Madhuram – a Bharatanatyam presentation by Rama Vaidynathan
November 14, 2010
I attended the dance program by Rama Vaidyanathan which was arranged under the auspices of IACRF, Sangam and Ambika Raman Performing Arts Academy at the Marlboro High School Auditorium on Oct 30, 2010. Perinkulam Ramanathan had earlier mentioned to me about the caliber of the artist and I had trust in his words. I am pleased to record that my trust was amply verified after witnessing the program.
The dancer chose to present 'Akhilam Madhuram,' a depiction of Lord Krishna. The whole program consisting of 4 items was offered with such perfection and devotion that I walked out of the hall with the satisfaction of having listened to a pravachanam on Srimad Bhagavatam! Rama in her introduction presented the purport of the whole program. She declared that Lord Krishna has not left the vraj bhumi. What an assertion that was! Indeed, the Lord who is sarva vyapi (all pervading) and who only appeared in the form of Krishna for a particular purpose, where is He not present? And even the avatara form of the Lord has not left the heart of the devotees. I was reminded of the 4th mantra of Isavasya Upanishad which asserts that the mind which is faster than the body, even before it reaches a place, there is the para Brahman, the Atma, the conscious being already present! The question 'where is God?' is not even appropriate. 'Where He is not' is the ultimate reality.
This Upanishadic truth which is captured by a devotee as great as Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, "Brindaavanam pari-tyajya paadam ekam na gacchati," was chosen as the refrain for the first item that was interwoven with Vallabhacharya's Madhuraashtakam. The young vocalist kept singing the refrain beautifully in Karaharapriya while Rama portrayed the words of the Madhuraashtakam with graceful abhinaya.
The second item labeled 'Navarasa mohana' was a depiction of Kamsa mardanam by Lord Krishna wherein Rama used the emotions of the varied onlookers in the sabha to present the navarasas. The roudra of the wrestlers, the adbhuta of the discriminative folks, sringaara of the young maidens, the haasya of the youngsters, the samsaya (doubt) of Kamsa, beebhatsa of the ignorant, bhaya of those who feared the inevitable, kaarunyam of the elder folks, and finally the saanta of the yogis who knew the param tattvam (the limitless reality) of the Lord. These sentiments were portrayed with exquisiteness, grace, and precision to the background of beautiful rendition of lyrics set in ragas (purvikalyani, bilahari, hamsanadham, abhogi, atana, saveri, hindolam, sahana and mohanam) with interspersed swaras in the respective melody. The transitions from one rasa to another were fluid and transparent. Bhakti, which is the tenth rasa was not only present in this item but pervaded the whole program. I was somewhat perplexed that Rama chose to depict samsaya (doubt) as one of the navarasas. She substituted this for veerya (valor). I suppose that this artistic freedom is acceptable given the unrestrained imagination of a dancer of the caliber of Rama.
The third item was vraj bhumi parikrama. How lucky were those who lived in Mathura with Lord Krishna as their king. The denizens of Mathura long to be re-born in the place if not as human beings, at least as the birds, the cows and even as a tulasi plant. The presentation was packed with devotion that the audience had the benefit of performing the vraj bhumi parikrama.
The last item was raasaleela which was presented to the background of beautiful bhajans of Meera and others. I was reminded of the famous line, "anganaam anganaam antare maadhavah; maadhavam maadhavam antare anganaa." As the dance picks up speed, it is no longer clear where Krishna is and where the Gopika is. At one time it appeared that Krishna was seen between two Gopikas and in yet another instant, Gopika was seen between two Krishnas! One can only wonder at the philosophical import of raasaleela which is so profound and enchanting.
The dance program was well supported by vocal (Indu Nair), flute (GS Rajan), mridangam (Arun Kumar) and nattuvangam (Karaikudi Sivakumar) which added to the overall magnificence of the dance. I left the hall with the refrain in my mind Brindaavanam parityajya paadam ekam na gacchati and with the appreciation of how a profound truth can be portrayed so beautifully in a dance form. I admire and applaud the research that Rama has done in creating the presentation and the manner in which she depicted the profound truth of the sarva vyapakatvam (all pervasiveness) of the Lord. This dance program convinced me that she is a consummate dancer and an exemplary exponent of Bharatanatyam.
Congratulations to IACRF, Sangam and Ambika Raman Performing Arts Academy for bringing such a tasteful and enriching program to New Jersey and hope that they will arrange more of such programs in the future.