Navia and Vidha enrapture audience with Devi Meenakshi & Ambaji depiction

Young Bharatanatyam and Kathak dancers were performing in Usha Rk's Divya Kshetram series

October 28, 2018
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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.

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. (Read Day-1 review)

Day 2 of Divya Kshetram was dedicated to Devi. Madurai Meenakshi and Arasuri Ambaji were presented by Bharatanatyam dancer Navia Natarajan and Kathak exponent Vidha Lal respectively.

Meenakshi Amman Temple is a historic Tamil Hindu temple located on the southern bank of the Vaigai River in the temple city of Madurai, Tamil Nadu, India. It is dedicated to Parvati, known as Meenakshi, and her consort, Shiva, here named Sundareswarar. The temple forms the heart and lifeline of the 2,500-year-old city of Madurai and is a significant symbol for the Tamil people, mentioned since antiquity in Tamil literature.

Meenakshi Temple | PC: National Geographic

The Mother of the Cosmos, the divine consort of Lord Shiva, appeared here in her incarnation as “Meenakshi”, meaning “the one who has eyes like that of a fish”.

Navia designed her narrative taking us through the imagery and philosophy of who Meenakshi is, she chose compositions that extolled the beauty, the virtues and various aspects of the goddess.

The goddess is the nucleus, the inner meaning of the Vedic hymns, the very essence around which they revolve. The one that takes away the darkness of ignorance. She dances like a female elephant in the evergreen mountains. The bees suck the nectar from the flowers that adorn her jet black forest like hair. She is that beautiful form that remains internally engraved in the heart of Shiva. Some verses taken from Madurai Meenakshi Amman Pillai Tamizh by Sri Kumara Kuruparar and the music was composed by Vanathi Raghuraman in raga Reethi Gowla.

Navia Natarajan | PC: Inni Singh

In the Dance of the Golden Lotus Navia described the Golden Lotus Tank- Potramai Kualam. Navia used interesting movements in the choreography starting from the outside slowly moving inwards.

The second segment “Truth is in the seed “was based on  Adi Shankarayacharya’s Meenakshi Pancharatnam, a stotram describing the various attributes of Goddess Meenakshi. The pancharatham across 5 stanzas throws light on the attributes of Meenakshi where the “inner wisdom” that we all seek which remains largely unexplored is being dealt with. It is the seed of Gyana or wisdom that germinates, grows and expands into a forest. Meenakshi, the ocean of compassion, is the one with “beautiful fish-shaped eyes”.  It just doesn’t mean “long and slender” eyes shaped like the body of a fish, it means that the goddess whose eyes are for ever open supports her devotees by merely glancing at them. The capacity for the Mother Goddess to hold her creation within the ambit of her Drishti. Guiding her creation to move forward, to swim forward, directing her manifesto on to the right path.

Navia explored the pancharatnam portraying to the audiences how its evolves and transcends beyond form and beauty and paves a way to recognize and realize the truth.

The concluding segment described the warrior princess as she meets her match in Sunderashan culminating in their union – the dance of creation. Verses were taken from Madurai Meenakshi ammai Pillai Tamizh by Sri Kumara Kuruparar. Navia excelled in her subtle and sensitive exposition of this extremely beautiful composition. Concluding with a short thillana in Raga Nalinakanthi Navia truly introduced some not so popular aspects of Goddess Meenakshi and highlighted the treatment of Devi in the southern parts of India.

In complete contrast to the presentation of Madurai Meenakshi which was as Bharatanatyam demands suggestive and subtle, the performance relating to Arasuri Ambaji in Gujarat displayed a totally different texture.

Ambaji Temple | PC: sanjeevnitv.com

Ambaji is a town within taluka Danta of District Banaskantha, North Gujarat in India. It is surrounded by Aravali Hill range. Ambaji is within the Aravali Range literally meaning ‘line of peaks’, is a range of mountains in western India across Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. It is also called Mewat hills locally.

It is believed that the Heart of Sati Devi has fallen here. The origin of the Shakti Peetha status temple is from the mythology of Daksha yaga and Sati’s self-immolation.

Vidha Lal, this year’s Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar ( Sangeet Natak Akademi) awardee, reformatted her always popular kathak repertoire which is inundated with a large amount of Nritta or pure dance to a presentation that matched the Bharatanatyam format of a balanced mix of Abhinaya and Nritta. She began with the chanting of the beeja mantra “om aim hrim kleem chamudayay vichaye” offering her devotion to the goddess Amba. Vidha sculpted the various names of the goddess Shankari, Vaishnavi, Saraswati and reincarnated their physical and spiritual visualisations.

Vidha Lal

Vidha personified the devotee’s dedication through the traditional act of offering a flag to goddess Amba and how this uplifts the benediction of “Nirankar”. The postures used along with the names of the Devi were stunning and breathtaking. Vidha included the Durga Kavit ‘Durg durgati nashini’ and a Devi kavit ‘jai kali Kalyani khappar dharini’ and concluded her first piece with an excerpt of the energy booster stotra ‘ ayegiri Nandini’ from mahshasurmardhini stotra.

A kathak performer would feel incomplete if a segment of pure dance is not included in the evening’s program. Vidha showcased the technical aspects of the Jaipur Gharana in the Basant Taal, a cycle of 9 beats innovative approach was woven by connecting this time cycle of 9 beats to Nava Durga.

It was in the mainstay of the presentation depicting a devotee’s journey to the shrine atop the hill through the Gujarati composition “Aaraa sur vaali Ambe Maa” where Vidha painted the canvas of the stage with the multifarious colours of the ensuing Navaratri as celebrated in Gujarat.

Vidha described the Pooja vidhi briefly through a very popular Gujarati song “mahadi tharo kunku khariyu ne Sooraj sugyo” in which the poet says that one speck of the sindoor from your forehead the drops makes the sun rise and gives us light. Following this was the scenario of a holy procession singing the praises of Amba whose abode is on the hill of Arasur. The procession includes people of all age groups and through the expressions of the people the dancer brought out the gleam of their eyes and devotion to offer their prayers and seek a vision of the goddess. Who removes all the obstacles that impend their journey. The performance reached a crescendo in terms of the powerful movements, pirouettes and the single-minded devotion of the bhakt yearning to become one with divinity. Vidha mesmerised the audiences of Bengaluru receiving a standing ovation on the spur of the moment.

Also read:

Madhulita & Soundarya’s unique presentation on Lords of Puri and Tirupati

Ragini and Abhimanyu’s mesmerizing performance on Day-3 of Divya Kshetram

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