Devi Diaries: Part 2
October 31, 2020
Devi Diaries: Part 1
RADHA, RADHIKA, RADHE….call HER any name, SHE is still one of the most humanized Goddesses in Hinduism. RADHA, the human soul, is the essence, the Power. Krishna, the Supreme soul, is the one who holds that Power. One cannot be without the other. RADHA and Krishna’s relationship is iconic. Their being is not only evidenced in the scriptures but also in everyday life. They are one, while taking two forms; just like the wind and the scent it carries or like the fire and the heat it emits.
Learning ashtapadis, padams and javalis from Kalanidhi Mami and my mother Hema Rajagopalan for years, my appreciation for this iconic relationship has not only made me dive deeper into the development of RADHA's experiences when I dance, it intertwines my life with HERS. When I dance, SHE becomes me and I HER. I am a dancer, a girl in love, a woman, a mother and a lover. In RADHA and Krishna, the depth of every connection can be explored and felt, whether it is through the Gita Govindam or understanding who we are in our own relationships. The common denominator is always love - Mahabhava, the highest sentiment.
It is said that RADHA died listening to Krishna’s flute after which Krishna broke the flute and didn’t play again. So where does that leave me with this Goddess? How do I see RADHA? Are we not all a Goddess in some way - in every way? We are Human and we are Divine. We are Strength and Weakness. We are, in every way, Godly….. and often, not so much. But as RADHA, I get to see Krishna, my Soul, my Complete. I strive to be present and connected so I may experience that ultimate feeling of loving and being loved.
MADHAVA HRIDI KAYLINI - Excerpt of Divine Equations
(A Natya Dance Theatre full evening production in collaboration with Chitraveena Ravikiran)
Choreography: Krithika Rajagopalan
Music Creation and Direction: Chitraveena Ravikiran and Hema Rajagopalan
Composer: Oothukadu Venkata Kavi
Produced by: Natya Dance Theatre
Commissioned by: Chicago Thygaraja Utsavam
RAMLI IBRAHIM and SUTRA DANCE THEATRE
I first danced the DASA MAHAVIDYA piece as a solo in Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi in 1992. Choreographed by Gajendra Panda, I still remember the evening where so many luminaries of the dance world attended, including the famous critic Subbudu. This piece has been a staple winner in my repertoire and I have performed it countless times all over the world. 10 years after the solo premiere of the DASA MAHAVIDYA, I transferred the choreography onto Sutra dancers as an ensemble piece. The work translated beautifully onto the well trained Sutra bodies and it has continued to enchant audiences whenever we have performed it.
Every Navaratri, we have been occupied almost daily at the various temples in and around Kuala Lumpur. At one performance, an audience member actually swooned in ecstasy, citing the building throb of the Odissi music and drums as "unbearable and unspeakable energy" - in a good way!
This single dance piece is somehow emblematic of the magic of the Odissi style - at once sculpturesque and sensuous, but also architectural and formal. My own fascination with the Apollonian and Dionysian polarities is cross illuminated so eloquently in this item.
DASA MAHAVIDYA is also the consummation of the awesome and ferocious energy of the MAHAKALI. The giant flame of outrage that she displays at the sloth and inertia of humankind. Her daring to cut through lethargy and darkness and bring us into the light.
My most revered and favourite Goddess is AMBAL. I feel as though SHE is always with me guiding and supporting me at every nook and corner. I believe what I am today is due to HER grace and blessings.
During previous years, we held Carnatic music and dance performances in five to six temples and got the blessings of AMBAL. Unfortunately, this year due to Covid 19, we could not perform in the temples, but we are still celeberating Vidhyarambam to ensure that my students receive the blessings of AMBAL. Let all darkness which is prevailing in current situation be eradicated soon by HER grace.
I present SRI CHAKRARAJA SIMHASANESHWARI SHRI LALITHAMBIKE… It is an ode to Goddess LALITHAMBIKA, the divine consort of Lord Siva. It is a beautiful song in ragamalika composed by Agastya and the words are in Sanskrit and Tamil.
DR. SUNANDA NAIR
GODDESS KARTYAYANI DEVI
My favorite Goddess is DURGA as evident in my presentation. SHE is a paradox of being a compassionate mother to HER devotees but at the same time the ferocious or the super mighty when it comes to protecting them from evil.
DURGA being my favorite Goddess begins from the time when as a child, I got attracted to seeing HER image sitting on a lion and charging towards a demon with so many arms and single handedly killing the demon. This image created a deep impact on me and to sum it up the ever popular “Ayigiri Nandini...” verse, its powerful yet sublime lyrical quality. Being born and brought up in Mumbai, Navaratri had a ‘garba’ flavor to it. We enjoyed the night long sessions with live “dhol” in the colony park and it was festive with bright colors and vibrant dancing. Dassera seems to be under lockdown conditions but nevertheless, I am not letting my spirits die and Dassera will be still celebrated on a virtual platform.
Presenting KARTYAYANI DEVI.... an Irayiman Thampi composition with a sanchari woven into the popular “AYIGIRI NANDINI” of Adi Shankaracharya.
For me, Devi in her varied manifestations as LAKSHMI, SARASWATI, DURGA and PARVATI embodies the indefatigable resilience of the feminine spirit. When the dark clouds of adversity surround us, SHE shows us the way! The Goddess has always been a part of our household since my childhood. With BHAGAWATI as my paternal family deity and Saraswati Pooja and Vijayadashami as such an intrinsic part of our artistic journey, the female energy is symbolic of a resilient spirit that inspires me to rise afresh every time I fall.
Navaratri was always a huge celebration in our house with an elaborate ‘golu’ painstakingly kept by my mother. The beauty of this ‘golu’ is a collection of toys, ranging from mud ‘bommais’ of Gods and Goddesses that are more than a 100 years old belonging to my great-grandfather to more avant-garde miniature doll house sets from Morocco. The collection even boasts of a unique figurine of Gandhiji that was made hours after he was assassinated on 30th January 1948, bought at the insistence of my mother, a 5 year old then!
Navaratri evenings were full of goodies to eat and songs to sing. Friends would visit and our home would smell of silks, ‘sundal’ and sandalwood. With the demise of my mother in 2019, Navaratri will never be the same for me. But the spirit of the Goddess will continue to ring in my home. As a mother to 2 teenage sons, I continue to feel and believe in the silent and yet powerful aura of the Goddess. Every year, as SHE makes her way into our homes, I bow my head in reverence to the innumerable ‘devis’ in my life - my mother, grandmother, sister, mother-in-law, gurus and so many friends who embody resilience and strength.
I present excerpts of the DURGA CHALISA that celebrates the Mother as the giver of joy and the annihilator of evil. As the embodiment of knowledge and everything auspicious, SHE is invincible. The music composition is aptly in Ragam Durga and Adi Talam and has been set to music and dance for the very first time by my mother, Guru Jamuna Krishnan.
In Kerala, initiation of a child into learning is of great significance. I was initiated into learning at the Sree Mookambika Temple, Kollur, at the age of two and a half. Ever since, we have been visiting the temple every year as a family.
To me, MOOKAMBIKA DEVI is “Amma,” the Universal Mother, one who embraces everyone in HER fold, regardless of caste, creed or religion. In Kollur, SHE resides as the unified form of DURGA, LAKSHMI AND SARASWATHI. HER power and compassion are hard to explain. They have to be felt! Going to Kollur gives me the feel of going “home” to my Mother!
Vocal: Murali Sangeeth
GODDESSES DURGA, LAKSHMI, SARASWATI
DURGA - I keep HER always by my side. HER acceptance, HER smile - is important to me. The real Mother that SHE is to me, I lie on HER lap to pour out my untold grief, my secret thoughts and wishes. When SHE appears to be indifferent, I do get angry; like I am still upset that SHE is yet to give me my own space to dance, to do my Sadhana and welcome HER other talented children there too! As HER daughter, I don’t ask for affection as it is HER duty to take care of me happily. I love HER bewitching form, power and grace. That SHE is an inseparable part of Lord Shiva brings me great joy!
LAKSHMI - My best friend for life. With whom I would like to go around the world, laugh, chat, dialogue with and share my years. Thrills me that SHE bestows wealth, health, home, marriage, children, and sound mind to all. SHE resides in Sri Narayana’s heart.
SARASWATI - My beloved Guru. I constantly pray to HER to be in my speech, my Natya, Sangeeta and any other study. HER boon of knowledge and wisdom to all who offer HER salutations melts my heart. SHE is pure, affectionate, disciplined.
I see these Goddesses in every girl, woman, in various ways.
When I see them in me, in my virtues of kindness, forbearance, love, understanding, intelligence, making quick amends for my mistakes, determination, firmness…in whatever measure as given to me, I rejoice that THEY dwell in me and I in THEM!
DR. S. VASUDEVAN
Of the many names and forms of SHAKTI, the most favourite concept close to my heart is LAKSHMI. As the very word depicts, “Lakshya Lakshana Sampanna, Saa Lakshmih Uchyate” – means the ‘One highly virtuous and confident in every pursuit.’
Lakshmi Ashottara Shatanaama is a great guiding source of inspiration and understanding life systems. Navaratri is the festival I wait for when I experience myself enhanced towards better productivity and purposefulness overall.
Navaratri 2020, I have chosen to celebrate with the Kamalamba Navavarana Kritis of Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar, apart from my morning Aradhana.
Through ‘Devi Diaries’ I wish to celebrate SRI MAHALAKSHMI with verses from the LAKSHMI DHYANA SHLOKA.
“Vande Padmakaraam, Prasanna Vadanaam, Saubhagyadaam Bhaagyadaam....”
The One who is the root cause for the sustenance and prosperity of the entire Universe.
My salutations to HER, born in the Milk Ocean and sports the Lotus and Conch as the symbol of Abundance, and worshipped by even the Trinity male principles.
Video: Kamala Srinivasan
P PRAVEEN KUMAR
Goddess SARASWATHI and the festival honouring HER during Navaratri have always been special for me in many ways. During my childhood, I always looked forward to that day because my mother used to make a sweet called “yarriappa”, which I loved to relish as much as possible. Later, during Saraswathi Puja, for me the excitement was to keep my dance books and any related dance things in puja, which made me feel special.
Last year, I was commissioned a project by Narada Gana Sabha, Chennai, to do a solo production on VANI. During the process of working, I had two unique experiences.
A neighbour whom I hardly interacted with suddenly walked into my dance studio and gave me kumkum and said it was from Sharadamba temple in our locality.
A student of mine, who had been to Indonesia for a holiday, came back with a gift for me, which was surprisingly a painting of Goddess Saraswathi in Indonesian traditional style.
Surely her blessings were bestowed upon me.
I present an excerpt from VANI.
D.S. Srivatsa – vocal, Hemalatha – nattuvangam, Harsha Samaga – mridangam, Gopal Venkataramana - veena
NAVARASA FOR NAVARATRI
How is one to choose between strength, prosperity & wisdom - DURGA, LAKSHMI & SARASWATI?
My mother and grandmother, Radha and Pattu lit the flame of energy that sustains me to this day! Never let me give up on my dream.
Lakshmi, my mother-in-law, provided me with physical and spiritual prosperity. Her soulful musical accompaniment for many of my performances made us a unique mother-in-law / daughter-in-law team.
Kalanidhi, my guru, further sealed my love for dance - giving me a ‘voice’ through abhinaya.
These are human manifestations of the Goddesses in my life.
In my early years, the Golu at home in New Delhi was fairly elaborate - my brother’s Marklin train set would make its annual appearance out of the attic; the Marappachi dolls and the Gowri bommai were decked out to represent the theme for the year.
In the last decade, along with the Diaspora, our community Navaratri celebrations have grown exponentially. It is a wonderful coming together of not just women but entire families. These festivities can include visiting over 10 homes a night, extending up to 1am and at times, even beyond the 9 days of Navaratri! I am just a Golu hopper and this year, perhaps, zoom hopping?!
I present AN OBEISANCE TO THE GODDESSES - verses from Adi Shankara's Soundarya Lahiri
Dance & vocals by me
Accompaniment & Sound Engineering - Aashray Harishankar
śive śaṅgārārdrā taditarajane kutsanaparā
sarośhā gaṅgāyāṃ giriśacharite vismayavatī |
harāhibhyo bhītā sarasiruha saubhāgya-jananī
sakhīśhu smerā te mayi janani dṛśhṭiḥ sakaruṇā ǁ 51 ǁ
Mother of all universe,
The look from your eyes,
Is kind and filled with love, when looking at your Lord,
Is filled with hatred at all other men,
Is filled with anger when looking at Ganga,
The other wife of your Lord,
Is filled with wonder, when hearing the stories of your Lord,
Is filled with fear, when seeing the snakes worn by your Lord,
Is filled with red colour of valour of the pretty lotus fine,
Is filled with jollity, when seeing your friends,
And filled with mercy, when seeing me.
GODDESS MAHISHASURA MARDINI
Apparently when my mother Guru Vyjayanthi Kashi was pregnant with me, she used to regularly engage in her dance practice sessions. Whenever she would practice MAHISHASURA MARDINI STOTRAM, she could feel the infant me continuously kicking inside her womb. Probably, my association with Mother Goddess and dance started then!
I am an ardent devotee of DEVI – be it visiting DEVI temples, learning items on Mother Goddess or hearing stories on her myriad forms and leelas. I generally ensure that I include at least one composition on DEVI during my Kuchipudi recitals.
I recall an incident when I was selected as one of the finalists for the annual dance competition held by Pt Jasraj’s foundation in 2011 in New York City and the winner would be decided based on audience poll. I was all set to perform my favourite composition on MAHISHASURA MARDINI for the finale. When Amma and I landed in New York on the previous day of the competition, we found out that our lost baggage would only arrive after two days! The tension and worry was tremendous. Luckily my mother contacted a dancer in the same city who generously lent me her costumes, jewellery and dancing bells. I had given up my hopes on winning the competition since aharya too matters in the judgment process and mine was nowhere close to being perfect.
When the results were announced that I was the First Winner of the competition I could not believe my ears. From that day on, I believe that MAHISHASURA MARDINI is my lucky charm and saviour and I continue to perform it to this day.
If not for the pandemic, we would have all gathered at our Shambhavi School of Dance (our dance Gurukul), practices for upcoming performances and dance tours would be in full swing. Every year, I look forward to Navaratri so I can visit and perform in many DEVI temples. However, this year we are working towards coming up with a video series specially for Navaratri which will be shared on my social media. After all, DEVI Aradhana through dance and other forms of art should go on no matter what, isn’t it?
Ancient Indian scriptures describe Goddess SARASWATHI, the epitome of knowledge, in three forms - as a Goddess, as a river and as speech. It is believed that SARASWATHI emerged from Lord Brahma’s mind (creator of the Universe). SHEI is always depicted wearing white clothes, showing purity of thought. HER simple yet beautiful appearance symbolises that wisdom and knowledge are far greater than material wealth.
When I was a child, an elaborate DURGA-SARASWATHI-LAKSHMI pooja was held every year at my grandparents’ house. It is a common custom for South Indians to practice the manifestation of the Great Trinity in their children, a reason why they keep 3 names for the girl child. I was always Goddess SARASWATHI, and used to thoroughly enjoy the proceedings which took place. When I decided to pursue music as a profession, I first approached the Goddess to grant me the power to express my feelings through my voice. Every year, I always try and visit the renowned SARASWATHI Temple in Kuthanoor to seek HER blessings. Before any concert, I always pray to HER for granting me knowledge. During this pandemic, I bow before the Goddess to bless us with health and purify us of mind, body and soul.
Let KALAVATI - the seat of all arts and consort of Lord Brahma bestow prosperity. SHE lives in the form of an ocean of Mantras like Bala and Abala. WHO is alphabets personified; WHO absolves all sins, is Goddess of learning; HER locks of hair resembles the black bee, SHE carries the Veena in her hands. SHE shines as white as the rays of the autumn moon; HER face resembles the moon; lives in Kasmira; giver of boons. SHE is SARADADEVI, is noble, holding weapons like Ankusa etc. HER hand symbolises fearlessness, fulfils the desires of her devotees, holds Pasa and books in HER hand, shines with lotus feet worshipped by Devas, seated on a white lotus, HER row of teeth has capturing beauty, gladdens the hearts of Lord Shiva and Guruguha - daughter-in-law of Vishnu, and is blemishless.
This rare Kriti in ragam Kalavati on SHARADAMBA of Kashmir was taught to me by my guru/grandfather Shri O.V. Subramaniam.
ANANDA SHANKAR JAYANT
SIMHANANDINI – MY GODDESS WITHIN
Paris, December 2007 - I premiere SIMHANANDINI from the ritual repertoire of Kuchipudi, at the Musee Quai de Branly.
July 2008 - SIMHANANDINI became my sheet anchor.
Rewind to 2007 – A bee in my bonnet to learn SIMHANANDINI. After much searching, I spend a few months learning the traditional SIMHANANDINI presentation from Venkateswara Rao, a student of Guru Korada Narasimha Rao.
Choosing to rework the presentation, I incorporated the Simhanandana tala with Jathis by I.V. Renukaprasad, Sanskrit lyrics by Rallabandi Kavitaprasad, and music by Sathiraju Venumadhav. The dance choreography emerged - Durga, fully armed, enroute to the battlefield astride her lion, which comes alive in a drawing as I move on a white cloth over a carpet of red coloured powder- (originally conceived by Guru C.R. Acharya), choosing to only draw the lion’s face and not the full lion, as done in the traditional repertoire.
I presumed then, that SIMHANANDINI was part of Shankarananda Kalakshetra’s revival of ritual series, but, it was SHE - SIMHANANDINI who revived and revitalized me. Preparing me ahead of my upcoming tryst with cancer in 2008, to learn about HER strength; to see my own Simha – my resilience through the image of HER riding a lion, so that I too could ride into the battlefield, like HER, multi-armed to overcome my own Mahisha called cancer.
Today and every day, SHE is my inspiration and strength
SIMHANANDINI – My Goddess Within
On this Vijaya Dashami may SHE bless us all.
GODDESS MAHISHASURA MARDHINI
This is one of my all time favourite pieces, both for its musicality and its energy vibes the dancer is immensely absorbed in while performing.
I first performed ‘Mahishasura Mardhini’ during 2012, a few months after a surgery, as part of ‘Anjali’, a compilation of hymns, L. Narendra Kumar’s famed production. I chose to engage with the production as a soloist for the simple reason that I wanted to take it easy, as I was still in the recovery and rehabilitation phase. However, Rajesh Vaidhya’s music and Narendra Kumar’s choreography kept me hooked to it much longer, so much so, that I have performed ‘Anjali’ a couple of times over the years.
As we stand today at a critical phase, negotiating with a deadly virus and hoping to navigate and steer clear out of this pandemic with as less fatality as possible, I hope that SAKTHI – MAHISHASURA MARDHINI or a Supreme power for believers, and Nature for non-believers would make the whole world happy and joyful again. Today’s demons are the crimes and discrimination meted out against women and children, the marginalised and the oppressed, and the inequalities between the haves and the have nots. These are the real demons to be slayed by the undiminishing striking force - The Supreme power SAKTHI.
MAHISHASURA MARDHINI HYMN, by Adi Shankarar
Music - Rajesh Vaidhya
Choreography - L. Narendra Kumar
GODDESS KARUNAMBIKAI OF AVINASHI
I was named after KARUNAMBIKAI, the presiding Goddess of Avinashi. Avinashi is a temple town which has been visited by Sundarar making it one of the Padal Petra Sthalam (the temple towns which have hymns rendered by the three Tevaram saint poets). While AMBIKAI in general symbolises Arul (grace) in the Saiva philosophy, KARUNAMBIKAI's name makes compassion HER quintessence. To be compassionate requires both strength and vulnerability. One needs vulnerability to hear the plea of the needy and the strength to be there for them without wallowing in their sorrow. We are at a point in time where the pandemic has made us vulnerable in many ways and built inner strength in other ways. To have the conviction to be compassionate might help us strike a balance between strength and vulnerability.
Here is an excerpt from the KARPAKAVALLI MAALAI set to music in Charukeshi by my grandmother, Late Swarna Somasundaram who was an eminent scholar in Tirumurai and Saiva Siddhantam. The words in the poem are the plea of a child to the universal mother.
Editing: Vijay Shankar
Space: Anandaveli @bnndance
This piece depicts DEVI MEENAKASHI with stotra from Adi Sankaracharya's Meenakshi Pancharatnam and Navarasa Varnam of Lalgudi Jayaraman.
The inspiration and thoughts into creating this come from HER compassion that is as deep as an ocean. Meditating upon a seed till it fruitions into a tree, SHE, who is born like a seed within the depths of Earth, that has millions of possibilities, waiting to start spreading its roots across the earth and reaching towards the sky. It awaits the perfect conditions like moisture which is karuna / compassion to nurture those possibilities. And then SHE rises like a million suns, protecting the world and its beings. A mother knows no bound, allowing the compassion to flow as her natural instinct. SHE also weeps silently when the human suffers. And HER wrath/fury, when the equilibrium is disturbed, has caused us to evolve or co-exist in a world that lacks compassion.
A world that lacks karuna is like a seed that can’t germinate without water, as vulnerable as a child who yearns for mother's milk.
Stotra - Ragam Bibhas (set by Sudha Raghuraman)
Charanam Sahityam of Navarasa Varnam - Ragam Sucharita, Athana and Sahana
Sung by Sudha Raghuraman
Over the years, I was privileged to accompany my Guru Geeta Chandran for various performances. I have watched her perform pieces like ‘Amba Shambhavi’ and ‘Aigiri’ and was completely awestruck. I wondered what goes into understanding the various facets of the DEVI and translating them into dance vocabulary. It was then that my Guru initiated me into reading poetry. Goddess MATANGI governs the expression of inner thought and knowledge of performing and visual arts, so I particularly relate to her
Navaratris in the past was all about hopping from one pandal to another to witness the idols of Durga, performing Bharatanatyam and music at different pandals and getting students ready at Natya Vriksha for performances. This year, I helped my mother with the Kanjak Pooja, cooking the traditional Kala Chana, Poori and Suji ka Halwa. In this pooja, we call our house-help’s daughters and sons, wash their feet with ganga jal, tie a moli, apply tika and serve them the traditional meal. It is a way of paying gratitude to the Supreme Goddess. I look forward to the Vidyaarambham celebrations at Natya Vriksha every year on Dashami. On this day, we attend the pooja at Geeta Akka’s place and pay obeisance to our gurus. As part of the tradition, we also learn a new piece on this day.
This piece is about TRIPURASUNDARI, the incarnation of PARVATI. The Kadamba forest stands for the universe where the DEVI pervades. SHE is the cluster of charming and bliss giving clouds in the sky of the heart of the sages. LAKSHMI and SARASWATI are believed to do HER sewa. SHE is the compassionate one, the giver, the protector; SHE is also the destroyer of evil. Thus SHE is referred to as TRILOCHANAKUTUMBINI.
I pray to the DEVI to protect us and give us strength and courage to raise our voices against those who do ill irrespective of their caste, color, creed, gender and relation.
Choreography and Nattuvangam: Guru Geeta Chandran
Music Composition and Vocal: K. Venkateshwaran
Mridangam: M.V. Chandershekhar
Flute: Anirudh Bharadwaj
Veena: Shyamala Bhaskar
Ragam: Poorvikalyani, Talam: Adi, Composer: Adi Shankaracharya
Goddess DURGA is a symbol of courage, strength and protection. SHE combats evil and demonic forces that threaten peace and prosperity. In Durga puja, we worship MAHA DURGA form riding lion or tiger with 10 arms each carrying a weapon, defeating Mahishasura. This symbolizes the victory of good over evil.
I believe that when I get ready to enter the stage and music is turned on, every beat of music creates a trance. From that time, I believe I feel the Goddess is connected to my every step, every moment of expression when I draw every posture on stage. I also believe through my performance, I make a bridge to connect my and my audience’s emotions with the Goddess.
For me DURGA puja means celebration of victory of positive forces, harmony and festive season. In West Bengal, DURGA Puja celebrated as Durgotsava, is also observed as Navaratri, of which last five days are significant. Durgotsava is a festival of bonding without any boundaries which brings love, colour and joy in our lives. Navaratri and Durga puja were celebrated with full zeal and colour last year. We offered prayers, did pandal hopping, met friends and relatives. In Covid 19 pandemic after end of lockdown, our lives started with new normal. Hence this year, Durga puja / Navaratri is celebrated under strict rules and regulations with same zeal, spirit and colour. This festive season is celebrated virtually in the new normal keeping ourselves and others safe amidst the pandemic.
I present DURGA STUTI.
SAKUNTALA, as Mahabharata describes her, is a strong woman who goes to Dushyanta’s court with her son. She urges Dushyanta to accept his brilliant son as he is at that age when the father’s role comes into play. Dushyanta feigns ignorance and speaks disparagingly to Sakuntala.
In these Telugu verses from Nannaya’s Mahabharata, SAKUNTALA tells Dushyanta that abusive words from him are unnecessary and asks him to experience the ecstasy of embracing his son. The pleasure of strings of pearls, camphor, sandal paste, and moonlight is no comparison to this joy.
In all sarcasm, SAKUNTALA addresses Dushyanta as ‘Sῡnṛta vrata,’ the one who has taken a vow to speak only the truth. Saying a community well is more useful than a hundred little wells, one yajna than a hundred community wells, a son than a hundred yajnas, she emphasizes that one statement of truth is much greater than a hundred sons.
Literature source: Dr. Varija Rani
Music: Dr. T.K.V. Saroja
I present a verse from the Sri Raja Rajeswari Ashtakam. This is a divine hymn naming the various incarnated forms of DEVI. She is introduced as SHAMBHAVI, wife of Shiva and HAIMAVATI, daughter of Himavan.
This holds good even today. A girl’s identity is first as her father’s daughter and then as her husband’s wife. But DEVI was not inhibited by this branding and SHE took many avatars as APARNA, UMA, KALI, KATYAYANI, MOHINI, BHAIRAVI and SAVITHRI. SHE proved you can be beautiful, loving, caring and also bold, powerful and destructive - a truly impressive role play. A multi -tasking Wonder Woman worth emulating.
This impressed me and I set the verses to music and rhythm and presented it as an invocatory item. Another personal snippet is that the verse has the names of two most important women in my life - my mother Savithri and my daughter Aparna!
Choreography: Meenakshi Chitharanjan
Music: K. Srinivasan
Nattuvangam: S. Pandian
Vocal: R. Gomathinayakam
Mridangam: Saktivel Muruganandam
Violin: R. Kalaiarasan
SHE is revered by different names in cultures across the world: Gaea, Terra Mater, Prithvi, and as Goddess BHU DEVI. These ancient civilizations understood our interconnectedness with ‘The Earth.’ Yet somewhere along the way we humans started to see ourselves as separate from nature.
My very first encounter with DEVI happened in dance class as a 4 year old in Bombay. I remember my Guru explaining that we seek the blessings of BHU DEVI (The Earth Goddess) before dancing. In that moment SHE was personified for me, SHE smiled each time I did my namaskaram.
Now cut to 2000 by which time my parents had migrated to Canada and a vacation to the Columbian Icefields Glacier (Canadian Rockies) was the norm. DEVI was smiling from every snow capped mountain, glacier and from each drop of clear glacier water. Just a few years ago we decided to take my kids to the glaciers, and to our horror, the Icefields had visibly receded due to climate change. And SHE didn't seem to be smiling anymore!
I knew I wanted to tell HER story in HER voice. My first instinct was to reach for known formats, a Varnam, or maybe her 9 emotions but then after almost a year of research, ‘The Earth Speaks’ script revealed itself.
SHE tells her story weaving them together with a common thread:
Love restores balance; it challenges us to be courageous, to reach back into ways of being that will sustain us all.
SHE reminds us that the universe and all its parts are made of the same stardust, and in this way ‘we’ are the Earth. DEVI is a living entity.
The Vedas have beautifully extolled our interconnectedness with HER.
MAATA BHUMI PUTRO AHAM PRITHIVYAM
Hope you enjoy this small clipping of our full length evening production ‘The Earth Speaks.’
May you see DEVI smiling at you from every flower, every leaf, every grain of sand...
ARANGHAM DANCE THEATRE ENSEMBLE in an exclusive feature
PHENOMENAL WOMYN: THE GODDESS WITHIN
Celebrate the essence of me; the person that I am instead of the image you see.
This is the sentiment espoused in Maya Angelou’s evergreen poem ‘Phenomenal Woman’. In our reading of it, we were struck by the parallels in kavya between this poem, phrases from the Lalita Sahasranaamam and the verses of Bharatiyar. At this auspicious time when the country propitiates the Goddess, we bring to you a celebration of the Goddess within every phenomenal woman.
Concept, choreography and execution by Tanya Saxena-@ delhidancer, Archana Raja @archanarajadance, Sruthy Anand-@ dancer_sruthyanand, Reshma G-@reshmadance, Simran Sivakumar- @ simran.sivakumar, and Madhumitha Sriram-@_madhusriram_
Music and Vocals: Divya Nayar-@2dancingfeet
Editing: R Viswesh-@ aarvee_13701
English Text from Maya Angelou’s Phenomenal Woman
Sanskrit Text from Lalitha Sahasranaamam
Tamil Text from Subramanya Bharati
Jathi Recitation: Sruthy Anand
English Recitation: Tanya Saxena
Tamil Recitation: Archana Raja
Produced with support from Dr. Anita Ratnam / NARTHAKI
Acknowledging the contributions of Dr. S. Vasudevan-@ vasudev.sridhar, Arjun Bharadwaj-@ arjunbharadwaj89, and Sutikshna Veeravalli-@ sutikshna.v
My favorite goddess is VARAHI DEVI. For me, she stays for “sub-consciousness”. This particular goddess became my favorite when I was processing some psychological issues. I was introduced to this Goddess by an old friend of mine from India. Once I connected to her, my life changed and my health improved dramatically. In the past we celebrated Navaratri with a small celebration at my dance school. We plan similar celebrations this year too.
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