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Here’s What You Should Know about the Temple of Fine Arts in KL

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The temple of fine arts Kuala Lumpur, known as a sanctuary for the arts, encourages and nurtures appreciation for the Indian arts and culture through dance, music, art, and performances. Sharuna Segaran has the story.

This non-governmental organization may have its roots in Hinduism, as it was founded by a guru named His Holiness Swami Shantanand Saraswathi (Swamiji) in May 1981, but there is much more to the Temple of Fine Arts than a religious place of worship, and it is open to anyone from all faiths and walks of life.

Fittingly located in the heart of Little India, Brickfields, a heritage-rich town with an Indian majority population located just outside central Kuala Lumpur,the Temple of Fine Arts provides service to the community through advocating and supporting the arts, with many volunteers assisting in the day-today operations of the institution.

Usha Ramakrishnan, Secretary of the Temple of Fine Arts, said that having been established over the last 35 years, TFA has tremendous impact on the cultural growth and exposure of the community to the Fine Arts. “It has captured the imagination of art lovers in Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, India and Sri Lanka, paving the way for similar centres to be set up in each country.

The abiding principle of the arts as the vehicle for creative and spiritual discovery has established The Temple of Fine Arts as a significant and worthy source of artistic research in their respective communities.”

Once visitors walk off the bustling street and into this iconic and tastefully decorated six-storey building,they can clearly see the elements of ancient arts, reminiscent of a spiritual time in India. Both traditional and contemporary art adorn the walls, and the upper levels hold the echoes of the music and footsteps of the students during classes. At the very top is the temple of worship, a large, airy space that comes to life during devotional prayers.

A Curator of the Arts

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It all began when the founder, who held a deep passion for the beauty and history of the Indian arts, brought together two talented and extraordinary dancing couples, Gopal and Radha Shetty, and Sivadas and Vatsala, who were the main forces in creating awareness and appreciation of Indian classical dance in Malaysia. He worked with them to write and choreograph a number of dance dramas in order to engage students and youth to hone their talents and add to their education in the arts.

Usha, speaking warmly of the late founder, explained the motivation behind setting up the cultural center. “He was a strong believer of nurturing creativity through the form of arts in youth, and the primary aim of Swamiji was to make education of the arts in the form of classes accessible and at a reasonable cost. The aim was to help Malaysian youth rediscover the cultural, artistic and spiritual wealth of their forefathers and to make it relevant for themselves and for future generations to come. Swamiji believed that music and dance were essential to the overall development of children, and he held a vision that The Temple of Fine Arts would be the place where a young child could learn music and dance from teachers who understood the true source of creativity and inspiration.”

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Over the years, The Temple of Fine Arts has offered dance classes for all ages in Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Contemporary, and Bollywood dances, as well as Carnatic Vocal and Hindustani Vocal classes. There are also numerous productions and performances that have been conducted under the orchestra and dance ensembles, and music classes offered for instruments that are used in Indian classical music such as violin, veena, mridangam, flute, table, sitar, piano, and guitar. Other classes offered involve Introduction to Dance/Music Appreciation for children, Yoga, Martial Arts, and Drama.

Serving the Community

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The overall running and activities of The Temple of Fine Arts are funded by donations from the public and art lovers, as well as assistance and aid extended by the government, the Ministry of Culture and the Indian High Commission. The Temple of Fine Arts also works very closely with the Ministry of Health University of Malaya Cultural Centre, All Artistic Institution, Indian Cultural Centre, other NGOs, and the artistic fraternity both locally and internationally.

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Besides holding classes and performances, The Temple of Fine Arts also houses the Lavanya Arts, a visual arts centre specializing in artifacts and gifts. Housing an exclusive collection of arts and crafts brought in from India, there are unique, intricately designed and hand-crafted wall hangings, lamps, home decorations, ornaments, clothing, jewellery, and art pieces on sale. All proceeds from the items sold here assist the funding for community-related services such as the SivaSanta Medical Clinic, also at the temple, which is a free medical clinic offering general healthcare and eyecare, with the view of a dialysis facility in the near future.

Another popular arm of the Temple of Fine Arts is the Annalakshmi Vegetarian Restaurant, with authentic South Indian and North Indian dishes offered. There is also a travel agency on deck, the HamsaVahini Travel & Tours, specializing in knowledge of pilgrim routes in India, as well in charge of organizing sightseeing tours and packages to other destinations. Finally, there is also the 600- seat acoustically designed Shantanand Auditorium, which has been the venue of choice for many corporate and cultural events, international performances, arts festivals, and banquets, since its opening in late 2010.

Usha explained, “Innumerable opportunities to study the many aspects of the performing arts are provided. The environment and culture-based activities helps an individual to imbibe values such as positive attitude, perseverance, courtesy, devotion, teamwork, loyalty, lifelong learning, creativity,and selfless service. The unique education in culture, dance, music, and drama offered by TFA creates versatility and well-rounded artists/individuals. The tenacity, passion, and relenting dedication of the members and close-knit community of TFA have helped to propel the growth and preserve the stability of the institution.”

For more information on the Temple of Fine Arts Kuala Lumpur, please visit www.tfa.org.my.

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Source: Senses of Malaysia September-October 2015

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