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Tridhara presents 31st Shradhanjali Samaroha
- Nita Vidyarthi
Photos courtesy: Tridhara

August 19, 2017

In remembrance of Guru Debaprasad Das, Tridhara Bhubaneswar in association with the Department of Culture, Government of Odisha, presented the 31st Shradhanjali Samaroha by organising a one-day dance festival from 9 in the morning to 9 at night. Three generations of gurus, their students and also choreographers from different parts of the country belonging to the Guru Debaprasad Das gharana including renowned gurus of the gharana like Guru Durga Charan Ranbir, Guru Gajendra Panda, Director of Tridhara, and also Guru Giridhari Nayak, senior disciples Sangeeta Dash, Gayatri Chand and others, participated in the festival to pay homage to the great guru on his death anniversary. Spread over three sessions in back-to back performances with a lunch and tea break, forty one institutions with fourteen from outside the state participated in group and solo items.

The morning began by offering floral tributes and garlanding of the statue of the doyen of Odissi at the compound of the Utkal Sangeet Mahavidyalaya by minister Prafulla Samal, Government of Odisha, in presence of other dignitaries and a large number of students, participants and enthusiastic viewers. This was followed by a vibrant, rhythmic, colourful Ranapa dance (traditional folk dance on stilts) by young dancers of Angahara Nrutyayana, Brahmapur, accompanied by the traditional music of mahuri (wind instrument), dhol and large brass cymbals under the guidance of Ranapa Guru Jayanta Acharya. Thereafter, these dancers moved in procession on stilts with the dignitaries and others to the main venue at Rabindra Mandap for the performances. Here they were cheered by the capacity audience for their execution on the aesthetically decorated stage with the backdrop of a large portrait of Guru Debaprasad Das at the centre amidst a set of a replica of carved pillars.

Ranapa dance

Ganesh Vandana by Tridhara

The formal inauguration of the lighting of the lamp and floral offerings to the Guru's photograph on the corner of the stage by the dignitaries was followed by the invocatory Vishnu Vandana by the junior group of Tridhara, the institution founded by "Guruji". The senior students of Tridhara presented a scintillating "Panchadeva Namastutey" choreographed by Gajendra Panda, sung and set to mellifluous music by Laxmikant Palit. Beginning with the Ganesh Vandana, "Tandava Nrityakarey Gajanana," the dancers paid obeisance in "Govindam Gokulanandan" to Lord Narayana in "Prabhuprananathanam Jagannathanam" to Lord Jagannath, then to Rudra and Ambikay, concluding with "Tamah Surya Pranamyaham" by saluting the sun. A fine beginning in which the dancers displayed grace, agility and good team work which spoke of their training that veered towards beauty of formations and movement especially while moving in tandem depicting the seven horses of Surya.

A number of groups performed common pieces. "Ganga Taranga" choreographed by Gajendra Panda was performed by four groups but the one by Nrutyashree, Karanjia, appealed most. The students of Nrutyanipuna, Bhubaneswar, impressed with their energetic dancing. As a solo, Sangeeta from Jatani rendered a clean and mature understanding of the same stotra. An evocative abhinaya composed by Guru Debaprasad Das, portraying the childhood pranks of Lord Krishna was set to the song "Kahigoley Murali phunka." The juniors of Srimayee Nrutyanustan, Bhubaneswar, managed well with the dancing but lacked expressions while the youngsters of Kasturi Kala Niketan, Patamundei, captured the spirit of the theme and so did the girls of Kalakanhu Gotipua and Odissi Nrutya Pratisthan, Damodarpur. The abhinaya set to the mellifluous song "Radharanir sangey nachey Muralipani" presented by Nrutyanilaya, Angul, under the guidance of Swapnarani Sinha, with four sets of Radha and Krishna was delightful. Dipti Routray's group of Biswanath Sangeetalaya, Cuttack, also showed ease and fluidity in the same piece.

The ashtapadi "Lalita lavanga lata" by Nrutya Bilash, and Bajrakanti Pallavi by the students of Pitambar Biswal of Suravi, both from Bhubaneswar, were mediocre and so was "gananayaka" by Kalabikas Kendra Chatrapur. Shalabeg's "Brindaboney ke bongshi bajaila" was a lovely, enjoyable number executed by the dancers of Nrutyam, Dhenkanal, and composed by Niranjan Rout with Dhaneswar Swain's rhythm. The traditional costumes of dancers looked good with a touch of difference made by chiffon ordhnis. Amrita Pai and Meera Dance Academy, Puducherry, presented a neat and carefully rendered Anandabhairavi Pallavi choreographed by Sangeeta Das. Samikashya Pani of Guru Debaprasad Nrutya Pratisthan has emerged as a competent dancer as was evident from the Mukhari Pallavi composed by Gayatri Chand. Vidhya Das of Cuttack showed maturity in her solo abhinaya in "Mohoney deli chahigo." Angika, Cuttack's Sri Krishna Ashtakam "Bhajey brajaika mandanam" by Sraboni Mitra's students and Kalavati Pallavi by Giridhari Nayak's disciples of Odissi Ashram, Kolkata, exhibited their good standard of training.

Odissi Ashram, Kolkata

Nrityagram, Ranchi

Gayatri Chand ; Photo: Ganesh Sahoo

Tribhanga Kala Niketan

Nevertheless, some of the choreographed pieces and solos need special mention. Durga Charan Ranbir's Shiva Stuti by Satabdi Nrutyayan, Kolkata, Kalavati Pallavi, Shiva Aradhana by Nataraj Kala Niketan and Vindhyagiribasini by Manoj Pradhan's students and the vigorous Mahakali Dhyan by Pushparanjan Mangaraj stood out for their execution. Nrityagram, Ranchi, impressed with their still poses and white and red-bordered Odissi costumes in "Durga Tandava." Jyotikala Kendra dancers had lovely blue green costumes to match their enjoyable "Meghamedura" interspersing it with intricate Pallavi in the piece 'Varsha.' Kala Vikash Kendra, Cuttack, lived up to its reputation with a fine rendition of Ragesree Pallavi composed by Gajendra Panda. Dancers of Tribhanga Kala Niketan led by Vikram Samal captivated with their crisp movements, technique, abhinaya and impressive costumes in "Mano udharana." Their sculpturesque still poses as the deities of Jagannath, Balaram and Subhadra need special mention.

"Mahakali Dhyan" by the students of Sudipta Panda, Sanskruti Kala Niketan, Hyderabad, had the stamp of Gajendra Panda and showed skill and intensity especially in displaying drinking of blood. Odissi Nrutyayana, Brahmapur's (Ganjam) presiding deity is Tara Tarini and "Taru Tarini Pranamahyam" was performed with all the passion as in "Raktamukhi lolojihuva" (tongue soaked in blood) and technical expertise to arouse ferocity. Among the abhinaya pieces, veteran Dr. Sujata Mishra, in spite of her heavy frame, captured the nuances of "Bajilanibajibo" with refined abhinaya. Vidhya Das impressed with "Mohaneydilichahibo." It was a pleasure to watch Gayatri Chand whose forte is abhinaya. She excelled with her soul-stirring abhinaya of Jayadeva's ashtapadi (eighth canto) "Atha katham api yaminim…" and disclosure of anguish and vulnerability with wonderful classicism to capture the nuances of "Rajanijanita guru…" and finally "Yahi Madhava Yahi Keshava" in the raga Bhairavi, ektali based masterpiece, leaving the audience spellbound. Tridhara's concluding numbers "Om Gananatha Ganapati" and "Laksminrusingha Dhyan" choreographed by Gajendra Panda, in raga Lalit, ektali adapted from Prahlad Natak were rendered with vitality and confidence and were highly enjoyable.

Sudipta Panda & Sanskruti Kala Niketan, Hyderabad

Laksminrusingha Dhyan by Tridhara

For a festival that started at 9am, it was really surprising to find how the Shradhanjali Samaroha was able to hold the interest of a large section of spectators, apart from outstation ones, till the end. The performance level and extent of training of the participants did vary and some were amateurish. Since the main aim of the festival was to pay homage to the Guru through dance, the judgement of excellence in this case becomes secondary even though an idea of the adaptability, skills and competence of both the learner and the teachers come to the fore.

What appeared significant was that apart from the respect for Guru Debaprasad Das it was also the process of learning the modes of presentation, group dynamics, attributes and importance of solos and above all watching the performances of seasoned dancers of the Guru's style that would continue to influence and inspire long after the festival is over.The increasing interest in the Debaprasad tradition is considerably noticeable in recent times with a large number of institutions and teachers adapting the style. The efforts of Tridhara and Guru Gajendra Panda are praiseworthy for organising the grand event where gurus, musicians, dancers, choreographers, scholars, writers, parents, leave alone administrators attended to pay tribute to one of the pioneers of Odissi. Simultaneously the lay audience get an opportunity to be acquainted with the style.

Dr. Nita Vidyarthi is a veteran critic of performing arts and writes on dance, music and theatre in leading publications.