Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Humanism Lives On

At present, a controversy over construction of barrage on the Mahanadi by Chhatisgarh, in which the river originates and Odisha, where most parts of the river flow, is in its peak.

Against this back ground, play of humanism has come to the fore. The 18-year old orphan girl Sony Yadav belongs to a village in Rayagarha District of Chhattisgarh. She had never seen her father, who had died before she was born. She lost her mother when she was 12 and had just got admitted to Class IX. That meant the end of her studies. Thereafter, she stayed with her mother’s sister and then with her mother’s brother for some time. The two were working as a domestic help and a daily labourer respectively. Then Sony herself started working as a domestic help in the house of a Punjabi businessman.  

After working for about 8 months there, she took a day’s leave to visit the nearby temple of Maa Chandrahasini (in Chhattisgarh). After darshan of the deity, she went to freshen up at the Mahanadi flowing nearby.

It was evening. And then it happened. When she came to herself, it was morning and she found herself in Kusamel village in Jharasuguda District of Odisha. In the previous evening, when she was washing her legs in the Mahanadi, she slipped and was swept down by the strong current of the swollen Mahanadi. It was pitch-dark all around. She struggled for some time to save herself and then became unconscious. She was swept about 60 Kilo Metres downstream for 13 hours. In the morning, Sanyasi Kalo, a fisherman of Kusamel village was out for fishing and he saw a girl flowing down the river. He called out for his fellow fishermen and they brought her to the river-bank. She was unconscious but was still breathing. They took her to Sanyasi’s house where she was revived. 

She slipped near the temple of Maa Chandrahasini in Chhattisgarh and was rescued near the temple of Maa Padmasini in Odisha.

She was taken to a nearby Primary Health Centre where first aid was given. The doctor wondered how she survived the ordeal even 13 hours after being in the swirling water. Then they got her admitted to the District Hospital where she was thoroughly examined. She was discharged a day later.

Sony was so much touched by the love and affection of Sanyasi and his wife Ahalya that she wished to live with them permanently. The couple was only too willing to accept her as their daughter. They already had 3 sons but no daughter. Sony filled a void felt in their life.

And the other villagers declared her as the daughter of the village!

It was felt that for Sony to live with Sanyasi’s family, the consent of her relatives was needed. So, the villagers arranged a vehicle and took her to her village in Chhattisgarh. The matter was discussed with her relatives and they had no objection. Sony told them that Sanyasi and the others who rescued her were like God to her.  So the group led by Sanyasi returned with her to their village in Odisha. To add to a little official touch, the local Police Station was informed in writing that Sony had become the daughter of Sanyasi and Ahalya. All the villagers signed this as witnesses.

Now Sony has truly become the daughter of the whole village. The villagers have resolved to do everything to take care of her and to collectively arrange a decent marriage for her.

 "Have a little more!", a doting 'mother' Ahalya to Sony.

A daughter of Chhattisgarh has become a darling daughter of Odisha!

Odissi Dance - 'Mahanadi'

Ileana Citaristi, Saswat Joshi & Group

Saturday, 17 September 2016

'Teen Deviyan' of Odissi Dance

Srjan, the Odissi Dance School set up by the legendary Odissi Guru, the Late Kelu Charan Mohapatra and carried forward by his son, Guru Ratikanta Mohapatra and daughter-in-law Sujata, organized a 5-day dance festival from the 5th to the 9th September, 2016. The first day saw a unique dance number titled ‘Naari’ which saw the three leading ladies – Teen Deviyan’ – of Odissi dance, Guru Aruna Mohanty, Guru Meera Das and Guru Sujata Mohapatra perform together. It was like the confluence of Ganga, Yamuna and Sraswati!

Guru Aruna Mohanty runs her dance school Odisha Dance Academy at Bhubaneswar and Guru Meera Das has her Gunjan Dance Academy at Cuttack. Guru Sujata Mohapatra joined them in the presentation of ‘Naari’. I have written about Sujata in my post ‘A Legend in the Making’ dated 18.07.2014.

‘Naari’ presented three characters -  two from the Indian epic Ramayan, viz., Seeta, the consort of Lord Rama, the Shavari – the tribal woman devotee of Rama, and the third, the Indian historical character Meera, who considered herself as the consort of Lord Krishna. Aruna played the role of Seeta, Meera, that of the Shabari and Sujata, that of Meera.

Seeta, after being abducted by Ravana and got released by Rama after defeating and killing Ravana, was asked to undergo Agnipariksha – test by entering fire – to prove her purity and chastity, as she had been interned by Ravana. Then Rama, Seeta and Laxman returned to Ayodhya and Rama’s coronation as the King was performed.  At that time, a washer man’s wife had gone to her parents’ house without informing her husband and when she came back, he refused to take her back. She argued that when King Rama had accepted Seeta even though she had spent so many days in Ravana’s land, why she could not be accepted. When this matter reached King Rama, the epitome of justice, equality and rajadharma, he banished Seeta to a forest. When again Seeta was brought back to Ayodhya, Rama, true to his devotion to justice, asked Seeta to once again to undergo the ordeal of Agnipariksha. An exasperated Seeta appealed to Mother Earth – King Janaka had found her under earth while ploughing land- to take her back into her fold. A wide crack on earth appeared, Seeta entered into it and it was closed. This poignant role of Seeta was played by Guru Aruna Mohanty with the other danseuses accompanying her.  

Shabari – the tribal woman – was a great devotee of Rama and was eagerly waiting for the day when the Lord would set foot in her hut. When she came to know that he was indeed coming, she collected various berries in the forest to offer him. When he came, she sat him down reverentially and offered him the berries but before handing these over to him, she tasted each berry to find whether it was sweet or otherwise. She rejected those which she found not sweet and gave only those which were sweet, unaware in her devotion that what she was offering, was food already been partaken by her! Laxman was startled by this and told so to Rama. But Rama understood the feeling in her heart and gladly ate those berries. At the end, Rama blesses her and she gets salvation. The Sabari‘s actions and facial expressions were meticulously presented by Guru Meera Das.

The last portion of the dance-drama portrayed the devotion and complete surrender by the earthly person Meera to Lord Krishna, who considered herself as Lord Krishna’s consort, was portrayed by Guru Sujata Mohapatra, with all its nuances. 

These three parts were nicely blended in the presentation by the three high priestesses of Odissi dance form. When one of them was portraying her assigned role, the other two were accompanying her, creating the ambience. It was a very enjoyable and memorable evening.

An Odissi dance presentation by Guru Aruna Mohanty:

A presentation by Guru Meera Das:

'Ravan' - A Srjan Creation with Sujata Mohapatra as Sita and Ratikant Mohapatra as Ravan:

Remember the old Hindi movies ‘Teen Deviyan and ‘Teen Bahuraniyan’?

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Daksha Mashruwala - Crossing Oceans

In my post ‘Introductionto Odissi’ dated 02.03.2015,  i have uploaded as the first video-clip, a lecture-cum-demonstration of how to learn Odissi dance by Daksha Mashruwala. A disciple of the legendary Odissi dance guru the Late Kelu Charan Mohapatra, she started her Odissi dance institute ‘Kaishiki’ in 1992 in Mumbai (then Bombay). The word ‘Kaishiki’ literally means ‘graceful style’ and Odissi dance has a lilting style.

On the 28th August, 2016, I had the good fortune of watching the presentation of ‘Crossing Oceans’ a fusion of Odissi, Chhau and Contemporary dance forms choreographed by Daksha along with Raka Maitra.  It wove together 3 folklores, Greek, Australian and Japan, blended together. The legendary Greek hunter Orion, King’s prime huntsman, fell in love with the king’s daughter and once, in an intoxicated moment, made advances towards her. The enraged king cursed him making him blind. With Kedallion sitting on his shoulders and guiding his faith, he went to Lemnos where, with the first rays of the rising sun, he recovered his vision. Taking Artemis, the beautiful goddess as his partner, he resumed hunting. He grew vain and boasted that he would kill every beast on earth. Mother Earth sent a giant scorpion to kill him. In the end, the two killed each other.  Artemis placed Orion among the stars and Mother Earth placed the Scorpion in the opposite end of the sky.    

The second folklore depicted in the dance was the Australian lore of the Rainbow Serpent. In Dreamtime, the world was bare and lifeless. The Rainbow Serpent slept under the ground. One day, he woke up from his slumber and began to traverse the land. As he pushed his great body, he forced out hills and mountains. His tracks created river beds and lakes. He created clouds and rain with which trees sprung up and life-forms originated. Tired, the Serpent curled up in a waterhole and went out of sight. The living creatures that drank from the waterhole were careful not to disturb him. Often, he arched up his back and traveled to another far off waterhole. People could see him in the sky as a magnificent rainbow.

The final part depicted a Japanese folklore. A woodcutter used to eke out a megre living cutting bamboos. One day, he found a beautiful girl inside a bamboo-stalk. He brought her home. Seeing her, his wife became very happy. The villagers were curious. News about her beauty spread, the Emperor came and asked for hand in marriage. Kaguya, the girl, reciprocated his love but her heart longed to go back to her home, the moon, where she could truly be herself – free and boundless. Just as mankind remains in constant struggle between wanting to be free and yet be bound to earthly attachments, so was the moon princess torn between two emotions – freedom and attachment. So, on a full moon night, Kaguya leaves for the moon leaving behind the heart-broken village.

The audience was mesmerized by the programme. When it ended and the team led by Daksha Mashruwala came back to the stage to take the final bow, each one in the large audtorium filled to capacity, gave them a standing ovation and an endless applause.

For me, it became an evening worth remembering and recalling for times to come.      

Here is a trailer of the show:

Here are some excepts from Odissi Dance presentations by Daksha Mashruwal: