Durga Lal. Another great student that studied in India was Gora Singh who mesmerized audiences. Malini Shah went on to teach at the prestigious Modern School in Delhi. She was part of Deputy Prime Minister Shankar Dyal Sharma’s team when he visited Guyana for the 150th anniversary of East Indian migration from India to Guyana.
Jayanta Bhagawati is a long list of teachers that have made a wonderful contribution to bring India closer to Guyana. He was born in Mazuli in Assam, and its greenery reminds him of Guyana. He says that the people of Assam are interested in the arts and culture and the state has a seventy percent Hindu population. Mazuli is a river island on the Brahmaputra and its classical dance is known as Sateriya that is derived from the Satra temple. Jayanta said that the music is pure and that he was dancing since he was a child.
He did the Sateriya dance and he did well. His guru Krishna Goswami saw Jayanta’s talents and said that the young man had a great future. Jayanta describes Goswami as “a perfect dancer who has the temperament and who was made for dancing.” Their relationship began in1986 and it lasted for two years. During that time, Jayanta mastered the ’Shiva Tandab’ a dance made famous by his guru. In 1988, Jayanta moved to Lucknow to further his studies. He went to Bhatkhande College of Hindustani Music for nine years to perfect his skills. He graduated with his Master’s Degree in Dance and was awarded the Nritya Visharad and Nritya Nipun in Kathak Dance. This is the highest award from the college.
Jayanta was recognized as a Master of Dance Teacher. In November 2014, Jayanta was posted to Guyana. How did he feel? He said he was excited and apprehensive. “I didn’t know anything at that time about Guyana. I had to look at a map to find it. It was in South America. I traveled there on my own. I was impressed with the country. It looked just like Assam. It was like a homecoming.” He found Indian culture to be alive and well in Guyana. He taught hundreds of students and says that some of them have perfected the skills as classical dancers. Jayanta spent three years and three months in Guyana on that stint. He was sad to leave when his assignment ended in 2018.
But Divine Providence has intervened. Since his departure, the ICC has been renamed the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre and is one of the oldest in the world to be established by India. In 2023, Jayanta was appointed as Director of the Centre in Guyana. He was thrilled! It was his second homecoming. The Centre conducts classes in yoga, harmonium, tabla and dholak, vocals and in classical dance. There are outreach classes to other parts of Guyana and the expanded curriculum now includes Hindi clubs, Sanskrit class, cooking, and sari draping demonstration, among others.
Jayanta wants to strengthen cultural relations between Guyana and India. He is grateful to his father Ghana Kanta Bhagawati for his inspiration. He also thanks his wife Pranaame Bhagawati and their daughter Wamiel Pranaame Kashyap for their love and support. In his spare time he cooks, play games, and compose music.
There is no doubt that under the leadership of Director Jayanta Bhagawati, the Swami Vivekananda Cultural Centre will continue to bring India closer to Guyanese and to foster peace through arts. We are proud to name Rudra Jayanta Bhagawati as our PROFILE OF THE YEAR 2023. We wish him and his family all the best in the future.