Padmabhushan awardees Raja and Radha Reddy, and their cultural institution Natya Tarangini celebrated a night-long festival of classical music and dance on Mahashivaratri as "Shiva-Aradhana", at the open-air stage of the magnificient complex. Natya Tarangini, the performing arts centre, was founded by Raja-Radha Reddy 40 years ago. It has been organising annually "Parampara Series", the National Festival of Music and Dance, for the last 20 years but this was perhaps their first programme in their own Natya Tarangini complex.

This was also a celebration of the Golden Jubilee of Raja-Radha Reddy's performing career. Natya Tarangini's founder duo completed five decades of their glorious journey of teaching and performing the Kuchipudi dance all over the world. Lasya-Tandavam, performed by them this evening was a duet as their own offering to begin the Shiva-Aradhana. As the name suggests, in Lasya Tandavam, Radha depicted the lyrical grace of Parvati and Raja enthralled the audience with the majestic Tandava of Lord Shiva. This dynamic duet in Kuchipudi dance style gave a flying start to the evening that offered a sumptuous musical feast.

The night-long music and dance performances continued with the offerings of renowned artistes like the Gundecha Brothers (Dhrupad), Ashwini Bhide Deshpande (Khayal), Sanjay Subrahmanyan and K Vageesh (Carnatic music) and Pt Rajendra Gangani (Kathak). It was heartening to see that along with the well-established senior artistes there were also the representative dancers and vocalists of younger generation like Yamini Reddy and Bhavana Reddy (Kuchipudi) and Aditi Sharma (Dhrupad), who certainly deserved to be showcased on this prestigious stage.

Ashta-Nayika

A mesmerising Bharatanatyam dance production, Ashta-Nayika by Sandhya Purecha and her disciples was featured by the Sahitya Academy on the Sahitya Academy Awards evening at the Kamani auditorium recently. Imaginatively conceived, immaculately choreographed and efficiently directed by Sandhya Purecha, Ashta-Nayika was based on Jayadeva's Geet-Govinda Kavyam, an opulent poetry of Sanskrit literature, an unparalleled paradigm of Indian art and culture.

The Ashta-Nayikas, eight types of heroines from the Natyashastra of Bharatamuni, were depicted through Radha and her Sakhi the characters of the Gita Govinda. The Sakhi served as the link of reconciliation and unity between Radha and Krishna's separation, sometimes pacifying Radha and at times entreating Krishna.

Prelude to Ashta-Nayika was created in the melodious raga Hansadhwani, before the first Shloka of Geet Govind "Meghairmedur ambare…" commenced, where it switched over to raga Amritavarshini, echoing the atmosphere of the rainy season and raga Suruti. Music was composed thoughtfully like this throughout, proceeding to Dashavatara in raga Puriya-Dhanashree or the "Lalita lavanga lata…" Ashtapadi, depicting the spring season or Vasanta in raga Vasanta-Bahar and Jaijaivanti.

The "Tirasheel", or curtain, was used very thoughtfully as a prop when the Sakhis would bring the Nayika on stage hiding behind the curtain and the same would be stretched overhead to make a "Mandapam" for the particular Nayika that was to be depicted through the Ashtapadis chosen for this particular Nayika. Appropriate Ashtapadis were chosen for each one of the Ashta-Nayikas, namely Virahotkanthita, Abhisarika, Vasakasajja, Vipralabdha et al like "Yahi Madhava Yahi Keshava…" for the Khandita, or "Ma kuru Manini…" for the Kalahantarita and "Priye charusheele…" and "Kuru Yadunandana…" for the Swadhina-Patika. Each Ashtapadi was composed in appropriate raga and captivating choreography, showcasing all the eight Ashta-Nayikas.

The culmination of the beautifully woven story was the natural union of Radha and Krishna. The "Swadheen-Patika" Radha joyfully looks at her beloved Govind, whom she had brought fully under her control and entreats him to decorate herself in a manner that she is consummate in Krishna. This ultimate union was both physical or mortal and spiritual or divine. On a mortal ground their consummation was marked by Viyog, or love in separation, and Sambhog, or love in union, whereas, on the spiritual plinth, it marks the elevation and surrender of the mortal Jeevatma to the divine and immortal Paramatma.

Sandhya V Purecha as Radha and her disciples Shanti Mohanty Dave as Krishna, Mandira Joshi and Suhani Dhanki as the Sakhis, even Chitra Dalvi and Pushkara Deochake as others, were remarkable in their immaculate Bharatanatyam technique and the emotive Abhinaya. It was a wonderful idea to communicate the storyline in a commentary, being depicted on the side screen through beautiful miniature paintings based on the text. In fact, the entire Bharatanatyam dance production looked like those miniature paintings coming alive on stage. The only suggestion one would like to provide is that Ashta-Nayika needs to be edited a little bit so that the mesmerised audiences do not look at their watches to check the time!