Art

The quest for bliss

Weaving their own narratives (From left) Rashmi Vaidialingam, Ranjana Gauhar, Shovana Narayan; (top) Alka Raghuvanshi

Weaving their own narratives (From left) Rashmi Vaidialingam, Ranjana Gauhar, Shovana Narayan; (top) Alka Raghuvanshi  

Four seasoned artistes came together to recreate the devotion in the poetry of Jayadeva, Lal Ded, Gangasati and Mirabai

Over the years, Indian arts have drawn extensively from the idea of devotion in literature and poetry. At the recent performance called Eternal Quest, one saw four seasoned artistes coming together to recreate the devotion in the poetry of Jayadeva, Lal Ded, Gangasati and Mirabai.

While dancers Ranjana Gauhar, Shovana Narayan and Rashmi Vaidialingam performed Odissi, Kathak and Kuchipudi, artist and art curator Alka Raghuvanshi donned the role of the sutradhar, weaving the stories together. She said, giving the prologue to the performances, “Love is the central path to devotion – one marked by faith. By sublimating love into Bhakti, the movement ensured that women’s needs and desires would have legitimate space without ridicule. One of the biggest impacts of the Bhakti movement was the freedom and voice for expression that it gave to women, their quest for ananda or bliss….”

The performance began with Ranjana’s rendition of “Sakhi Hey” in Odissi, the sixth Ashtapadi from Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda in which Krishna represents the divine and Radha, the soul, yearning to be united with the divine. She is the abhisarika nayika who is smitten by the cupid’s arrows and now wants her sakhis to bring her to Krishna so that she can be united with him. “The poem has been translated into 100 languages,” says Ranjana. “It is a poem that rose to such heights that all temples from Kashmir to Kanyakumari and Puri to Gujarat sing it as an act of prayer, more than poetry,” she adds. Through her dance, Ranjana portrayed the coming together of the physical and the metaphysical through Radha and Krishna. “Bhakti gives a direction. It is a reminder that we all have a soul and we shouldn’t simply exist at the material level. We are connected through it,” explains Ranjana.

The second performance by ace Kathak dancer Shovana Narayan bridged two very different poets through her dance – Lal Ded and Gangasati. Shovana used the languages they wrote in, namely Kashmiri and Gujarati and two seemingly different philosophies about the same divine. “Within every person, there is an element of Bhakti, it is the belief in something. It is everything -- from participation, to homage, to devotion. It is love for supernatural energy, or a being or a representative or a god. For me, I believe in that power, the pillar that you can run back to, says Shovana. The poetry urges one to dissolve the ‘I’ and be one with the paramatma. “The word bhakti comes from the root word in Sanskrit called bhaj, which means ‘to belong’,” says Shovana.

For Kuchipudi dancer Rashmi Vaidialingam, Bhakti meant an expression of the self that is unique but an embodiment of devotion at the same time. She chose Mirabai’s famous bhajan “Chalo Mana” choreographed by her gurus Raja and Radha Reddy. “Apart from giving rise to a lot of rich literature, Bhakti empowered women and gave them a voice they could not find otherwise,” says Rashmi.

In stringing together these different art forms, Alka says, at the core remained an idea to unite with a larger being, something one might often encounter in one’s art. Having been a dancer herself, the movements have often spilled on to her paintings as well. She says, “The idea here is that different forms of dance must be strung together to form a whole. Bhakti poets too come from different time spans and work as a whole. The poetry is seemingly shringara based, but are essentially Bhakti.”

How does one approach it in today’s times when the question of faith is debated every day? “It has gained even greater relevance for now. We have created these forms, we want to worship. We can call it faith, belief or conviction. We have created them because something bigger, maybe lila, wanted us to create them. But, there is so much unrest outside that it makes us want to touch base with our core, and connect with the Paramatma,” sums up Alka.

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Printable version | Feb 24, 2020 11:37:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/art/the-quest-for-bliss/article30751125.ece

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