Welcoming spring with vibrant abhinaya
- Shveta Arora
e-mail: shwetananoop@gmail.com
Pics: Anoop Arora
February 28, 2014

Vaasuki Natyashala, Nandini Singh’s school of music and dance, presented the Vasantnrityotsav in commemoration of the Kathak legend Pt. Durga Lal’s 25th year of nirvana, at the IHC auditorium, Delhi. On the 4th of February, the 2nd day of the festival, Swapnasundari presented Vilasini Natyam, Kavita Dwibedi, Odissi and Nandini Singh, Kathak. It was a feast of abhinaya to satiate your senses.
Swapnasundari has been decorated with the prestigious Padma Bhushan and received many distinctions for her artistic excellence and contribution to dance, particularly Vilasini Natyam. She has recently been awarded the Vaggeyakar Samman. Kavita Dwibedi is the daughter and disciple of Odissi maestro late Guru Harekrishna Behera and is known for her prowess in abhinaya. She is the founder director of Odissi Academy and has recently been awarded the Orissa State Sangeet Natak Akademi award.
Swapnasundari spoke of aharayam or the dress code for Vilasini Natyam. The ganiyam or the ornaments worn are made of wood and they would really shine in the light of the torches that were used to light up the temples in ancient times. While explaining her composition called ‘Parijaatam,’ Krishna’s wife Satyabhama is walking with attitude, holding her braid in her hand, when she’s asked about who she is. What follows is the description of her own beauty and sweetness, which is at the discretion of the dancer. Swapnasundari depicted the gait and attitude of Satyabhama with great élan. She is described as lotus-faced, hair like bumblebees on the lotus, forehead like a half moon, her eyebrows like dhanush (bow), her eyes shooting arrows of love, her nose amazing, lips like fruits of the bimba plant, birds being attracted to them, ears like Om, the chant of the yogis, neck like a surahi or goblet, arms like lotus stems, nails like stars, her waist as flexible as that of a leopard, her navel the depth of a well. Then Satyabhama is asked to describe her husband. Manmatha and Krishna look alike and Satyabhama cannot distinguish between them. She goes on to describe Krishna with his mayur pankha - the peacock feather, tilakam on his forehead, karna kundal - the ear ornaments, kaustubh mani kanthe - the kaustubh mani on his chest, venu - the flute, pitambar - the yellow cloth tied at the waist, madan mohan - one of whom even Kamadeva is enamoured, manthar giridhar - one who bore the Manthar mountain on his back, kachhap - the slayer of evil, valiant, Arjuna’s charioteer. Following that was the depiction of Dashavatar. She ended her performance with a javali in Ragamalika. The nayika asks the nayaka to accept her love, since Kamadeva is about to strike her. She’s losing her control in the surroundings, where bees are humming and birds are singing. Her performance was a feast of abhinaya, which left the audience enthralled. Her accompanists were S Vasudevan on nattuvangam, vocals by Sudha Rani, mridangam by V Sridharacharya and flute by Aniruddh Bharadwaj. Swapnasundari also sang a few portions herself.
Talking about the performance, Kavita said, “Since it was Vasantnrityotsav, I thought of presenting a salutation to Goddess Saraswati, the goddess of knowledge, art and music. The advent of spring is welcomed by worshipping Goddess Saraswati. So I chose the composition ‘Manikya veena’. The second piece called ‘Satyam Shivam Sarasam’ describes the rasas in connection with Goddess Parvati. The piece was appropriate since it is in this month that we have the Mahashivaratri. The composition has been taken from Saundaryalahiri of Adishankaracharya. It describes the interplay between the rasas and Parvati’s drishti (gaze). During the chant of Om Namah Shivaye, I surrendered myself to the Lord, feeling one with him.” Kavita started the performance with a Saraswati Vandana. While worshipping the goddess, she portrayed manikya (studded with precious stones) veena, manjulavakya (sweet words), komalaangi (with soft body parts), maatangtanaya (the daughter of Rishi Matang), chaturbhuji (with four arms), pushpabaanhaste (with a flower-adorned arrow in hand), jagadekmata (the mother of all), neelotpaldyuti (the brilliance of a blue lotus), sangeetrasike (a connoisseur of music). The postures and gestures, executed with great technique, portrayed the attributes of the goddess.
The next piece ‘Satyam Shivam Sarasam’ turned out to be a very engrossing one. The piece was about goddess Parvati exhibiting certain emotions, which would manifest in her drishti or gaze. The piece enunciated on the eight rasas that are exhibited in response to certain provocations. The first is the shringara rasa –Parvati collects flowers and makes a garland for lord Shiva; she is shy and coy when embraced by him. The love of Shiva provokes the shringara rasa. She feels bhibhatsa rasa or hatred towards other kings and demons, who make advances towards her. Their crooked appearances provoke the bhibhatsa rasa in her. She experiences raudra rasa when she sees Ganga on Shiva’s head. The depiction in the dance showed Ganga emerging and spreading around. Shiva collected her and bore her on his head, and that is where she remains all the time. But the presence of Ganga invokes jealousy in Parvati. She is startled or experiences vismaya rasa, at seeing Shiva’s throat turn blue. During the samudra manthan or churning of the ocean, the poison that was produced was drunk by Shiva and it made his throat turn blue. Parvati is startled to see the occurrence. It’s the bheeta rasa that takes her over when she sees Shiva’s aghora rupa, with the snakes entwined on his body, which is covered in ashes. It scares her. She exudes veera rasa or valour as Durga, holding the trishula, her eyes ferocious at the demons. While playing with her sakhis, she exhibits the hasya rasa. As the mother of all living forms, she shows karuna rasa towards suffering mankind and blesses them. Kavita concluded the piece with the chanting of Om Namah Shivaya, depicting the oneness of Shiva-Shakti, Purush-Prakriti, or the Ardhanarishwar. She was accompanied by Sukanta Kumar Kundu on the vocals, manjira by her young son Nandan Dwibedi, and mardala by Manas Kumar.

Kavita Dwibedi

Nandini Singh

Nandini Singh took the stage next. This was her show on the stage after about five years. She performed a Shiva Vandana, and brought the evening to a close.

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