Interpreting Kashmir Shaivism through dance

In harmony: Malladi Brothers in performance

In harmony: Malladi Brothers in performance  

Kamalini Dutt’s “Rangon'taratma” interpreted the concept of Kashmir Shaivism through Bharatanatyam and Kathak

Conceptualised and choreographed by guru Kamalini Dutt, “Rangon'taratma” was set across three time-spaces. The dance presentation was preceded by a talk on the concept of Kashmir Shaivism by scholar Dr. Advaitavadini Kaul. Her talk centred on the origin, tenets and applicability to classical dance which is but a metaphor for spiritual sadhana. And the performance was followed by an interactive (Q&A) session, a couple of days later, to voice doubts, delineate and delve into what was presented on stage.

Trying to translate an abstract philosophy like Kashmir Shaivism (Trika) into dance on stage is not an easy task. The choreographer left nothing to chance. The aesthetic visual multimedia backdrop enhanced the production while the prefacing for every piece by Dr. Arshiya Sethienriched the viewers’ understanding of the subject. Surprisingly, the entire performance went on without using the term ‘Trika’ even once.

If Shakespeare stated, ‘All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players, Trika school of thought goes a step further – from the external to the internal. It finds the stage within the human consciousness where the dance of life reaches its consummation. Human endeavour should be to this end. In dance parlance, the Natya Shastra calls this stage of emotional fulfilment as ‘rasa’. The rasa has to be churned by the dancer through her/his performance and this churning can happen only when the artiste moves inwards into that invisible stage space within her/himself.

Shiva’s attributes

To this end, “Rangon'taratma’ (stage within oneself) interpreted the philosophy through two streams of dance – Bharatanatyam and Kathak. The compositions chosen were also relevant to the theme and the dance form and followed a pattern of evolution from sound (naada) to bindu(centre sphere) and kala (expression). Only two songs (Suryakanth Tripati Nirala and SubramanyaBharati) and a verse were found to be redundant to this critic, as also time-consuming. These were to indicate the flow and universality of this spiritual thought into modern times but then that doesn’t need a tangible proof. So did the choice of ‘Shive shringarardha...’ (51 verse from Saundarya Lahari ) to illustrate Trika’s influence on Adi Sankara. It went a little contradictory to Trika school of thought that doesn’t envisage Shiva and Shakti as two different entities. The 34th verse would have aptly summed up the imagery of this spiritual system. The alarippu, in two styles simultaneously, was impressive.

Purvadhanashri took up ‘Naada tanum anisham Shankaram’ in Chittaranjani raga, to elucidate the source of sound (naada) from which creation took place. Her flourishing nritta to mnemonics to emulate Shiva’s manifest attributes was stunning. The interspersing of Vedic verses to elaborate on the five fiery aspects of Shiva and deciphering it through dance was a brilliant piece of creativity. And the unification of Shiva-Shakti as ‘Abheda’ (no distinction) where S. Vasudevan Iyengar joins her back to back rotating conjured up the image of unending time and cycle of creation.

The ‘Bindu’ is supposed to emerge from ‘Naada’ and withdraw into a dot centred in the macro-cosmic universe and the microcosm individual self. Vasudevan, in his inimitable dance, virtually recreated the concept of Shakti the creative principle as envisaged in the ‘sri chakra’ (esoteric energy path) through Dikshitar’s composition ‘Kanakambari’. The song was an apt choice as the raga is the first in the list of Melakarta chart (in Indu chakra) and the lyric is on mother goddess, the primordial creation. The artiste was alacrity and agility personified recreating in diverse ways, the goddess who resides in the trylokya mohana chakra which resounds with the mantra syllable ‘hum’. It was evident that he worked on his lasya movements with care that it showcased the feminine without being effeminate. His abhinaya of the Devi opening her tresses to do them and tucking the crescent moon to one side of her hairdo was a superb piece of artistry.

So far it was abstract going into concrete and with Kathak came the abstract within abstract, viz. perceptible and imperceptible time. Divya Goswami Dixit’s footwork modulations and her ethereal dance with her gesticulations established the Sankhya philosophical thought where Prakriti strides across the Panchabhoota (five elements that are vital to life), vested with seven colours, spawning the seven matruka (mothers) and straddles across seven worlds – the dancer breathed life into these concepts with her virtuosity.

Artistic touch

Hemant Kumar Kalita encased the entire thought into a nutshell with the lines, ‘tum tum nahin, main main nahin...’ and the Bhairava sthav was as pulsating as it indicates that the universe is forever throbbing (spanda). To Kalita’s credit, it must be said that he denoted this absolutely abstract inference a concrete picture with his footwork and chakkars. The Tarana was an aesthetic yet intense finale where the ‘rasa’ is shown to culminate through the four dancers into the inner chambers of our being.

The overlapping of Sankhya school and southern Saiva siddanta with Trika was perhaps to give more definition to the presentation which was put up by Anugraham classical art community at Kamani auditorium.

A letter from the Editor

Dear reader,

We have been keeping you up-to-date with information on the developments in India and the world that have a bearing on our health and wellbeing, our lives and livelihoods, during these difficult times. To enable wide dissemination of news that is in public interest, we have increased the number of articles that can be read free, and extended free trial periods. However, we have a request for those who can afford to subscribe: please do. As we fight disinformation and misinformation, and keep apace with the happenings, we need to commit greater resources to news gathering operations. We promise to deliver quality journalism that stays away from vested interest and political propaganda.

Support Quality Journalism
Related Topics
Recommended for you
This article is closed for comments.
Please Email the Editor

Printable version | May 22, 2020 8:54:37 AM |

Next Story