Vasundhara Doraswamy's 'Dances to the Deities'
- Vasanthi Vittal

September 25, 2010

Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy's program with live music at the Shiva Vishnu Temple of North America (Lanham, MD) on the 11th of September titled 'Dances to the Deities' commemorating Swami Dayananda Saraswathi's 80th birthday, was awe-inspiring to say the least. It was only appropriate that Vasundhara Doraswamy opened with the Melaprapti dedicated to Goddess Gowri, in raga Gowri Manohari, as the ladies had just celebrated the Swarna Gowri vratha. This was followed by "Vaataapi Gganapatim" in Hamsadhwani dedicated to Lord Ganesha. Next was a pada varna in raga Valachi composed by Subbudu. Here the torment faced by Devayani (daughter of Devendra and first wife of Lord Muruga) was described so skillfully by Vasundhara that one even felt extremely sorry towards the haughty and proud Devayani who is bad mouthing the poor tribal girl Valli (After all, it was Muruga who went after Valli and not the other way around). It was a kriti on Lord Rama by Swami Dayananda Saraswati that followed the pada varna. In this, the dancer related the story of Shabari waiting for Lord Rama to come day after day only to be disappointed and how after he finally does, she very affectionately feeds him fruits to quench his hunger, fruits which she has first tasted to make sure they are indeed sweet. It was depicted with much emotion and sentiment. Such an apt choice as Pujya swamiji sat watching the performance.

"Sri Chamundeshwari" followed in raga Bilahari describing the destruction of the evil Mahishasura by Goddess Chamundeshwari. The depiction of Mahishasura's seeking of the boon from Lord Brahma to his slaying was breathtaking. Lord Vishnu was worshipped by Vasundhara Doraswamy in "Hari Smarane" in ragamalika. In this item, the dancer described vividly the coming of Vishnu as Narasimha to protect his bhakta Prahlada. The conceited Hiranyakashipu was portrayed so precisely that one was glad he was soon slain. The second event illustrated was the game of dice in the Mahabharata where Yudhishtira loses and hence his wife to Duryodhana which prompts Duryodhana to have Draupadi dragged to the assembly and cause her vastram to be removed. She begs the elders to help her and prevent such an act of atrocity from happening. When no one responds to her cry for help, she seeks the help of none other than Lord Krishna himself. The portrayal of Draupadi begging the courtiers was unforgettable. Finally, the program ended with "Harivaraasanam," a bhajan to Lord Ayyappa. In this item, the story of Ayyappa beginning with the avatar of Mohini to the slaying of Mahishi by Manikantan was rendered with such elegance that one walked away from the program having learnt many a detail from our historical epics.

Marissa Rajashekara, one of Vasundhara Doraswamy's budding disciples, performed to the krithi "Sri Jalandhara" by Mysore Jayachamaraja Wodeyar. In the krithi, the dancer narrated the story of how Ganga was brought down to earth from her heavenly abode by King Bhagiratha of the Ikshvaku dynasty. Marissa's portrayal of Bhagiratha requesting Lord Shiva to help curtail Ganga's swiftness of flow and how Ganga attempted to sweep away Lord Shiva with her swiftness, with Lord Shiva thus trapping her in his hair was flawless and did indeed prove that she was being trained by the expert.

The program was supported by a live orchestra, which visiting artistes rarely have the privilege of while performing abroad. Having a live orchestra added immense fervor to Vasundhara Doraswamy's performance. Jayashree Shankar and Nalini Umashankar provided the vocal support under the able direction of Usha Char, rendering the various kritis with immense melody and emotion. Srinath Bala on the mridangam and Sandhya Srinath on violin supported the vocalists in the most exquisite manner. Nattuvangam was very skillfully provided by Vani Ramesh, director of Srishti School of Dance, who is presently under the tutelage of Vasundhara Doraswamy.

Vasundhara's five day workshop in collaboration with the Srishti School of Dance (Burke, VA) was filled with Yoga and learning and Arts and crafts for all the children who attended.