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Dance > Review
Natya Kala Conference - Devotion in Rhythm
02 January, 2014

-Sukanya Kumar 

The day opened with Padmabhushan Swapnasundari’s lecture demonstration “We pray this way. Rhythm in Vilasini Natyam Temple Rituals”

 Her first question was “Why is tala critical in devotional dancing?” “Taala is born from the union of Shiva and Parvati, Ta from Shiva being the initiation of action and La from Parvati, the gentle response. Rhythm is inherent to the human body. The heartbeat of the fetus is the first laya.”

Vibrations are articulation of rhythm, sound resonance called dhwani.

She categorized four stages of worship, dwaja rupakam which is hoisting of the flag bearing the vahana of the deity to mark the beginning of the utsavam; devatakwanam, the invitation to the deities, baliharanam, sacrifice to the ashtadikpalakas, bheri talam, the most important being the worship of the bheri instrument whose every face represents a deity.

She demonstrated rare talams , ragams and gestures pertaining to ashtadikpalakas, celestials, demi gods, elements and general invitation to all other deities, grama vasis and residents of other worlds.  An approximate number of 38 were listed by her.

Her disciple Anupama Kailash demonstrated some of these.  

The next session was presented by Parvathy Baul and it was all about Rhythm in the world of Baul. “Though there are many books written about Baul tradition, the inside world and inner practices are not touched upon. As the human mind can listen and remember 1300 sounds, the oral tradition was effective.”

She presented the traditional way of singing Baul. “It is about getting into the present moment and faith that rhythm can bring bhava.”  She showed using same raga and structure that the difference in rhythm can change the very meaning. 

While she sang, her foot tapping was in one rhythm, the Ek tara had another, the Duki played yet another and she sang in a different rhythm, in all the amalgamation contributing to an ethereal experience.

The concluding session was Abhinaya Orientation in Bhajana Sampradayam by J S Eswara Prasad. He explained and demonstrated various Panchapatis, Ashtapathis and Thodayamangalams.

“Divyanama sankeertanams has an advantage. People so easily get soaked in the nectar of the Lord’s name that nothing else matters.”

He depicted portions from divyanama bhajans, garudotsavam, kalyanotsavam, pototsavam, Radha, Rukmini and Sita Kalyanam. The story of Gopanna was portrayed with detail and deep emotive segments. Small changes to the costume like an angavastram, garland or head gear helped in switching roles. He honoured his octogenarian guru Krishnamurthy Bhagavatar.

He concluded saying that presenting a tradition that is performed for forty to forty five hours in forty to forty five minutes can only give an indication of the flavor, There is so much more to it! 

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