Krishna in life, death and in between
- Shveta Arora
Pics: Anoop Arora

February 16, 2014
Kathak Kendra organized its Kathak Mahotsav 2014 to celebrate its 50 years from the 29th -31st January at the Kamani auditorium, Delhi. On the final evening, the foyer at Kamani was bedecked with a flower rangoli, brass urns and lamps.
Vipul Das and his disciples Rakesh Mandal and Vijay Prasad Srivastava performed a piece called Om Namah Shivay, then a few tukdas in teen taal, and finally a composition “Meri suno” by Bindadin Maharaj. Vipul Das has trained under Guru Kundan Lal Gangani and Pt Birju Maharaj.

Aditi Mangaldas was invited to perform a solo. Aditi is a leading dancer and choreographer in Kathak. She has evolved a contemporary vocabulary infused with the spirit of the classical. She is the disciple of Kumudini Lakhia and Pt. Birju Maharaj. For the evening, she performed a portion of her production ‘Immersed.’ The poetry for the piece was by Bhartendu Harishchandra. The production delved into the mystic, wherein god is the piya (beloved) or saanwra and the bhakt (devotee), the lover. The separation occurs at the time of birth, life is a journey of longing and love, and death a reunion.

Aditi said, “Krishna, the almighty and the beloved, has been the inspiration for music, literature, architecture, poetry, and so on. So Krishna being the theme, the first part is about the names of Krishna, which are innumerable. He is Giridhari, Madan, Keshava. How can a god be all this and more? So he must be our ‘life.’ Krishna is a wave that has been flowing since ancient times, and limiting him within the constraints of a thought process is difficult.” The poetry addresses Krishna as Achyut, Achal, Aniruddh, Manohar, Muralidhar, Hari, Gopinath. In her dance, Aditi depicted the Lord’s morpankha (peacock feather), the murli (flute), the kaliyadaman (vanquishing the demon snake Kaliya) and finally she recited the names of Krishna as Chakradhari, Giridhari, Yashodanandan, Jagannath, Gopinath, Keshava, Brahma, Yogeshwar, Anant. The piece was a blend of beautiful abhinaya and powerful and energetic nritya which Aditi is known for.

This was followed by a short flute recital. For the second piece, she said, since Krishna symbolizes life, he is the breath. He is the breath that runs through us. So be at the edge of my existence - saanware nain ki ot na jaana (if you disappear from my vision, it will be like taking away my breath or my existence). In her dance, Aditi portrayed the playful chhed-chaad (playful teasing) between Krishna and the sakhi. Krishna is holding her hand from behind, while she tries desperately to free herself – bansi madhur bajao (play your sweet flute), the poet implores Krishna. The sound or dhwani of the flute causes vibrations to run through the body. Aditi concluded the piece with the shuddering sound of her ghungroos, portraying the vibrations reverberating through her body.
The pakhawaj and tabla piece which followed only raised the tempo that she had set. Finally, for the last piece, she said, “If you were life, then you are death too. Ao re piyarva, dhaye lagun piya  ke garva, more ruthe. Ruth gaye kuch toh bolo, hiya ki gaanthe hans hans kholo (Come my beloved, I will run and embrace my lover, who is angry with me. Say something, laugh and loosen the knots of my heart). I’m addressing him and telling him that if my time has come, I am ready for death. The cycle of life is portrayed where the seed germinates into a sapling, and then flowers and fruits. The flower finally wilts. Then I show myself growing up from a child to an old person. I portray god taking my hand and carrying me away. If I have embraced you as life, I must embrace you in death too.” The abhinaya for the piece was done while in a sitting posture. As ever, Aditi’s performance was energetic and rhythmic, and yet at the same time, very thought provoking.
The accompanying musicians included Mohit Gangani on the tabla and the padhant, Ashish Gangani on the pakhawaj, Faraz Ahmed on vocals and harmonium and Devender Rajbhatt on the flute.

Shveta Arora is a blogger based in Delhi. She writes about cultural events in the capital.