Metaphysics in Natya Dance

Krishna, the perfect play-actor

The favourite protagonist in our dance forms, Sri Krishna, does not find a mention in Natya Sastra, the text having pre-dated the era of this incarnation. A corollary to the philosophical axioms hidden in the text can however be drawn from the life sketch of Krishna. The music and dance of this Lord truly exemplified the dancer enacting the world drama, in a trance.

Firstly, Krishna symbolises acceptance of all ‘opposites’ together. His life does not get bound by any rules and he is free, limitlessly free. There is no dancing arena that he cannot tread, no point where his steps can falter and no stage limitation that he cannot transcend. He is neither a dove nor a hawk as he does not advocate a pacifist or a warmonger. He says that life passes through the doors of both peace and of war. In the whole galaxy of luminaries, Krishna is an exception, who accepts the wholeness of life on earth. He does not believe in living here for the sake of another world as he says that you have to make your salvation in this very life — here and now. To flee is not seen in his lesson. The most important thing at stake in the great epic, was justice. The word Arjuna means straightforward with a clean mind and a kind heart. Krishna advises to him that you are not only responsible when you hit others but equally so when others hit you.

He who always plays the magical flute and dances exuberantly suggests festivity, happiness and blissful co-existence. Krishna’s dance is the highest rhythm of the same music that rings in this world. He is that rare Sanyasin who brings out the ecstasy of life by adopting the whole world as his family. Krishna emphasises that the world is really the extended hand of Iswara, who is himself the innermost being, hidden in the world. As he poses the question to Arjuna — “Who are you? Drop your ‘I’ and fight. You can neither kill nor save the enemy. You are only playing a role, a mere ‘play-acting,’” he spills out the best part of his Upadesa. While Arjuna is trying to be a man of character, Krishna makes an actor of him. This means that one can at best, rehearse the multiple roles in life’s drama as a dancer-actor would, with detached attachment, totally involved but without getting completely lost in the act. Krishna plays his Leela perfectly.

The emotional states leading to aesthetic rapture are all built upon the foundation of Santam — the yogic poise. Total acceptance of the act by actor and spectator implies dropping the ways of dialectical thinking. If we opt to choose, we are fragmented by denying the other half, which is also the truth. We learn from the enacted Loka Natya that nothing is in our hands, what is — Is. It was, when we were not and it will be, when we will be no more.

Good and bad

If we observe the whole as we do look at the many sides in a play, including evil characters, we find that, what we call bad is the extreme, where good gets reversed and good, culminates as the ‘omega’ of bad. Linguistically, the two are different aspects that become one existentially. For example, when the universal form of Krisha confronts Arjuna, life and death are seen simultaneously. The lines that divide birth and death, making us look at these two as separate phenomena, get blurred. Similar is that of happiness and suffering, again divided by language.

Every object related to happiness is imaginary — so long as you don’t possess it, it seems abounding but as soon as it is actualised, it disappears. For Krishna, happiness of the ordinary kind is neither worth indulging nor even renouncing. Two densities of the same phenomenon are falsely magnified as apart while they are simply like clouds passing through the sky — his own complexion. Every acceptance itself contains a state in bliss.

Krishna dances with the whole universe, with its stars, rivers, mountains, men and women in a total state of “egolessness.” He stands for an accomplished dancer, adept in every form of life’s arts. His dance is the ‘Consciousness’ that witnesses everything, pain or pleasure. He is the perfect Nartaka-Nata and also Rasika. He represents all the arts with all the flavours of life. He is so complete an image that he mirrors everything around. Krishna tells Arjuna that the death of the ego is the price to be paid for true freedom. He who is whole is also empty and he who longs to be everywhere, must not be anywhere.

By ‘surrender to me’ Krishna really means one has to surrender to the primordial energy that permeates the mysterious cosmos. His Samadhi is truly timeless because time ends when the mind stops. His enlightenment is non-temporal as it does not happen in the moment but happens when the moment ceases. The drama of life flows like a river, each one a unique creation of glory but being a part of the whole. Krishna defeats all evaluation as a Maha Yogi.

The author is a Bharatanatyam exponent and researcher

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 9:40:31 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/krishna-the-perfect-play-actor/article26598616.ece

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