Remembering Guruji 2010 

April 30, 2010 

On the 7th of April, six senior dancers of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra came together on the stage at Rabindra Mandap, Bhubaneswar, to pay homage to their guru on the occasion of his 6th death anniversary. The program was organised by Art Vision.

Each of the dancers presented an Oriya abhinaya choreographed by Guruji and learnt directly from him. The individual presentations was preceded by the group rendition of Pada Bandhe Gananatha, an Oriya mangala charan composed by Guruji way back in the year 1955 as invocation to the dance drama Sakhi Gopal. This item can be considered among the first compositions in Odissi dance to be presented on a national stage; it was performed on that occasion by Priyambada Mohanty, one of the pioneers in the revival of Odissi dance. On stage, the six dancers, in spite of the fact that each of them have nowadays a different occupation, showed good coordination and one could recognise in their dance the distinctness of Guru Kelucharan Mohaptra gharana.

The Oriya abhinaya which were presented later on, followed the order according to the chronological date of their composition. Bibhushana Puspe Ja Kanti Jana is a very popular chanda belonging to the poem Baideshi Bilasa written by poet Upendra Bhanja. The first version of this abhinaya was composed by Guruji in the late fifties and was later brought to the present version in 1970. Meera Das portrayed with poise and restrain, the bashful Sita who is being decorated for the marriage with Lord Rama.

The second abhinaya was another extremely popular Oriya song, Tolagi Gopa Danda Mona by poet Bonomali. This is perhaps one of the first abhinaya to be learnt by all the neophytes, and depicts the famous sanchari in which Krishna, after having partaken of the milk and butter offered by the Gopis on the way to the market, denies to give them their fee. The actions and reactions of the dialogue between the defiant Krishna and the enraged Gopis was brought out with extreme clarity by Pranati Mohanty, a very graceful and natural dancer, who, in spite of not having pursued her career professionally, has maintained intact the style and the flavour of the Odissi learnt in the late seventies from her Guru.

This was followed by the song Malli Mala Shyamoku Debi by poet Upendra Bhanja, in which Radha promises to suit Krishna by offering him a garland of fresh and perfumed jasmine flowers. Mukti Lata Pal, a senior Odissi trainer in Odissi Research Center at Bhubaneswar, rendered the song with gaiety, in spite of her heavy body structure.

The fourth abhinaya was from Kavisurya Baladeva Ratha's Kishore Chandrananda Champu, a series of poems in which each line starts with a subsequent letter of the Sanskrit alphabet. Guruji composed most of the songs for the homonymous dance drama staged at National Center for Performing Arts in May 1983. Lila Nidhi He Lajja Mu Gali Ti Sadi, showed a bashful Radha who is asking Krishna to give back her sari because her modesty has crossed all limits.

This song was presented by Ileana Citaristi. After having taken part in the ballet staged at Mumbai as one of the sakhis, she learnt each of the abhinaya separately as taught by Guruji in the subsequent summer workshops held at Cutack in Orissa.

The fifth abhinaya Brajoku Choro Assici was presented by Itishri Devi, a senior disciple of Guruji and at present a lecturer of English literature. This song was composed in the early eighties for Kumkum Mohanty and subsequently taught to students in the general class. It is one of the few abhinaya pieces dealing with the vatsalya rasa where mother Yasodha tries to cajole little Krishna to sleep by inventing a lot of fantastic stories.

The sixth song, Prana Sangini Re Aji Mu Ki Lajja Budhili although composed by Guruji only in the late eighties, belongs to the repertoire of the Krishna Leela and was part of Mohan Sunder Dev Goswami librettos of his famous Mana Bhanjana dance drama staged all over Orissa during the first half of the last century. While composing it, Guruji used to recollect the way his guru Dev Goswami used to portray the different disguises utilised by Krishna for trying to win back the offended Radha. Among them was that of the woman who goes from house to house to decorate the ladies with alata as described in this song. This last abhinaya was performed by Nandini Gosal, a senior student of Guruji belonging to the Kolkata batch.

At the end of the program, all the six students came together once more on the stage to perform Sarbha Mangala Mangaley, the last sloka which ends with a peaceful and silent act of submission to the Almighty.

In between the various songs, the explanation and introduction to the themes was rendered by Saswat Joshi and Sangeetha Gosain, who anchored the show with spontaneity and grace.