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The quest of a yearning heart
- Sudha Sridhar

September 9, 2020

The incredibly intriguing journey in the realm of art world keeps one on the edge of emotions ranging from that of the pleasant to the most painful while a mystical quest keeps guiding all through.

As a student in pursuit of learning the art form, the heart yearns for a Guru to take one through the rough and tough and reach the acme of the art world knowledge wise. This yearning gets transformed when the same heart reaches the stage of a teacher or Guru yearning for or crying out for transferring the knowledge to discerning students. It is in this context, that one can see how pivotal and paramount the role of the Guru in the art world is. It is akin to how a spiritual aspirant needs to be kept on course on the river of life - Samaskara Sagaram - under the watchful eyes and guidance of the Guru to reach the ultimate goal of life. Any diversion or distraction from the main goal makes the aspirant settle on the banks of the river under the influence of their samaskaras be it good or bad, both unequivocally altering the course of the journey.

It can be seen that though the mountaineer's sole aim is to reach the mountain top and the same is ever in his view, yet he soulfully surrenders to the guide and follows him with unflinching faith up to the last minute of reaching the goal. For he is aware that to reach the top of the mountain, he needs to follow the guide.

As a student of an art form, we were always taught to see the brighter side of the Guru and influenced by the 'Guru Gita', strived to be bestowed with the divine grace of the Guru all through the dance journey.

śivēruṣtē Gurustrātā Gurau rustē na kaścana l
tasmāt paraguruṁ labdhvā tamēva śaranaṁ vrajēt ll

If you alienate Siva - who is the remover of faults and ignorance - by your mistakes, the Guru will save you, but if you are alienated from the Guru, no one can save you. Therefore, with all effort, take refuge in the Guru.

In the realm of art form where the knowledge is more subtle, refined and ennobling, the Guru is all too eager and obliged to his Guru to transfer the same to the practitioners of the art form exactly the way he or she acquired it from their Guru. However in the present age, the Guru sees the students get swerved from the laid down path due to emotional, physical, financial, family, personal, vanity, undesirable influences, lack of focus, inexplicable disenchantment, wilfully not adhering to the course charted out by the Guru and in some cases even Guru droham which does more harm to the student than to the Guru in the longer run. For the Guru or teacher who was and is always a faithful and unquestioning student to his or her Guru, it is all the more perplexing to see the path of entropy taken by an increasing number of students.

Is the dearth of discerning disciples in the modern era more so due to institutionalisation replacing the traditional Gurukula system of imparting knowledge?
Is the success of the dance journey to be solely measured by the name, fame, wealth and knowledge gained or by ensuring the perpetuating of the art form in its purest form with ethics upholding the rich traditions?

The Guru always yearns to give his or her Guru dakshina by aspiring to deliver the discerning students to the feet of Lord Nataraja through the yagna of dance. Perhaps as is wont, not all flowers are destined to reach the feet of the Lord. This leaves the Guru of calibre agonisingly pained, more so if he or she is ready to be unabashedly looted of the knowledge of dance which was received by the grace of his or her Guru.

In this context, one can understand the agonising wait of Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa for the arrival of Swami Vivekananda to transfer all of his spiritual wealth. If the need to be in readiness to get a Guru's knowledge is a definite requirement there have been stories where it is shown that it is also equally important to be at the right moment with the Guru even if one is not adequately prepared for it, like the story of Yogi Vemana who got the knowledge of his friend's Guru transferred to him inadvertently and wrote Vemana Satakam - a reality and philosophy of life.

The disciple's respect to Guru and commitment brings about a unique emotional bonding very naturally between them. Perhaps that is the reason that in Sanatana dharma the relationship between the Guru and the disciple is elevated to a divine level by equating it to that of Paramathma and Jeevathma respectively.

Thus the relentless quest goes on at different dimensions intertwined; initially the heart mesmerised by the art form seeks the giving heart of a Guru. Later the same heart yearns for emergence of an ideal disciple to carry forward the rich cultural legacy.

Sudha Sridhar, a double graduate in Law & Dance is a cultural activist working on advocacy efforts to preserve, promote and propagate art forms and for the cultural rights and welfare measures for artists. Her main focus is on Kuchipudi heritage village and promotion of all the three streams of South Indian Yakshagana - Karnataka Yakshagana, Kuchipudi Yakshaganam and Melattur Bhagavathamela.

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