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Bala Devi Chandrashekar premieres
Padmavati - An Avatar
Dec 14, 2019 - Jan 5, 2020
India and Srilanka

November 25, 2019

Bharatanatyam exponent Bala Devi Chandrashekar premieres her new production PADMAVATI - AN AVATAR.

14th Dec - Arya Mahila PG College Auditorium, Varanasi, 6pm
20th Dec - Indian High Commission, Colombo, 4pm
21st Dec - Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kilpauk, Chennai, 7pm
28th Dec - Swami Vivekanada Auditorium, Vrindavan, 6pm
30th Dec - Kartik Fine Arts, Chennai, 7.30pm
2nd Jan - Krishna Gana Sabha, Chennai, 6.30pm
4th Jan - Rajangana, Shri Krishna Temple, Udupi, 7pm
5th Jan - Elegance Convention Center, Cochin, 6pm

PADMAVATI - AN AVATAR is a solo operatic thematic production of a temple dancer, who is the cynosure of the immortal classic 'Gita Govindam' by poet Jayadeva. Sringara rasa is the sensual thread of this love poem that is woven around Padmavati and Jayadeva. Whilst the allegorical union of Padmavati and Jayadeva is highly sublime and is held in high esteem and adoration by many, this presentation is juxtaposed with the amorous intimacy of Lord Krishna and Radha. Opening with the depiction of the auspicious marriage of Padmavati and Jayadeva and their indulgence in dance and music, 'Padmavati - An Avatar' is woven into four acts: SAALOKHYAM - living in His world, SAAROOPYAM - becoming one with Him, SAAMEEPYAM - being close to Him and finally SAAYUJYAM - to merge with the beloved. This production is blended with a rich tapestry of a lyrical dance-drama, embellished with romance and overlaid on the theme of 'Vipralambha sringara' - anguish in separation, and the joy in the union of the divine couple Radha and Lord Krishna.

Poet Jayadeva, the pioneer in bhakti sangeet, belonged to the 12th century and was the court poet of the king of Orissa. He was a 'Gandharva Kala Vishaarada' - an expert in performing arts, also considered as an avatar of Lord Krishna and Padmavati as an avatar of Mahalakshmi. Padmavati, an exceptional temple dancer, was the main inspiration for Jayadeva's ashtapadis. The 19th ashtapadi has a special distinction in that the 7th charanam was written by Lord Krishna himself, coming in the guise of poet Jayadeva, thus blessing this work. While about to write this charanam, it occurred in the imagination of Jayadeva, as if the Lord asking Radha to place her foot on his head to remove the suffering due to 'virahatapa' (suffering due to separation) will remove this poison. Feeling remorseful that it is an affront to the Lord for such a thought entering his mind, Jayadeva was unable to continue. It was in this context the Lord appeared and completed that charanam as a blessing. Jayadeva pays his respect to Padmavati for being so fortunate to see Lord Krishna and called himself 'Padmavati Ramana Jayadeva Kavi' and 'Padmavati Charana Chakravarthi.'

The Gita Govindam is a kavya of 12 chapters or Sargas comprising 24 astapadhis. This work has been composed in twelve sargas, bearing the Dvadashakshari mantra (twelve-syllable mantra) of Lord Krishna. The main theme is based on the story of Radha and Lord Krishna as described in Brahmavaivarta Purana, one of the eighteen puranas. Gita Govinda is a Suddhaprabandha, and is intended for abhinaya and its "nritta-geya" nature has profoundly influenced indigenous dance forms. The sublime sentiment of devotion is treated through love or "Madhuryaprema bhava." The subject of devotion is through 'nayaka-nayaki bhava.' It is referred to as 'Sringara Maha Kavya,' describing various situations of the mind between the Jeevatma and Paramatma and their viraha and sringara. The sensuous imagery and layering of songs selected are meant to invoke the madhura bhava (sweetness) and bhakti rasam (devotion) in the minds of the onlooker. This production is embellished with shringaram dramatizing the Rasa Leela of Lord Krishna with Radha. 'Viraha Tapam,' the agony of separation from a lover is predominantly depicted by Padmavati through three major characters, namely Lord Krishna, Radha, and the sakhi - a chambermaid, who plays the role of a messenger between the hero and heroine or intellectually perceived as a Guru. The union is finally accomplished through the efforts of the sakhi-the Guru.

The theme closely follows 'Rasakreeda - ronde dance' mentioned in chapters 29 to 33 of canto 10 of Srimad Bhagavata Mahapurana referred to as Rasapanchadhyayi, describing the Lord's blessings to the gopikas - the unlettered rustic women of Gokul and devotees without parallel, in the form of Rasakreeda, the mystic, and sublime dance. Poet-scholar Melpathur Narayana Bhattathiri's work Sriman Narayaneeyam, the 5 dasakas 65 to 69 known as Rasapanchadashaki, detail Krishna's youthful love with the gopis. This production also has reference from commentaries like 'Rasika Priya' of Kumbha, and 'Rasa Manjari' of Shankara Misra, 'Shruti Ranjani' of Tirumala Deva Raaya, 'Nritya Lakshana Samhita' - a dance treatise, interpreted for dance gestures, abhinaya, and mudras by K. Vaasudeva Sastry. The presentation follows the theology that gopis in their former life were the Nityasiddhas and the Devakanyas; they are also referred to as Upanishad Mahavakyas, who out of their free will assumed the form of the gopis to enjoy personal love-attachment, which they had cherished towards the lord.

The production culminates with the marvelous grandeur of the divine journey of the Lord, the Rath Yatra at the temple of Puri Jagannath with cultural convergence of festivities, playing devotional songs, drums, tambourines, and trumpets. Padmavati and Jayadeva, the soul mates sing and dance in transcendence the poetry of Gita Govinda along with the devotees. For those matured in supreme devotion with total surrender to the will of the Divine, the entire world is Brindavan and every one of their actions is a 'Rasakreeda.'

Concept, research and choreography: Bala Devi Chandrashekar
Compilation: Shri Kovai Janakirama Bhagavathar, Brahmashri N Neela Bala Sharma
Lyrics: Dr S. Umapathi Shiromani
Music: Rajkumar Bharathi
Recorded, mixed and mastered by Sai Shravanam, Resound India
Jathis and mridangam: Guru Bharadwaj
Vocals: Srikanth Gopalakrishnan, Keerthana Vaidyanathan, Deepika Varadarajan
Tabla and pakhawaj: Ganapathi
Veena: Bhavani Prasad
Violin: Embar Kannan
Flute: Vishnu
Shehnai: Ballesh
Sitar: Kishore Kumar
Chorus: Manoj Krishna and troupe
Voice over: Sweta Bhargav

Bala Devi Chandrashekar is a Bharatanatyam exponent, research scholar, and a committed teacher. Bala takes on subjects based on ancient texts, backed by intense research, collaborates with renowned scholars in the respective fields, carving messages from ancient texts relevant to the contemporary world, actively presenting across the world. All her productions are accompanied by world class music.

Bala Devi started her initial training under Guru Jayalakshmi Narayanan in Hyderabad and then went on to learn with Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam in Chennai. Dr. Subrahmanyam has awarded her the titles 'Bharata Nritya Seva Mani' and 'Nrtyasali- completed the course in 108 Karanas'. As the Artistic Director of SPNAPA, Princeton, New Jersey, she imparts valuable knowledge to her many dedicated students. Bala constantly works on developing and perfecting the style that would be seamless and fluid while yet retaining the precision, power, and purity of line - typical of classical dance. Bala is constantly developing performing studies in collaboration with theater and dance, history, philosophy, linguistic anthropology and the South Asian Departments of various Universities in the United States and served as Fellow and Artist in Residence at The Carl A Fields Center @Princeton University. Currently, Bala is an associate visiting scholar at the University of Pennsylvania.

To date, Bala has produced eight critically acclaimed dance productions: Nandanar Charithram, MLV favorites, Krishna Arpanam, Uddhava Gita - Lord Krishna's last message, Vishwam - The Omnipresent, Tripura - Divine Feminine, Karna - Destiny's Child, Brihadeeswara - Form to formless through the eyes of a Devaradiyal. In a rare honor, on June 28, 2018, the UNESCO head office in Paris hosted her production 'Brihadeeswara' that is based on the 1000-year-old Brihadeeswara temple.

The Tamil Nadu government has conferred the Kalaimamani award and the Andhra Pradesh Govt. (Dept of Culture) has conferred the Natya Choodamani award on Bala Devi.

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