Conceptualised and choreographed by Kuchipudi guru Vanashree Rao, ‘Tryambakam’ unfolds different layers of the Shaiva or Trika philosophy that establishes a connect between the manifest and un-manifest forms of Lord Shiva. This rather abstract thought was epitomised through concrete dramatic tales told through three lucid dance forms – Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi, and Chhau. Hosted at the India Habitat Centre, the music score by Venkateswaran was the highlight of this thematic presentation.
The curtain opens to the most terrifying aspect of Tryambak or Rudra symbolised by the Aghora. Chhau dancer Kuleshwar Thakur adorned as Aghori stormed the audience with his brilliant footwork and leaps to equally powerful music and percussion that created an aura of thunder and lightning (Nature’s manifestation of Rudra as per Vedas). Two more dancers, dressed as Aghoris, join him to enhance the effect.
It must be said with every change of scene, the transition of dancers was almost invisible! S. Vasudevan’s Bharatanatyam replaces the Aghori dance with an invocation to that aspect of Lord Shiva. Trying something new, the artiste turned out to be a dancer of grace and originality. He undertook entirely different stances and footwork which were stunningly impressive.
The second layer unveils the unification of the static and the kinetic, establishing the second aspect of Shiva, through the Ardhanareeswar dance by Chhau artiste Prashant Kalia and Kuchipudi dancer Mouthushi Mazumdar. The duo looked Shiv-Shakti personified as they slid in and out of their orbits, striking brilliant postures. Both had immense stage presence plus staying power. Adi Sankaracharya’s verses on Ardhanareeswar got enhanced by the unique music and rendition to the duo’s dance. It was a creative piece of artistry where Shiva’s attributes were mimed by Shakti and vice-versa. Moutushi’s graceful and vigorous footwork matched the slithering moves of Prashant, and together they set the stage on fire!
The right choice
The third is the story of the human who could conquer the divine through sheer will power. The story of Kiratarjuneeyam was the right choice to underline this. Pandav prince Arjun who does penance to please Lord Shiva to gift him with his potent ‘Pashupath astra’ is put to test by the Lord Himself. Arjun strikes an arrow at the wild boar and is surprised to find another claimant to his catch, in the form of Kirata (wild dweller). Kirata challenges Arjun to combat in order to walk away with the boar. Arjun fights him out but soon realises that it is Lord Shiva in disguise. The latter pleased with His devotee’s single-minded pursuit bestows Pashupath Astra as a blessing. The act was given a cutting edge with Vasudevan as Shiva in Bharatanatyam waging a power-packed dance duel with Chhau dancer Arjun Dev Malik (Arjun). The exquisite dance of Parvathi by Ayana Mukherjee at the wings and Rohit as the wild boar added to the dramatic appeal of this episode.
The scene shifts to the nirgun (un-manifest) form of Lord Shiva on earth through the 12 (dwadasha) jyotirlinga. The group enacts the twelve divine locations with vivid depictions of each of the twelve Shivling and the enormity of their existence in different locations . The coming together of five dancers into a rotating pillar-like stance to the invocation of Shiva’s five faces/aspects was reminiscent of lord Pashupatinath (Nepal). Though aesthetically perfect, this five-faced depiction could have been reduced to three to keep in tune with the title or the five eulogising verses to Shadyojata, Vamadev, Aghora, Tatpurush and Ishaan should have been recited to justify the stance and dance. In the present form, it looked slightly out of context.
Ayana Mukherjee as Yama proved to be a spectacular dancer in the episode of “Markandeya”. The rescue of the young devotee from the jaws of death was enacted by Vasudevan with elan. The chant of Mahamrityunjaya mantra in the background subtly traced the origin of this potent mantra to rishi Markandeya. Mahishasura Mardini dance as the finale was apt to state that the world is ruled by the energetic aspect of Shiva, viz Shakti who has myriad manifestations . Vanashree Rao as Devi flanked by Her ferocious facets – dancers personified as Chandi, Chamundi, etc made a picturesque presentation of divine annihilation of the evil (personified as Mahishasura by Vasudevan) to regain and establish a balance in creation.