Saranagati Festival - Surrendering oneself to the Almighty
- Vijay Shanker
September 10, 2022
Classical dance and music is considered the best medium to reach out to the Almighty. Various stories based on Hindu mythology are interpreted in classical dances, establishing the inter-relationship between the jeevatma (human soul) and the paramatma (divine soul). In order to experience eternal bliss or enlightenment, one should surrender completely to the lotus feet of the Almighty. Saranagati Festival reached out to the Almighty through the elevating performances of seasoned performers in three distinct classical dance styles of Mohiniattam, Odissi and Bharatanatyam, organised by Kim Aham School of Indian Classical Dance at Dhwani auditorium, Bangalore, on 30th July.
Kim Aham headed by Kuchipudi exponent Avijit Das, organizes professional training of Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dance styles. Kim Aham believes that dance is an innate emotion that brings joy and celebration of life that should be shared with others and the students get introduced to Indian mythology and philosophy. Avijit Das says, "For me dance has always been a form of liberation from everything around me and in a philosophical sense the way one can liberate oneself from the bondages of the world and reach out to something that is grander (than the self). This is essentially the story behind the selection of the name Saranagati. This is true for me both as a performer and as a connoisseur. I contemplated about how much we are missing out as a society when it comes to appreciating our classical dance forms in a more and more fast moving life, and wanted classical dance to be more accessible to the general public, by presenting some of the contemporary stalwarts in the field. It also gives an opportunity to my students at Kim Aham school of dance to get exposure to the professional standard of the art and thereby not just inspiring them but showing them live examples of how one can have a successful career as a professional classical dancer and break the social stigma and attitude towards the classical arts."
The first performer of the festival was Mohiniattam dancer Gopika Varma, who heads the Dasyam Academy of Dance in Chennai. Gopika commenced with Saraswati Keertanam "Sakaladeva nuthe Manikyaveena Saraswati" incorporating the goddess of learning, fine arts and knowledge, praising her power and glory. In the charanam, saint composer Shankaracharya requests the goddess to come and settle down in Chottanikkara. The goddess agrees on one condition that he should not look back and if he looks back, she would not proceed further. After moving ahead with her twinkling toes, suddenly the sound stops; Shankaracharya is confused and looks back. The goddess settles in Mookambika (Kollur), hence establishing the goddess Mookambika temple in Kollur. This number was elegantly performed with slow and graceful movements, subtle expressions and powerful singing in the Sopanam style.
An extract from Krishna Karnamrutam, while portraying the charitram of Lord Krishna and different episodes, narrates an interesting story when Krishna is suffering from headache and tells Narada to get the dust of the feet of his associates to be applied on his forehead to get rid of the headache. Narada is perplexed and does not know what to do. He approaches Rukmini who refuses and then later Satybhama, who also refuses. Narada approaches the Pandavas who say he is our friend, how we can do such a thing. At last Narada approaches the gopis in Vrindavan and they agree saying that they are prepared to die for their lord and would be privileged to be of some use to the Lord. This number was enacted with elevating abhinaya reaching out to the Supreme.
Odissi exponent Aruna Mohanty's thematic content was quite different from other dancers. After the ashtapadi "Madhava..." establishing the relationship of Krishna, the piece-de-resistance of her performance was 'Prati Nayaka' (I am therefore you are) establishing the qualities of both good and evil in every being. This Odia composition presented the dramatised version of three dominating characters, Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and Kamsa. With impressive angika abhinaya and mukhaja abhinaya, Aruna succeeded in revealing the wickedness and vicious aspect of these three kings, who were arrogant, proud and conceited, which was the reason for their downfall. On a philosophical note, the message revealed that each of us can be either good or evil; hence the duality exists in every being, so it is important to channelise your energy and spirits in the rightful way. After the brilliant performance, Aruna said, "You the audience exists, that is why we the dancers are surviving."
P Praveen Kumar
Bharatanatyam exponent P Praveen Kumar danced two beautiful numbers, firstly the Tygaraja kriti. This number was in praise of Krishna "Saadinchane O Manasa", establishing the affectionate child mother relationship. In this pancharatna kriti, the saint composer takes liberties with the lord and questions and accuses him, "Why this hypocrisy, you are maya for everyone, you were born to Devaki but was brought up by Yashoda, why this duality?" This number was performed with innate expressions pertaining to the varied facets of Lord. The finale of the evening was the Javali in which Krishna is disturbed due to the obstinate nature of his love and asks her, 'Why can't you speak to me with love and be polite?' (Prematho natho maatlaadava). Praveen's performance was noteworthy for intricate movements and natural subtle expressions. On the whole, it was a grand festival reaching out to the Supreme.
Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.