The Sivarathri festival at the Vadakkunathan temple, Thrissur, featured an array of classical dances.Jaya Narayanan Pisharoty

Thrissur's Vadakkunathan temple formed the backdrop for a 10-day festival of music and dance for the annual Sivarathri festival. Artistes from across India performed at the venue.

Contemporary Kathak

Among the dances staged, the first was a Kathak recital by Gauri Divakar and troupe of the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company, New Delhi. They combined contemporary dance with Kalaripayattu and yoga while staying within the framework of Kathak.

They began with ‘Ganesha Vandana' set to a bhajan by Ashwini Bhide. This was followed by ‘Guruve Namah,' a eulogy to the guru. Set to the shlokas of ‘Guruashtakam,' Gauri's performance alternated the abhinaya component with patterns of rhythmic footwork and perfect chakkars. The highlight of the recital was Gauri's depiction of ‘Urmila's viraha,' as Urmila wonders whether the birds have brought a message from her husband, Lakshmana. Gauri's bhavabhinaya was excellent.

‘Infinite Journey,' the story of the origin of the universe, blended yoga and kalaripayattu steps. The dances were choreographed by Aditi Mangaldas.

On the next day, Urmila Satyanarayanan and her disciples took over the stage for a delightful Bharatanatyam recital. Urmila's mallari set to Gambhira Nata, in Khandajathi Ada tala, was a copybook performance. The daru varnam set to ‘Mathe Malayadhwaja Pandya Samjathe,' an appeal to Goddess Meenakshi, was a sensitive portrayal.

Annamacharya's ‘Brahman Okate,' a Telugu composition, explained the abstract concept of the unity of creation. The Tillana in raga Revathi was a visual treat as all the dancers, clad in white and orange, moved in unison in innovatively choreographed formations. Ananda Shankar Jayant's Bharatanatyam recital had elements of Kuchipudi. Her dance composition ‘Tyagaraja Ramayana' stood out for her use of Tyagaraja kritis to narrate the tale of Rama. The birth of Rama and his childhood was depicted through ‘Sogasachooda tharama.' ‘Sitaswayamvara' was accompanied by verses from Valmiki Ramayana. The dancer brought in a touch of humour by depicting the futile efforts of suitors to string the mighty bow.

‘Sitakalyanam' provided the musical background. ‘Marukela ra, O Raghava' in Jayantasri was used to convey the feelings of Bali in his dying moments. Next, Ananda Shankar depicted chapter four of the Bhagavad Gita. Through her movements and expressions, the dancer managed to suggest the presence of many people.

‘Karnashapatham' Kathakali, staged by Thrissur Kathakali Club, with Kalamandalam Gopi in the lead as Karna was excellent. The opening scenes, wherein Duryodhana consoles his frightened queen, Bhanumathi, and Karna reassures her were dramatic. Gopi Asan gave a spell-binding delineation of the myriad moods of the warrior. The story of Ganga's birth and how she took up her abode in the matted locks of Shiva were depicted.

Kunti's arrival and the instinctive bond that draws mother and son together added a sensitive touch to the performance. Gopi was in fine form as he enacted Karna's reactions to Kunti's revelations about his parentage. Gopi's portrayal of this scene was poignant.

The scene where Karna takes a vow on behalf of Duryodana to forsake his mother and brothers was simply majestic. Gopi and Kalamandalam Balasubramanian as Duryodana gave a convincing picture of the friendship between the two heroes.

A charming Odissi recital by Kavita Dwivedi was the last major dance event. In the ‘mangalacharan' (invocation), Kavita brought to life a shloka enumerating the different attributes of Shiva.

The pallavi in Saveri, set to Ek taal, was choreographed around the ‘Shivatandava Stotram.' The item highlighted the techniques of Odissi such as ‘chowka' and ‘thribhangi.'

No Odissi recital is complete without a portrayal of Geeta Govinda. Kavita's choice was the twelfth canto opening with ‘Nindati Chandana,' depicting how Radha abhors the fragrance of sandal paste as it reminds her of the absent Krishna.

In this item, which demands a high level of abhinaya, Kavita's expertise was evident. The highlight of the evening was the depiction of ‘Shivey Sringaradra' from the ‘Soundaryalahari,' which illustrates eight rasas in a play of sentiment between Lord Shiva and Parvati.