Chitram: A Portrait of India


By Suveena Guglani

HOUSTON: Forty-six singers, forty-eight dancers, one stage. For over 1200 attendees at University of Houston’s Cullen Performance Hallon Saturday, April 26, CHITRAM was a journey into the richness and grandeur of everything that is India. Kanniks Kannikeswaran, once again managed to hold Houston spellbound as he captured the essence of Indian art and culture showcased with a variety of dance forms and the oldest dance form of all – Yoga. Leading dance schools and singing enthusiasts came together in a multimedia mega production simply titled Chitram – A portrait of India. CHITRAM is a production of Kanniks Kannikeswaran, noted composer, music educator and writer of with several stage productions to his credit. “The Magical Music Man from Madras,” as he is called is a pioneer of the Indian American choral movement and had Houston audiences mesmerized with his spectacular Shanti A Journey of Peace a few years ago.


CHITRAM tells the story of Indian culture through  styles of traditional dance and various other art forms, including Kanniks’ mesmerizing choral compositions. Artists from all over the city joined hands to take part in a production unlike any other. The choir alone comprised of 46 people and the dancers from various dance forms captivated the audience with the blend of the choral and visual excellence. The costumes, lighting, as well as the harmonious notes of the orchestra, all blended in perfectly as the rich culture began to unfold. The evening began with a soulful invocation rendered beautifully by Houston’s own songbird Mahalaxmi Krishnan. This was followed by the folk sounds of Indian dance as the Bihu Japi group, Mizoram dancers and Dandiya dancers tapped their way to the delight of the audiences.  Following this was a serenely powerful depiction of Yoga set to the spiritually uplifiting score of Kanniks – “Chaitanyam”. The synchronized Yoga team was a powerful backdrop to the advanced Yogasanas showcased by Yogacharya Shriram Sarvotham.  Next, Odissi and Classical folk mesmerized the audiences to a mellifluous composition of nine Ragas. Kathak, a northern Indian dance form, was beautifully blended into the show depicting the assimilation of dance forms from various cultures, proving that India is truly a rich blend of many diverse cultures. The evening concluded with the Dance of Life-Thillana in the Bharata Natyam dance form as trained dancers brought Kanniks mellifluous compositions to life.  Of particular note was the beautiful voice of Vidita Kanniks that added the soul to the compositions of Kanniks.


It is no mean feat to bring 48 dancers from leading Indian dance schools in Houston as well as 46 singers together onto one stage in such a grand manner, but Kanniks has managed to do so once again. Said choir team captain, Bhagyashree Dhavale that this was a “spiritually uplifting journey that would forever stay with her”.  Emcee Sonal Bhuchar capably handled the introductions and gave a brief background of Chitram to a sold out audience. Consul General of India P. Harish said about Chitram and Kanniks: “ We have seen several cultural programs but none that matches the energy and positive vibes about India. It was better than any professionally done shows. There should be more shows like this”.


Chitram was a fundraiser for the Hindu Temple of the Woodlands – EYS program.  HTW-EYS is a comprehensive initiative to strengthen young minds through education and provide leadership training to youth and outreach to the surrounding community by the temple members. The EYS program envisages a center which will have a Montessori School and a Sunday school where Hindu values, heritage and culture will be emphasized as well as ongoing classes for adults in Hindu philosophy and scriptures. According to Dr. Urmil Shukla, spokesperson for EYS, there is an opportunity and need to go beyond ritual worship and festival celebrations. We need to strengthen the character of our youth; we have to make them proud, confident and contributing American Hindus.


HTW-EYS already has a youth club which has a venture program to foster creativity and frequently holds day camps to develop faith and conviction in growing up Hindu in America. It also inculcates the idea of service and giving back to the community through volunteering.

The S in EYS stands for service, said Shukla. Members take part in the clean our streets program, volunteer at senior care centers. A primary care free clinic is also in the works. These are lofty ideals, Shukla allowed, but attainable with cooperation of members who share in the vision. Also honored that night for their dedicated service to the EYS program, were four individuals who were recognized as faculty. They were Dr. Peter Han – a pioneer of the Venture program at HTW; Sunil Gopalakrishnan for the ongoing scripture classes; Kanniks Kannikeswaran for his part in collaborating with HTW and training the choir for CHITRAM as well as Dr. Shriram Sarvotham for his part in the Yoga training for the show.

The evening left the audience with a sense of completion, yet wanting more. We look forward to Kanniks bringing many such shows to Houston. For further information about the Hindu Temple of The Woodlands and its activities, please visit