The living legend of Sri Lankan dance, legendary Kandyan danseuse and Sri Lanka’s first prima ballerina Deshabandhu Dr. Vajira Chitrasena, was felicitated by the High Commission of India on her 81st birthday on Friday, 15 March 2013 at India House. The felicitation was in recognition of Dr. Vajira Chitrasena’s outstanding and unique contribution to enriching India-Sri Lanka relations through the promotion of dance.
Dr. Sarath Amanugama, Senior Minister for International Monetary Cooperation and Deputy Minister of Finance and Planning was the Chief Guest and Chandrika Kumaratunga, former President of Sri Lanka and Padma Shri Pandit Amaradeva were the Guests of Honour at the felicitation event.
The other dignitaries who graced the felicitation event included Vasudeva Nanayakkara, Minister of National Languages and Social Integration, Deputy Minister Faizer Mustapha, Mem-bers of Parliament Karu Jayasuriya, Ravi Karunanayake, Day-asiri Jayasekera, Eran Wickra-maratne, A.H.M. Azwer and Vijitha Herath, Indrani Weeratunga, along with four generations of Vajira family and Dr. Vajira’s disciples. In his address, Chief Guest Minister Dr. Sarath Amunugama emphasised the role Dr. Vajira played in the making of Sri Lankan national identity. He also recalled the High Commission of India’s felicitation of the Sri Lankan musical icon Pt. Amaradeva in 2011 and underlined the significance of the felicitating Dr. Vajira as she is the dance icon of Sri Lanka. In her address, Chandrika Kumar-atunga, former President of Sri Lanka, focused on the stylistic aspects and various features of Dr. Vajira’s dance. She also remembered her days of studying Kandyan dance under the tutelage of Dr. Vajira and her involvement in developing the dance for various kinds of expressions.
In his address, Ashok K. Kantha, High Commissioner of India, said that the event was to celebrate Dr. Vajira’s remarkable artistic journey spanning over six decades and her achievements. He underlined that Dr. Vajira is credited with creating the female version of Kandyan dancing and that some of the most treasured ballets of Sri Lanka such as Karadiya and Nala-Damayanthi were result of collaboration of Guru Chitrasena and Guru Vajira.
He noted that indigenous dance theatre in Sri Lanka is firmly based on the traditions developed through the creative energy of Guru Chitrasena and Guru Vajira. He also acknowledged legendary role of Guru Chitrasena in the revival of Sri Lanka’s traditional dance forms and his exposure to India, through learning of Kathakali in Travancore in 1940 and study at Shantiniketan in 1945, which was a key influence in shaping his art form. He also mentioned the numerous tours to India undertaken by Chitrasena and Vajira together with the Chitrasena Dance Company from 1959 to 1998. He highlighted that the connection established by Chitrasena and Vajira with India has continued to flourish and mentioned a remarkable recent collaboration between the Chitrasena Dance Company and Nrityagram, an Indian dance ensemble in putting together the joint production ‘Samhara’ which received rave reviews in India, Sri Lanka, USA and elsewhere. High Commissioner Kantha said that day was also a celebration of the shared cultural heritage of Sri Lanka and India and emphasised that based on shared, ancient roots, but nevertheless a living and dynamic cultural space, is constantly renewed and revitalised through a process of give and take and mutual appreciation . Somalatha Subasinghe, eminent writer and theatre personality, passionately spoke about life and illustrious career of Dr. Vajira Chitrasena.
Dr. Vajira Chitrasena was presented a felicitation plaque by Ashok K. Kantha, High Commissioner of India. Sharmila Kantha honoured Dr. Vajira Chitrasena by presenting her with a shawl. The felicitation concluded with the cutting of a cake to celebrate Dr. Vajira Chitrasena’s 81st birthday in the presence of distinguished invitees, her family members and officials of the High Commission of India.