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An exploration of Radha's mystique
- Priyanka Rao
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October 21, 2021

"This is not the same Radha who is in Jayadeva's ashtapadi," says senior dancer Gopika Varma with regard to the disposition of Radha, the protagonist of poet Annamacharya's Sankeerthanam. One has heard many a song composed by Annamayya belonging to the sringara genre that celebrates the love between Venkateshwara and Alamelu. One also often associates the love between Radha and Krishna to Jayadeva's ashtapadi. However, session 4 of Tamrapatra, a yearlong initiative by Natyarambha, further adds to the mystery that surrounds Radha by exploring a rare Sankeerthanam penned by Annamacharya written in Sanskrit. The idea of Radha developing over time, travelling through the geography of the country, layered by multiple perspectives that are only additive in nature, speaks of the power of cross-cultural exchanges.

session 4 of Tamrapatra

Session 4 titled 'Radha's Mystique' thus began with an attempt to understand the context that supplements and forms the poet's perspective. Dr. Anupama Kylash took the participants through the journey of Radha as she makes appearances in various texts from the Bhagavadpuranam where she is suggested as a dear Gopika of Krishna, in the works of Dimboka where Radha and Krishna are addressed as a singular entity, in Jayadeva's Gita Govindam which celebrates the 'divine romance' between Radha and Krishna and finally introducing us to Annamayya's Sankeerthanam. "The Radha of Annamacharya is inspired by Jayadeva's Radha, yet bringing his own indelible writing by way of exercising economy in his words," she says. It appears as though he has written these lines with the intention of granting artistes the freedom to explore the elusive Radha as they navigate through the spaces between his words.

Gopika Varma
Gopika Varma

Gopika Varma by virtue of her choreography taught the participants a novel dimension to sathvika abhinaya. Athi Shobhitheyam Radha reveals a mature Radha in complete acceptance of Krishna not returning to her and her quiet confidence in the love they have for each other. In a post-session conversation, Gopika Varma says that 'true love is beyond flesh' and the knowledge of this was Radha's strength. Mohiniattam lends an unhurried approach to Radha's state of mind which is replete with effortless strength, stability and grace.

Darpaka Balabodha Radha that translates to "She makes him (Krishna) aware of the powers of Madana (love), this Radha" portrays Radha as the creator of Rasa, as Raseshwari.

Darpayutha Krodha Radha translates to "She displays haughty anger, when crossed, this Radha." The choreography builds a visual synchrony that has Radha and Krishna play the flute together, where the flute is the instrument that binds them together alluding to Krishna and Radha being a singular entity.

Taralita Taṭidvidha Radha translates to "She is one who appears as two, in flashes of lightning, this Radha." Gopika Varma uses attributes one commonly associates with Krishna, and links it to Radha. She has worked around the song with the intention of this piece being non gender specific for anybody who wishes to perform this choreography.

Tamrapatra brings in freshness to the format of a workshop by way of getting the participants to learn, understand and appreciate creation / choreography as a process in addition to the 'product' that young artistes lookout for. Sathiraju Venumadhav's musical composition of Athi Shobhiteyam Radha is enchanting and offers tranquility to Annamayya's Radha as she glides through the memories of her now long distance relationship with Krishna.

Priyanka Rao
Priyanka Rao is a Bharatanatyam dancer (student of Guru Bhanumathi) and writer.

Thank you so much Gopika ma'am for your beautiful choreography... after the session my mind is filled with all the varied bhavas that you have gracefully enacted. Thank you for letting us to have a peek into your genius mind and explaining your thought process be it personal experiences or blending a folklore into your choreography...Thank you, Anupama ma'am, for the incredible insights and explaining in detail the various nuances. I am amazed at the level of intricate detail that you get into and I wish I could listen to you all day. Thank you, Tamrapatra Team, for this opportunity to celebrate the various art forms and keeping it very informative. This has been an incredible session for me.
- Navya Francis

Beautifully captured emotions of Radha by Gopika ma'am left us thinking more on the feelings of Radha. Thank you, Anupama ma'am, for explaining the meaning of each and every verse of this beautiful composition. Thanks to Tamrapatra for arranging this wonderful session on Annamacharya Sankeertana and conducting such a wonderful informative session for us.
- Ramya Renjith

I have known Radha as Krishna's best friend, the epitome of beauty and the one with upper hand among Gopikas. But this session unfolded before me the other sides of Radha - the one with pride (manini) and youthful lady who can carry the universe/Krishna on her. I felt she represented womanhood. My mother had once mentioned that 'Ra' is the fire within us and Radha is one who is carrying (Dharikkunna) that fire within. Though I couldn't get the meaning of it completely then, it's when Ms. Anupama mentioned about Radha being the intangible energy is what gave me a better clarity on the concept. This session has opened the door for so much of research further. Thanks to the team for discovering such a beautiful kriti and sharing with us. The Raga to which the kriti is set to tune was breathtaking and led us to several emotions. Thank you, Sri Sathiraju Venumadhav. It's now in loop on my headphone.
- Lakshmi

Thank you, Tamrapatra, for such a wonderful initiative and for giving us the opportunity to learn and witness such a rare kriti and know its nuances through able guidance of Anupama Kylash. I am awestruck and teleported to another mesmerizing world of Radha through Gopika Varma's choreography. This has been the best experience ever. Eternally thankful to each and every person behind this initiative.
- Shruti Nair

Thanks to Tamrapatra for conducting 'Radha's mystique.' It was an absolutely mesmerizing session right from delineation of lyrics by Dr Anupama Kylash to the beautiful choreography by Gopika Varma. Thank you for this absolutely amazing experience.
- Vinaya

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