Flowing in perfect harmony
- Anand Nandi
e-mail: anandnandi30@gmail.com

February 15, 2017

Probably the first multi-arts curated festival in India, Serendipity Arts Festival was interestingly set on the banks of river Mandovi that was envisioned as a space which brings together the visual, performing, and culinary arts. The festival took place in various spaces in Goa with each event curated by a panel of artists and institutional figures. The dance / Performing Arts segment had a 3-day festival with 6 unique and fresh choreographies revolving around the theme 'River -the life giver.' The festival began on 16 Dec 2016 with a production 'Nadi' by Leela Samson and her Spanda group which showcased various songs and literary expressions on river ranging from a Bengali song of Tagore to a Qawwali and Thumri. The second performance was by Manipuri exponent Priti Patel and her Anjika group.

The second day had 2 choreographies - first by Nritarutya of Bangalore and second by Parwati Dutta and group from Mahagami, Aurangabad. Parwati named her performance as 'Pravaahi.' She began with first piece named 'Ajaraa: invocation to the ageless river.' River Sarasvati, one of the main Rig Vedic rivers is invoked as "preeminent mother, river, goddess." Sarasvati, a devi, the keeper of the celestial waters is described coming forth with fostering current on a chariot surpassing in majesty and might all other waters. Sarasvati, the eternal but invisible flow that sustains all, though changing name and form, is thus called Ajaraa: the Ageless. Verses from Rig Veda along with the alap-jod-jhala of the Dhrupad tradition were incorporated to evoke an aura of mysticism and innate power of the river. The internalized approach to the dance movements by a group of eight well-trained dancers, disciples of Parwati Dutta, took us to an inward journey towards the core of Mother Earth, believed to be the abode of Sarasvati. Her flow is realized through the intense yet silent pulsating stream within. The dance piece concluded with an imaginative portrayal of Sarasvati's vaahan whose majestic gait marks the eternal existence and flow of the river.

The second piece explored the concept of river metaphorically. The production named 'Vaari: a pilgrimage beyond Self' was a contemplative narrative on the life, wisdom and teachings of Sant Gyaneshwar (Dnyaneshwar), the 13th-century Marathi saint, poet, philosopher and yogi of the Nath tradition. Sant Gyaneshwar was born in a hamlet on the North bank of the Godavari River. During the course of his spiritual quest, enlightenment and creation of philosophical texts 'Dnyaneshwari' and 'Amritanubhava'; he moved to Alandi where he took 'Sanjeevan Samadhi' on the banks of the Indrayani River at the age of 21 years. Incidences in his life - of humiliation, rejection, confrontation, courage, compassion, surrender and submission emerge as waves in the life and knowledge-currents of this great sage. Sant Gyaneshwar presents Vedanta philosophy, Sankhya philosophy, Kundalini yoga and the practice of devotion as tributaries of his philosophical thought that were interestingly woven through fluid motifs along with the verses from the text. 'Dnyaneshwari' was written using the 'Ovi,' a metre, which has a fluid character and Parwati explores this unique aspect of the meter with a time cycle of 10 and half beats. The dance sequences took us through the multi-layered and multi-dimensional interpretation of this journey, beginning with flashes of unfortunate experiences by young Gyaneshwar near the banks of Godavari. 'Dnyaneshwari' describes this world full of sins and misdeeds as a maya nadi and epitomises Ganga as a symbol of purity, humility and the eternal cycle of the flow of life. 'Jaatyaavarchi ovi,' the 'ovi-s' traditionally sung by the women in rural Maharashtra while working on the 'jaat', the grinding wheel, narrate a gamut of legends and experiences with a philosophical edge. The production moves towards the crescendo showing his journey reaching the final destination - of union with the Absolute. Along the banks of river Indrayani, he takes the Sanjeevan Samadhi with chanting of “Jayjay Ram Krishna Hari…” as the background. Truly a vaari (pilgrimage) to experience for the audience, the production explored in a creative way the concurrent streamlets representing the life, thought and poetic creations of the saint-poet while also connecting to the rivers Godavari and Indrayani; and deriving the deep philosophical meanings in the metaphorical passages on river in his verses.

The last piece named 'Vegini: The Ever-Flowing' was truly a treat for the eyes. It was a delightful nritta piece exploring the varied textures and imageries along a river way - rhythmic and melodic patterns; glides and whirls; quicksilver and languid movements; and the effervescent sparkle created by water droplets. A fluid, silvery and sensuous dance delineation by Parwati and her dancers to taal pancham savaari, a time cycle of 15 matras and raag Miyan Malhar portrayed the river as a youthful, sprightly, agile maiden adorned with sparkling jewels of the water droplets. Vegini concluded with charged sequences in drut teentaal taking the fluid form to its crescendo. The concept, research, music design and dance choreography for the production were by Parwati Dutta.