One of my favourite people in the field of Art is Usha RK whom you all know as a renowned art consultant, promoter, a curator and a historian, but to me she is a friend who loves all kinds of dance forms and this love for various forms and its styles that got Usha Ji into research and her passion for the performing arts made her an art consultant. Though she wanted to be a performer, her parents wanted her to be a singer and finally, she chose to be an art lover. I consider her to be a ‘walking talking knowledge book of dance’. Recently Usha Ji presented a fabulous in the capital and is travelling with it all over India, a show which spoke and gave in-depth knowledge of Shri Kshetra (Shri Ranga and Shrinathji).
Deities of the Hindu pantheon are revered diversely and uniquely in every region of India. The same deity is referred to, described, prayed to and his Leela’s are also described in the North of India vis a vis the South of India vis a vis East of India. To bring out these aspects a unique series with the emphasis on Kshetra was envisaged. The first one in the series was Shiva Kshetra featuring Shiva as Brigadeshwara and Vishwanath, the second was Devi Kshetra featuring Madurai Meenakshi and Ambaji and the third was Krishna Kshetra featuring Brindavan Krishna and Udupi Krishna and now continuing in the series is Shri Kshetra featuring Shri Ranga and Shrinathji.
Each of the presentations included the two styles Bharatanatyam and Kathak by some of India’s well-known dancers. The fourth edition of Shri Kshetra featured Shri Ranga of Srirangam and Shri Nath Ji of Nathdwara performed by Pavitra Krishna Bhat – Bharatanatyam as Sri Ranga and Abhimanyu Lal – Kathak as Shrinathji. The description of the Lord, the temple, his attributes and Leela’s were delineated in the performance.
Srirangam is an island and a part of the city of Tiruchirappalli, in South India. Srirangam is home to a significant population of Srivaishnavites (followers of Lord Vishnu) and is famous for its Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple, a major pilgrimage destination for Hindus and the largest temple complex in India.
Srirangam among a few “self-manifested” shrines (Swayam Vyakta Kshetras) of Lord Vishnu! The temple complex is enormous and has seven prakaras or enclosures. These enclosures are formed by thick and huge rampart walls which run around the sanctum. There are 21 magnificent towers in all prakaras providing a unique sight to any visitor. Srirangam is bounded by the Kaveri River (also known as Cauvery River) on one side and the Kaveri distributary Kollidam on the other side.
Pavitra portrayed a devotee who urges to seek a glimpse of Shri Ranga and hence starts his journey from Kaveri River, to the’ Garuda’. He merges with the Lord and becomes one with him. This production emphasises the elements of bhakti to the Lord and touches chapters like Kshetram, Thirtham, Mandiram, Pravesham, Darshanam, Anubhavam and utsavam.
Showcasing the story of the reclining Lord through the most popular Krithi of Muthuswamy Dikshitar Sri Ranga pura vihara, the dancer elaborates thus.
Lord Ram after his aradhana to Vishnu’s idol in a reclining form, gifted the idol to Vibhishana after killing Ravana as a symbol of love and eternal protection on the condition that wherever the Idol was once placed that would be the permanent abode of the idol. Seeing the Lord’s idol taken to a kingdom of rakshasas, the petrified devas sent Shri Ganesh to solve the problem. Vibhishana found himself in a dilemma, he had to perform his evening pooja and could not keep the idol anywhere. Ganesha took the form of a shepherd and offered to help Vibhishana by holding the idol while Vibhishana performed his prayers. By the time Vibhishana returned, Ganesha had kept it on the ground and the idol had stretched in the Reclining form of Sri Ranganatha. Vibhishana persuaded the Lord to accompany him to Lanka, but the Lord refused. Lord Vishnu then gave his word to Vibhishana that he would watch over his kingdom and his glance would always be upon Lanka.
Juxtaposing alongside was the portrayal of Shrinathji of Nathdwara. Nathdwara is a town in India’s western state of Rajasthan. It is located in the Aravalli hills on the banks of the Banas River. This town is famous for its temple of Krishna which houses the deity of Shrinathji, 7-year-old infant incarnation of Krishna. The deity was originally worshipped at Jatipura Mathura and was shifted in 1672 from Govardhan hill, near Mathura along holy river Yamuna after being retained at Agra for almost six months.
Literally, Nathdwara means ‘Gateway to Shrinathji (God)’.Nathdwara is a significant Vaishnavite shrine pertaining to the Pushti Marg or the Vallabh Sampradaya or the Shuddha Advaita founded by Vallabha Acharya, revered mainly by people of Gujarat and Rajasthan, among others. Vitthal Nathji, son of Vallabhacharya institutionalised the worship of Shrinathji at Nathdwara.
The temple was built there under the rule and protection of the then Maharana Raj Singh of Mewar. Shrinathji Temple is also known as ‘Haveli of Shrinathji’ (mansion). The Shrinathji idol is the principal deity of the Nathadwara haveli, always shown with his left arm raised above his head lifting Mount Govardhana, while his other hand rests on his waist. Symbolic expressions are also involved in various shringaras of Shrinathji.
The U-shape tilak on the forehead represents the impression of Radha’s foot and the lotus garland is symbolic of Radha’s heart which Shrinathji keeps close to his own heart as an acknowledgement of love and dedication. The small Yamuna water container placed on the pedestal represents mother Yashoda and the throne on which the image rests is Yashoda’s lap. The lotus-shaped eyes of Shrinathji are also compared with Kamadeva’s bow.
From the jhanki darshan Abhimanyu Lal went on to describe Krishna as ‘Leela Mohan’ one who always stuns his devotees in wonderment, his simple antics were nothing less than miracles. He lifts his little finger to hold the Govarghan Mountain bringing the entire folks and animals of Braj under his benign care. As the brajwasis pray to Krishna Lord Indra gets offended and to punish them strikes thunderously and the whole of Braj is drowning in the rains, Krishna says while you have to put in all your energies to bring this thunderstorm, my little finger can encounter your wrath and protect my bhaktas. In yet another eye-opening leela maha Vishnu confirms his omnipresence in a pillar to prove the faith of his little Bhakt Prahlad. This was the awe-inspiring vision of Vishnu in the half man half lion avatar of Narasimha.
Abhimanyu concluded his delineation of Shrinathji by creating an atmosphere of Sankirtan raising the tempo to a crescendo making the audiences sway in complete devotion.
By Sandip Soparrkar
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