Invoking Gods and Goddesses

In a performance last week, Prathibha Prahalad traced the origin and evolution of worship in Bharatanatyam through centuries.

Prathibha Prahlad. Pic: Jyotsna B Rao.

The sound of the beeja mantra echoes in space as the dancer  appears in an abhang posture. The shloka seamlessly woven into a jathi marked the beginning of the dance recital devised by dancer Prathibha Prahlad to trace the origin and  evolution of worship in Bharatanatyam through centuries.

In the stage designed to look like a temple courtyard, Prathibha praised the divine feminine forms of Shakthi (untamable), Sri (domesticated) and Tara as invoked during the vedic times.

This recital was presented  at the JSS auditorium on March 20th, on the occasion of Nirantara Narmada Festival organized by Kalasindhu Academy of Dance, Bangalore. Prathibha Prahalad, a well-known exponent of Bharatanatyam presented the concert with a youthful zest coupled with decades of wisdom.  She was accompanied by musicians T Rama (lead vocals), Pulakeshi Kasthoori (nattuvangam), Jayaram (flute), Prasanna ( rhythm-pad), and Ganesh Kumar (violin).

The next piece, an ardhanaareshwara shloka ‘Shivatvam and shakthithvam’ a representation of the union between the masculine and feminine energies of the universe reflecting the  tantric phase in Hinduism. With the confluence of Shiva and Shakthi, the performer described an era where equal importance was given to both genders in the society.

Prathibha then featured a time where the emphasis of worship drastically shifted to a male deity post ‘manusmriti’. This reflected the male dominated society where women were valued less. The worship of the form (guna) in the feminine form (shaktha) and masculine form (shaiva/vaishnava) or neutral form (nirguna) changed with changing political, social and religious ideologies.

A varnam in Raag Bhairavi supposedly composed by one of the brothers of the Tanjore quartet describes the supreme lord as ‘male’ and the devotee as a ‘subservient female’ and delves in shringara rasa. The aspiring union with ascetic shiva as the ultimate goal of the mortal devotee who battles with emotions and worldly suffering formed the core essence of this composition.

Prathibha Prahlad tracing the evolution of worship. Pic: Jyotsna B Rao.

In the next phase, Hinduism stripped itself of all its ritualistic complexities with the growing popularity of Jainism and Buddhism. This  giving rise to the Bhakthi era where divinity acquired human avatars making it more accessible to the common man. Anchoring herself in devotion, the dancer sailed through poems of the Alvars, Vyasaraya, Purandaradasa, Meerabhai and Surdas.

The performer transforming herself from being a child krishna to a caring mother Yashoda, sails through the personality of lover Radha to a devout Meera seamlessly. The entire  recital compiled of pieces that traversed through the literary works from the vedic yore, the tantric times until  the more recent era of Bhakthi and concluded with a verse describing the completeness of the universe.

It was a thematic performance portraying the changing aspirations in Bharathanatyam. Prathibha made the point that though Bharatanatyam is accepted as a secular art form in today’s world, it has always had its roots in Hinduism. She also maintained that the approach to the art that has always encapsulated the Indian mind has been divinity  and spirituality.The chronological representation of worship and its influence on art educated the contemporary audience. Indian art that was nurtured and evolved in temples  has always incorporated rituals and modes of worship as an integral part of its presentation.

Comments:

  1. Ganga says:

    It is strange that Prathibha Prahlad does not know that the temple (margi) dance for invoking the deities involved the 108 karanas described in Natya Shastra. Also, the margi music is based on 22 srutis. I don’t understand how she was “tracing the origin and evolution of worship in Bharatanatyam through centuries” if she is not aware of it and misleads the audience.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Similar Story

Addressing pet dog attacks: A balance between regulation and compassion

Government intervention is necessary to prevent indiscriminate breeding and trade of pet dogs, and more shelters are needed for abandoned pets.

Recently, two pet Rottweiler dogs attacked a five-year-old child and her mother in a  Corporation park in Nungambakkam, Chennai. Based on a complaint following the incident, police arrested the owners of the dog for negligence and endangering the lives of others (IPC Section 289 and 336). As General Manager-Administration of the Blue Cross of India, I have seen several Rottweilers over the years. While there are laws to address such situations, there needs to be adequate awareness among pet owners that dogs like Rottweilers should be taken for a walk only on a leash. A major portion of the responsibility…

Similar Story

Bardhaman town’s tourism potential: Why it must be developed

West Bengal's Bardhaman town has immense tourism potential. Its development must prioritise sustainable tourism and civic development.

Bardhaman town, renowned for its Bengali sweets like mihidana and sitabhog, is also famous for its rich tapestry of folk culture and heritage sites. The town has immense potential for tourism. But the question arises, how much of it has been explored?   This article aims to shed light on Bardhaman's historical sites, the initiatives to promote tourism while addressing the civic issues hindering its progress, and highlight the need to balance tourism with sustainable development.  Heritage sites of Bardhaman Sher Afghan’s tomb  Located beside Pir Beharam, close to Rajbati, lies the  tomb of Sher Afghan, the resting place of the last…