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Meet Prof. Vijayalakshmi, the Padma Shri Awardee From Tamil Nadu

Prof Vijayalakshmi believed that folk songs can portray a farmer's life and be used as therapy in a few cases. Besides performances, Prof. Vijayalakshmi has also been prolific in producing folk literature.

Poornima Murali | CNN-News18

Updated:January 26, 2018, 2:34 PM IST
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Meet Prof. Vijayalakshmi, the Padma Shri Awardee From Tamil Nadu
Prof. Vijayalakshmi, along with her husband Navaneethakrishnan (File photo/Facebook)

Chennai: In her decades as a folk artist and researcher, professor Vijayalakshmi Navaneethakrishnan has embarked on the unenviable task of exploring layers of folk art and traditions and making them mainstream, stripping the folk science of shrouding superstitions and retrieving ancient cultures from the corroding clutches of distortion through ages.

Announced deserving of the Padma Shri on Thursday, Prof. Vijayalakshmi, along with her husband Navaneethakrishnan, has been a key propogator of the saints and cultures of the Bhakti movement. Aandal, the 8th Century Tamil Saint now in the news for all the wrong reasons, was an important subject of Prof Vijayalakshmi. Over 10,000 audio cassettes of folk music and paens to the divine have rolled out and she still is on the job of extricating folk art from this regional shackles.

Born in January of 1946, Prof. Vijayalakshmi was drawn to music at a very young age and chose music over tailoring as an optional course at school. Both her grandmother and her mother sang well and she was inspired by people who perfomed in temples during festive season. She worked in the Folk Arts and Culture Department of Madurai Kamaraj University.

After retiring, Vijayalakshmi, along with her husband, embarked on several tours across Tamil Nadu, conducting performaces on folk art that drew connoissurs and novices alike. Important among the inspirations that made Prof. Vijayalakshmi tour was an All India Radio programme in the 1980s. In an interview to an English daily, the professor remembers that programme as a key reason for her efforts to spread folklore.

Prof Vijayalakshmi believed that folk songs can portray a farmer's life and be used as therapy in a few cases. Besides performances, Prof. Vijayalakshmi has also been prolific in producing folk literature. The couple has written several books relating to myraid subjects relating to the field, given radio talk shows and produced articles.

The crowing glory and attestation of her work that Prof. Vijayalakshmi remembers often was a genuine gesture from then chief minister MGR who gave her a blank cheque in 1980s for her splendid performances, though she returned them.

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| Edited by: Ananya Chakraborty
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