Dance

Mandakini Trivedi on her journey

Mandakini Trivedi  

The grace and gentleness is a tempting invitation to get to know Mandakini Trivedi. This turns into unabashed curiosity when you come to know that she is a Mohiniyattam dancer. A south Indian by any chance?“No, I’m a Gujarati,” she smiles. The West coast is the only common thread then; so she moved all the way to the end of the coast in choosing this particular dance genre. “Not really,” she points out, “I began Mohiniyattam under Dr. Kanak Rele’s school. But prior to that I was a Bharatanatyam artiste with a post-graduation in this genre. I did give a lot of performances too. But then somewhere down the lane, I moved towards Mohiniyattam like a fish to waters. I felt the calling; the longing. But then the journey was arduous; no, not the learning part, but performing.”

Going by her recent performance, this seemed a far cry. She is not just a superb dancer but one who can evoke the rasa (emotive response to art) in her viewers. She seems to be made for Mohiniyattam. She internalizes the bhava of whatever she takes up and this is bound to show on stage and extract a similar response to her performance. “Now I’m a contended, blissful person, who dances as much for myself as for my audience. Yet my dance is criticized for not being the quintessential Mohiniyattam. I have modified it a little without losing the soul, since wherever I go, other than Kerala, I hear from many that Mohiniyattam lulls them to sleep! It isn’t complimentary,” she laughs.

Her Nangiyarkootu neckpiece, her dhoti-like white dress and her Kathakali movements may hurt a conventionalist, but to others, it gave a new dimension to the dance form which was appealing.

“But, there was a time when I got totally frustrated with the dance environment. It seemed to be world of self-aggrandizement like any other business sector; the market forces dictated arts and that was causing me lot of heart-ache since my nature was not so then. Perhaps I was tender and raw; morally offended by the state of things in the art world. Something wonderful happened just when I was about to crash and then I was put back in the universe on a firm footing,” her gaze falls on the picture in a book, of an aged sanyasin smiling with his eyes into whoever looked at it.

Suddenly without much prompting, she continues, “This is my spiritual guru and mentor, Swami Sri Harish Madhukar. I was destined to meet him, I guess, when I was at my lowest. It was a most modest ashram at Lonavala. I used to sit and pour out everything that made me desperate in dance and he would listen without a reaction. I left dance for a good six years. I stayed at the ashram and went through the spiritual practices initiated by my guru. As I attained an inner peace, the turbulence within me subsided on its own and one fine day, my guru suddenly asked me to pursue and practice dance since I loved it. I did as was bid and then there was no looking back. In one sense, my expectations ceased so I was able to perform and give my best and in return there was an innate joy that filled my entire being. The mundane concerns of fame and name vanished from my mind; today I’m a transformed person and that reflects in whatever I do.”

It does of course. Mandakini has taken up the ashram (Shaktiyogashrama Gurukulam) as its chairperson, after the passing away of her guru. She has streamlined its activities as a seat of genuine culture where Indian spiritual thought, Yoga, aesthetics and dance are mirrored as a way of life. Her students, a few though, learn yoga and other traditional disciplines along with dance. The objective is to imbibe a healthy outlook to classical dance which is not a means of entertainment but a tool of Yoga that takes you to greater spiritual heights. Her own dance school ‘Nateshvari dance gurukul’ also imparts similar principles in training for the art.

She has authored a number of books on the subject of Yoga, dance and spiritualism to bring home forgotten facts of classical arts. She envisages a real all –time gurukul way of teaching at the ashram in future so that the move through dance is to transform and transcend eventually.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2021 8:31:52 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/mandakini-trivedi-on-her-journey/article7633352.ece

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