Pancha Kanya - July 2016 - A Report
Celebrating 25 Years of Jayamangala Anniversary Celebrations - Music Transcends and Pancha Kanya: Review and photos by Madhavi ReddiMadhavi Reddi is a multimedia artist with backgrounds in film, photo, and Bharatanatyam. Her work is always centered around the promotion of Indian arts and culture.
On Sunday, July 10 th , 2016, the DC/MD/VA area was treated to an evening of music and dance in celebration of Jayamangla’s 25 th Anniversary.
The evening commenced with “Music Transcends” a Carnatic symphony orchestra consisting of both Western and Carnatic musicians. This symphony was originally conceived and coordinated for the first time by Dr. Bala Nathan in May 2004 and was revived with a new team of musicians to commemorate Jayamangala’s Silver Jubilee anniversary.
“Music Transcends” opened with a Western violin introduction followed by a Carnatic flute introduction by Flute Raman. After beginning the program on an auspicious note with a prayer to Ganesha and a Krithi on Vishnu, the orchestra moved right into the highlight of the evening, “Five Seasons.” In this piece, the orchestra represented each of the five seasons (summer, monsoon, fall, winter, and spring) with a different ragam. The essence of the seasons was captured so well by each ragam that one could actually feel the weather changing in the auditorium. Starting with a warm, breezy summer night in Hindolam, they transitioned into the monsoon with Amritavarshini, a ragam that is said to bring upon rain. In lieu of actual rain, the orchestra enhanced this section with a rain stick, an Aztec instrument that replicates the sound of rain falling. Next, the soothing Darbari Kaanada evoked a crisp fall day with leaves slowly floating off the trees while Kalyanavasantham reflected the intensity of a chilly winter. “Five Seasons” ended on spring with Brindavani, a happy and cheerful ragam celebrating the end of a cold winter and the greening of the Earth. “Spring” was highlighted with a rhythmic percussion ensemble featuring Sri Srinath Bala, Vinay Mallikaarjun, Raghav Muralidharan, and Madhav Paliyam.
The happy mood created through “Spring” continued with a thillana in the celebratory Kadanakuthuhalam ragam. The Thillana started with a Western operatic “aalap” by Shraddha Srinath to introduce the Carnatic music that followed. “Music Transcends” ended with the famous “Maitreem Bhajata” a benediction on peace and harmony. The music truly transcended beyond the stage as members of the audience could be heard singing along to this uplifting song.
The second half of the evening featured “Pancha Kanya,” an ode to five resilient women celebrated in the Hindu tradition. Shobha Subramanian, Dance Director of Jayamangala brought together the local Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi teachers and their daughters to explore what made these women so extraordinary. After introducing all the dancers in Pushpanjali, the show transitioned straight into the stories of the Pancha Kanyas.
Choreography: Smt. Daya Ravi (Nataraj School of Indian Dance) Dancer: Sneha Radhakrishnan
Sneha Radhakrishnan, daughter of Bharatanatyam teacher Daya Ravi, introduced the first pancha kanya - Ahalya. Sneha expressively depicted the famous episode of Indra disguising himself as Gautama, seducing Ahalya, and getting caught red handed by the real Sage Gautama. Instead of expressing his anger towards Indra, he curses Ahalya into the form of a stone, only to be revived hundreds of years later by Lord Rama. Sneha beautifully enacted the transformation of Ahalya from a stone into her human form, shaking from side to side as if releasing the stiffness from centuries of immobility. Her final statement, “one act can never define a soul,” served as an important reminder to all.
Choreography: Smt. Lakshmi Swaminathan (Natananjali School of Dance) Dancer: Medha Swaminathan
The second story presented was that of Kunti, popularly known as the mother of the Pandavas. Choreography by Lakshmi Swaminathan swiftly moved between highlights of Kunti’s long and eventful life. At the start of Kunti’s story, Medha Swaminathan performed bursts of joyous nritta depicting the curiosity and excitement of a young girl who has just received a boon from Durvasa. After telling endless stories of survival, struggle, and strife, Medha contrasted the lively opening with a heavy walk off stage reflecting the weight of Kunti’s hard journey as it finally came to an end. Medha summarized the life of Kunti saying “My journey, characterized by loss, epitomizes female resilience and survivorship,” demonstrating how many women experience tough times in their life and yet find the strength within them to stay strong for those around them.
Choreography: Smt. Shobha Subramanian (Jayamangala) Dancer: Aishwariya Subramanian
Perhaps one of the most well known stories of all is the story of Draupadi, wife of the Pandavas. Aishwariya Subramanian, daughter of Bharatanatyam teacher and Jayamangala dance director Shobha Subramanian, lead the audience on a journey through Draupadi’s life, starting with her birth from the fire. A brilliantly choreographed enactment of her swayamvara portrayed how Arjuna victoriously sent his arrow straight into a rotating fish’s eye having only its reflection in water to base his aim. In the end, Aishwariya poignantly depicted the plight turned to vengeance with the famous “Draupadi Haran.” She ended on a note that not only encouraged the audience to reconsider Draupadi’s role in the Mahabharata but also to reconsider the role of women in our own past.
Choreography: Smt. Deepti Mukund Navile & Smt. Shruti Mukund (Natyabhoomi) Dancer: Shreya Navile
Shreya Navile, daughter of Deepti Navile and niece of Shruti Mukund, continued the show with the story of Thaara, one of the most intelligent women of Hindu mythology. Shreya took on the demeanor of a virtuous woman who had the wisdom to foresee the impending doom upon her husband. Through her captivating expressions, she told the story of how Thaara persuaded her husband Vali against fighting with his brother Sugriva who had the invincible protection of Lord Rama. Unsuccessful in her attempt, she is devastated by the results but ends with the strong conviction that she will remain steadfast to her belief in what is right despite the “havoc these hasty men have caused” in her life. Such resilience is an inspiration to women everywhere.
Choreography: Smt. Lakshmi Babu (Kuchipudi Dance Academy) Dancers: Sriya and Sneha Babu
“I am not a reflection of him.” These powerful words began the final story of Mandodari, wife of Raavana. Through their dance and the choreography of their mother, Lakshmi Babu, Sriya and Sneha Babu created a completely separate identity for Mandodari. Glittering on stage with their shimmering crowns, the sisters portrayed this unsung heroine first as a daughter, then a sister, and finally the righteous wife of an ill- reputed husband. The popular tale of Mandodari’s life beginning as frog due to Parvati’s curse was danced beautifully by Sriya while the loyalty towards Raavana despite his actions was portrayed by Sneha. The story telling was also decorated with vibrant kuchipudi jathis, thereby giving the audience a taste of Kuchipudi after the Bharatanatyam performances that preceded. The sisters left the audience to ponder Mandorari’s strength to continue her familial duties under such circumstances.
The six dancers finally come together to celebrate these women through a Thillana in Simhendramadhyamam ragam. Due to the introspective nature of the ragam, the music also encouraged the audience to reflect on the insights shared throughout the five stories. It was indeed a splendid evening of melodic music and inspirational story telling.
Credits & Keywords-Jayamangala, Pancha Kanya, Kuchipudi, Bharatanatyam, Madhavi Reddi, Medha, Sneha Babu, Shreya Neville, Sriya Babu, Aishwarya, Sneha Radhakrishnan, July 2016
Do Not Copy, Copyrights Acknowledged, PriyaLasya, Hamara