Jhoolan Yatra was revived after 50 years, thanks to Natya Institute.

Welcoming the Monsoon is an ancient custom among the north Indian communities.

For the first time after decades, at the silver jubilee celebrations of Natya Institute, India’s first and only place that offers a professional degree in Kathak and Choreography, a long lost tradition was revived under the guidance of Dr. Maya Rao, octogenarian matron of Indian classical dance choreography.

Strains of Bismillah Khan’s ‘Miyan Malhar’ filled the air as young girls dressed in shades of green and pink jostled about. The fragrance of jasmine mingled with that of earthy Mehendi. The tinkling of a thousand anklets everywhere and one could have imagined being in Brindavan or Mathura waiting for Lord Krishna to arrive.

Complicated composition

To a packed hall of over 2,000 people, students of Natya Institute presented excerpts from the 16th century ‘Kitab-e-Navras’ written by Ibrahim Adil Shah II, ruler of Bijapur as his offering to Lord Ganesa and Goddess Saraswati.

Set to tune by none other than the legendary music director Anil Biswas, this extremely complicated composition was choreographed by Guru Maya Rao, reflecting India’s rich secular heritage.

“In the North, the weather differences are very strong unlike as in the South. The Hindustani classical system also has ragas for every season. We decided to celebrate our institute’s silver jubilee with the ‘Jhoolan Yatra’ and give the art lovers here a different experience.

“Half a century ago I did this festival in Delhi along with Sumitra Charat Ram at the Bharatiya Kala Kendra. Her daughter Gowri and Guru Shambhu Maharaj’s daughter played the role of Radha and Krishna. It was such a grand success and everyone remembered it for years,” Maya Rao had recollected earlier.

Natya Institute of Kathak and choreography, affiliated to UNESCO, was founded by Kamala Devi Chattopadhyaya and Maya Rao in Delhi in 1964. At the request of Ramakrishna Hegde, then Chief Minister of Karnataka, the institute shifted to Bangalore in 1987. Over 3,000 performers have graduated over the decades. It remains as India’s only college that offers a full-fledged professional degree in classical dance and choreography.

A bunch of 25 enthusiastic children, aged between 5 and 7, danced to a well-known composition ‘Jhoolat Radhe Naval Kishore,’ written by Pt. Bindadin Maharaj, doyen of the Lucknow Gharana, as the packed auditorium resounded with applause.

Inspired poets

The Monsoon has inspired poets such as Kalidasa and Jayadeva to pen immortal romances. Rain is welcomed with cheer and hope across the country - through the folk songs of Chattisgarh and Banaras (Nageen Tanvir), time-honoured Jhoola and Saawan songs of Chandra Jain, folk dances such as ‘Rouf’ from Kashmir and ‘Jabroo’ from Ladakh, Shaman priestess rituals of Manipur, Yakshagana and Kathak, temple music of Rajasthan, Tumris and Kajris, etc.

Indian classical literature has eulogised the Monsoon as a time for longing and companionship among lovers, a period for farmers to express their gratitude to nature and a season for everyone to rejoice.

Poets, musicians, scholars, writers, dancers, gurus, choreographers, administrators, academicians, curators and cultural impresarios and Who’s Who of the city’s art fraternity gathered to commemorate this grand event. With over 200 performers on stage, age ranging from five to fifty, the festivities hit a high note when audiences joined hands to form endless human chains and danced to the traditional folk tunes of ‘Dhimsa,’ the tribal rain dance of Andhra Pradesh.

India’s artistic heritage was showcased at Jhoolan Yatra.

(Veejay Sai is a writer, editor and a culture critic)

Star – studded performance

A wide range of dance presentations was on display at the ‘Jhoolan Yatra.’ Over 200 performers including 30 dance groups participated enthusiastically. Some of the star-studded performances included Yakshagana by Keramene Shivanand Hegde, Begum Akhtar’s famous thumri ‘Ab ke Saawan’ choreographed by Guru Maya Rao in Kathak style performed by Madhu Natraj, Bharatanatyam by Shubha Dhananjayan, Chattisgarhi and Banarasi folk songs by Nageen Tanvir (daughter of the theatre legend Habib Tanveer), Nadam Kathak Ensemble of Nandini Mehta, Muralimohan and Tushar Bhatt, music of Tansen by Praveen D Rao’s choir ‘Antardhwani,’ Nirupama and Rajendra’s Kathak dance set to flute music by Praveen Godkhindi, Muthuswami Dikshitar’s famous composition ‘Anandamrita Karshini’ (Amritavarshini) presented in Bharatanatyam style by the ‘Tandava’ group of Karthik Datar, Sreenivasan, Somashekar and Ananth Nagaraj, traditional jhoola and saawan songs well-known cultural entrepreneur Chandra Jain and the girls from Natya Institute and many more.