The ashtanayika at Ojaswini
- Shveta Arora
Photos: Anoop Arora

July 10, 2015

Rajasthan Academy organized an event titled Ojaswini on 5th June at the IHC in Delhi. The performance explored the ashtanayika as described in Gita Govinda by Jayadeva. The performer of the evening was Dr. Sandhya Purecha, the director of Kala Parichaya and secretary of SBBNT&RC (Shri Sarfojiraje Bhosale Bharata Natyam Training and Research Centre), Mumbai. The ashtanayikas have been visited frequently by many dancers, but the music and poetry are differently interpreted each time. Speaking on the concept, Sandhya said, “I am basically a Sanskrit student and did my MA and PhD in the Natya Shastra. For the concept of ashtanayika, what came to my mind was the gentle lyrical poetry of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, where Radha takes on the virtues of ashtanayika. The purpose was to merge the Natya Shastra and Gita Govinda, and I also found many paintings on Gita Govinda and the ashtanayika. So I decided to combine them in a performance showing literature, dance and paintings. The music was composed by Shivaprasad, and the original ragas from Gita Govinda were changed to suit the dance. The ideology behind the poetry is that selfless love becomes immortalized, since we worship Radha-Krishna, and not Rukmini-Krishna.”

Mandira Joshi, Shanti Mohanty Dave and Suhani Danke

Sandhya Purecha with her disciples

Sandhya began her performance with her disciples Mandira Joshi and Suhani Danke, dancing the Ganapati Kautuvam. Gita Govinda by Jayadeva is poetry about Radha and Krishna - their union on the earthly level is that of meeting and separation and on the spiritual level that of merging of the soul and the Almighty. The first nayika portrayed is the abhisarika. She dresses up and leaves to meet her beloved, giving up her modesty in her desperation. Next is vasakasajja, who dresses up for the union and adorns her room with flowers and scents. When Radha cries for Krishna, misses him, she becomes the vipralabdha, who is insulted and deceived. When Krishna appears with signs of lovemaking, hair on his clothes, lips that have been kissed, Radha becomes the khandita, who is distressed. When she becomes jealous and agonized by the separation, she becomes the kalahantarita. Krishna then tries to appease her.

Nalini and Kamalini

‘Priye charushile’ is a famous ashtapadi by Jayadeva where Krishna asks for the lotus feet of Radha to be placed on his head. Radha and Krishna then are united. She dresses up again for the union, applies chandan on her chest, wears her ornaments, and appears before her beloved. The performance started on a slow note with the separation and annoyance, but as the disciples joined in the dance, it picked up tempo. Shanti Mohanty Dave as Krishna gave a wonderful performance. Their stances to show the union of Radha and Krishna were also well-coordinated. The only drawback was the clumsy organization of the event – there was even some shifting of furniture during the event! The accompanists were Satish Krishnamurthy on mridangam, violin by Shridhar Parthasarthy, flute by Vijay Tambe, vocal support by N N Sivaprasad and nattuvangam by Dr. Sandhya V Purecha.

Nalini and Kamalini, renowned Kathak dancers of the Varanasi gharana, interpreted the virahotkantitha nayika, who is sad at the separation from the beloved because of his preoccupation. For this, Nalini performed an abhinaya piece on Yashodhara, Buddha’s wife, taking excerpts from Maithili Sharan Gupt’s poem Sakhi ve mujhse keh kar jaate (also called ‘Yashodhara’). Next, it was the proshitabhartruka nayika who is in a state of distress, since her beloved has gone to a far off land, leaving her in solitude. The heroine laments that she feels only solitude in all the seasons, all round the year. That note ended the evening, which had been an interesting mix of experience and young talent.

Shveta Arora is a blogger based in Delhi. She writes about cultural events in the capital.