The Ashrama has always encouraged the performing arts as an extension to education. The Ashrama believes that children should be given every opportunity to learn one of the performing arts as it develops discipline in every child and it enables the child to have another extracurricular activity and skill.
In 1923, The Sangeetha Abivirithi Sabha was established and was later "adopted" as its sister organisation with the responsibility of being in charge of the cultural activities.
The Sangeetha Abivirithi Sabha, affectionately known as the Sabha* has the Deity of Fine Arts, Goddess Saraswati, as its Divine patron. By any yardstick the Sabha is indeed a unique institution that has helped to fill a void stretching not only across time but also distance. For Malaysians of Tamil-speaking lineage, did not have to trek thousand of miles to listen to good Indian carnatic music and dance. The Sabha changed all that for Malaysians of Tamil origin, bringing the arts here, to the very centre of Kuala Lumpur. Thanks to a very dedicated and action-oriented group of devoted music lovers (among them being famous names in the community like Sinnathurai, M.S.Vadivel Pillai, T.R. Subrahmanya lyer, N. Ramaswamy, V. Saravanamuthu and M. Kandiah) who gave life to this unique institution.
With 61 members and 38 male students-members, the Sabha was located in the building still to be found in Brickfields .
THE SANGEETHA ABIVIRITHI SABHA
THE HISTORY OF SABHA
The Sabha’s first teacher was then the famous Vidwan S Ghousemian Sahib, a devout practitioner of carnatic music. Under his able leadership, in 1925 the Sabha organised its classes in its own premises and moved to a wooden building within the premises of the Ashrama. The period between 1925 -1941 was indeed a period of growth - slow, but steady on an increasingly brighter note. The "muses" were fully taken care of, whether it was music, literature or drama. The music classes were the most famous indeed with the line of stalwarts (Violin Vidwan Ponnuswamy lyengar, Flute Vidwan Salem K. Nadesa Pillai, vocalists Harihara lyer, Ramalingan lyer, Radhakrishna Pillai and many others) adorning the seats of the faculty and equally brilliant were the student rolls with many of them todays leading artists.
External examiners were invited for judging the standard of diploma level students of the Sabha’s educational programme for the coveted title of Sangeetha Bhushanam. This was awarded by merit for a 3-year diploma level study which follows 3 earlier years of theory and practical training.
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The Vivekananda Cultural Centre
Since 1990, all the cultural performances organised by the Sangeetha Abivirithi Sabha had been on an ad hoc basis due to insufficient funds and these performances, which were sponsored by well wishers of the Sabha were mainly for the benefit of the members. Padma Sri Kalaimamani Sudha Ragunathan, Sri Kunnakudi Vaidanathan, Sri TN Seshagopalan, Dr L Subramaniam, Dr N Ramani, the sisters Ranjani and Gayatri treated the carnatic music lovers in Malaysia with their performances,
Many dance performances were also organised and sponsored by well wishers and dance enthusiasts in Kuala Lumpur were treated to performances by Meena Raman and Stella So Wai Yee, Shobana Chandrakumar, Alarmel Valli, Urmila Satyanarayana, Raja and Radha Reddy.
With the inception of Vivekananda Tamil School in 1914, the Sabha became the place where students, teachers and parents created the cultural atmosphere as co- curricular activities. Initially Navarathiri (The three Goddesses Festival) which lasted over 9 days was celebrated with singing of classical songs, dance performances, poojas and “prasatham” (food offering to the Goddess) which would be distributed to attendees of the prayers. Over the years it has become the much awaited and celebrated yearly function. It has been celebrated for the past 96 years without fail.
In the 1960s and 1970s, the old students of the Sabha, who were very active members, were responsible for organising the Navarathiri celebrations with songs and dance performances in devotion to the Goddesses. Any member of the Ashrama and the Sabha could choose any one of the 9 days to partake in the celebrations. Some members of the Sabha have chosen a particular day, within the 9 days, to partake in the celebrations of the Navarathri Pooja for more than 40 years. In recent years the Sabha has been able to bring othuvar Kalamamani Thiruthani Swaminathan as well as a priest to conduct the Navarathiri Celebrations.