Omkar in Nrityakar

Divya Devguptapu

 On the 9th of January, Divya Devguptapu of Chennai presented a Bharatnatyam recital at IHC. The place was bedecked with yellow chrysanthemums.

Divya is a disciple of Kum. Kamala Iyenger, Smt. Minal Prabhu and Dhananjayans. She started learning to dance at the tender age of 5 and had her arangetram at 7. She bears the legacy of the tradition of Kalakshetra. She’s been performing and touring as a solo artiste at several prestigious venues worldwide.

She began her performance with a Devi vandana, which I missed part of. The second piece, which she called the highlight of the evening, was Omkara Pranam. It was a composition by Dr M Balamuralikrishnan in Raag Shanmukhapriya in aaditaalam. Omkara is a word that has the three karas – ‘o’kara, ‘a’kara and ‘m’kara. The word encompasses all of srishti – creation, sustenance and destruction. It is present in the three states – wakefulness, deep sleep and dreaming. Om is omnipresent in raging fires, swirling waters and the endless sky. She drew Om with her hands while dancing. Shiva denotes the ‘Om’. His five faces and seven notes, which have originated from him, all are a reflection of Om. Om is a syllable of freedom. Divya denoted all the encompassing aspects of the syllable.

When asked how she evolved the concept of ‘Omkara’, she said, “When I heard the composition by Balamurali Sir, I was struck by the fact that it had nothing but ‘omkara’. So I sat with it for a long time and decided to go to the source and meet him directly. He was gracious enough to have me over and gave me a few insights into the structuring of the composition. But I was still clueless about the meaning of ‘Om’, though we chant it all the time. Then I sat with the Manduki Upnishad. There I came across the ‘pallavi’ –‘Omkara pranavonadod bhavah shruti laya swara’. Which means that from the pranavanadam comes the ‘shruti’  ‘laya’  ‘swara’. The saptaswara come from ‘Omkara’ which comes from the five faces of Shiva. About the second part of the pallavi, again I had to read a lot of books to understand what it meant. ‘Muraligaanswaroopi sanketika tribhuvana shakti’. Balamurali Sir brought it from the aspect of adding his mudra to the composition. But I interpreted it from the aspect that the flute is hollow or egoless. If all of us give up our egos, like the flute, there will be a lot more music in life.” This clarity of thought process was seen throughout her prefatory remarks.

The next part of this piece was beautiful and was executed aesthetically. Krishna’s flute is envied for its sweet sound and the fact that the Lord has placed it on his lips. When the sweet music of the flute plays, it attracts all beings equally. Divya depicted the deer, the butterflies, the birds, and the gopis, all being irresistibly drawn to the sound. The sakhi asks Krishna why he loves the flute. Krishna says that the flute is special because it is void. The flute is hollow or egoless, that is why it is privileged. Just as the concept has depth, so did Divya’s expressions. Finally, the piece ended with a shloka from the Upanishads about the Om being present in the past, present and future, and in between. Lord Vishnu lying on the shesh shaiya with a lotus emerging from his nabhi is the origin of this world. Om – shashvatmayi, sukhmayi - is timeless. The piece ended with chants of Om. The entire piece was danced with great technique, precision and the energy was maintained throughout.

The following piece was a pure abhinaya one. It was a composition by Jayadev from the Ashtapadi in Raag Shuddhasarang. Shri Radha talks to the sakhi about her first meeting with Krishna – ‘Nivrat nikunj graham’. Divya began with depicting the lonely, dense nikunj where Radha is going. She dresses up, wears her ornaments and finally wears her dukul. Then she went on to show that Krishna, who is waiting for Radha, is in the mood for passion. When he sees her, he hits her with a twig and she is startled. And then their eyes meet. Radha is shy at the pratham samagam and she recoils at his touch. Divya then went on to show Radha’s reticence and Krishna’s insistence on embracing her. At this time for rati sukh, Krishna embraces her and loosens her dress. He lifts her and wraps her around himself. In his embrace, she feels like a limp vine. Divya alternated playing Radha and Krishna, emoting for both with some exemplary expressions. It was some immaculate abhinaya.

The next piece was a javali in rag Senchuruti. The khandita nayika is waiting for Krishna. When she sees signs on him of his last night’s exploits, she gets annoyed .There is kohl on his cheeks and lipstick marks on his face, which show that he has been two timing. He has spent the night with somebody else. Her annoyance is beyond repair now. The abhinaya in this piece too was excellent and in total contrast to the previous one, where the nayika is coy and submissive.

Next, she danced to a tarana by Pt. Ravi Shankar in rag Natabhairavi in teen taal. It was a rhythmic piece and Divya danced with a lot of energy. Lastly, she danced to a bhajan, “Krishnachandra, radhamanmohan mere man me virajo ji”. She portrayed the various attributes of Lord Krishna - as the one who wears the morpichh, katikachini and murali. On the whole, a meticulously neat performance with great technique, excellent abhinaya and lot of energy, which was steadily maintained. The vocals were given by Mrs. Preeti Mohan.