Sunday, 26 June 2016

'Saadhaba Bohu' - Cochineal Insects

When i was a child, during rainy season we were amazed by the appearance of clusters of crimson–coloured ‘Saadhaba Bohus’ walking leisurely on wet grass-patches. There were two types of them, one tiny and the other, relatively larger. We were fascinated by the splendor of their velvet-like colourfull coats. The bigger ones were more attractive. Sometimes, some of  my friends  used to collect these insects and to put them in transparent glass bottles. They made a splendid sight but it was a cruel deed. Even now, when i happen to visit my village during the rainy season, i always look for these wonders of nature. They are called‘Saadhaba Bohus’ because of their bright crimson colour. In ancient times, women in Saadhaba  (seafaring traders) families of Odisha used to wear costly bright red coloured sarees indicating their wealthy status. The ‘saadhaba bohus’ (literally meaning daughters-in-law of ‘saadhabas’) look like these ladies in the splendor of their bright red drapes.

Here they are:

Later, i found out that these insects are called cochineals, the crimson-dye-producing insects of the Dactylopiae family. These scarlet-colored insects are used in dyes for food and drinks.

These little insects are so red under all that fluff because of the presence of Carminic acid (their red dye) which repels ants. Their pigment evolved as a chemical weapon against predation. Cochneal insects are soft-bodied flat, oval shaped scale insects. The females are wingless and are about 5 mm long. They cluster on cactus pads. They penetrate the cactus with their beak-like mouthparts and feed its juice. After mating, the fertilized female increases in size and gives birth to tiny ‘nymps’.  Adult males have wings and are much smaller.

Female (left) and male (right) cochineals

Male nymphs feed on the cactus till they reach sexual maturity. At this time, they can no longer feed at all and live only long enough to fertisise the eggs. Also, they are typically outnumbered by females. They are therefore seldom observed.

A Cluster of Female Cochineals

However, are these Saadhaba Bohus? Why is the colour different?

                      Making red dye from carcasses of cochineals

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Mermaids Caught on Camera

While i was surfing You Tube, this wonderful video appeared. I was wonder-struck to view the series. Hence i thought of sharing it.

Here it is:

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Guru Dakshina

In my post ‘Dancing Without A Leg’ dated 03.01.2012, i have narrated how Odissi danseur Nityananda Das,  motivated by his Guru Bimbadhara Das, and with his strong will-power, grit and determination, resumed dancing even after losing a leg in an accident. Later, he himself became a Guru and set up an Odissi Dance Training Centre, teaching girls and boys the art of Odissi dance. 

I watched his splendid performance for the first time in 2011. Later also, i had the occasion of watching his presentations on some occasions. Another opportunity came recently when i was invited to the 3-day 11thGuru Dakshina’ Festival  from the 1st  to the 3rd  June, 2016, organized by Kalakshetra, the Odissi dance training centre set up by him. He organizes this event every year where dance performances are presented by normal dancers as well as by physically challenged artistes.

The highlight of the first evening was a Bharatanatyam dance number presented by visually challenged dancers from ‘Articulate Ability’, Bangalore, set up by Guru Mysore B. Nagraj. Although they could not see, the 5 dancers presented a very well coordinated and splendid performance. It was so perfectly synchronised that in a clapping sequence, two of them joined their respective palms to produce claps! When asked how the visually challenged dancers could know the proximity of each other, Guru Nagraj explained God’s gift that whenever a person lacks one human faculty, his/her other faculties become sharper than normal. In case of visually challenged persons, the hearing faculty is very sharp and with this, they can feel the distance from another nearby person. He added that these dancers have been so trained that even from the sound of the breath of another person they can know the distance or proximity of the other person!

The faces of these 5 dancers did not indicate any fear of stumbling or dashing against fellow artistes. They could not see the stage or the audience but their coordinated dance on the stage flew with full smoothly and with full harmony, along the accompanying music!

That evening, there were 3 other presentations by normal dancers.

In the second evening, along with other items, there was a semi-classical dance presentation by Harihara Deo of Odisha. Both his arms are underdeveloped and are very short but with these, he did all the hand-gestures.

The third and concluding evening saw Guru Nityananda in action. He, his Guru Bimbadhara Das, along with other danseurs and danseuses, presented the dance-drama ‘Guru Dakshina’ which was really great. It was based on the life of Guru Nityananda Das himself.

The story-line of the dance-drama was like this:

A dance-teacher (played by Guru Bimbadhara Das) was training a group of his disciples. An aspirant dancer (younger Nityananda Das, played by a lookalike Bijay Kumar Das) comes and requests the Guru to teach him dancing. Initially the Guru has reservations about his ability but later, seeing the keen interest of the young man, yields to his request. The young man picks up the nuances of Odissi dance very fast. After 7 years of practice, the young shishya offers ‘dakshina’ (fees). The Guru has been so impressed by the other’s skill that he declines to accept it and says that when the latter skillfully presents his dance before a discerning audience that would be his ‘guru dakshina’. The disciple goes on to become an eminent danseur. At this juncture, the disciple meets with an accident (detailed in my earlier post) and loses one of his legs. From this point, Guru Nityananda Das takes over from his lookalike. The young man is so dejected by the loss of his ability to dance that he feels that there no longer any purpose of his continuing to live. He is on the verge of committing suicide.

At this juncture, his Guru steps in and says that just as a baby learns to walk by falling and rising, he can learn to dance with one leg by persistent efforts. To show his confidence in his shishya, the Guru removes the ghungru from one his own legs and ties it at the ankle of the young man. The sishya tries to dance, fails in his initial attempts but continues.  At one point, he wishes to give up but the Guru is insistent. The Guru even threatens to thrash him with the latter’s crutch if he would give up! Slowly, the young man learns to dance with one leg. He regains his ability to dance perfectly even with one leg. In gratitude, he falls at the feet of his Guru and clutches the latter’s legs.

Here is a video of the lyrical dance drama:

Selected posts from my blog have recently been published in a book form with the same title. It includes my earlier post ‘Dancing Without A Leg’ on Guru Nityananda Das. I presented copies of the book to Guru Bimbadhara Das and Guru Nityandanda Das.