Devi Bharatam: The Goddess in all her hues

The different aspects and attributes of Devi were portrayed by dancers at Natyarangam’s annual thematic event

September 05, 2019 03:47 pm | Updated 03:47 pm IST

Narthaki Natraj

Narthaki Natraj

The first part of the review of Devi Bharatham, the annual thematic festival of Natyarangam, was carried last week.

On the third day, Pavitra Bhat presented ‘Paalini’ the protector. With resource guidance from Dr. Sudha Seshayyan, music composed by Shridhar Vasudevan (New Delhi), Paalini was conceived and choreographed by Pavitra. He began with a Rajarajeswari stotram, followed by Pushpanjali in Ragamalika, interspersed with ‘Lalitha Panchakam,’ swaras and jatis that celebrated the beauty of Lalithambika.

The story of Abhirami Bhattar was chosen to show the Mother protecting the devotee. She hurls her thatangam (ear stud) to the sky, which transforms Amavasya to Pournami. The verses were tuned in apt ragas such as Aahiri, Arabhi and Atana.

Selected lines from Lalitha Sahasranamam and Devi Kavacham conveyed the story of Bandasura. Devi forming her battalion (Shakti Sena) armed with various weapons to slay Bandasura were brought out effectively by Pavitra. King Shivaji blessed with Bhavani’s sword to vanquish enemies to emerge as Chatrapati was shown in ‘Kali Kapalini.’ This 16th century poem by Kavi Bhooshan commending Shivaji as devotee of Mata Bhavani, was followed by Jogwa, a traditional Marathi folklore.

Tillana in Desh, interspersed with contemporary aspects of Paalini and a Hindi poem highlighted Devi as the Goddess of Knowledge, wealth and valour. Even today she is the Nari donning different roles. Nimble movements and dexterous abhinaya enhanced Pavitra’s communication of the concept. The able orchestra comprised nattuvangam by Kalishwaran Pillai, vocal by Satish Venkatesh, mridangam by Satish Krishnamurthy, violin by Nandini Sai Giridhar and flute by Anirudh Bharadwaj.

In praise of Vaani

A seasoned participant of the festival, P. Praveen Kumar from Bengaluru began with a homage invoking ‘Vaani.’ An interesting blend of the compositions of Subbaraya Sastri, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Thanjavur Sankara Iyer and Appaya Dikshitar established the image of Saraswati, who bestows on us creativity and inspiration.

Lines from the Rig Veda, hymns and slokas were deployed to bring out the dual representation of Saraswati as a river and Goddess.

Vaani is as much Vakdevi (Goddess of Speech) as Vedamata. Sanskrit verses further expressed how one who meditates on Her is blessed with the 14 forms of knowledge.

Basanth Panchami, also known as Saraswati Panchami, that falls in the spring season is considered auspicious to start any new learning. ‘Sringapuradheeswari Sarade’ showcased the goddess as source of all scholarship — academic or artistic.

The compassion of Chintadevi in Madurai was brought out through the story of Aaputhran. Believed to be a child fostered by a cow, the helpless Aaputhran prays to Chintadevi, who gives him ‘Amudha Surabhi,’ a vessel that can yield endless quantities of food to appease hunger. Sourcing the story from Manimekalai, Praveen danced to Adi Sankara’s ‘Sarada Bhujangam’ to bring out Aaputhran’s devotion and a Hindi bhajan to venerate the gift from the goddess. Impressive stage presence, crisp footwork and freshness in approach, enhanced Praveen’s presentation. He was supported by an effective orchestra, comprising D.S. Srivatsa (vocals), Hemalatha (nattuvangam), Harsha Samaga (mridangam) and Gopal Venkataramana (veena).

‘Poorani,’ conceptualised by Shakthi Bhaskar and presented by Narthaki Natraj was the crowning piece of the five-day thematic festival. It depicted Poorna, Poornakala and Sampoorna, the complete form. Narthaki’s experience and internalisation of the concept showed in her movements and abhinaya as she portrayed Devi. The Tamil word ‘azhutham’ could alone describe her presentation. Dr. Sudha Seshayyan, who introduced each day’s theme, was the anchor person for Narthaki.

Blend of verses

Beginning with ‘Kalyanayudha’ slokam, Narthaki picturised the full moon face of Devi, following it up with ‘Kamalamba Samrakshatu,’ and Dikshitar’s Navavaranam in Anandabhairavi. Kottravai from Silappadikaram was a mesmerising bouquet of Tamil lyrics while Bengali verses of ‘Mahabidyaa Maha Shakthi’ penned by Kazi Nazrul Islam reiterated the reach of art beyond provincial confines.

Through the sloka, ‘Dasamahavidya,’ Narthaki brought out the ten forms of the Devi. She concluded her recital with the Thayumaanavar Swamigal song ‘Poorani Purathani.’ The refinement, which Narthaki brought to a traditional delineation was a significant takeaway for every dance aspirant in the audience.

The challenge of singing long viruthams and conventional compositions was well met by Nandini Sai Giridhar, a versatile artiste groomed in traditional patantharam. Nattuvangam by Ananthashree, mridangam by Guru Bharadwaj, flute by Devaraj and veena by Anjani Srinivasan completed the orchestra.


This is with reference to ‘Devi — the Mother and Liberator,’ published on August 30. The prayer song ‘Vande Mataram’ was not written by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan. It was a rendering of a verse from Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay’s song and Subramanya Bharati’s translation in Tamil, which was set to music by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan in raag Desh and in two speeds.

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