Krishna in life, death and in between

Kathak Kendra organized its Kathak Mahotsav 2014  to celebrate its 50 years from the 29th -31st January at the Kamani auditorium , Delhi. On the 31st January, Aditi Mangaldas was invited to perform a solo. The foyer at Kamani was bedecked with a flower rangoli and brass urns and lamps.

Aditi is a leading dancer and choreographer in Kathak. She has evolved a contemporary vocabulary infused with the spirit of the classical. She is the disciple of Smt. Kumudini Lakhia and Pt. Birju Maharaj. For the evening, she performed a portion of her production ‘Immersed’ . The poetry for the piece was by Bhartendu Harishchandra. The production delved into the mystic, wherein god is the piya (beloved) or saanwra and the bhakt(devotee) the lover. The separation occurs at the time of birth, life is a journey of longing and love, and death a reunion.

From the point I attended the performance, Vipul Das and his disciples Rakesh Mandal and Vijay Prasad Srivastava were performing. Vipul Das has trained under Guru Kundan Lal Gangani and Pt Birju Maharaj. They performed a piece called Om Namah Shivay, then a few tukdas in teen taal, and finally a composition by Bindadin Maharaj - Meri Suno.

Aditi took the stage for her solo, for which she said, “Krishna, the almighty and the beloved, has been the inspiration for music, literature, architecture and poetry, etc. So Krishna being the theme, the first part is about the names of Krishna, which are innumerable. He is Girdhari, Madan, Keshav, Brahma. How can a god be all this and more? So he must be our ‘life’. Krishna is a wave that has been flowing since ancient times, and limiting him within the constraints of a thought process is difficult.” The poetry addresses Krishna as Achyut, Achal, Aniruddh, Manohar, Murlidhar, Hari, Gopinath. In her dance, Aditi depicted the Lord’s morpankha(peacock feather), the murli(flute), the kaliyadaman(vanquisher of Kalia, the demon snake) and finally she recited the names of Krishna as Chakradhari,  Giridhari, Yashodanandan, Jagannath, Gopinath, Keshav, Brahma, Yogeshwar, Anant. The piece was a blend of beautiful abhinaya and very powerful and energetic nritta, which Aditi is known for. 
This was followed by a short flute recital. 

For the second piece, she said, since Krishna symbolizes life, he is the breath. He is the breath that runs through us. So be at the edge of my existence – saanware nain ki ot na jaana (if you disappear from my vision, it will be like taking away my breath or my existence). In her dance, Aditi portrayed the chhed-chhaad (playful teasing) between Krishna and the sakhi. Krishna is holding her hand from behind, while she tries desperately to free herself – bansi madhur bajao (play your sweet flute), the poet implores Krishna. The sound or dhwani of the bansuri(flute) causes vibrations to run through the body. Aditi concluded the piece with the shuddering sound of her ghungroos, portraying the vibrations reverberating through her body.

The pakhawaj and tabla piece which followed only raised the tempo that she’d set. Finally, for the last piece, she said, “If you were life, then you are death too. Ao re piyarva, dhaye lagun piya ke garva, more ruthe. Ruth gaye kuch toh bolo, hiya ki gaanthe hans hans kholo (Come my beloved, I will run and embrace my lover, who is angry with me. Say something, laugh and loosen the knots of my heart). I’m addressing him and telling him that if my time has come, I am ready for death too. The cycle of life is portrayed where the seed germinates into a sapling, and then flowers and fruits. The flower finally wilts. Then I show myself growing up from a child to an old person. I portrayed god taking my hand and carrying me away. If I have embraced you as life, I must embrace you in death too.” The abhinaya for the piece was done while in a sitting posture. Her costumes were the colour of peacock feathers.  As ever, Aditi’s performance was energetic and rhythmic, and yet at the same time, very thought-provoking.

The accompanying musicians included Mohit Gangani on the tabla and the padhant, Ashish Gangani on the pakhawaj, Faraz Ahmed on vocals and harmonium and Devender Rajbhatt on the flute.