cultural traditions

What is the Ministry of Culture doing?: Former Kalakshetra director Leela Samson slams campus misuse

The management and senior staff are turning a blind eye to commercial activities on the Chennai-based arts and cultural academy.

In a public Facebook post on Thursday, Leela Samson, former director of reputed Chennai-based arts and culture academy Kalakshetra, slammed the institution’s management for the ‘blatant misuse’ of campus property.

Samson said that classrooms and tuition area were being used for “sales of vegetables, clothes, food –including non-veg food items being sold under the sacred banyan tree, the very heart of the institute.” The setting up of commercial food stalls went against the founder’s ideal of creating an environment conducive to the learning of art. “If you want to start a cafeteria on campus, do that,” she told “But why under the banyan tree? This is where we do our prayers in the morning.”

Her post included photographs of food and clothes stalls set up around the classrooms. She said that such commercial activities had been taking place on the campus for the past two years, with the knowledge of the acting director and the principal.

The wooden flooring for dance classes were being ruined because of the commercial structures built up within the classroom, wrote Samson.

Even the annual craft exhibition was losing its former elegance with the sale of pickles, cutlery and furniture. “What is the difference between Kalakshetra and any other organisation?” she said. “You should be accessing the best of India’s craft and letting the people of Chennai enjoy that.”

Samson said that it was the lack of management at the institute that had led to the commercialisation of the campus. “Once it is rented out, neither the party that has rented nor anyone from our side is there to watch it except servants,” she said. “Somebody has to take responsibility for what has happened.”

The Kalakshetra foundation was set up by renowned Bharatnatyam dancer and choreographer Rukmini Devi Arundale in 1936. The institute is spread over a sprawling 99-acre campus by the seashore in Thiruvanmiyur, Chennai. According to the institute’s website, Rukmini Devi Arundale had the vision “of imparting to the young the true spirit of Art, devoid of vulgarity and commercialism.”

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