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Rhythmic narratives of Pt Lacchu Maharaj - The Kavit Paran
- Paullumi B Mukherjee

August 5, 2019

Dance is a combined art form. Dance relies heavily on literature and poetry is the heartbeat of music. In the world of Kathak, Rasa is created through the myriad interpretations of poetry. A truly elevated Kathak performer imbibes the 'laya' or rhythm and with the help of word imagery infuses the 'prana'/ breath into the movements.

Late Guru Lacchu Maharaj, one of the most versatile gurus of his time, laid emphasis on expressing the feeling within the form of the beat. In his Kathak journey, Guruji experimented and specialized in the execution of body movements. To him, every exterior movement had to be an expression of the inner 'sense'. The 'Gross' movement was the outer shell while the 'Bhava' the invisible feel, was the inner kernel.

In his attempts to connect with the last viewer in the audience, Guru Lacchu Maharaj experimented within the gamut of the Kathak art form. In an interview in the year 1953 in 'Sangeet' magazine, Guru Lacchu Maharaj said, and I quote:

कला की साधना करने वाला कलाकार यदि सारी चेष्टाओं के बावजूद भी अपनी कला को मान्यता नहीं दिला पाता, तो उसका असंतोष ही उसकी थाती बन जाता हैं.'

Kala ki sadhana karne waala kalakaar yadi saari chestaon ke bavajuud bhi apni kala ko manyata nahi dila paata, toh uska asantosh hi uski thathi ban jaata hai

(If a dedicated artiste despite his/her efforts cannot validate the art that he/she represents, the only asset owned is his/her dissatisfaction.)

थाती का अर्थ धरोहर है. (Thathi means Dharohar)

नंबर 1953, 'संगीत साधकों से भेंट' लेखक श्री सत्य. (November 1953, 'Sangeet Sadhakon se Bhent', Author - Sri Sathya)

The Awadh style of Kathak which later developed into the Lucknow Gharana had always been influenced by the Ritikaleen Sahitya or the Sringara love poems of the 18th century. Carrying forward the legacy of his predecessors like Bindadin Maharaj, Guru Lacchu Maharaj composed many kavit parans.

In his many interactions, he had specified and also genuinely believed that every generation of gharana could contribute to its particular Gharana but must have the sanction of the Shastras. This particular advice if taken positively would ensure that the Kathak art form could be preserved and not obliterated or degenerated.

Kavit parans are essentially lyrical passages of Kathak with rhythmic syllables made up of onomatopoeic word sequences called parans. Essentially it is a poem which has a 'strung together' epithets of a certain god or goddess. Sometimes themes or stories are also written. Kavit parans utilise both the Vachika and the Angika abhinaya equally.

Guru Lacchu Maharaj enriched the Kathak sahitya with his deep study of the Nayika Bheda (the different heroines) and his narratives from Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva's life. According to Lacchu Maharaj (as orally transmitted by my Guru Ramadevi Lacchu Maharaj), the dancer through his/her enactment of the kavit paran, builds up a visual or a painting in the viewer's eye.

Compositions of Guru Lacchu Maharaj

दिनदिन  छिनछिन  पलपल  गिनगिन
तकतक  दृगदृग  तटतिट  कृतकृत
तनमन  की सब  सुध  बिसरायें   विरह  अगिन  तनमन  धधकायें
छोड  हमें   वृंदावन  जायें   सौतन  के  संग  रास  रचायें
बेग  आयें  दो  दरश  मुरारी  व्याकुल  हैं  सब  सखियां  सारी
तुम  मुरलीधर  अधर  बजाओ  हम  नाचें  तुम  तान  सुनाओ
(सारेगमपधनीसासानीधपमगरेसा  कृष्ण  कहे  मुरलीपे  धातिटतातिट राधा)3

Dina dina cchina cchina pala pala gina gina
Taka taka driga driga tatatita krita krita
Tana mana ki sabh sudh abisraye viraha agina tana mana dhadhkaye
Chod humein vrindavan jaaye sautan ke sanga raas rachaye
Bega aaye do darasha murari vyakul hain sab sakhiyan saari
Tum murlidhar adhar bajayo hum naache tum taan sunayo
(sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa sa ni dha pa ma ga re sa)
Krishna kahe murali pe dhatittatit radha) 3

Dina=day, cchina=micro second, pala=moment, gina=count

Taka=search, driga=sight, tatatita= banks of river, krita=utter,

Tana=body, mana=heart, sabhsudh=all consciousness, viraha=separation, agina=fire, dhadhkaye=smoulders, chod=leaving, humein=us, jaaye=go,

sautan=other women, ke sanga =with her, raas=ronde dance (Ronde primarily means circular), rachaye=played

Begh=fast, aaye=come, do darasha= give a glimpse, vyakul=anxious, hain=are, sab sakhiya= all gopis/friends, saari=all

Tum= you, Murlidhar= flautist, adhar=lips, bajao=play, hum=we, naache=dance, taan=tune, sunayo=make one listen

sa re ga ma pa dha ni sa sa= 7 notes of music, kahe=says, murali pe= on his flute, dhatittatit= nritta bol

This kavit paran displays the anguish of Radha. At the end, it reaffirms the presence of Radha in Lord Krishna's life. Every syllable repeated twice (echo) reasserts her pain in separation. This is a depiction of the virahotkanthita nayika. This particular kavit paran can also be sung as it contains the seven swaras in aaroha and avaroha (ascending and descending order).

Another composition:

छम्म    छम्म     छम      छननननननन
नुपुर    की    झंकार     सुनावत
गवाल      बाल  संग   यमुनातट   पर
सखियन   के   संग   रास    रचावत
कोई   नाचत   .कोई   थिरकत    मटकत
कोई   गावत   कोई    ताल    बजावत
कोई    शंख    कोई   बीन   कोई   डफ
कोई   झांझ   मृचंग    बजावत
सप॔    मयूर   अश्व    गज    हंसा
धायें   धायें   सब   देखन     धावत
दामिनी    मेघ     लता   वन    उपवन
देखदेख    मनमें    हर्षावत
उमंग   भरे    राधा   के     नैना
घूंघट  ओट    कटाक्ष   चलावत
पर    बंसीकी   टेर     सुनतही
धायी     आयी   बोली     अकुलावत
बलिहारी    माधो   -मैं   हारी   माधो    -मैं    वारी    माधो

Cchamma cchamma chama chana nana nanana
Nupur ki jhankar sunavata
Gvalabala sang Yamuna tata par
Sakhiyan ke sang raas rachavat
Koyi nachat koyi thirkata matakata
Koyi gavat koyi taal bajavat
Koyi shankh koyi been koyi dafa
Koyi jhanjh mrichang bajavat
Sarpa mayur ashwa gaja hansa
Dhaye dhaye sab dekhan dhavat
Damini megh lata vana upvana
Dekh dekh mana mein harshavat
Umang bhare radha kein naina
Ghunghat oth kataksh chalavat
Par bansi ki ter sunathee
Dhayia ayi boli akulavat
Bali hari madho mein haari madho mein vaari madho

Cchama=sound of anklets, chan=metallic sound, Nupur=bells, jhankaar=jingling, sunavata=makes us listen

Gvalabaal= cowherds, koyi=someone, thirakata=dances, matakata=sways

Gavat=sings, taal bajavat=show rhythm through clapping

Shankh=conch, been=harp, dafa=tambourine, jhanjh=gongs, mrichang=morsingh,

Sarpa=snake, mayur=peacock, ashwa=horse, gaja=elephant, hansa=swan

Dhaaye=came rushing, dekhan aawat= came to see

Damini=lightning, megh=cloud, lata=creeper, vana=forest, upvan=foliage

Dekh=seeing, mann=heart, harshaye=joyous

Umang=expectation, bhare=filled, naina=eyes, ghunghat=veil, oth=corner of the veil, kataksha= amorous side glance

Par = but, bansi ki= of the flute, ter=strains, sunat=listening

Aaye=came, boli=said, akulavat=flustered

Balihari=affectionate bestower, Haari=I apologize, Vaari=give myself to you

Here, Krishna, the 'nayak' or hero is surrounded by a bevy of women/gopis. Guru Lacchu Maharaj describes the Raas scene in great detail, focusing on Kathak technique, the beauty of nature and the instruments used. As a writer, he gradually moves from the larger canvas to that of the expectation mirrored in Radha's eyes. The nayika here borders on the Kalahantarita, one separated by quarrel. The poem ends with a tihai as the heroine expresses forgiveness and undying love for her beloved Krishna.

From the Shabda to Drishya: The Performance
The kavit paran lies at the cusp of nritta (pure dance) and abhinaya (art of expression). Guru Lacchu Maharaj drew upon his training with his family to produce these works of art. His genius coupled with the traditional discipline merged to give every kavit paran 'a touch of class'. The underlying theme of beauty was ever present in all his works.

The Method: Lacchu Maharaj paid attention to every nuance whether it was pure 'bhava' or a 'wrist movement' or 'a twist of the torso'. The 'stambhas' of his works were kasak, masak, mukhavilasa and kalasa (the turn of the wrist).

An example: In the previous kavit paran, viraha is the predominant sentiment. The words 'din din' had to be portrayed by the sun rising and setting (as days pass by). The breath inhaled during the rising sun had to be quickly exhaled in a despondent manner to portray the viraha or distress caused by the separation.

The words 'cchin cchin' corresponds to the Hindi word 'kshan', a micro-second. Here the hasta mudra - a slight touching of the tarjani to the angushtha is made to convey that every moment is worthless without you. The dancer looks straight into the viewer's eyes making him / her a confidante into her personal suffering. It is as if to say, 'Every moment stretches into a lifetime without Krishna.'

'Pal pal gin gin' is emoted through the counting of the ridges of the right and left palms, the heavy breathing, the fervent searching by the eyes and the 'zarap' of the feet in chatusra adds to the intensity of the bhava.

This is an attempt to explain the detailing of Guru Lacchu Maharaj's movement choreography. Every part of the body is utilized with forethought and precision to paint a mural on stage which transports the viewer onto a world of illusion or Maya - a realm of magic, imagination and unparalleled beauty.

Articles/Interviews references
1. Maya Samachar Times Bureau, 30th Aug - 5th September 1992.
Article by Guru Rohini Bhate. 'Nritya maharshi Pandit Lacchu Maharaj'
2. Sangeet Ank. November 1953. Shri Lacchu Maharaj. (Sangeet Sadhakon se bhent)
Interviewed by Shri Satya.
3. Programme brochure of Mausam-e-Bahar. Year not known
4. Report of Workshop held in Delhi. March 1978.
5. Interview published in The Pioneer Magazine: August 29,1976. Interviewed by Dr S.K Chaubey. Article name: 'Lachchu Maharaj: Like wine in old cellars.'

Book reference:
1. Dr. Mandvi Singh 1st edition 2006. 'Kathak Nrithya Parampara Mein Guru Lachchu Maharaj'

Paullumi B Mukherjee is the only Gandabandh shagird and torch bearer of the legacy of the (Late) Guru Ramadevi Lacchu Maharaj of the Lucknow Gharana. Having traversed the worlds of theatre, cinema and television, Paullumi's first love is Kathak. She holds a double master's both in Kathak and Economics and trains students at the Bharata College of Fine Arts and Culture. 'Upaj' in abhinaya is her forte. She strives to keep the old traditional Kathak alive through her imaginative interpretations of the epics, the Sanskrit sahitya and the dramas of yore.

Lovely write up, very informative and well researched, great learning for the students here.
   - Dr. Anupma Harshal (Sept 16, 2019)

Wonderful article... Very informative
   - a rasika (Aug 9, 2019)

Dhanyavad, Didi...This will surely help us to increase our knowledge ...Thank you.
-  Priti Ghanekar (Aug 7, 2019)

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