Conceptualised and curated by Usha RK, ‘Divya Vivaaham,’ presented at the Experimental theatre, NCPA, by 12 dancers from different places of India, showcased marriage customs through a fresh perspective.
In the Hindu ethos, mythological figures are our role models. By picking six divine couples, Usha RK retraced the sequence of marriage rituals that have taken a cut in the contemporary context.
The first story was of Rati and Manmatha by Arundhati Patwardhan and Parimal Phadke. A spirited start with Kalishwaran Pillai’s breathless narration describing Manmatha was followed by swaras to which Manmatha danced with his bow and arrow. Rati walked about in rhythm and Manmatha was spellbound. Jatis, musical notes and tanam were used to show the dalliance of desire between them. The use of antarpaat signified the union. The Maand tillana was joyful.
Sita and Rama were enacted by Prachi Save Saathi and Anand Satchidanandan. Anand was all over the stage with rhythmic strides and stances. Prachi, the graceful consort, portrayed the anxiety that Rama should string the Siva dhanush mixed with filial fondness for Janaka, who would marry her off.
What better lyricist than Kambar to visualise the interlocking of eyes (Kannodu Kannai Kavvi) when they realise they are Vishnu and Lakshmi!
The intricate alarippu, Pravaram, establishing the dynastic identity and lineage of the groom and bride, ‘Yaro Ivar Yaro,’ the unexpected entry of Rama and Sita from the aisle, Tyagaraja’s ‘Shobane,’ the slow swinging, the Panigrahanam, with parental sanction (Iyam Sita) and Sita-Rama Kalyanam were well strung to create aural and visual gratification.
Aparna Sharma and Nidhaga Karunad represented Parvati and Siva, the celestial couple. Sati goes to Daksha yagna, uninvited, and immolates herself; followed by Rudra tandava. Born again as Parvati, drawn towards Siva who is in penance, she takes the help of Manmatha to woo him but Siva burns Manmatha to ashes.
Determined to marry Siva, Parvati undertakes penance. Siva calms down and dresses himself with tiger skin, snake armlets, smearing ash, etc. Preparations for the celestial wedding is in full swing. The groom arrives seated on the Nandi and Mangalya dharanam takes place.
The alarippu, description of Siva’s chidananda roopam, lilting alapana and swaras, ‘Shambo Mahadeva,’ the shadow play of Rudra tandava, all added to the divine ambience. Attention to detail like showing the mangalyam to everyone before tying was noteworthy.
The episode of Rukmini and Krishna, presented by Rasika Kiran and Pavitra Bhat highlighted the ritual of Jaimala, the custom of the groom and bride garlanding each other.
Threatened by her impending arranged marriage to Shishupala, Rukmini sends a missive to Krishna asking him to save and claim her hand. Krishna arrives at the Indrani temple where Rukmini goes to offer prayers and the couple elope to a sacred union. Speedy jatis contrasted with slow music to show Rukmini’s anxiety were appealing. The use of dupatta, rhythmically stretched, folded, tied and untied around her waist added to the imagery of intimacy. Colourful garlands completed the picture of Jaimala.
Draupadi and Arjuna by Shreyasi Gopinath and Aditya PV was slotted to show Saptapadi or seven steps of vow in marriage. Arjuna incognito as a Brahmin, goes to the Swayamvara of Draupadi. Many princes come there, some fat, some old and some suitable. Draupadi is desirous of marrying Arjuna, the supreme archer, who alone succeeds in the shooting of the revolving Matsya yantra.
Fast footwork led to the climax when destiny is the winner. The seven swaras, SaRiGaMaPaDaNi were used to add music to the seven steps, post which the mantra was chanted, conveying the meaning of the vow.
Valli and Karthikeya by Aditi Sadashivam and Mithun Shyam came last but was the most loved, for the ease and delight it conveyed. Signifying kurathi, Aditi in checked fan and pallu, with her bubbly banter and Mithun as Murugan, the hunter, old man, the persistent suitor, who frightens Valli into marriage, was buoyant with mischief. The comparison of their social status with Veduvar thanthai and Vinnavar thanthai was well conceived.
Musical content of ‘Kanda naal mudal,’ ‘yaaradi nee Mohini,’ Shadakshara kavuthuvam and Singara Velane, sung with emotion , replication of bird sounds on flute, all added to the effortless elucidation.
Sanctioned by the sanctity of marriage, the young couple indulge in the light-hearted Nalangu, teasing and pleasing each other, bolstering their intimacy. It was like watching Nalangu of somebody close and the audience loved every bit of it.
Nattuvangam by Kalishwaran Pillai with challenging narrations, highly involved vocal rendition by Karthik Hebbar, mridangam by Lingaraju and flute by Raghunandan added to the dramatic vigour and overall quality of the orchestra. Poornima Gururaj anchored the event, connecting the episodes, through relevant descriptions.
In this fast age where rituals are dropped in preference to glitz and glamour, marriage has become a convenient condensed capsule. It was refreshing to watch them through dance.