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New choreographies with an old touch
- Madhur Gupta

July 14, 2019

There is a certain charm in the old. There is a reason why all that is classic or traditional stands the test of time. What one finds even more interesting is when classical boundaries are extended within the tradition. 'Susanskriti,' an effort by Sangeet Natak Akademi, to bring the finest of talents under the same roof presented seasoned Odissi dancer Kavita Dwibedi for this particular evening. The dancer is the daughter and disciple of stalwart Odissi maestro Late Guru Hare Krishna Behera and certainly has the old world aesthetics in her choreographies.

Clad in deep blue, the dancer began with a traditional invocatory piece Mangalacharan. Exploring Adi Sankaracharya's Shiva Panchakshara Stotram, the piece titled Om Namaha Shivaya delved into the genesis of the word "Panchakshara" literally meaning Panch Akshar, that is "five letters" in Sanskrit and referred to the five holy letters 'Na', 'Ma', 'Si', 'Va', 'Ya'. According to Hindu traditions, the human body is considered to be made up of five elements and these holy letters represent these elements. Na consecrates Prithvi Tatva (Earth), Ma does the same with Jal Tatva (Water) Si energizes Agni Tatva (Fire), Va energizes Vayu Tatva (Air), and finally Ya energizes Akash Tatva (Sky).

Celebrating the works of the famed Oriya poet Banamali Das, Dwibedi chose to present next an Oriya abhinaya Kaali Kaahin Ki Na Aila Shyam Naagar. Deftly depicting the pain and anger of Radha towards Krishna, the dancer went on to ask her lord: "Oh Shyama Nagar, why didn't you come yesterday? The cupid arrows had made me miserable. I longed terribly to meet you. You had only asked me to come to the Kunja (forest), to which I complied faithfully, taking all the pains to come out of my house and to meet you at the appointed hour, but you didn't come. Oh deceitful Krishna, I know you were dallying with that other woman. Do not come near me, leave me alone!" The Khandita Nayika was portrayed with intense viraha by the dancer.

To conclude her recital, the artiste chose the mythical legend of Tulsi. Titled Sati Brindavati her abhinaya explored the plot of how Lord Vishnu tricked the pious wife of demon King Jalandhar. Due to Brindavati's satitva or sanctity, Jalandhar had the boon of being virtually indestructible. The demon was so powerful that he had even subdued Brahma and Shiva and wanted to make Goddess Parvati his. In this fiasco, Vishnu intervened by disguising himself as Jalandhar and approaching his wife Brindavati. As soon as Brindavati embraced her husband look alike, all her powers were lost and Jalandhar was vanquished by the gods. On getting to know how she was duped by Vishnu, Brindavati cursed the lord of the world to turn into a stone (Saligram) and immolated herself in fire as a sati. Vishnu accepted her curse but in return blessed Brindavati to be reborn as Tulsi, the purest of all and even today Tulsi is kept on the head of Lord Jagannath.

Accompanying the artist for the evening were Ramchandra Behera on mardal, Suresh Kumar Sethi on vocals, Agnimitra Behera on violin, Rajat Prasanna on flute and Yar Mohammad on sitar.

Odissi dancer Madhur Gupta is a disciple of Guru Sharon Lowen. He contributes to national dailies like The Hindu, The Times of India, The Asian Age, The Indian Express covering at large the Indian classical dance and music scene of the subcontinent.

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