Saturday, 29 September 2012

Goddess of Odissi Dance

While on the subject of Odissi dance, one can never forget the late Sanjukta Panigrahi. The name is synonymous with Odissi dance.

As a small child, she would start dancing the moment she would hear any rhythmic sound – the sound of chopping of vegetables or splitting of firewood. She started to learn dance from the great Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra when she was barely 4. Her first public performance was at the age of 5. In that, she was to dance for just 5 minutes. With thunderous applause from the audience, she continued dancing even after her time was up!

Prajatantra Prachar Samiti,  a literary and cultural organization founded by Odisha’s first Chief Minister,  has been organizing Bishub Sammelan,  a literary festival on Bishuba Sankranti every year since long. Sanjukta performed at this event and was adjudged the Best Child Artist consecutively for 3 years from 1950 to 1952. She performed at the Annual Festival of Children’s Little Theatre at Kolkata (then Calcutta) in 1953.

Recognising her potential, her parents sent her to Kalakshetra, Chennai, where she was trained by Rukmini Devi Arundale. There, she secured a Nrityapaveen  diploma in Bharatanatyam with   Kathakali as the second subject. She returned to Odisha in 1958. She got a scholarship from the State Government to learn Kathak at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai. However, she returned to Odisha to concentrate on Odissi.

While training at Kalakshetra, Chennai, she met her future husband, Raghunath Panigrahi, a fine vocalist. It was perhaps willed by God that two streams of art, complementary to each other, should meet to bring about a perfect fusion. He had a gifted voice and she had  a dancing talent. Both belonged to Odisha and divine will made them come together at a place far away from their homes.  They were married when she was 16. The common path and the common journey started. He left a very promising career in film music to provide vocal support to her dance numbers.

Sanjukta came to be known as the best disciple of Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. The Guru-Shishya combine took Odissi dance to great heights. Her Odissi dance and Raghunath’s vocal accompaniment became integral parts. Her name spread far and wide and she was decorated with a Padmashee in 1975. The husband-wife team was jointly given the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award in 1976. Sanjukta performed Odissi dance the world over and Awards came in search of her.

To her, Odissi dance was not a mere art form; it was her life. Together with her husband, Sanjukta has left behind a rich reportoire of Odissi dance both classical and modern.

Unfortunately, this legendary danseuse had an untimely departure. She was snatched away by cancer in 1997, at the age of 53, leaving in the dance-horizon, a vacuum which can never be filled. Isn’t it said that God takes away early those whom He loves the most?

How I wish I would have been fortunate to watch Sanjukta Panigrahi’s heavenly performance live on stage just as I have had the good fortune to watch the veterans Vyajayanthimala and Dr. Minati Mishra perform on stage at Bhubaneswar!

Whenever I watch and listen to Pandit Raghunath Panigrahi present his great vocal music on stage, a deep sigh escapes from my nostrils.

Their son Babu Panigrahi has inherited his father’s talent and has already a made a name for himself.
In the same way, Ratikanta Mohapatra, son of the late Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra has inherited his father's talent and has established himself as renowned Guru of Odissi dance. His wife Sujata is a well-known Odissi dancer.
Here is a link to some more information about Sanjukta Panigrahi and below are some glimpses into her world of dance.
Sanjukta dancing in the precincts of Konark temple

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

An American Odyssey

It has really been an odyssey – a long and adventurous journey, all the way from Detroit in U S A to Odisha in India. In my last post I have narrated how two foreigners – Italians – have devoted themselves to the mesmerizing Odissi dance form. This post is about the journey of Sharon Lowen to Odissi.

 Recently I had the good fortune of watching this wonderous artiste perform at Bhubaneswar.

Sharon started her journey in Indian classical dance forms in 1970 in her home town Detroit in U S A. Earlier, she had received training in Western ballet, modern dance, puppetry and theatre. While studying Fine Arts, Asian Studies and Dance at Michigan University, she was attracted by Manipuri dance. At the age of 22, she came to India in 1973 on a Fulbright Scholarship to learn more about Manipuri dance. She came in contact with the legendary Odissi Dance Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra when he was conducting a workshop. She was immediately fascinated by Odissi dance. Then she participated in workshop on Odissi dance for 3 months. For quite sometime, she stayed at Cuttack, the erstwhile Capital of Odisha and became a disciple of Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra who belonged to Cuttack.

Sharon has presented a number of concerts throughout Asia, North America, U.K. and Middle East. .She performed Odissi dance in the Festival of India in U S A in 1985. Sharon calls India her second home. She likes to call her home “ a small farm house in a city”. In her own words, she learned very early when she lived in Odisha that “my behaviour had to be equivalent of a good daughter-in-law and that one’s professional life should be above reproach and that’s an aspect of respect for the art.”

Sharon has set up MANSA , her ‘Centre for Arts Without Frontiers’ in Delhi. She also teaches at the American Embassy School and at workshops in India and abroad. She deeply believes in the traditional Indian ‘Guru-Shishya parampara’ and imparts this to her students.

 She calls the typical body stance in Odissi as ‘a beautiful asymmetrical S-curve which is very sculpturesque’. “While dancing, I feel like flying.” she adds. Odissi leans heavily on the Radha-Krishna lore and the typical stance of the flute-playing Krishna is Tribhangi Thani – Krishna stands with an S-like posture in which the body is curved at the waist and the neck and thus can be divided into 3 parts. Sharon has also mastered Chhau, the martial dance form of Mayurbhanj in Odisha.

 View her Odissi dance in the precincts of the famous Konark temple in Odisha in this  video.

 Here she has wonderfully presented the heroines of Kalidas in Ritusamhar, Abhijnana Shakuntalam, Malabikagnimitra,Meghadootam and Kumarasambhabam.

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Odissi Dance by Two Italians

Almost everyone is aware about the most famous Italian face in India but here are two more Italian faces in India which are not as widely known. They are the Odissi danseuses Illeana Citaristi and Sanatani Rombola.

Illeana came to India (Kerala) in 1978. In Kerala she started learning Kathakali but was not very happy with it. She visited Odisha and met the legendary Odissi exponent the Late Sanjukta Panigrahi who introduced her to the great Odissi maestro and her own Guru the Late Kelu Charan Mohapatra, who took Illeana under his tutelage. She permanently shifted to Odisha in 1979 and is living here since then. She presented her first public performance of Odissi in 1981. She has devoted herself to Odissi dance. She is equally at home in Chhau, the martial dance form of Mayurbhanj in Odisha. Her dance academy, Art Vision, set up in Bhubaneswar, is functioning since1995.

She was awarded ‘Padmashree’ in 2006.

I have had the occasion of watching her spell-binding performance several times, including the one as a part of the International Odissi Dance Festival last year.

 One can view her dance in this video.

 This candid interview gives an insight into her life.

The other Italian who has taken to Odissi dance like fish to water is Sanatani Rombola. She was born in Florence in Italy in 1982. Her parents were very attached to Indian culture and gave her the Indian name Sanatani. Hinduism is called Sanatan Dharma (eternal religion).(Hinduism is called so because it is believed to have been there ever since the appearance of human beings in the world. There is no one who started it as in the case Christianity, Islam or Buddhism which were started by Jesus Christ, Prophet Mohammad and The Buddha respectively.) Being a girl, she was named Sanatani.The family joined International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKON) and moved to Puri, the abode of Lord Jagannath in Odisha in 1985. (It is beleved that Lord Jagannath is the manifestation of Lord Krishna.Hence the association of ISKON with Lord Jagannath.) Sanatani lived with her first Guru Bijayalakshmi Das for 6 years. She studied in an Odia medium school and fully imbibed the traditional Odia lifestyle. After Graduation in Puri, she went back to Italy when she was 21 and explored other options in the Western world but “finally realized that I can’t live without Odissi”. While Illeana learnt Odissi dance from Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra, Sanatani is a disciple of his daughter-in-law, the famous Odissi danseuse Guru Sujata Mohapatra, whom she met in 2006. After this meeting, she came back to India. (It is interesting to add here that Guru Kelu Charan’s son, Ratikanta Mohapatra is an accomplished Odissi danseur and Guru). Sanatani divides her time between Bhubaneswar and Vrindaban. Her dance guru is in Bhubaneswar and her spiritual guru, in Vrindavan. Her profile is available at this link.
Interestingly, in the International Dance Festival organised at Bhubaneswar, Illeana was one of the participants representing India and Sanatani represented Italy.

POST SCRIPT- February, 2015:

Illeana Citaristi was one of the guests at my niece's recent wedding. Here is a photo of hers with my niece:


Thursday, 13 September 2012

Laws Made Not By Law-Makers

One knows that laws are made by law-makers, viz. Members of Legislatures all over the world. Here are some laws made not by the conventional law-makers but by people who have least to do with law-making.
Most of us have read the 3 Laws of Motion which bear the name of Newton, the most famous of which is his Third Law: Each action has an equal and opposite reaction, which is applicable not only in the domain of science but in our day-to-day life as well, in each human interaction. Like this there are a large number of laws in the field of management some of which are listed below:
Heller’s Law: The first myth of management is that it exists.
Parkinson’s Law: Work expands to fill the time available for doing it.
Parkinson’s Fifth Law: If there is a way to delay an important decision, the good bureaucracy will find it.
Peter’s Principle: In a hierarchical organization, every one rises to the level of his/her incompetence.

2.Bureacracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.
Peter’s Placebo: An ounce of image is worth a pound of performance.
Murphy’s Laws: 1. If anything can go wrong, it will.
2. It is impossible to make anything foolproof because fools are ingenious.
Army’s Axiom: An order that can be misunderstood, will be misunderstood.
Oeser’s Law : There is a tendency for persons in the most powerful positions in an organization to spend their time serving on committees and signing letters.
Cornuelle’s Law: Authority tends to assign jobs to those least able to do them.
Dow’s Law: In a hierarchical organization, the higher the level, the greater the confusion.
Bunnel’s Law: Overdoing things is harmful in all cases even when it comes to efficiency.
Jay’s First Law of Leadership: Changing things is central to leadership and changing them before anyone does is creativeness.
Hull’s Warning: Never insult an alligator until you have crossed the river.
Jones’s Law: Friends may come and go but enemies accumulate.
Mile’s Law: Where you stand depends on where you sit.
Old and Kah’s Law: The efficiency of a committee-meeting is inversely proportional to the number of participants and the time spent on deliberations.
Peer’s Law: The solution to a problem changes the problem.
Unnamed Law: If it happens, it must be possible.
Agnes Allen’s Law: Almost anything is easier to get into than getting out of it.
Anderson’s Law: I have yet to see any problem, however complicated, which, when you looked at it the right way, did not become more complicated.
Berra’s Law: You can observe a lot just by watching.
Bolton’s Law of Ascending Budgets: Under current practices, both expenditure and revenues rise to meet each other, no matter which one may be in excess.
Boran’s Guidelines for Bureaucracy: 1. When in charge, ponder.
2. When in trouble, delegate.
3. When in doubt, mumble

Boyle’s Law: If not controlled, work will flow to the competent person until he submerges.
Bucy’s Law: Nothing is ever accomplished by a reasonable man.
Computer Maxim: To err is human but to really foul things up requires a computer.
Falkland’s Rule: When it not necessary to make a decision, it is necessary not to make a decision.
Finagle on Corrections: When an error has been detected and corrected, it will be found to have been correct in the first place.
Wolf’s Law: Those who don’t study the past will repeat its errors; those who do study it will find other ways to err.
Corcoran’s Law: All papers that you save, will never be needed until such time as they are disposed of, when they become essential.
Definition of ‘Junk’ : Things you don’t need till after they are thrown away.
Gresham’s Law: Bad money drives good money out of circulation.
Laws of Flattery:
- Imitation is the best and subtlest form of flattery.
- When you flatter your boss, she/he knows that you are exaggerating but he/she still likes it
Human Relations: Man cannot live without others; he cannot live with others.
Perception: We don’t see reality; we interpret what we see and call it relity.
Urgent and Important: People are easily tricked into thinking that ‘urgent’ equals ‘important’.
Ethics: A concept invented by the poor to rein in the rich.

Principle of Store-Management- PEEP: A Place for Everything and Everything in its Place

Praise: When your boss praises you, remember that praise and salary increase or   
               promotion are substitutes.

I keep cuttings from newspapers and preserve them in files marked subject-wise. While going through one such old file preserved in my personal ‘archive’, I came across a clipping from The Financial Express of 12.04.1989. Most of the above gems are from this clipping.
I had read about many of these Laws when I was heading my Bank’s Staff Training College at Patna from 1986 to 1992 and was preparing for taking sessions on Human Relations, Understanding Human Behavoiur and Organisational Behaviour,
Many of these ‘Laws’ are life’s lessons and expose the irrationality of human beings and show how the big bad world can many times be unfair, unjust, manipulative and irrational. One has to learn to live with this. However, one need not become a cynic but remain prepared. There are more good persons than bad and selfish ones.
I had come across Gresham’s Law while studying Money and Banking in Economics in my Degree Class in the College. I had read that once, Government of U K printed and released a series of new Currency Notes but it was found that most of the notes in circulation were still the old and soiled ones. Gresham, who was perhaps heading Bank of England at that time, was asked to find out the reason. He found that people who received new currency notes kept these with themselves and released the old notes with them. So mostly, old and soiled notes were in circulation. This finding came to be known as Gresham's Law.

Saturday, 8 September 2012

An Icon on Stage

On 7th September 2012, I had gone to Rabindra Mandap, the best auditorium in Bhubaneswar, to watch a cultural programme in the memory of the legendary Odissi dancer and Guru the late Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Arriving there, I was pleasantly surprised to know that the great iconic danseuse Vyajayanthimala was to perform there that evening!!! I felt very fortunate about watching the great danseuse perform there.

She started by doing a bhumistha pranam (touching the ground with one's head) before the image of Kelu Charan Mohapatra that formed the background of the stage.

She started with Ganesh Vandana, then went on to present Kirtanam, Abhinaya and concluded with Tarangini. Watching her performance, I felt transported to a different world far away from the mundane life. The auditorium reverberated with joyous, thunderous and intermittent clapping. When she took the final bow, the whole audience gave her a standing ovation. Before exiting, she spoke for a couple of minutes about her last meeting with Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra which happened in Mumbai. At that time he had invited her to perform in Odisha. She said that this had always been in her mind but she could not fulfil it during his life-time. She felt happy to have performed in a programme in his memory. She bowed before his portrait again, before exiting the stage.

The magic in the dance of this veteran is seen to be believed. At 76, she has still the stamina to dance for about an hour! That evening, her sculptural poses, supple torso movements, her flowing arms and the subtle mudras with her fingers seemed to be age-defying!!!

In a brief interview after her performance, she told the Press Reporters that she had dedicated her dance-presentation to Guru Kelu Charan Mohapatra. Asked about being able to dance at this age, she replied that her age was going in its way and she was continuing the practice in her own way.

Born on the 13th August, 1936, Vyajanthimala's first love was dance. She first acted in the Tamil film Vazhkai in 1949. The film was such a big success that it was remade in Telugu as Jeeratham. She was fluent in Hindi also and the Hindi version of this film was made in 1951 with the title Bahar. She never looked back and became a legendary actress. In all she has acted in 63 films.

Then she got married to Dr. C. L. Bali, gave up acting and went back to her first love, Bharatanatyam. She has performed the world over including at the 20th Anniversary of United Nations at New York in 1969. She received the Padmashri Award in 1968. She was given the Honourary D.Litt degree by Annamaai University, Chennai in 1995. She was nominated to the Rajya Sabha for her contribution to art.

She has authored a number of books including 'Bonding' where she has beautifully narrated her travels in the world of art.

Watch her divine presentation of Bharatanatyam in this video.

An insight into her views is available in this interview.

Below is a dance by this great danseuse in the 1958 film Piya Milan, the 'Sadir' Devadasi dance of old days, later known as Bharatanatyam.

I thank my stars for being able to watch the presentation of this great danseuse!!!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Blue Moon


Have you noticed the ‘Blue Moon’ on the 31st August last?
If you have missed it, wait for 2015 to see another ‘Blue Moon’.
The morning papers of 31st August, 2012 announced that there would be a ‘blue moon’ that night. So I eagerly waited for the sunset and moon rise. As the sky was overcast with dark clouds and it rained intermittently throughout the day I was apprehensive that I would not be able to see the ‘blue moon’. :(((( However God answered my prayers and the sky became partially clear just before sunset. Soon after that, I went to the roof to watch the rare sight. White and dark clouds were floating around. There were small openings among them and to my delight, the moon appeared in one of these openings. Clouds were moving and were blocking the moon once in a while and the moon was playing 'hide and seek'. After some time, the sky became clear and the full moon shone in all its grandeur, its gentle beam spreading light expelling the darkness of the night.
The Blue Moon
But the moon was not blue. I looked hard, again and again. The moon continued benignly smiling down on me with her usual soothing, soft and golden light! Had I become colour-blind? No, I could discern all the hues around but no blue moon!
(Talking of the smiling moon, I am reminded that when Neil Armstrong who in 1969 was the first man to land on the moon, died on the 25th August, 2012, his family wished that when people see the moon shining down on them, they should think of Armstrong and wink at him!)
Then I came down to the earth. The ‘Blue Moon’ is ‘blue’ in name only. The term ‘blue moon’ is a misnomer, although on rare occasions moon takes a blue tinge because of the presence of dust-particles in the atmosphere. Typically, every Calendar Month has a full moon although, sometimes, February does not have a full moon. The term ‘blue moon’ is used when two full moons appear in one month. In 1999, there were two full moons in January and March and no full moon in February. This time the first full moon had appeared in Asia, Europe and Africa on the 2nd August (on the 1st August in America) and the second full moon appeared on the 31st August. The appearance of two full moons in one month is due to the fact that the average lunar cycle is a slightly more than 29.5 days. February has 28 days and so sometimes, it does not have a full moon. There are 365 days (and 12 months averaging about 30.4 days) in a solar year. This means that there are about 12.36 lunar cycles in a solar year. The solar year contains about 11 days more than the lunar year of 12 months. The extra days go on accumulating and every 2 or 3 years there is an extra full moon. In Hindu Calendar, this is called ‘Adhik Mas’ (extra month). It is called Mala Masa in Odia.
In the Hindu calendar, there is no concept of blue moon.The year is solar year but the months are as per the phases of the moon. So there is no extra full moon in any month. The time difference with the solar year is accounted for in the Adhik Month.
The next ‘blue moon’ will be in 2015 and double ‘blue moons’ in 2018.
The phenomenon of ‘blue moon’ is the origin of the term ‘once in a blue moon’ and explains its meaning ‘rarely, very seldom’.
Talking of ‘blue moon’ takes me to ‘super moon’ which appeared on the 6th May this year (Buddha Purnima). (I had watched it.) Moon’s orbit is not perfectly circular and because of this, sometimes moon comes closer to the earth and sometimes it moves away. ‘Super Moon’ appears when the moon is closest to the earth. At that time, it appears 14% bigger and 30% brighter. On the 29th November, 2012, moon will be at a point in its obit, farthest from the earth.
In a popular folklore in Odisha, mothers point to the moon to show the moon and sing;
Aa janhamamu sharada shashi,
Mo kanhu hatare padare khasi.
(Come moon mama (maternal uncle), the autumn moon,
Descend into the palms of of my Kanhu (baby Krishna).)
In autumn the sky remains clear and one can watch the full moon clearly. Hence a large number of people come to see Taj Mahal on the full moon day (Kumar Poornima or Sharad Poornima) in autumn every year. Sharad Poornima comes a few days after Durga Puja.
In my childhood I had read a story saying that there is hare on the moon. (The dark craters on the moon create this image.) That explains the other name of moon, Shashadhar (holder of hare). The story said that a monkey, a fox and a hare were great friends. Once a hungry Brahmin appeared before them. The monkey climbed a tree, plucked some fruits and offered these to the man; the fox caught a fish from a nearby stream and offered it; the hare said that he ate only grass which the man would not eat. The hare became sad for being helpless and then asked his friends to light a fire into which he would enter. The man could then eat his roasted flesh. The Brahmin was a great soul. He was so impressed by the hare's offer that he carried him and placed him on the moon.
Am I moonstruck?
The term 'lunatic' comes from the the Latin word for moon 'lunaticus'. It originated from the belief that intermittent insanity was caused by the phases of the moon. There is still a belief that personality quirks like violence and lunacy are caused by the phases of the moon.