There can be few sights as calming to the restless mind as walking on the banks of a river. Whether it is a churning rapid or a serene drift, a river is worshipped in India, and across many cultures of the world, for the richness it brings to human life. It waters our lands and makes them fertile, enriching our lives and feeding us. Cities have been built on the banks of a river and empires have been created and destroyed around it. In India, rivers, like most things associated with Nature, are venerated as goddesses, for the benevolence they shower on the land.
It is this idea of sacred rivers that Parwati Dutta and a group of six other classical dancers chose to celebrate in a performance called Sannidhi. Held at the NCPA on 20th January, 2012, Sannidhi saw seven classical Indian dances celebrate the holiness of our rivers. The artists who performed were: Parwati Dutta (Odissi), Sanjib Bhattacharya (Manipuri), Amrita Lahiri (Kuchipudi), Suchindranathan P. K. (Kathakali), Sujatha Nair (Mohiniattam), Pavitra Bhat (Bharatanatyam), and Kannagi Gosavi(Kathak).
The performance began with the dancers invoking the presence of divinity on stage, marking a ritual that goes back to Bharata’s Natyashastra. This sanctification of the performing space was followed by an invocation of Lord Shiva, Nataraja, or the Lord of Dance. This was followed by a short solo piece performed by Parwati Dutta. The finale was Sannidhi, representing the seven sacred rivers of India through the seven dance forms, using mantras and shlokas that praise the rivers.
The performances, whether collective or individual, were enchanting, set to a fittingly harmonious musical score. There were also some technical highlights: Sanjib Bhattacharya’s dazzling Manipuri costume as Lord Krishna, complete with the marigold flowers, was introduced with just a blue light on stage. For a fleeting moment, it created a surreal look. Each dancer, stayed true to their respective dance forms, and yet the amalgamation seamless, a reminder once again of the rich shared culture that can be found in the dances of India.
Note: Parwati Dutta and the dancers are also slated to perform Sannidhi at the Kalaghoda Arts festival, 2012.