The Dol Utsav at Santiniketan saw an aesthetic performance of Tagore’s dance drama “Shapmochan”

The spring festival at Santiniketan is also known as ‘Dol Utsav’. Held on the the full moon night of ‘Dol’ or Holi, it is a festival of colours with a difference. Abir and gulal of green, yellow and red create a smoke screen at Santiniketan after the morning’s cultural function, when students and teachers dressed in yellow clothes, with orange palash blossoms adorning their tresses or simply worn as garlands around the necks, smear each other with much love and respect. This is how the saint poet Rabindranath Tagore, who worshipped beauty, visualised the utsav celebration. Well-versed in singing, numerous are the songs he wrote on the seasons in general and spring in particular and taught ashramites. Early in the morning a line of bedecked and bejewelled students, in the colour of spring, accompanied by their teachers, move in rows dancing and singing, ‘Oh! householders open your doors! There is spring everywhere in the plains, in the waterways, in the forest, among the ashok and palash flowers’ — the literal translation of “O re griho bashi khol dwar khol”.

On this occasion, a number of songs of spring were chosen and choreographed by the teachers and performed on stage. The dances were stylized and appealed to the large crowd. The crowd could hardly wait for the last dance “Rangiye diye jao go” to start playing with colours. As dusk fell the stage was set for the students of Sangeet Bhavana to perform Tagore’s dance drama, “Shapmochan”. “Shapmochan” is the story of Indra’s musician, Souryasen, who was banished from heaven for missing a beat while Urvasi was dancing. Madhusree, his partner, begged to be punished too. Their curse could end if they fell in love with each other on earth, too. As Aruneswar, Sourya Sen was born ugly, and Madhusree born as Kamalika could not accept him. Only when she heard his music did she realise her mistake, and both were reinstated in heaven.

This dance ballet has some of Tagore’s finest lyrics. Debobrata Mukherjee is an experienced choreographer who was able to make use of the technical aspects of Kathakali, Bharatanatyam and Manipuri without hampering the beauty of Tagore’s lyrics. Assisting the choreographer was Vasanta Mukherjee. Kamalika and Aruneswar by Sarmistha Mukherjee and Subhodeep Sarkar were brilliant. Their counterparts in heaven were danced by Pallavi and Sudhi Ranjan Mukherjee. The dancers were all from Sangeet Bhavana. Stage setting by Sukanto Bagchi was artistic, while makeup and costumes fitted the role of the characters. The festival of colours was aesthetically beautiful.