Geeta Chandran, the thinking dancer and choreographer
presented Anekanta, a momentous Silver Jubilee Celebration of Natya Vriksha,
the cultural organisation she founded in 1991. The Padmashri and Sangeet Natak
Akademi awardee Bharatanatyam danseuse, who is also an author of several books
on dance and an avid reader, was inspired by the Jain scholar/author Sudhamahi
Raghunathan’s book and conceived this unique theme rooted in the Jain
philosophy of Anekanta. This philosophy recognises the multiple realities to
every issue and celebrates acceptance of multiple truths, embracing diversity.
Geeta based the two-day festival, Anekanta, on this concept of universal
acceptance. She portrayed it through Bharatanatyam in her solo and group
choreographies by her Natya Vriksha Dance Company on 3 and 4 November
respectively at the Kamani auditorium, which was filled to capacity.

 Geeta, who completed
40 years of dancing last year, was initiated into Bharatanatyam at a tender age
by Guru Swarna Saraswathi. She was further groomed under Guru K N
Dakshinamurthy and started teaching this art to students under her own
uniquely- designed institutional framework and pedagogies, inspired by her
Guru. It was fascinating to see how imaginatively she has portrayed this
“Mool Mantra” of acceptance to multiple realities in Anekanta, the
two-day festival, embracing the diversities of melody and contradictions of
rhythm in music and dance.

In her solo performance, Geeta examined shades of Anekanta
through the traditional “margam” of Bharatanatyam from invocation to
Tillana. Exploring the relationship between word and meaning, she opened with
the invocation “Vagarthaviv sampriktau, vagartha-pratipattaye / jagtah
pitarau vande Parvati-Parameshwarau…” recited by all the accompanying
artistes like a chant; invoking Parvati and Parameshwara Shiva, who are united
like the word and its meaning, that make no sense without each other.

The second piece was “Lavanyattvam”, the quality
of “Lavanya” or aesthetics without which there is no Rasa, the
indispensable requirement for any and every art form. Here Geeta took the
well-known Pada “Krishna ni begane baro…” and expressed the shades
of three different Rasas, the Vatsalya, Shringara and Bhakti one by one; and
the three different Bhavas individually looked just perfect for this single
refrain; symbolising the coexistence of multiple realities. 

Geeta underlined the similarity between the concept of
Anekanta in Jain philosophy to that of the Vedic Mantras like “Ekam sat
viprah bahudha vadanti…” and presented it like a full-fledged Varnam,
where the adjective “Bahudha”, or many, was underlined with the use
of many ragas. The “Ekam”, or the main, raga existed constantly while

“Bahudha” was depicted in various ragas like,
Bilahari, Pantuvarali and so on, and also a variety of impeccably executed
Jathis, or rhythmic patterns. Through this imaginative Varnam, Geeta also
conveyed her conviction that “Anekanta is all around us, hence we should
find within ourselves the single truth among the seeming differences”.

Ravana, the Abhinaya piece was based on Balmiki Ramayana’s
Ashoka Vatika Prasang, where Sita is kept captive by the demon king. Ravana
adorns himself to meet Sita but after seeing her he says, “I get
mesmerised by every single aspect of Sita’s body and wonder if such is the
power of each part, what would be the impact of the whole?” Geeta,
enacting Ravana, presents the cosmic view of inter-relatedness of existence and
proves that the sum of the parts can never be more than the whole. The
concluding Tilanga Tillana took her recital to its climax with the Sanskrit
verse, “Akashat Patitam toyam, yatha gachchhanti Sagaram…” meaning
“Just like waters of all rivers fall into the sea, so too the ‘Anekanta’
takes us to the truth”.

 Geeta’s group
choreographies next evening explored Anekanta through dramatic dance strategies
like an Alarippu presented simultaneously in three speeds, seemingly
contradictory but exhilarating too. Likewise the “Graha-Bheda”, or
the changing of the tonic, explored the similar contradiction of melody in
movement. The presentation also sought linkages between sound and silence, many
roopas of  Devi, and of a little known
Viswaroopa of Vishnu that Arjuna encounters in the forests of Orissa and
realises that the Navakunjar’s parts add up to the whole!

 Music for Anekanta,
with the conceptual inputs of Sudhamahi, was devised by Geeta in close
collaboration with K Venkateswaran and S Vasudevan. This lyrical music-scape
was further enhanced with rhythmic inputs by K Sivakumar and Lalgudi Sri Ganesh
adding verve and vibrancy to the production. Sandhya Raman designed the attractive
costumes, Manish Kansara had conceptualised the stage design and Sharad
Kulshreshtha was the lights designer. Geeta Chandran deserves kudos for
celebrating Natya Vrikasha’s Silver Jubilee with yet another path-breaking
concept like Anekanta and its impressive execution that will be remembered for
a long time.

By Manjari Sinha