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Creatrix of universe
Photos: Prashant Arora

September 6, 2016

Indian cosmology -- similar but not identical to the five-element theory used in East Asia - recognises kshiti (earth), ap (water), tejas (fire), marut (air) and vyom (space) as five primordial elements embedding the entire visible universe. Interestingly, Chārvāka did not accept vyom as basic element as it is not tangible and according to him, there are only four basic elements. Buddhism also accepts four basic elements and vyom is left out.

In Samvet, a scintillating Kathak solo, the young dancer Gauri Diwakar visualised confluence of the five elements to form the whole, coalescing in complete harmony. According to her, "This balanced coming together awakens our senses and brings to us a sense of perfect equilibrium, instilling in our heart, mind, body and soul the feeling of everlasting bliss."

Presented in Kolkata by Prerana Centre of Performing Arts under Luna Poddar, Samvet chose to depict only the first troika of elements. The invocation from Atharva Veda, began: "Earth -- with its snow-clad mountains, the beautiful woods, the trees, the flowers, the animals, the birds -- Earth - brown , black, ruddy and multi coloured -- the firm Earth protected by Lord Indra... " and concluded: "On this Earth, I stand: unvanquished, unslain, unhurt." Gauri was "of earth, earthy" - hugging the ground in the simplest of costumes, she paid her obeisance to Mother Earth in luscious dance: utterly serene and sincere.

In contrast, Gauri was both sinuous and sensuous in Water: "Flowing, with abandon, gushing towards me, you sweep me away... cool, crystal clear, sweet ... You engulf me... Waterfalls, springs, sprightly streams and languid rivers, you fill me with all your moods... The vast seas, overpowering oceans merging into the horizon - are they my final destiny?" It was lasya par excellence.

The finale was fiery and danced with strident steps - with a liberal touch of tarana -- to salute Supreme Fire: "You are effulgent... Grant me your spiritual radiance ... You are the dynamic energy, grant me your abundant force ...You are strength, grant me physical, vital, mental and moral strength... You are splendour, grant me spiritual splendour... You punish the sinners, give me freedom from sins and evils... Supreme fire... Salutations...Salutations... , Salutations... " Marked by razor-sharp diagonals and vibrant with tremulous filigree of fingers, the overall choreography - created by Aditi Mangaldas, along with the previous two - was simply breathtaking.

Dr. Utpal K Banerjee is a scholar-commentator on performing arts over last four decades. He has authored 23 books on Indian art and culture, and 10 on Tagore studies. He served IGNCA as National Project Director, was a Tagore Research Scholar and is recipient of Padma Shri. 

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