Ashtanayikas relevance to the Gita Govinda
- Vijay Shanker

February 6, 2017

National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) presented Bharatanatyam exponent Dr. Sanddhya Pureccha and her disciples in ‘Ashtanayikas’ based on Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda on 6th January at the Experimental Theatre, Mumbai.

Gita Govinda is an opulent poetry in Sanskrit literature evoking the varied rasas. Bountiful in tuneful music, captivating rhythms and scintillating dances, the verses of the Gita Govinda are unparalleled paradigms of the tradition of Indian art and culture. Choreographed by Sanddhya Pureccha with music by Sivaprasad, ‘Ashtanayikas’ shows how the eight heroines are relevant to the ashtapadis of Jayadeva’s Gita Govinda, caught in varied moods and situations of love or sringara. It is interesting to note here that the ashtanayikas as mentioned in Bharata’s Natyasastra are about different heroines who portray their relationship with the presiding gods like Shiva, Rama, Krishna or Muruga but the Gita Govinda’s ashtapadis revolve around Lord Krishna with relation to Radha. While normally it is heroines who suffer the pangs of separation, in the ashtapadis like “Dheera sameere Yamuna teere,” Lord Krishna is anxiously waiting on the banks of the river Yamuna to meet Radha, which proves the point that male gods too suffer the pangs of separation.

In this production, the description of the ashtanayikas from the Natyasastra is depicted through Radha and her sakhi. The sakhi serves as sutradhara or the link of reconciliation and unity between Radha and Krishna’s separation, sometimes pacifying Radha and at times entreating Krishna. The culmination is the natural union of Radha and Krishna which is both physical / mortal and spiritual / divine. On a mortal ground their consummation was marked by love in separation (viyoga) and love in union (sambhog). On the spiritual level, it marks the elevation and surrender of the mortal (jivatma) to the divine and immortal (paramatma).

The presentation commences with a prelude of the ashtanayikas in raag Hamsadhwani, followed by a prelude of Gita Govinda “Meghai” in raag Amrutavarshini and Suruti, culminating in the Dashavatara “Jaya Jaya Deva Hare.”
Ashtapadis “Chandana Charchita”, “Sancharadadhara” and “Sakhi he kesi Madana” portrayed the virahotkanthita nayika as she is unable to bear the pangs of separation (viraha) and is restless. Radha’s sakhi conveys to her that joyful and careless Krishna celebrates in dalliance the Vasantotsav (Splendours of Spring) with the young maidens of Vraj. Stirred by her sakhi, Radha as the virhotkanthita nayika is distraught with Krishna’s disregard and indifference towards her. Radha recollects her lord’s virtues and good deeds and painfully describes to her sakhi the experiences of her very first love sports with Sri Krishna in the arbour on the banks of the River Yamuna.

One of the most popular nayikas which is abundantly portrayed in Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Mohiniattam and Kathak too is the khandita nayika wherein Radha is anxiously waiting for her lord and suddenly realises that the night has passed over and in the wee hours of the morning Lord Krishna arrives. Radha is excited but soon she realises that Krishna has spent the night with some other woman as the telltale marks are visible on his body. Krishna tries to convince her but it is futile and Radha asks him to leave. This was enacted in the famous ashtapadi “Yahi Madhava.” Another nayika which is symbolic of the modern women is the abhisarika who is prepared to face any obstacle in order to meet her lover.

The vasakasajja nayika was portrayed in ashtapadi “Naath Hare.” As vipralabdha nayika in ashtapadi “Yaami he,” Radha weeps in solitude as the deceived heroine. As kalahantarita nayika in ashtapadi “Madhave maakuru manini,” Radha refuses to listen or accept any explanation Krishna has to give for his betrayal. In “Priye Charushile,” Krishna wins over Radha as the swadhinbhartruka nayika.

While Sanddhya played the role of Radha, Krishna was enacted by Shanti Mohanty Dave. Mandeera Joshi and Suhani Dhanki were the sakhis and other dancers included Chitra Dalvi and Pushkara Deochake. Along with beautiful visuals of Krishna, it was a wonderful performance of Bharatanatyam movements, expressions and emotions pertaining to varied shades to love.

Vijay Shankar is a Kuchipudi and Kathakali exponent, teacher, bilingual journalist, arts critic and actor.