Devi Diaries 2021: Part 1
October 18, 2021
Inspired by the writings of Sri Aurobindo's 'The Mother,' Narthaki.com initiated DEVI DIARIES in 2020, inviting artistes to share their personal experiences and enhance it with a brief video presentation of their favorite Goddess. This is the second edition of Devi Diaries where dance talent was chosen through audition. DD 2 features premiere performances of talented artistes portraying Devis from different cultures of various regions in India, across styles, generations and languages.
ASWATHY V NAIR
BHAGAVATHI OF THIRUVATTATUKAVU
This very rare composition of Irayimman Thambi is in praise of the Bhagavathi of Thiruvattatukavu of Attingal. She is described as Lokeswari, one who blesses the world and whose mercy removes illness and disease. Her miracles are such that the needy who prostrate at her feet are blessed with plenty and mute devotees are granted boons of speech and song.
Ragam: Thodi, Talam: Chembada /Adi
Presenting Mahalakshmi Kavithuvam, a composition that describes the attributes of Goddess Mahalakshmi, who is also a personification of Devi. This deity aids in relieving all human ailments through unconditional compassion and She, the Goddess resting in the blooming lotus, who is never parted from Lord Mahavishnu, rewards hard work with unending prosperity. This song was composed in a raga that is dedicated to the Goddess Mahalakshmi and was choreographed by Guru Madurai R Muralidaran.
Ragam: Sree, Talam: Sankeerna Rupakam
Composed and choreographed by Guru Madurai R Muralidaran
Madhulita Mohapatra and Nrityantar ensemble present ISHWARI ... AN ODE TO DEVI. It depicts 3 forms of Devi. It starts with Maa Manikeshwari, presiding deity of the Kalahandi region in western part of Odisha, followed by Chamundeshwari and Durgeshwari. The music has Sambalpuri folk elements of the area.
Language: Odiya & Sanskrit
Radha, the Adhistha or prima-donna of all Gopis, often identified as the mool-prakriti or innate nature is celebrated throughout the verses of the Devi Bhagwat as the presiding consciousness in every bit of Vrindavan. A Gopika, a friend, a lover, a confidante and finally a Goddess whose name precedes the name of Lord Krishna. From Gatha-Saptashati to Gita Govinda, she enjoys a special place in the heart of every Krishna devotee. She is the metaphor of bliss and completion. The Bhakti Kaal poets have envisioned Her as the Goddess that bridges the gap between the jeevatma and paramatma. She is extolled as the split half of Krishna's consciousness that stands as the passion and consolidated voice of Vrindavan. Philosophers have often seen Her as a concept that prepares every jeeva for their spiritual journey towards the para-brahma. Scholars formulate Her both as Saakar and Niraakar force that can challenge the existence of any godhead on the high altar of Bhakti. Sages see her as the Shakti (driving force) in the making of Shaktimaan (one bearing that shakti/force).
Presenting RADHA - THE DIVINE ASCENSION, some unturned pages from the ascension of Goddess Radha who completes the Lordship of Krishna.
PRATHAMA PRASAD RAO
A large population of the northern part of Karnataka prays to YALLAMMA DEVI, the Goddess of power and abundance. The ardent followers of the Goddess vow to dedicate themselves and their lives in service of the Goddess and pray diligently to ward off hardship. This community is called the Jogathi who are often immersed in divinity and appear to be in a state of trance. They propagate and glorify the Shakthi's virtues and valour. An elaborate ceremony is conducted to initiate a Jogathi or the volunteer in service of the Divine force... the Goddess Yallamma.
The special feature of this performance is the depiction of a Jogathi in trance where she dances with an Ektaari singing in praise of the purest form of feminine power... the queen of all the seas, boundaries and beyond... Yallamma Taayi. In many parts of the state, the Jogathi herself is considered as an avatar of the Goddess.
The choreography of BHAGAVATHI NANE....centers round invoking the Goddess within us. The dance crescendos to the rhythmic composition as the devotee enters a trance state through a ritualistic performance. Be it through dance or through spiritual practices, everything ultimately leads to knowing oneself. This choreography, invoking Bhagavathi juxtaposes the travel of a dancer and a devotee towards their eventual convergence.
Language: A combination of Malayalam and Tamil as it was sung by devotees from Palakkad region where the language is heavily influenced by Tamil.
Direction and Camera: Sreelakshmy Govardhanan
Music composer, vocal and violin: Shyam Kalyan
Rhythm: Kalamandalam Sreerang
Light designer: Jose Koshi
Editing: Joy M Raju
Second camera: Mintu John
Location: Avanthika Space for Dance, Irinjalakuda and Thrissur
MAATANGI / KALPAGAAMBA
Worship of Devi, The Goddess, has been something that has been so tightly woven within the fabric of my family, that the thought of Her and Her familiar presence pervades all that takes place within the household. Nine generations ago, we were a part of the Bangaru Kamakshi temple in Thanjavur, given the responsibility of plucking flowers and stringing garlands for Her worship morning, afternoon and evening. Her childlike demand of Her devotees' relentless attention, ensured that we are Hers and She, ours. Nothing much has changed since then.
The irony is that with such a vast repertoire of compositions about Devi within the family, there is very little that is danced in praise of Her. I chose two pieces - one from the family repertoire, 'Kalpagaamba' (shabhdam, about Goddess Kalpagaamba in Mylapore) and one that is new to the repertoire - the Shyamala Dhandakam (about the Goddess Maatangi). Both pieces adhere to the family style of manodharma, that is, stylised improvisation. I have added subtitles to follow not just the literal translation of the poetry, but also the interpretation through improvisation in the dance.
Eekshana (Sanskrit: īkṣaṇa) in Sanskrit means sight, care and it also refers to eye, sight, look, seeing, viewing, caring for, looking after... We present excerpts of three immortal compositions of Muthuswami Dikshithar, one of the celebrated trinity of Carnatic music, eulogising the three Devis.
EEKSHANA - THE DIVINE EYES
While there are several other forms of Devi describing Her eyes, three forms, namely Kamakshi, Meenakshi, Visalakshi enjoy a certain privileged status. In popular folklore, they are referred to as 'Madurai Meenakshi,' 'Kanchi Kamakshi' and 'Kasi Visalakshi'. What makes this trio so unique? The connection between them has several different aspects, when understood from the Shakta perspective. This esoteric knowledge is evidently understood by Muthuswami Dikshitar, celebrated for his extraordinary musical and scholarly genius. In his kritis on these three Goddesses, he presents this occult knowledge in common frameworks used in compositions on the three Goddesses.
-The sthala purana of Kanchipuram refers to the story of Muka - a mute devotee of Kamakshi - who attained Kamakshi's grace through a divine occurrence, and composed five hundred verses in praise of Her, known till date as Muka Panchasathi.
-The sthala purana of Madurai cites the story of Meenakshi and her unmatched conquests across the world. Describing Her glory as a warrior, the sthala purana talks about Meenakshi who took on the title of 'Digvijayam.'
-In Kasi, according to Shakta Sampradaaya, Visalakshi gives the soul salvation, leading to Vishveshwara Himself.
Concept, choreography & performance: Priya Murle
Nandini Anand: vocal, Anjani: veena, Sneha Mahesh: nattuvangam
Videography and Editing: Iyappan Aarumugam - a4 media
Venue: Black Box, Sahrdaya Creative Studios
Logo: Lekha Prasad
KOTTRAVAI - The Tamil Warrior Goddess
Kottravai represents one of the earliest forms of the Divine Feminine worshipped in the Tamil land. 'Tolkappiyam' and Sangam literature have multiple references to Kottravai worship by early Tamils. Ilango Adigal's epic 'Silapathikaram' has extensive descriptions of tribal rituals related to Kottravai worship.
The verses performed by Dr. Narthaki Nataraj, are taken from the 'Vettuva Vari' section of Silapathikaram. On their way to Madurai, Kannagi and Kovalan (guided by a female saint Kavunthi Adigal) witness tribal villagers worshipping the fierce warrior Goddess Kottravai.
The sound of Dhak, Chandi Stotra, hibiscus flowers, the auspicious pot, smell of incense, smoke, fire, bright new saris, the grand Puja pandals...that's what we wait for every year - Devi's visit. Neelay Sengupta created that magic in our studio with his beautiful set design.
AMBA NILAMBARI is a sonorous composition of Ponniah Pillai, set in Ragam Nilambari, Adi talam. In the exposition of the piece, Geeta Chandran's abhinaya closely mirrors the flow and cadence of the ragam.
The Goddess emerges radiant and divine even as She is cloaked in the magical colours of the sky.
SAPTA YOGINI & THE BODY TEMPLE
On the 7th night of Navaratri, Ramaa Bharadvaj shares an esoteric tale about 'Sapta-Yogini', the seven Yogini deities venerated in the Lalitha Sahasranama. Ramaa combines songs, humour, illustrative gestures, and visual graphics to create a performed narrative that takes viewers on an intriguing 'pilgrimage' towards a Tantric inner realm. 'Sapta Yogini & The Body Temple' is a presentation that is part mysticism, part science, part philosophy, part performance, and altogether entertaining.
Concept, Research, Script, Graphics, Editing & Music Remix: Ramaa Bharadvaj
Primary Resource guide: A. Rahul
Yogini images provided by Arjun Kanagal
IMA DURGE - Goddess Durga is also worshipped in Manipur, especially on the day of Ashtami. The drummers play 'Devi Dhumel,' an intricate composition and the women sing a beautiful ode to the Goddess.
I bow to You and welcome You, Mother Durge.
You are resplendent with ten hands and many manifestations.
You are Lakshmi, Saraswati, and Kali.... Wealth, knowledge and the destroyer of evil. You are Savitri and Gauri and the beloved of Omkara. In water, You are Ganga and in earth You are Medini. You are Rameshwari and giver of blessings.
O Mother Durge, bless us, and love us always,
And with sword, spear, shield and other weapons in Your ten hands, please always protect us.
Ima Durge, I bow to You.
Language: Meitei Lon
"Shrungapuradeeshwari Sharade" is a composition on Saraswati, the Goddess of knowledge, who resides in Shrungapura (Sringeri). This composition highlights Sharade as the Goddess of all the arts; She is referred to as the mother of shruti and laya, bestower of boons, and protector of the world. A composition penned by Padmacharan in ragam Kalyani, set to adi talam.
This composition, starting with the words "SRI LAKSHMI MARUMAGALE", is an uncommon invocation of Goddess Saraswati as the daughter-in-law of Goddess Lakshmi. Here, Sri Ganapathy Sachchidananda Swamiji introduces us to a rarely discussed relationship between Lakshmi and Saraswati, drawing attention towards the story of Brahma's birth. The Vishnu Purana says Brahma was born from the Nabhi of Vishnu, making him Vishnu's son, and therefore, his wife, Saraswati becomes Lakshmi's daughter-in-law.
The dance begins with Sri Swamiji having a vision of Saraswati Devi while meditating on her. She is seen singing and dancing in the heavens with her veena. Mesmerized and pleased by his devotion, she decides to reside on his tongue and dance, taking the form of a song in her praise. When he finally wakes up from his vision, he is overjoyed to receive Saraswati Devi's darshan and blessings.
The choreography further explores the omnipresence of Saraswati Devi residing in every aspect of the universe as knowledge and wisdom, taking many forms - the heartbeat of a human being, the babbles of a baby, the magnificent sounds of nature or the panchabhoothas. The story of Shiva cutting off Brahma's fifth head is introduced as an example of Saraswati Devi's ability to destroy ignorance and pull us back to reality. She blossoms as the spring in our words and resides in all of us as the supreme Goddess of wisdom.
The choreography is an experimental blend of Bharatanatyam and classical vocals with a contemporary musical arrangement of keys and Indian percussion.
Composed by Sri Ganapathy Sacchidananda Swami
Dance, choreography & jathi composition: Shambhavi Jagadish
Vocals: Shashwathi Jagadish, @singer.shashwathi
Mridangam, mixing & mastering: Sai Shiv, @saishivmusic
Jathi rendition: Harikrishnan Kesavan, @hariauliv
Keys, arrangement & programming: Bharath Ram, @bharath311090
Videography: Thomas 'Fat Jesus' Davis, @dedicated_randomness
Navarathri keerthanam 9th day - PAAHI PARVATHA NANDINI
Oh! Daughter of the mountain! Kindly protect me. Your face resembles the full moon.
You reside on the banks of the Vahini river and You ride on the lion. You destroyed the clan of demons.
Composer: Swati Tirunal
Mahishasuravadham: Adapted from Devi Bhagavatham and Devi Mahatmyam
Thus spoke Vishnu -
"We have fought before; but this Asura could not be killed by any of us. If a female deity be now
created out of our collective energy, She and only She would be able to destroy Mahishasura by
While the Devas were thus looking steadfastly on that Fire, an exquisitely beautiful Goddess was
born out of it. Her face was white, eyes were black, her lips were red and the palms of her hands were coppered. She was adorned with divine ornaments. The Goddess was now manifest with eighteen hands armed with weapons and riding a lion. As she looked upon Mahishasura, her face shone with varied emotions - desire, astonishment, valour and anger.
Madly in love, Mahishasura put on beautiful ornaments and thus shone like the god of Love. "O beautiful one, if you like, marry me, or return to your desired place whence you have come."
Devi replied, "Mahisha, you are a sinner; you torment the gods and terrify the sages. I will slay you undoubtedly."
Devi took up the golden cup filled with wine and drank again and again. She pursued him with
trident in Her hands, to the great joy of all the Devas. The Devi Chandika, then, infuriated and with eyes reddened, pierced violently the breast of that vicious Mahisha with Her sharp trident.
The hot streams of blood gushed out from his neck as the violent streams of water get out from
mountains, coloured red with red sandstones. The gods and saints were all extremely glad at the death of Mahishasura. Bhagavati Chandika quit the battlefield. The gods came to adore and praise Her, the bestower of their peace.
Concept, Choreography and Performance: Kapila Venu
Creative advice: Guru G Venu, Kalamandalam Narayanan Nambiar
Mizhavu: Kalamandalam Rajeev, Kalamandalam Hariharan
Edakka: Kalanilayam Unnikrishnan
Camera and Editing: Anandhu Madhu
Technical Assistance: Kalanilayam Haridas
According to 'Southern School of Tantra' (Shree Kula) or 'Goudiya Tantra' (Kali Kula), Goddess 'Moola Durga' or 'Durga' has a specific significance. This four handed devi who is ornamented with the moon on Her forehead beholds shanka, chakra and dhanur-baan, sits on Her vahana Simha or the Lion. Her complexion is similar to the colour of Panna stone. This three eyed Devi's uttariyam, kankana on Her wrist and Her waist ornament is also mentioned in this 'Dhyaana Mantra.' Similar form is also found in the practice of Devi worship in Bengal in the form of Devi Jagadhatri and Devi Gandhaswari.
Ragam: Bhairavi, Talam: Chatushra Ekam
Concept and choreography: Samrat Dutta
Nattuvangam and jati composition: Santanu Roy
Music composer: Banikumar
Vocal: Swati Athmanathan
Mridangam: Shankar Narayanaswamy
Flute: Rupak Mukherjee
Videography: Srinjoy Sinha Roy
Location: Shodpur 12 Mandir Ghat and Barakpur Annapurna Mandir (Kolkata)
T REDDI LAKSHMI
Oh Mother Durga, You dispel afflictions of those who seek refuge. You are the creator, the sustainer and destroyer of the three 'Lokas.' You are the bestower. You exist in our conscience. You are the cause of all our accomplishments. You bestow the power of discrimination, wisdom and knowledge. You are the Supreme witness of all 'Lokas.'
Composer: Yathi Narayana Thirtha of 17th century
Choreography done in the format of Tarangam typical of Kuchipudi dance style
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