MAD and DIVINE women - Mystic saint poets of India and beyond
Natya Darshan Seminar -
Evening Performances

Day 3
: Madness matters!
- Pratima Sagar
Photos: Lalitha Venkat

December 25, 2011     
The concluding performances of the evening left the audiences asking for more… the euphoria left by Rama Vaidyanathan who danced to “soulful Abhangs and thoughtful Vakhs” for the season’s theme of mystic saint poets,  gave way to the next year’s idea on “Epic women...”

Soulful, sprightly and spiritual

Rama Vaidyanathan struck the right chord taking the dance festival to a crescendo. She truly showed the “joys” of being “mad and divine” and how! “Utto pandu ranga” – when the danseuse danced with a childlike innocence and madness as she talked, chided and placated her lord, she became the saint Janabai. And in another “parama shivo tantara…” she became the mystic Lalleswari who shed shame, desire and the world itself…for she is now “jeevan mukta” or the liberated one - one with Shiva! Every move, expression and stride of the dancer, translated in complete transparency - the attitude and existence of these saint poetesses who shared the commonality of madness and yet were so different from one another. Draped in a simple cotton Maharashtrian saree, Rama stepped into Janabai with lively Lavani like dance and even left the god asking for more when she gestured to Him to go back to the temple for she had nothing to offer him!! Clad in dull whites, Rama reappearred with her long tresses let loose… her dance conversed with the onlooker to tell the story of Lalleswari of the hills and beyond to Shiva, into the primordial sounds of conch and Om. The soulful voice of Sudha Raghuraman and Vasudevan equally captured the pulse of the performance. Indeed a fitting finale of the three day conference. Rapturous!     

Metaphors of love...

Zakir Hussain, a devoted Bharatanatyam dancer and a devotee of Andal, performed with utmost reverence, grace and sincerity. With select poetry of Andal, he personified her, seeing through her eyes - the Garuda Vahana that carries her lord, and the conch so close to his lips, or the floral garland that she tenderly feels before offering it to her lord, and finally the grand dream wedding and majestic elephant processions… Zakir delved into these symbols and messages that Andal draws on to express her love and deep desires. With a refined expressional and pure dance, the artist and Vaishnava scholar said it all – ‘Vanamaalai- the garland of love.’

Of jeevaatmas and paramaatma...

Earlier in the evening, Meenakshi Chitharanjan in the established aesthetics of Bharatanatyam, with pure and expressional dance performed to select compositions of Saint Thirunavakkarasar. The devotee as a lover is the female embodiment longing for her lord Shiva. The danseuse dramatized temple rituals and fanfare processions, the lord and his attributes… finishing off with the devotee’s surrender to the supernatural.     
Pratima Sagar is a cultural commentator and critic based in Hyderabad.