Kathak margam reflects four ashramas of life in upcoming production

Anupama Jha

On 24 August, Kathak dancer Anupama Jha will be performing her production ‘Swayatra – Journey Of The Soul’, reflecting the ‘Chaturashram Of Human Life’. I spoke to Anupama and she said that Swayatra is the brainchild of her guru, Dr. Shovana Narayan. ‘As per our Vedic scriptures, all of us as individual souls go through primarily four different phases of life or ashramas – brahmacharya (student life), grihastha (householder life), vanaprastha (retired life) and sanyasa (renunciation life). The margam of Kathak mirrors it explicitly. Our effort is to bring that out through Kathak and its various facets. The entire piece is beautifully choreography by Guru Shovana Narayana,’ Anupama explained.

Anupama says that the production will touch the different facets of this journey through the ashramas with Kathak and how the margam of Kathak mirrors the real-life experiences of any individual. ‘Starting with the offering to divine, it will showcase the brahmacharya ashrama through teentaal in Kathak. Brahmacharya is the achara or conduct by which you attain or reach God. It is life in the Absolute. It is the very first step towards God or the Atman (Self) and so is the teentaal in Kathak, which begins by establishing oneself through thaat and uthaan, and  then progresses to more intricate toda, tukra and paran. Each of these pieces would represent a distinct stage in the journey of a person's life and the evolution of the soul as it seeks to discover who they truly are.

‘Moving to the second phase of grihastha ashrama, the householder stage in Indian philosophy is one where we form one of the most intense physical, emotional, social and material attachments. This is also the period to overcome them. The various rhythmic patterns and bhava paksh in madhya laya in Kathak embody the grihastha ashrama phase.

‘This stage is conceptually followed by vanaprastha (forest dweller, retired) and sanyasa (renunciation). Vanaprastha is described as a state of “detachment and increasing seclusion” and so is the dhrut and ati dhrut gati in Kathak. This stage ultimately transitions into sanyasa, a stage of complete renunciation and dedication to spiritual questions. Sanyasa in Sanskrit means purification, “to put down everything, all of it”. Breaking up all attachments with the world, one transcends to the highest self of satchitananda or the blissful self, showcased through the finale in Kathak by a tarana, leading to the yog, union with the divine.’

Anupama's guru Shovana ji also said that the card for the programme was designed and printed by Anpama herself while she was in Vietnam. 'She has shared her feelings and thoughts in the title and in the manner of expression used,' she says.

Anupama will present Swayatra on Wednesday, 24 August 2022 at 7pm at the Stein Auditorium, Gate number 3, India Habitat Centre, Lodhi Road, Delhi.