Parikrama — the closest English equivalent term for it is ‘circumambulation’, which means ‘to walk or go about or around, especially ceremoniously’. For those of us who follow the faith, know it as a way to connect with the supreme being, to surrender before him.
Surrender is the base of all Indian classical art forms, and all the teachers pass on this one important lesson to their students — ‘Dance is greater than the dance form’.
“The philosophical base of all classical dances is bhakti and surrender. We surrender ourselves to the god, to our guru. Unless we surrender completely, it is very difficult to reach the top and stay humble. That is the biggest and important lesson all the students have to learn. Art is meant to be offered — to god, to raja, to rasika, to yourself,” says Bharatanatyam dancer, Arundhati Patwardhan.
This is the core thought process of Patwardhan and her mother, Dr Sucheta Bhide Chapekar, whose Kalavardhini Charitable Trust hosts Parikrama Dance Festival every year.
“This year is special for many reasons,” says Patwardhan, adding, “It’s 10 years since we started Parikrama. It’s Aai’s 70th birthday and Kalavardhini Charitable Trust also completes three decades. We are marking all these milestones with this year’s Parikrama festival starting from December 6.”
About the festival
The four day festival will have talks, interactions with veteran artists and performances all aligned with this year’s theme — ‘A journey that never ends’. “The festival will have artists with whom Aai has collaborated over the years. Her session with art critic and historian, Sunil Kothari, will have them talking about how dance form has changed in the last 50 years or so. For the first edition of Parikrama, we had invited veteran artists like Prof C V Chandra Shekhar (Bharatanatyam) and Dr Kanak Rele (Mohiniyattam). This year again they will be making an appearance with Darshana Jhaveri (Manipuri) and Sunayana Hajarilal (Kathak). They will demonstrate their art styles and art historian Ashish Khokhar will interview them. Aai was good friends with Rohini Bhate and it’s her 10th death anniversary, so we have invited a few of her students to perform,” says Patwardhan.
All dance forms are essentially about solo performances. So Bharatanatyam dancers belonging to different gharanas will also be performing at the festival. “Indira Kadambi is Kalanidhi Narayanan’s senior student. Then, there is Vidya Subramanian, who is Rajarathnam Pillai’s senior student, Lavanya Anant is the disciple of Pillai and
K J Sarasa. Bharatanatyam has several dialects and we wanted to present a few before the audience,” she adds.
The entire line-up for Parikrama boasts of stellar names and performances by artists of different dance forms, not just Bharatanatyam. When asked about it, Patwardhan says, “I think we always have had a holistic approach and this is the USP of all the events that Kalavardhini conducts.”
She goes on to add, “It’s not necessary that if you are a student of Bharatanatyam, you shouldn’t watch Kathak performances at all. Nritta and abhinay are common to all Indian dance styles. When Kalanidhi mami used to have workshops in NCPA, artists of Kuchipudi, Kathakali, Odissi, Kathak would make a beeline to learn it from her.
Histrionics is something that is common to all dance forms. It’s now that we have defined dance forms, but earlier, in the 12-13th century, there was much more sharing and merging.”
Before we can raise a query about ‘fusion’ performances, Patwardhan answers it. “The Marathas ruled over the south. There are instances of them having written compositions in Marathi set to Carnatic music. Maybe this was the reason that Marathi made a space for Bharatanatyam. This give and take was always present. After Independence, we made watertight compartments. Now, people have again started merging things. We call it fusion, but I prefer to think that there is synthesis too. When stalwarts like Leela Samson and Madhavi Mudgal performed together, you won’t feel like calling it a fusion. It goes beyond that because they have kept the intrinsic values of their styles intact,” she says.
Unlike southern states and in north, Maharashtra doesn’t have a classical dance style to boast of. Yet, it is on its soil that the artistic community has flourished and their art appreciated. Patwardhan’s reasoning is that Maharashtra must have had its own classical dance form. Says she, “If we see the temples in Vidarbha, Western and Southern Maharashtra, you will find sculptures of dances and dancers. The text Sangeet Ratnakar was written by Sharang Dev near Aurangabad. All this indicates that we must have had classical dance form. Also, Maharashtra, because of its geographical position, has always defended South from invaders and that’s why we see the monuments and heritage and art forms found around Karanataka have been protected. Shahji got the jagir of Thanjavur (Tanjore) around 15-16th century and Maratha rule lasted till about 18th century. The Marathas patronised arts and artists, lands were donated to artists — they were called Kalakar parganas. Palghat region is one such example.”
When it comes to introducing Bharatanatyam in Mumbai, Pune, the credit goes to Parvati Kumar, who was Dr Chapekar’s guru. “Aai’s guru, Parvati Kumar, was a Maharashtrian. He went all the way to Thanjavur, dug up the manuscripts and got those rachanas in mainstream. Then his students like Aai and Sandhya Purecha took it forward. Our intelligentsia is accepting of new ideas and thoughts. We are a good rasika,” informs Patwardhan.
The festival schedule
December 6, Renuka Swaroop Ground, 6 pm: Felicitation of Dr Sucheta Chapekar on her 70th birthday by Pt Hridaynath Mangeshkar. This will be followed by a book release and screening of documentary on Dr Chapekar. She will also perform.
December 7, Renuka Swaroop Ground, 6 pm:
- Veteran dancers, Prof C V Chandra Shekhar (Bharatanatyam),
- Dr Kanak Rele (Mohiniyattam), Darshana Jhaveri (Manipuri) and Sunayana Hajarilal (Kathak) will present their dance traditions. Later they will be interviewed by Ashish Khokar, dance historian.
- Kathak dance performance by dancers of Manasvee group — Sharvari Jamenis, Prajakta Raj and Manisha Abhay.
- Nrityaganga dance performance by Kalavardhini group — Rama Kuknur, Vrushali Chitale, Prajakta Pavnaskar, Manasi Jog, Vaishali Tonk and Arundhati Patwardhan
December 8, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 10 am: Dr Chapekar will be in conversation with Dr Sunil Kothari, seniormost dance critic and author.
Renuka Swaroop Ground, 6 pm: Three senior dancers, Vidya Subramaniyan, Indira Kadambi and Lavanya Anant will present Bharatanatyam.
Sunday, December 9, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, 10 am: Dance recitals by Parimal Phadke (Bharatanatyam), Shashwati Garai Ghosh (Odissi) and Ameera Patankar (Kathak). They will explain about the process of creating new compositions for classical dance.
Renuka Swaroop Ground, 6 pm: Shrijeet Krishna and his Sahrdaya Troupe will perform Bharatanatyam dance-drama production ‘Don Quixote’.