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Kristha Patha: A Bharatanatyam margam on Christ
- Radhika Shetty

April 16, 2018

Kristha Patha, true to its name, was an attempt in Bharatanatyam to depict Biblical themes of faith, hope and love shown by Jesus Christ himself, to mankind. The compositions were in the framework of the Bharatanatyam margam. This was presented on April 1, 2018 at Town Hall in the coastal city of Mangaluru by budding dancer Ruth Prithika, under the able direction of her Guru Vidyashree Radhakrishna, Gaana Nrithya Academy.

Kristha Patha gave the essence of the Bible - from creation to resurrection. And it being premiered on Easter Sunday, the day Jesus Christ was resurrected, was like the icing on the cake. It was a novel attempt by both the guru and her protégé since all the compositions were specifically penned and composed for this production. The recital commenced with a Pushpanjali that was an offering to the almighty for his creations - Creation, taken from Genesis, the first chapter of the first book of the Holy Bible. Here, the dancer offered her salutations to each of the six days of creation. The first day of Creation is for the day and the night; second day was for the sky, third day being the earth, oceans and vegetation. Fourth day was for the sun, moon, stars and the galaxies. Birds, animals and the living creatures were created on the fifth day, and human beings on the sixth day. Pushpanjali was thus, a salutation to these six days of creation, composed by Vidyashree Radhakrishna and set in Raagamalika, adi tala.

Varnam, the centrepiece of the recital, followed the path of bhakti that described the saviour, Jesus. The pallavi says, "Show me your mercy, grant me the joy of happiness." An interpretation of the pallavi described the different crisis an ordinary human being undergoes, be it physical, metaphysical or spiritual. In times like these, Lord Jesus is our helping hand. The anupallavi described Jesus as the loving son, born to Mary and Joseph. The second half of the varnam says, "I am eagerly waiting to listen to your preaching, grant these keen ears of mine a chance to listen to your remarkable words." It goes on to describe his miracles and how his teachings inspire the devotees. Here the jathis were crisp and the choreography was well knit. The stories touched the audience in its true sense and kept everyone engrossed. The varnam set in Simhendra Madhyama, adi tala, was composed by Vidyashree Radhakrishna.

The abhinaya compositions chosen for the evening were a padam and a keerthanam. The padam, taken from the Gospel of John 4:14 of the Bible, was presented from the perspective of the Samaritan woman, where she recalls her conversation with Jesus Christ at the well. Later she goes on to accept Jesus Christ as her guru. This padam was set in Raaga Taala malika. The keerthanam was based on the cross and its significance. The cross is considered to be a gift of Jesus to mankind as he takes away all our sins, through his sacrifice, thereby drawing us closer to our god. Keerthanam was depicted in two episodes - one, the crucifixion of Jesus and the other, how the entire folklore receives the cross as a symbol of his sacrificial love. A beautiful interpretation of the same by innovating a new hasta in Bharatanatyam to represent the cross, the piece was composed by Samuel Sadhu in raga Desh, adi tala.

Ruth concluded with a thillana in raga Sumanesha Ranjani, the words penned by her father, Dr. Suranjan Maben. The thillana was based on the resurrection of Christ as described in Luke 24. The dancer herself, peeps into the burial tomb of Jesus, and is overjoyed by the message of the angels who says that he is not here, but he dwells in our spirits. The dancer concluded the thillana on Easter day that Christ is risen and is dwelling in each one of us.

The entire performance was presented on pre-recorded music. G. Gurumurthy has composed the music and is also on the mridangam, Vidyashree Radhakrishna on nattuvangam, Balasubrahmanya Sharma on vocals, Jayaram Kikkeri on flute, Pradesh Achar on violin and Sumarani on sitar, rhythm pad by Karthik Datar and the sound recorded at Prabhat Studios, Bengaluru.

Bharatanatyam dancer Radhika Shetty is founder/director of Nrityaangan, Mangalore.