Exploring the divine

Ambika Shaligram
Thursday, 22 February 2018

Astras, Vahanas and Pushpas — the three mythic elements — have been put together in a three-day dance performance — Divya Trilogy, that starts today. Dance consultant Usha R K gives us details.

She came across two books in Aurobindo ashram in Pondicherry. One was a book on the spiritual significance of flowers. And then, there was another book by Sri Aurobindo talking about gods and goddesses and their weapons. These two books were the germ or as dance consultant, Usha R K says, a ‘divine intervention’ that led her to conceptualise a dance programme — Divya Trilogy or Divya Tretam.

The programme has been conceptualised and curated by Usha R K and organised in Pune by Kalavardhini Charitable Trust.
“The Divya Trilogy will explore Divya Astraa on February 23; next day’s performances will depict Divya Vahana and the last day will find elaboration on the concept of Divya Pushpam. All these concepts are known to us, but in passing. But in Divya Trilogy we will be exploring these concepts in their exclusivity,” explains Usha.

Stories in Divya Trilogy
Have we ever wondered why Lakshmi loves the lotus? Or why Vishnu loves parijaat? Or why we worship Shiva with bel or nagalinga flowers? “The reason,” says Usha, “is that each flower has certain spiritual significances. There is something about the flower — its fragrance, colour, shape — that endears itself to the gods and that’s why we tend to worship a particular deity with a particular flower. Similarly, we often present mounts or the vahanas of various gods and goddesses through our dance forms.

Lord Karthikeya is shown riding a peacock. But what is the association between Karthikeya and a peacock or a Nandi and Shiva? We don’t know. So I added this element to the Divya Trilogy. The same approach was also applied to astras. I researched on the subject — who made it, who was the owner of the astra, why and how it was created, how it has been propitiated and what it does, when it has been used etc.”
The dance pieces will explore the stories of these three elements. The deeper motive is that the research and exploration will add to the artiste’s growth.

“If you are going to depict Lord Vishnu in your dance, then you have to know him, by heart — how he looks, what he carries in his hand, his eyes, why he is described as ‘padmalochana’. Unless you research and then perform these attributes, you won’t understand it. So I thought this would be a good exercise for every dancer to go through. If we are going to create the next generation of superstar dancers, they should know all these attributes,” adds Usha.

Depicting astras, vahanas and pushpas
Popularly, astras or weapons are used to wreak destruction, or kill the evil. But there is one astra which propitiates love — ‘pushpa astra’ of Madana. “We have tried to depict all the perspectives of astras in this segment,” she adds.

In Pune, the line-up of dancers for astra segment are male. Is that deliberate, we ask? “No, it’s not hard and fast that only male dancers perform in this segment. In the Bengaluru performance, we had three boys and one girl. The description of trishula was done by Darshana, but unfortunately, she cannot come to Pune,” informs Usha.

When it comes to elaborating on vahanas, Usha says that some members of the audience in Chennai had told her that they were sceptical about the show. What more can be shown about vahanas? But they realised that they didn’t know so much about mythology. Same is the case with pushpas.

Choosing the artists
The performers in the festival are known to the dance consultant; she knows their characteristics, personality and physical traits and accordingly “fitted them in the various segments.”

“When I saw Swarada Bhave’s video, I realised that she would be ideal for Radha. She is slim, petite and has a gentle composure. Whereas when I saw Arundhati’s (Patwardhan) video and her nritya, I knew that her powerful body, height and width ensured that gajavahana will work for her. Similarly, when I saw Parshwanath, I realised his body is like a bow and arrow, precise in his movements. So he will be performing Pinaak astra. Mithun Shyam’s style is dramatic. So I thought he will be able to execute the dramatic movements of Sudarshan chakra — in circles and arcs,” says the dancer, who has been working with young artists for 17 years now.

ST Reader Service 
Divya Trilogy will be held at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan auditorium, near Senapati Bapat Road on February 23, 24 and 25 at 6.30 pm

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