Dual facet of Nataraj and Natwar at Chembur Natyanjali 2017
- Sunil Sunkara
e-mail: sunilrsunkara@gmail.com
Photos: Suresh Muraleedharan

March 19, 2017

While Nataraj is the lord of dance, Natwar is the hero in dance. Nataraj dances in his cosmic space maintaining the balance of the world. He is digambara and doesn’t invite spectators to watch his dance. Natwar on the other hand is ornately dressed and invites everyone to come watch and participate in his dance on the banks of the Yamuna. Nataraj is thus the inner expression of the dance within us, when we dance for ourselves unaware of being watched by spectators while Natwar is the outer expression of the dance that a performer brings to the stage and engages and involves the audience to participate in the dance though rasa swadhana. These two facets were explored by Kathak dancers at the Chembur Natyanjali 2017, organised by Shanmukhapriya of Subrahmanya temple at Chedda Nagar, Mumbai from 10 - 24 Feb 2017. This temple is the only one in Mumbai where the stage faces a temple of Lord Nataraj, making it a very unique experience both for the artists and the rasikas.

Richa Srivastava & Aarambh Kathak Pathshala

Paullumi Mukherjee, Khalil Alashar & Nrityadarpana

Neha Muthiyan
On 14th Feb, Richa Srivastava, disciple of Kathak exponent Shila Mehta, presented a tribute with her students from Aarambh Kathak Pathshala. Richa commenced with a composition of Pt. Birju Maharaj, “Nirtat Shankar Parvati sangh” describing the eternal duet of Shiva and Shakti or Purush and Prakriti. This was followed by Taal Jhaptaal of 10 beats, a representation of the Panchmahabhoot through rhythmic compositions followed by the thumri “Chado chado ji bihari" depicting the ched-chad or romance of Natwar and Radha. While Richa was regal in her depiction of Parvati, her performance as Radha was touching and heartfelt. Alternately loving, angry and lost in bhakti, the many shades of Radha’s love for Krishna were portrayed by Richa. The use of yellow and blue in the costumes was symbolic of Krishna and Shiva.
On 22nd Feb, Paullumi Mukherjee and repertory artists of Nrityadarpana Foundation presented traditional compositions of the Lucknow Gharana of Kathak. Paullumi is a gandabandh disciple of Late Ramadevi Lacchu Maharaj. The performance began with Ardhanareeshwar, a composition bringing together ‘Ardhang,’ a composition by Pt Birju Maharaj and ‘Ardhasheesh,’ an iconic composition by the Late Lacchu Maharaj. Bringing together the common thought of two generations of revered gurus of the Lucknow Gharana, made this a unique tribute to Ardhanareeshwar Shiva. This was followed by teentaal presented by Paullumi and repertory members Hrishita and Shraddha.

Guest artist Khalil Alashar from Bahrain next took the stage with a Tarana in Puriya Dhanashree, a composition of Maulik Shah and Ishira Parekh. Khalil, Bahraini by birth, had most of his Kathak training under Prachi Dixit in Los Angeles, USA. It is said that art transcends the boundaries of race and religion, and Khalil’s heartfelt rhythmic tribute to Nataraj was witness to this. The finale of the presentation was through a colourful Thumri Maalika of compositions by Bindadin Maharaj, where Khalil portrayed the role of Krishna in “Aawat Shyam” and Paullumi the role of Radha in “Sab ban than aayi Shyam pyari.” They performed a duet to the iconic lakshan geet, “Niratata dhang” depicting the various aspects of the dance of Natwar and Radharani. The Thumri Maalika concluded with a vibrant jhoola and hori.
The concluding presentation on 22nd Feb was by Neha Muthiyan from Pune, senior disciple of Shambhavi Dandekar. Neha is also the editor of Loud Applause, a dance magazine based in Maharashtra.  Neha gave a dynamic and strong performance through the 11 beat Taal Rudra. Her dance truly carried the energy and vigour of a dancing Nataraj as she presented complicated parans and laykari in this difficult taal. Chanchar Paran presented by her was especially appreciated by the audience. She concluded her performance through an episode from the Mahabharata, Draupadi cheer haran depicting Natwar as the saviour. It gave a bhakti filled ending to the evening.                                                                                       

Based in Mumbai, Sunil Sunkara is a Kathak dancer with a PhD degree.