God creates, I do not create.
I assemble and I steal everywhere to do it –
from what I see, from what the dancers can do,
from what others do...
An Amazing Feat
When Sri Krishna hears cries of distress from the village folk, he rushes to the river to see that the poisonous cobra-king, Kalinga is tormenting them.
Sri Krishna jumps into the river, fights with the serpent, vanquishes him and dances on the hood of Kalinga. Moved by the pleas of Kalinga’s wives, he banishes him to the oceans warning of dire consequences if he returns to torment his people. The villagers rejoice at Sri Krishna’s feet and celebrate his victory over the serpent king with song and dance.
Sri Krishna runs back to his mother’s lap and sleeps like a child.
Raga Charukesi, Hamsanandi and Bimplas Tala Aadi
Composer & Author Rajkumar Bharati & Purandaradasa
Choreography Leela Samson
Duration 11 Mins
O dear River, frantic with your own motion, vigorous.
A stilled champa-tree am I, ever wakeful and frenetic of of fragrance. I remain ever unmoved, my intricate movements concealed, My actions in growing leaves and in budding flowers ever invisible.
O dear River, ever-exited with your own motion Lost in yourself, traversing and meandering your course.
Ineffable is my motion too, moving towards the light of the nourishing Sun, The sky feels my joy, as do the speechless stars of the night.
Assisted by Uttiya Barua
Sung by Keerthana Vaidyanath
When the monsoon comes, the river Vaighai flows through the city of Madurai– red as the soil it flows on, raging like a fire. Winds attack the clouds causing lightning strikes, spreading darkness in the skies. Clouds gather & burst on the tall mountains. Clusters of flowers get dispersed on the mountain slopes. The rain wounds the trees, carrying them down the river with the flowers fallen by the blowing wind.
The youth go to bathe in the river. A beautiful woman’s looks cause a wide-chested man to sing paeans to her. Another woman, confused, thinks that he sings for her and becomes intimate with him.
His lady-love's eyes that were already red, now become crimson with rage and in the presence of their friends, she shreds her garland in anger. His body adorned with sandal paste, he who admired her playing in the river, prostrates himself in the wet mud at her feet. She kicks his head in anger.
This happens in the waters where the people of the town bathe. Verses taken from the Paripaadal, a classical Tamil poetic work, from the fifth book in the Ettuthokai, a Sangam literature anthology.
Expert advice Prof. Raghuraman
Choreography Leela Samson
Duration 10 Mins
Drawn from folk tradition
Sundar Sari is drawn from folk tradition & incorporated into a typical Purab Thumri. It is seen to be a nirguni thumri – one that clearly has a spiritual message. Although set in a brisk dadra taal, it has a quality of tehraav and surrender.
Sundar sari – the main metaphor here, is the unstitched endless garment that is the cosmic self, which is also the body – its manifestation on the ordinary mundane plane. However there is an interesting echoing of the endless flowing, eternal expanse of the sari and that of the river. We see a paralleling in such phrases as kinara & kinari for banks and borders of both rivers and saris.
The river is the journey of life. The sari is the unending eternal self. Bringing them together in this song suggests the self on its journey through the endlessness of the universe, of existence, indeed of our karmas.
Sundar sari is simultaneously a folk song, and also a dadra within the thumri tradition, therefore traditionally sung for an elite male audience or for informed rasikas of classical music. It is also sung by kavvals, where of course it acquires sufic meaning. It would also be performed by male musicians for rural audiences.
“My beautiful sari has been soiled in my mother’s house. What then shall I take with me to my husband’s home? Neither good qualities, nor adornments, nor jewels have I. Neither beauty, nor youth. When my beloved raises my veil and sets his eyes upon my face, what will I say to him, O Rama? I will bathe in the Ganga. I will worship the Sun. I will keep the Sunday fast, O Ram. O Mother Ganga, I will offer you a yellow chunari. Help me meet my beloved.
Expert adviceVidya Rao
Sung Sharmishtha Chatterjee
“You cannot engrave on water nor wound it with a knife. Which is why the river has no fears or memories.
The river only feels the pull of the waterfall. She giggles without pride, tickled by the rushes on the banks. Then turns a top of dry leaves & sticks in the navel of the whirlpool. She weaves an imaginative water snake in the net of the sun’s silver strands in the green depths. She frightens the frog on her rug of moss & bamboo leaves. She sings, tosses, leaps & sweeps on in a rush.
While the scarecrow on the bank, has a face fading on its mud-pot head and a body torn with memories.”
Courtesy Girish Karnad
Sung G.Srikanth and Keertana Vaidyanathan
The Descent of the Ganga
Long ago, the River Ganga did not flow on the land. For three hundred years people, animals and vegetation were dying. King Bhagirath took a vow to go up to the heavens and plead with the Gods to save his people.
Brahma sent him to the Goddess Ganga. But Ganga was proud and taunted him saying that if she descended, the earth would be submerged. Bhagirath begs her to save his people. The heavens open up and she begins her descent.
Shiva realizes her strength and tries to stop her. In the ensuing tussle, they fight but also fall in love and he ties her in his matted locks and releases only a fragment that flows on the earth as the great river.
‘O Ganga, adorning the head of Lord Shiva, protect me. You have a majestic form and are fond of music. You make Lord Vishnu, happy. You have a slender waist like the thin stream that flows between the Asi and Varuna rivers. You are worshipped by Sage Akrura and bestow happiness on all. You are the origin of all sacred waters. You are the esteemed daughter of Jahnu and are benevolent towards the Sage Vyasa and others.’
Sancharis that are typical of Varanasi are used in this depiction, like ‘peela chadaana’, when women drape the river goddess with yellow saris, while others set lamps out on the river with good tidings for their distant beloveds; the ‘sandhya vandanam’ and cremations on the banks that liberate the souls of the deceased; and the celebrated ‘Ganga aarti’, when at sundown all the bells of the riverside temples ring at once and lamps are held aloft in praise of the river.
Raga Janjuti Tala Khanda Eka
Composer & Author Muttuswami Dikshitar
Choreography Leela Samson
Duration 14 Mins
An Urdu poem attributed to Taanras Khan, with a Tillana and saahitya in Tamizl written by Rajkumar Bhaarathi. Sung in the original Hindustani mode by Sharmistha Chatterjee. Rajkumar Bhaarati has brought the worlds of Urdu and Tamizl and the worlds of Hindustani and Carnatak together in this composition to create a unique version – both composers celebrating the life and friendship that the river Goddess bestows on man. Keertana Vaidyanathan sings the Tillana with an ode to the River Goddess in Tamizl penned by the composer.
From a purely linguistic perspective, it seems fair to assume that the poem is not a very old one. It might in fact be so recent as Faiz Ahmed Faiz's poem 'Narze Khusrau'.
Close to the bank
(help me) drop the anchor of (my) boat May the wave come (undulating) in the rhythm of affection and love, O Khwaja Khizar You, who ensure the dignity of the oarsman O giver I am standing in supplication at your door.
Expert advice Shri Madan Gopal Singh
Sung Sharmishtha Chatterjee & Keertana Vaidyanathan, Murad Ali on the saarangi, Sai Shravanam on the tabla.
Names of dancers Satyapriya Iyer, Ashwini Viswanathan, Radhe Jaggi, Harikrishnan B, Sarveshan Gangen, Nidheesh Radhakrishnan, Leela Samson.
Musicians & Credits Keerthana Vaidyanth, G. Srikanth, Sharmishtha Chatterjee, H. Ananthanarayanan,
Rhythms Mridangam – Karthikeyan Ramanathan, Tabla – Sai Shravanam, Pakhawaj/Dholki/Dhol/Tape – S.Ganapathi Venkata Subramaniam, Regional drums & additional percussion - P. Kaviraj.
Melodic: Violin – B. Anantha Krishnan, Veenai – T. Bhavani Prasad, Flute – Navin Chandar S, Saarangi – Murad Ali, Sitar – L. Kishore Kumar, Nadaswaram – D.Balasubramani,