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In the glory of Nava Durga

In the glory of Nava Durga
Highlights

Senior Kuchipudi dancer, Guru Anuradha Jonnalagadda, at a workshop said that Kuchipudi being a -'Lokadharmi-' form puts emphasis on the audience,...

Senior Kuchipudi dancer, Guru Anuradha Jonnalagadda, at a workshop said that Kuchipudi being a 'Lokadharmi' form puts emphasis on the audience, making it a far more vibrant dance form in comparison to other classical forms.

The classical dance that has its roots in the Bhagavata tradition evidently is full of Krishna tatva, and except for a few items like the ‘Kandadalayataakshi Kaamaakshi’ that was even performed by the Master Vempati Chinna Satyam, Kuchipudi’s traditional repertoire did not have many items that spoke of the glory of Goddess Durga.

In fact, there is a claim that Kuchipudi is limited in its repertoire – this may be because it comes from the elaborate Yakshaganas. And, it was primarily Guru Vempati, who has conceptualised dance dramas and ballets and encouraged women dancers to learn Kuchipudi.

Alekhya Punjala, who is the student of the eminent Guru Dr Uma Rama Rao avers that it is a misnomer to call Kuchipudi limiting. She says that it is indeed a technique that can be adapted into newer items. However, she warns that this can be effectively done only with proper knowledge of Natyasastra and the dance form.

Over the years many senior dancers explored various songs, thematic presentations and dance dramas that have Nava Durga as the central theme. Senior Guru Anuradha Jonnalagadda shares, “As far as I remember, we at the University were doing ‘Soundarya Lahari’ by picking up a few slokas and presenting them to declare the greater truth of Durga Devi being the core of the creation, and a prime force behind the sustenance of the universe.

The complex Sanskrit slokas have a deeper meaning and we presented them even at Kuchipudi. I remember seeing my Guru Vempati garu perform ‘Kandadalayataakshi’. It was said that they also performed ‘Siva Leelalu’, but I never saw that.

Prahlada Sarma garu would perform the Tarangam ‘Jaya Jaya Durge’ that was later performed several times by other dancers. Recently, I saw the item beautifully choreographed by Musalikanti Kishore for the male Kuchipudi dancer Gangadhar.”

“I guess that it was probably when women dancers started performing that they steered towards themes glorifying Durga Devi and the concept of women power - Shakti. In the Yakshaganas, the navarasas (nine emotions) are attributed to each character. While the heroine who is mostly Radha, Rukmini, is all about Sringara and Lasya Rasa, Rama and Krishna are Dakshina Nayakas and the Prati Nayaka usually displays the Veera rasam.


With the advent of solo dances, there was a need for central characters that could display various emotional facets,” she explains

Sowmya Shantha, Sringara, Veera, Raudra…Durga Devi is an amalgamation of various facets that lend to ample scope for Abhinaya. She is the loving mother, gracious Devi, an embodiment of feminine sensuality, and the Shakti - the powerful one. While exploring the repertoire senior dancers conceptualised and presented many new items with Goddess Durga Devi as the central theme.

Sobha Naidu, a senior disciple of Guru Vempati shares details about the popular item in her repertoire – ‘Navarasa Natabhaamini’ that showcases the Navarasas with Goddess Parvati as the central character. The Dakshayagna episode to showcase Bheebhatsa Rasa, the Manmadha episode to showcase the Karuna rasa, a creative episode of Parvati with her Sakhis for the Hasya rasa, Bhasmaasura episode for the Bhayanaka and Mahishasura Mardhani for the Veera rasa and so on. In this presentation, there is a beautiful episode when both Siva and Parvati are doing the celestial dance, when Siva starts his TAndava and Parvati watches in wonderment – a perfect showcase of Adbhuta rasa.

Sobha is known for her contemporary themes and her creation – ‘Vijayotsutanaari’ showcases woman and her many virtues through the ages of Seeta, Damayanti to now, and the many issues from the Child marriages of the Gurajada times to Dowry etc, and finally the hidden Shakti (power) in a woman that finds manifestation when needed. In this power, she sees the Goddess Shakti. This she does in addition to the Kandadalayataakshi and the ever so popular ‘Aigiri Nandini’.

Raja Reddy, the dancer, Guru, who has followed in the footsteps of his Guru Vedantam Prahlada Sarma and went on to open a dance school to spread the splendour of Kuchipudi to students of the North agrees that the art has to cater to the audience. “When I arrived in New Delhi, I learnt the difference and changed the presentation, the way the dancer enters the stage etc. We have danced to Hindi and Marathi songs and Meera Bhajans. We present Shiva Leela showcasing the many stories from the Shiva Puranam. We could not restrict our repertoire to Bhamakalapam,” he stated.

He along with Radha Reddy gave many performances – among which the ‘Mahanatam’ which showcases the Shiva Parvati as the Purusha and Prakriti is an extremely powerful rendition that has always received much applause. Shiva’s arrival on the stage is marked by popular rendition – “Aadenamma Shivudu Paadenamma Shivudu” followed by Tandava complemented by the Lasya of Parvati.

Together they not only represent the man and the woman but the creation in its totality – the peacock and peahen, hamsa and Hamsini, animals, birds. “Last year we performed ‘Mahanatam’ in Singapore at the beautiful Victoria Auditorium. We were supported by excellent technology. And it was an amazing experience. We received standing ovations,” shares Raja Reddy.

Alekhya Punjala had her Guru choreograph a song ‘Maheswari, Mahakali’ written by Dr Balantrapu Rajanikanta Rao as a young dancer for her arangetram. “I first listened to the song on All India Radio and I was so affected by it that I asked my Guru Dr Uma Rama Rao to choreograph it for me. It was in 1977. At the time, it was simple choreography; with me, the song has grown and choreography matured. I have always received accolades where ever I performed it.

Durga Devi’s many facets – from tenderly love to fierce form find representation in the song that ends with ‘Aigiri Nandini’. Today the song is extremely sought after, and many young dancers perform it across the world, so much so that Guru Uma ensures that the dancers have a certain level of proficiency before learning the item. I heard that a very senior dancer Kanakadurga may have performed the song a long time ago in Vijayawada; apart from that I probably the only dancer to have popularised the song, and I am very proud of that,” she shares.

There is another thematic presentation that Alekhya performs – ‘Women Thy Myriad Modes’. It is to showcase the many qualities of a woman, and the fact that there is a Shakti – the power within a woman that surfaces when need be. “Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati are embodiments of divinity; Radha, Rukmini and Satyabhama denote love, and Yashoda, Draupadi, Shakti are reflections of motherly love. For this presentation, I have used writings of great poets, portions from Yakshaganas, etc.”

Dance Guru Deepika Reddy echoes the similar sentiment, “In dance dramas, I have donned the role of various gods and goddesses and I am overwhelmed when audiences identify with my character. Devi is one of my favourite deities to portray and it gives me ample scope to present Navarasas. I feel the vibrations start when applying makeup and putting on the ‘bottu’. I enjoy performing ‘Jaya Jaya Durge’ and the ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ episode in it.

I still remember the applause I received after performing this item in the Sri Lankan parliament hosted by the speaker during the Navrathri celebrations. Other Devi items I enjoy performing are ‘Panchashat Peeta Rupini’, ‘Kamakshi stuthi’ and ‘Yadevi Sarvabhutheshu’. My all-time favourite is ‘Ayigiri Nandini’ - the music and lyrics give me goosebumps whenever I perform it. Choreographing Devi items is very challenging and fulfilling because of strong and vibrant movements and forceful abhinaya.”

With the advent of solo dances, there was a need for central characters that could display various emotional facets,” she explains

Sowmya Shantha, Sringara, Veera, Raudra…Durga Devi is an amalgamation of various facets that lend to ample scope for Abhinaya. She is the loving mother, gracious Devi, an embodiment of feminine sensuality, and the Shakti - the powerful one. While exploring the repertoire senior dancers conceptualised and presented many new items with Goddess Durga Devi as the central theme.

Sobha Naidu, a senior disciple of Guru Vempati shares details about the popular item in her repertoire – ‘Navarasa Natabhaamini’ that showcases the Navarasas with Goddess Parvati as the central character. The Dakshayagna episode to showcase Bheebhatsa Rasa, the Manmadha episode to showcase the Karuna rasa, a creative episode of Parvati being teased by her Sakhis (friends) for the Hasya rasa, Bhasmaasura episode for the Bhayanaka and Mahishasura Mardhani for the Veera rasa and so on. In this presentation, there is a beautiful episode when both Siva and Parvati are doing the celestial dance, when Siva starts his Tandava and Parvati watches in wonderment – a perfect showcase of Adbhuta rasa.

Sobha is known for her contemporary themes and her creation – “‘Vijayotsutanaari’ showcases woman and her many virtues through the ages of Seeta, Damayanti to now, and the many issues from the child marriages of the Gurajada times to dowry etc, and finally the hidden Shakti (power) in a woman that finds manifestation when need arises.” She also dances to ‘Kandadalayataakshi’ and the ever so popular ‘Aigiri Nandini’.

Raja Reddy, the dancer, Guru, who has followed in the footsteps of his Guru Vedantam Prahlada Sarma and went on to open a dance school in New Delhi to spread the splendour of Kuchipudi to students of the North agrees that the art has to cater to the audience.

“When I arrived in New Delhi, I learnt the difference and changed the presentation, the way the dancer enters the stage etc. We have danced to Hindi and Marathi songs and Meera Bhajans. We present Shiva Leela showcasing the many stories from the Shiva Puranam. We could not restrict our repertoire to Bhamakalapam,” he states.

He along with Radha Reddy gave many performances – among which the ‘Mahanatam’ which showcases the Shiva Parvati as the Purusha and Prakriti is an extremely powerful rendition that has always received much applause. Shiva’s arrival on the stage is marked by popular rendition – “Aadenamma Shivudu Paadenamma Shivudu” followed by Tandava complemented by the Lasya of Parvati. Together they not only represent the man and the woman but the creation in its totality – the peacock and peahen, hamsa and Hamsini, animals, birds. “Last year we performed ‘Mahanatam’ in Singapore at the beautiful Victoria Auditorium. We were supported by excellent technology. And it was an amazing experience. We received standing ovation,” shares Raja Reddy.

Alekhya Punjala had her Guru choreograph a song ‘Maheswari, Mahakali’ written by Dr Balantrapu Rajanikanta Rao as a young dancer for her arangetram. “I first listened to the song on All India Radio and I was so affected by it that I asked my Guru Dr Uma Rama Rao to choreograph it for me. It was in 1977. At the time, it was simple choreography; with me, the song has grown and choreography matured.

I have always received accolades where ever I performed it. Durga Devi’s many facets – from tenderly love to fierce form find representation in the song that ends with ‘Aigiri Nandini’. Today the song is extremely sought after, and many young dancers perform it across the world, so much so that Guru Uma ensures that the dancers have a certain level of proficiency before learning the item. I heard that a very senior dancer Kanakadurga may have performed the song a long time ago in Vijayawada; apart from that I am probably the only dancer to have popularised the song, and I am very proud of it,” she shares.

There is another thematic presentation that Alekhya performs – ‘Women Thy Myriad Modes’. It is to showcase the many qualities of a woman, and the fact that there is a Shakti – the power within a woman that surfaces when need be. “Lakshmi, Parvati and Saraswati are embodiments of divinity; Radha, Rukmini and Satyabhama denote love, and Yashoda, Draupadi, Parvati are reflections of motherly love. For this presentation, I have taken from our rich literature and used writings of great poets, portions from Yakshaganas, etc.”

Dancer, Guru Deepika Reddy shares similar views as the other senior dancers, “In dance dramas, I have donned the role of various gods and goddesses and I am overwhelmed when audiences identify with my character. Devi is one of my favourite deities to portray and it gives me ample scope to present Navarasas. I feel the vibrations start when applying makeup and putting on the ‘bottu’.

I enjoy performing ‘Jaya Jaya Durge’ and the ‘Mahishasura Mardini’ episode in it. I still remember the applause I received after performing this item in the Sri Lankan parliament hosted by the speaker during the Navrathri celebrations. Other Devi items I enjoy performing are ‘Panchashat Peeta Rupini’, ‘Kamakshi stuthi’ and ‘Yadevi Sarvabhutheshu’. My all-time favourite is ‘Ayigiri Nandini’ - the music and lyrics give me goosebumps whenever I perform it. Choreographing Devi items is very challenging and fulfilling because of strong and vibrant movements and forceful abhinaya,” she sums up.

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