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’?