Dance

The shared heritage of Buddhism

IN PRAISE OF DIVINITY A dance performance by Wickramasinghe and the Dancers Guild of Sri Lanka   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

It was a festival with a difference. Celebrating Buddhist heritage of BIMSTEC countries, the recently held two-day Bodhi Parv at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, through a melange of art, dance, music, film, art, chanting, cinema, food and technology showcased the universal Buddhist message of peace and tolerance. It marked the 20th anniversary of BIMSTEC consisting of India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan.

The Bodhi Parv’s proceedings were set rolling from inauguration itself with Hemis Monastery monks from Ladakh presenting a scintillating Cham dance wearing dresses made of brocade and silk. Associated with some Buddhist sects it was performed by lamas wearing different masks to the accompaniment mystic music played by the monastic orchestra using a long trumpet, cymbal, drum, flageolet, gyaling and bells. “This is to propitiate the deities and seek their blessings for overcoming hurdles,” explains Nawang Chinba, a monk-dancer. They also performed a rhythmic black hat dance wearing black topis, which seeks protection form ill omens. These were repeated on the last day, much to the delight of the audience.

Equally energetic and aesthetic was the Buddha Wandana, the traditional dance invoking Lord Buddha’s blessings by Wickramasinghe and the Dancers Guild of Sri Lanka. They followed it an item dancing in perfect synchronisation, keeping their steps in tune to the rhythm of three traditional Sri Lankan drums. Next was “Wonder of Sri Lanka”. “This is fusion of Kandyan dance, Low Country and Latin dance showcasing the performing forms practised in Sri Lanka for centuries along with contemporary ones,” observes Kithmi, who has been learning for past four years. Giving a background, Yayas, another troupe member shares, “Traditional dances emanated from the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic, where an annual 14-day pageant which includes dancers and drummers is still.”

Another vigorous performance was by Bhutan’s Phuntsho Luyang wearing colourful and attractive costumes. Promoting age-old tradition of folk songs and mask dances they presented Jeonpa Lekso (welcome song and dance) and the traditional archery highlighting the relaxation and enjoyment it gave to men with women cheering them by dancing and offering local wine.

Bringing in a contemporary touch was “Vajra” performed by five dancers led by Gilles Chuyen, wearing white dress with red dots in the centre and with bells. “An extract of my earlier production ‘Self Ritual’, the costume and dot represents the male and female while the bells and its sound define exploration of self to reach emptiness, the stage of enlightenment,” says Gilles. Agreeing that though contemporary, it draws from other forms like Chhau and Kathak. “For me the feeling is of essence irrespective of the form.”

Recital by Vocal Rasta

Recital by Vocal Rasta   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Like the dance shows, the music performances provided lilt and melody to the festival. One was by the 10-member Vocal Rasta, led Antoine Redon which performed acapella, that is singing without any instruments, yet they were dulcet and harmonious. Among the numbers they sang were “Chenrezig”, “Abantwana”, Joan Baez’s “Forever Young” and “God Only Knows” by Beach Boys. “Chenrezig” in English was based on chants from Mahayana Buddhism, while Abantwana was in Swahili. “The essence of these songs in multiple languages is love, compassion and peace, connecting with the Buddhist philosophy,” remarks Antoine.

A well appreciated event was that of poem recitation by Thai diplomat Apirat Sugondhabhirom accompanied by Sukriti Sen Bhattacharjee performing Rabindra Sangeet. He recited Rabindranath Tagore’s two poems written during his visiting to Thailand in 1927, “To Siam” on arrival and other being “Farewell to Siam”.

Chantings and sutras

Providing a spiritual touch to the festival were soulful chantings by the Ladakhi Nun Association and Gyumed College, and mellifluous rendering of sutras “Heart Sutra” and “Praises to the Twenty-One Taras” by Maitreya Children’s Choir from Bodh Gaya. The first sutra is about the short exchange between two of Buddha’s most illustrious disciples, Avalokiteshvara and Shariputra while the other through 21 verses of homage expresses different qualities of Tara, who embodies the enlightened activities of all the Buddhas.

“Mukha Mukham” by K.S. Radhakrishnan

“Mukha Mukham” by K.S. Radhakrishnan   | Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Equally well attended was the Visual Arts exhibition, hosting art works by 17 artists. The 50 works on display ranged from paintings, sculptures, ceramics, installations, assemblages and paperworks with the theme Buddhist imprints in art. “All these by contemporary artists make one think of the essence of Buddhism while highlighting its subtle nuances. For me it was important that the artworks were not all based on obvious Buddhist imagery,” avers curator Anubhav Nath. Reflecting this were works “Shadow Creation” and “Ped Aur Hiran” by Gond artist Bhajju Shyam, calligrapher Jamyang Dorje Chakrishar’s “Sakyamuni Buddha”, “Thatagata” and “Mata’s Reverie” by Abhishek Singh, Shabbu’s “Floral Tribute” and “Before The Floral Tribute”, “Mukha Mukham” several sculptures of Buddha by K.S. Radhakrishnan and Issac Gergan and Stanzin Nyentak’s “Entering A Dream” among others.

Mithila artist, Santosh Kumar Das, whose two paintings from his Buddha series were on view says, “The tranquillity reflected on Buddha’s face has always inspired and impressed me as does his emphasis on looking at things as they are and not what they should be.”

Bringing in technology to play was the virtual augmented reality experience which was immersive. On one side were three image trackers, scanning which visitors visualised three important of Gautam Buddha’s life, being unknown to pain and misery, his stumbling upon the truth of life and leaving his life of riches to seek the ultimate. On another side viewers could step into the vista of Buddha meditating under the Bodhi tree and also spin giant prayer wheels by merely waving their hand. The soothing music, artistic visuals and pleasing images created a perfect ambience.

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Printable version | Feb 25, 2021 2:55:57 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/entertainment/dance/the-shared-heritage-of-buddhism/article21665224.ece

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