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'Radha' by Himanshu Srivastava
- Jaya Rao Dayal

October 5, 2021

Art has an ability to gently invite you to a distant realm, to transport you to another world, in another time keeping intact the spirit, the essence of the yore. The fourth day of Devi Diaries has left me completely mesmerised. The 'Hladini sakti' of Sri Radha, portrayed most evocatively by dancer Himanshu Srivastava was superlative in ways more than one.

The artistry was in the measuredness of each movement. The slow paced marvel highlighted the intensity of the philosophy of revering the feminine divine Radha, as seen in several Vaishnava sampradayas such as the Radha Vallabha sampradaya. While for her, it was 'sarvamayam jagat', Krishna being one and all, the sampradaya talks about Radha being the central core for all devotees.

Himanshu Srivastava

I took the opportunity of having a small conversation with Himanshu where I put forth two very basic questions.The first question being why he chose Radha for Devi Diaries, to which his response pointed to the elusiveness of her representation, and of her being the compelling force which overpowers even Krishna. The lyrics of the poetry have been penned by the dancer himself in Braj bhasha, the language spoken in the geographical-cultural milieu of Vrindavan and neighbouring places. The poetry is 'chhand mukt kavita', or free verse. At the risk of dwelling seemingly more than required on the lyrics, I must quote what Hindi poet Suryakant Tripathi Nirala, wrote about the free verse. "It is the flow itself that becomes a strong advocate of free verse. That is what establishes it as verse and the lack of metre constitutes its freedom".

"O Sakhi! Deep in the forest of my meditation
I saw a maiden bright
Believe me! It's Radha wearing Krishna
She plays with his flute and the very next moment she plays with her bashful belongings
Gopi, gopikas and Hari too
Are all bonded to love divine
And that divine love is none but Radha alone...the voice of Vrindavan.

(Translation into English by the poet)

Himanshu Srivastava

As I asked him the question, "Have you thought about Radha before?", in my mind I was meaning to say, "When did Radha happen to you?" To this question, Himanshu replied that he has been soaking in her essence for a while now. He says his depiction of Radha with the hamsasya mudra in her right hand listening to the devotee and the hamsasya in her left hand relaying it to her lover God, was inspired from a statue. This immersion comes out in his bhava. He takes the viewer through an intense experience of Radha as the voice of Vrindavan.

While all accompanying artists acknowledged in the video have done wonderful work, a more than special mention goes out to Sridhar Vasudevan, whose beautiful rendition in raga Patadeep lingered in my mind. The choice of pakhawaj as percussion was apt. The placement and execution of jathis were aesthetic and flawless. The chiming of the cymbals as an accompaniment for the last part was reminiscent of the 'Godhuni', the sound of the 'Ghantika', or the bell tied around the cow's neck. It just completed the entire experience of Vrindavan.

The Whatsapp, Youtube and Facebook outage for six hours last night played spoilsport. I could not revisit the performance. But it continued to play in my mind until the wee hours of the morning. Such is the power of dance, music, poetry...of art...

Jaya Rao Dayal
Jaya Rao Dayal is trained in Bharatanatyam, and in the last decade, she has been pursuing research in Indian aesthetics. She submitted a dissertation to Jnanapravaha in Mumbai as part of a post graduate program in Indian aesthetics.

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