Bharata Natyam teachers, enthusiasts and debut artistes choose at one item in a dance concert to extol the qualities of Lord Shiva, who is revered as ‘Lord Nataraja,’ or ‘The King of Dances.’
He constitutes the continuity of this ancient Classical Dance of South India, which is now gaining increasing popularity around the world.
Extolling Lord Shiva in Varnam
The Attitudes and Attributes of Lord Shiva formed the basis of ‘Konjum Salangai,’ for presenting ‘Varnam,’ the longest and most challenging item at the Arangetram of Rishta Anushri Sharma, held on February 29, 2020 at Hawkins Theatre in the South Auckland suburb of Papakura.
In many ways, it was an event to cherish and yet another achievement for Rishta’s Guru Kalaichchelvi (Selvi) Uthayakumaran, who adheres strictly to the tenets of the art, with mellifluous Carnatic Music and her impeccable Nattuvangam.
Rishta executed ‘Konjum Salangai’ in Lathangi Ragam and Adi Thalam, with poise and near perfection, exuding the piety towards Lord Shiva. The longest and masterpiece of an Arangetram, the Varnam was easily the most admired item at the Concert.
The principle of gender equality and the fusion of the male and female to retain the balance of energy is often described as ‘Arthanareeswarar’ (or ‘Ardhanaareeshwaram’) and Lord Shiva and his Consort Parvathi are known as ‘Arthanareeswarar’ and ‘Arthanareeswari.’
Rishta’s presentation of this Keerthanam composed in Madhyamavati Ragam and Adi Thalam was a testimony to her understanding of the essence of the concept. The bhava in this number was well expressed, although there is scope for further improvement. The oneness of male and female led to the expression, ‘The Better Half’ in later centuries.
Lord Krishna as the prankster was depicted in ‘Vishamakara Kannan,’ a number that is often heard as a folk song in many music concerts.
Rishta presented eulogies to the Lord in a composition set to Senjuruthi Ragam and Adi Thalam.
The item that followed- ‘Ayigiri Nandini,’ composed by Adi Shankaracharya in praise of Goddess Durga, worshipped in this string of slokas as ‘Mahishasura Mardhini’ (the vanquisher of demon Mahisash)- was another energetic number that tested the artiste’s ability to bring out varied emotions and expressions- of rising temper, ruling rage, mellowing down, calmness and composure. In essence, it was a demonstration of the fury that raises to destroy the evil.
The Thillana, which concludes a Bharata Natyam performance had its high moments as Rishta matched her master’s expectations of vivacity and exuberance.
The Arangetram began with the traditional ‘Pushpanjali,’ followed by ‘Ananda Nartha Ganapathi,’ setting the tone for the evening. Rishta danced to the song composed by Oothukkaadu Venkatasubbaiyar, set in Nattai Ragam and Adi Thalam.
In ‘Jatheeswaram,’ the dancer brought alive the intricacies of the composition in which the swaras were set to various Jathis to fit in the framework of Thalam. This number was in Ragamalika and Misra Chapu Thalam.
‘Kavuthuvam’ forms an integral part of Bharata Natyam Arangetrams in recent years, performed earlier within the hallowed precincts of temples.
‘Shanmuga Kavuthuvam,’ presented by Rishta, dancing to Gowlai Ragam and Eka Thalam had a fascinating scope for praising Lord Murugan, worshipped as ‘The God of the Tamils.’
‘Padam’ is probably the most lyrical aspect of a Bharata Natyam concert, in which the dancer ‘speaks’ of some aspects of love for the Supreme Being, love of a mother towards her child, or that of her lover or husband.
Selvi had chosen ‘Main Nahin Makhan Khayo,’ a Bhajan involving Lord Krishna as a child and His mother Yasodha. The Padam was well utilised to depict how a mother melts as her child pleads innocence.
The team of support artistes was well constituted- Kalaichchelvi (Nattuvangam), Kishore Kumar Subramania Iyer (Vocal), Shankar Venkatraman (Violin), Ravichandra Mathiaparanam (Mridangam) and Venkatesh Sritharan (Flute).
Apart from continuing her rigorous training in Bharata Natyam, Rishta is an avid environmentalist, evincing interest in the projects of the Auckland Council and Epsom Girls Grammar School, where is a Year 11 student. Her parents, teachers and peers are proud of her high academic achievements and her keen participation in sports.