The mystique of the Feminine
- Padma Jayaraj
Photos: Rajesh NV
March 12, 2023
Paaramekave, the shrine on the rocks, as the term suggests, is as old as human inhabitation in Thrissur, the cultural capital of the state of Kerala on the southwest coast of the Indian subcontinent. The tribes who lived in the Ghat region worshipped the Mother Goddess. After many religious reforms over centuries, the worship of Mother Earth continues as part of the Hindu stream of philosophical thought. The annual ten-day ritual ceremonies in the autumn season is a thanks offering to Mother Earth for her bounty. Fine arts like music, dance, drama, painting, etc, flourished around temples here, as in many parts of the world. Ritual festivals include all fine arts in the annual celebrations to date.
The 7th day of the ritual worship was on 27th Feb 2023. The thronging devotees crowded the temple commemorating the bounty and jubilance of immemorial autumn. After Deeparadhana, as twilight deepened into night, the devotees moved on to enjoy a dance performance by Dr. Rajashree Warrier, a reputed Bharatanatyam dancer hailing from Kerala who has made her presence felt not only in India, but all over the world where Indian aesthetic sensibilities are appreciated.
Twilight melted, and the half-moon rose in the blue sky. The darkening sky melted in the faint moonlight among the drifting feathery snow-white clouds in a lake of blue creating a wonderland. Music from the orchestra surged creating an ambiance for the dance drenching the temple precincts in heavenly harmony. The performance began with a short but customary Ganesha vandana to move on to an unexpected but befitting piece that invoked the autumnal night sky. The sky above and around the temple hugged all the beings merged in the mystique created by the dance and music. The enigma that the night represents is the Feminine principle, the underlying theme of the entire performance, with a sense of magical realism.
The introductory alarippu opened the flood-gate for the mystique of "Sarada rajani..." in Arabi ragam, adi talam. The autumn moon riding her chariot, is a Kathakali padam from Arjuna Vishada Yogam, penned by Vaikkam Rajasekharan, popularized by musician Kottakkal Madhu. An evocative dance in which the faint moonlit night riding over the feathery clouds set fire to the imagination of the audience. A redolent item that reminded of the seashore and starry horizon of the waterscape of Kerala emerged as in a dream. The presentation of the night entrenched in its mystique mesmerized the audience, under the star spangled horizon amidst deep shadows of trees on the temple ground.
The theme, feminine in its essence flowed into the next piece, Pillai kaanthimati. The deity of the temple, Devi, as a baby girl, the child adorable to the mother, celebrating the mother-daughter relationship. The Goddess growing up from babyhood rocked in maternal love and care proved a treat. The girl child so precious, grows up to be the Goddess later on. Divinity vested in the persona of the woman was the theme of the piece.
Shikhandi kauthvam, the story of Shikhandi, was the central piece of the performance, thematically. The Mahabharata has presented the story of Shikhandi as a trans-person who was born to kill Bhishma as a karmic debt in her previous life. And when Arjuna accompanied by Krishna meets Bhishma, he points to the only way in which they can defeat him. So, Krishna-Arjuna make use of Shikandi who is born to wreak revenge. Within the framework of the story from the epic, the dancer highlighted the mental trauma that trans-people undergo. The sense of isolation in the present callous society, the search for likeminded people who help them to carry on with life and its mission. Here, Shikandi is cast as the central piece to highlight the mental conflict that besets trans-people sidelined in the mainstream society, their inner conflicts both mental and physical from a humane perspective. Commendably executed we got a peep into their mental trauma that sensitizes our attitudes.
The finale was a grand piece, the popular Charukesi varnam by Lalgudi Jayaraman. The lovelorn nayika wonders about the seeming indifference of Krishna to her heartfelt feeling of love. The drama that we witness is in the facial expression of the dancer as her bodily movements are charming and evocative.
The covid induced gloom is slowly melting away and people gather to celebrate the joy that art brings to human hearts.
Padma Jayaraj is a freelance writer on the arts.