Divine spaces and Kshetras exploring the deity and his/her kshetram or dwelling drew unprecedented crowds at Seva Sadan, Bangalore on 3rd, 4th, and 5th October 2018. The event was a part of the well know arts consultant Usha Rk’s 40 years in arts. The festival was conceived and curated by her.
In an attempt to explore the virtuosity of two forms or avatars of ‘a’ deity in two parts of India the dancers juxtaposed the deity in two different geographic regions that visually presented the portraiture, encapsulating the physical and spiritual facets.
Some of the aspects that were explored were the Kshetra Mahima or the description of the geographic area of the temple including the glory and tales that speak of the greatness of the area, the temple and its architectural significance visually bringing out the the physical attributes or architecture of the temple, the attributes of the two corresponding deities, the spiritual / religious methods of worship and prayer – compositions like bhajans, krithis, ashtakams, abhangs etc that are chanted or sung as a part of the obeisance paid to the deities. Selected verses from these traditional works were included to bring out the intrinsic aspects of the deity concerned and the mainstay of the presentations was based on any story that connected the deity to the kshetram.
On the first day, promising Odissi dancer Madhulita Mohapatra presented the Vishnu avatar Lord Jagannath of Puri and Soundarya Srivatsa presented Lord Venkateshwara of Tirupati.
Positioned in the coastal town of Puri in Odisha, the Lord Jagannath temple is one of the four major pilgrimage sites (Dhamas) of Hindus. Jagannath literally means ‘the Lord of the Universe’, is the form of Lord Vishnu or Narayana or Krishna. Jagannath Puri is a significant spiritual centre of Vaishnavism and finds mention in various ancient texts such as Rig Veda, Kurma Purana, Narada Purana, Padma Purana & Skanda Purana.
Built in the 12th century, in an area of over 400,000 square feet, the temple appears majestic with its grand structure. The chamber of the Lord is not a mere seat of resting, it cleanses the soul and its glimpse grants mokshya to the devotee. The Nilachakra (blue discus) is the discus mounted on the top shikhar of the Jagannath Temple. As per custom, every day a different flag is waved on the Nilachakra. The Nilachakra is the only physical object whose markings are used as the sacrament and considered sacred in Jagannath worship.
Based on verses written by Sanskrit scholar Pandit Nityananda Mishra and excerpts taken from Shri Adi Shankaracharya’s Jagannath Ashtakam, Madhulita choreographed her presentation in an extremely adept manner keeping to the theme very closely.
The often repeated prayer of Lord Jagannath Swamy ” Jagannath Swamy Nayana Path Gami Bhavatu Me” is a part of the Lord Puri Jagannath’s Ashtakam once recited by Shri Chaitanya Maha Prabhu Himself and has been a very important part of Lord Puri Jagannath’s worship since then.
Madhulita has matured as a performer and enacted the Salabega composition with utmost sensitivity retaining the flavour of the mighty Rath Yatra its splendour and grandeur. Madhulita needs to work on a tighter control of the movements while retaining their fluidity which she executes proficiently.
The accompanying musicians for the odissi recital were Shri Soubhagya Narayan Chhotray (Mardala), Shri Rajesh Lenka & Smt. Akila Venkat (Vocals), Shri Karthik Sathavalli (Flute), Shri Natarajamurthy (Violin) and Shri Subhendu Bandyopadhyay (Sitar).
This was followed by a unique presentation on Tirupati Venkateshwara by Soundarya Srivatsa, a Bharatanatyam dancer of repute.
Thirupathi has been one of the greatest and the most visited sacred places on the planet Earth. Every story related to the deity Lord Venkateshwara and Padmavathi is very endearing to the devotees of Tirumala. The Kruthi- Kannula pandaga – has been composed with a purpose to explain the significance and the story of each of the 7 hills of Tirumala.
One of the most uncommon and first-time-ever composition on the Seven hills with such detailed descriptions written by Vidwan DS Srivatsa, the entire performance was performed in one go with no breaks. It some how reminded the writer of the famous Shankar Mahadevan “breathless” song. Soundarya is a prolific performer in terms of pure dance and the balance of abhinaya is flawlessly appropriate. She breezed through each hills description through melodic Swara patterns, jathis and the sahitya delineating the story behind the naming of the hill.
While the music ensemble included some of the most accomplished accompanying artists of Bengaluru the final output was harsh and rather too loud for the ear with the percussion sounds drowning the vocal and flute sounds.
Prasanna (Nattuvangam), Vasudha Sastry (Vocal), Harsha Samaga (Mridangam), Karthik Sathavalli (Flute), Gopal V (Veena) and Krishna, a veteran lightman did a superlative job of lighting for both the dancers and deserves special mention.