Archive for October, 2007

The myth says that after the four Vedas have been created all the Gods approached Lord Brahma to create another Veda, the fifth Veda which would be readable to all including women and the lower caste. Thus Brahma ordered muni (sage) Bharatha to write the fifth Veda.

The fifth Veda or the Natya Shastra was written between the time period 220BC and 200AD. The historicity of Bharatha is questionable. Some say that the unity of text and reference of previous stanzas denote that it was written by a single person.

Natya Shastra was written taking the Patha ( words) from Rig Veda, Abhinaya (expressions) from Yajur Veda, Geeth ( music) from Sam Veda and Rasa ( vital sentiments) from Atharva Veda. On completion the Natya Shastra was propagated by Bharatha and his disciples. The Natya Shastra became the most authoritative documentation of Indian Classical dance especially for Bharatanatyam. Bharatanatyam partly owes its name to sage Bharatha. Some say the name is a combination of Bhava (expression), Raga (music) and Tala (rhythm).

dance1.jpg Bharatanatyam had been undergoing various kinds of changes over the centuries. Previously it had been the dance of the Devdasis (priestess) in South Indian temples, who were well versed in Sanskrit. They composed their performances based on the different moods of the spectators. They lived a life of celibacy and were not allowed to have a family. Later as the performers shifted from the temples to the royal courts they were renamed as Rajnartakis ( royal dancers) and degraded to the stature of being the concubines of the kings and his ministers. During the time of British rule the Devdasi tradition was totally demolished.

During the first half of 19th Century Bharatanatyam witnessed a massive change in its techniques and expressing ideas. The credit solely goes to the Tanjore quartet. Many a poets and singers also started creating different songs for such performances. The techniques have also been changed with the performers’ performance and ways of expressing. But even with massive changes Bharatanatyam still holds a foothold in expressing Hindu spiritual heritage. Though it is now being commercially used in different ways , from television commercials to fusion with Western dance, Bharatanatyam in its true essence and vigour remains a sacred ritual that is supposed to bring rasanubhava( spiritual upliftment) to the rasika ( audience) and the dancer.

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It started with Shasthi , the Devi Bodhon(welcoming the goddess along with her four children). Ashtami eveningThis time as the myth says the Goddess arrived in a palaquin. Myth describes it that the Goddess would bring rain and depression along with her. It really started like that . Shasthi and Saptami all drenched in rain and gloomy weather,everybody thought that this year Puja will be spent watching the sky in your room. But the sun peeped its face on the third day, and to everyone’s relief. The crowds in every pandal just mentioned how eagerly everybody waited for the rain to stop.

DSC05149 Ashtami, Nabami and Dashami , the days just passed away hopping from one pandal to the other. Dashami arrives , a gloominess everywhere. The goddess will again return to Kailash , her abode, and this time on an elephant. That symbolises huge loss of crops in this year.Farewell to the goddess, farewell to all the enjoyment for these four days , farewell to the wish of coming back home.Here wishing all my readers a Suvo Bijoya .

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Puja and Kolkata it seems as if these two words are inseparable. Wherever you are and whatever you are doing , if you have ever been to Kolkata during the autumn festival you’ll definitely wish to come back again.

We call it the biggest festival of the Bengalis , but is it only so? The answer is definitely “No”. Durga Puja is really a festival of all those who want to enjoy , for those who have a heart to make merry. You need not be a Hindu , you need not be a Bengali , all u need is a fun loving heart.

There are certain changes in the city when the Puja nears.

The first thing that you observe is that golden warm sunlight when you wake up in the morning.

Get up and you’ll hear those dhakis( drummer in Bengali) beating their drums. Believe me they will drive you to a land of festival and merry making.

Dhakis of Bengal

Dont think this is the end of essencing the autumn festival. Just walk a few steps out of your house and there are those huge bamboo structures waiting to be wrapped with the colourful sheets of cloth. These would become the abode of Durga Ma for the five day festival.

Big colorful hoardings add a little more to the color and vigour of this city.

Out in the markets, leave apart the shopping malls , people move from shop to shop with handful of plastic bags. Its the festival of shopping. From the Gariahat footpath to the largest and costliest shops in the city – all are filled with customers shopping for the Puja.

Puja Shopping craze

The kids running about everywhere flaunting their new toy guns and playing police and thief with their mates. One may even catch you asking for how many did you get this time. Dont take it in any other way. The little kid is just asking for the number of new dresses you got for the festival.

Its the festival of joy  in the City of joy. An undying City, Kolkata , welcomes all to get the flavor of this big magical festival.

Its the festival of coming back home.


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