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Venkateswara of Seven Hills and Panduranga Vitthala of Pandharpur
Photos: Inni Singh

July 23, 2018

Never-say-die art consultant Usha RK has come up with another dance production of divya kshetras, Tirupati and Pandharpur.Roping in bright young dancers Dakshina Vaidyanathan Baghel for Tirupati and Arundhati Patwardhan for Pandharpur, Usha led the audience to these two pilgrimage places in an engaging manner. Both the artists have in their mothers, seasoned dancers, and both the daughters have done their mothers proud.

Usha's commentary on Tirumala Devasthanam was well researched with excellent Annamacharya kirtanas to go with dancing. Ditto for Pandharpur and Tukaram's abhangas and ovis, vachanas, with vachikabhinaya. They evoked bhakti rasa and in terms of music, whereas Dr. S.Vasudevan and other accompanists offered melodious music highlighting Annamacharya kirtanas, Arundhati's Pune based musicians brought a whiff of fresh air with Marathi abhangas to which audience clapped and tapped with their feet. The joyous mood lingered on and both the dancers kept us in thrall with their dancing.

Dakshina displayed imaginative approach, carving the sculptures of dwarapalakas on the walls of the temple, foundation on four directions, taking a broad posture as seen in Kathakali, moving with ease in four directions and created the temple on the seven hills. The visuals brought to audience memories of visiting the temple. The statistics of rupees in countless numbers as Hundi donated to the temple were transformed in nritya, abhinaya. But what lingered most in memory was Alamelu along with Balaji going to the temple, her head struck whereby she lost a small bunch of hair and the lord immediately replaced the patch with hair. We now know why hair is donated at Tirupati.

One more sequence is of the union of the Lord and Alamelu. In a dignified manner, Alamelu says, 'Why do I need ornaments, my Lord holds my wrists with his fingers. Why do I need waistband? My Lord puts his arm around my waist and embraces me. He looks constantly at my face and his gaze unites me with him.' Dakshina succeeded in creating shringara subtly. And recitation of Suprabhatam, when Lord and Alamelu after their night have to get up to give darshan to the devotees was the most appropriate poetic touch. The blowing of conch, ringing of bell and the devotional singing were mesmerizing. One was tuned to it and was immersed in bhakti rasa. Bravo to the four musicians and to Dakshina for such a delightful experience.

Dakshina Vaidyanathan Baghel

Arundhati Patwardhan

Arundhati Patwardhan, daughter of Sucheta Chapekar, dressed in typical Maharashtrian saree with musical rendition of Tukaram's abhangas transported us to Pandharpur. The characteristic abhanga singing has a magical impact upon those who have been exposed to it. You need not even know the language. Arundhati made you see all the shades of a devotee's love for the lord. Interspersing the songs with Ovi, vachanas, she displayed her vast range of abhinaya. Humility, self pride, complaint, love, affection, rebuking, chiding, sulking, surrendering et al were at her beck and call. We were convinced that when the Lord came to see Panduranga, he threw a brick and asked him to wait standing on it till he completed daily rituals offering flowers, naivedya, fruits and arati. So the Lord stood there in vit, meaning brick, and is known as Vithoba. Whoever knows this story, relishes when presented with such artistry.

Though the music was recorded and at one point there was a technical hitch, the mood that Arundhati had established was restored in a trice. Both the dancers gave their best. One returned from the auditorium with joy having received the glimpses of the divine gods through dance and music.

Usha mentioned that this performance was specially organized to celebrate 40 years of her engagement with performing and allied arts.

Dr. Sunil Kothari is a dance historian, scholar, author and critic, Padma Shri awardee and fellow, Sangeet Natak Akademi. Dance Critics' Association, New York, has honoured him with Lifetime Achievement award.

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