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Samskrita Bharati USA Celebrates 20th Anniversary

K. Arvind
04/21/2016

Samskrita Bharati USA Celebrates 20th Anniversary

K. ARVIND

 

असाद्यं किमपि नास्ति यदि सङ्कल्पबलं वर्तते

Nothing is impossible with the strength of resolve
--
Vempati Kutumba Sastry Mahodaya

 

Samskrita Bharati USA organized a grand celebration to mark its 20th anniversary at the Keefe Tech Auditorium, Framingham, MA on April 16, 2016. The colorful event which included a Kuchipudi dance drama by reputed artists, and addresses by eminent speakers, attracted a sizeable crowd of enthusiastic viewers.

 

THE EVENT

Samskrita Bharati USA, a vibrant volunteer-driven non-profit organization whose mission is to revive Sanskrit, held a grand celebration of its 20th anniversary on April 16, 2016, at the Keefe Tech Auditorium, Framingham, MA. The efforts of a team of dedicated volunteers who worked for weeks to make this celebration possible resulted in a festive, well-appreciated, acclaimed and well-attended event.

The colorful event which started with a pledge in support of Sanskrit by youth members:
 
पठामि संस्कृतं नित्यं वदामि संस्कृतं सदा I will study Sanskrit daily and speak Sanskrit always, included invocation dances, the Kuchipudi opera “Sri Krishna Parijatam”, and inspiring speeches highlighting the glory and value of Sanskrit by eminent speakers. “Sri Krishna Parijatam”, choreographed by the eminent Kuchipudi exponent Padma Bhushan Acharya Vempati Chinna Satyam, was performed by reputed dancers in his lineage. The speakers included Prof. Kutumba Sastry, the President of the International Association of Sanskrit Studies, musician and dancer Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, who is an Executive Committee member of the Music Academy, Chennai, and Ranjani Saigal, the multi-talented Executive Director of Ekal Vidyalaya USA. The large and appreciative audience at the show, which included several prominent members of the Indian community and generous patrons, impressed the performers enough for them to remark that they would perform without end for such an audience! The event ended with a sumptuous dinner from Dosa Temple, Ashland.

 

THE DANCES

The show compered by Sucharita Jayanti started with a short group dance by children - “Ganapati Vandanam” - a traditional prayer to Lord Ganapati, the remover of obstacles. This was followed by a spectacular dance by the accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer Soumya Rajaram, set to the “Shiva Panchakshari Stotram” (Nagendra Haraya) composed by Sri Adi Shankaracharya. This gently paced Prarthana (prayer) to Lord Shiva, whose form Nataraja is considered the Lord of dances, was brought to life by the graceful movements and fine abhinayas of this highly-regarded Kalakshetra alumna.

The main piece of the show was the grand opera “Sri Krishna Parijatam”, a tale of possessiveness, love, ego, pride, jealousy, and quarrels, the ultimate folly of all this, and the supremacy of Bhakti (devotion), based on the Sanskrit work Harivamsha Purana, composed by Veda Vyasa. The story centers on a quarrel between Satyabhama and Rukmini, consorts of Lord Sri Krishna, for the blossoms of the magical Parijata tree. The dance drama started with an invocation to Devi Bala Tripura Sundari, the patron Goddess of the village of Kuchipudi, by students of Prafulla Vellury, who also appeared in other scenes later in the drama. Dr. Roger Mennillo, a pediatrician from Rhode Island by profession, who played the Sootradhara or narrator, impressed the audience not only with his clear narration of the scenes, but also with his insightful presentation of the underlying theme of the opera. He pointed out the distinction between jealous love personified by Satyabhama, selfless love personified by Rukmini, how each of us are part-Satyabhama and part-Rukmini, and how the story shows us the way to attain joy and liberation in life. Accomplished Kuchipudi dancer “Natya SudhalahariPrafulla Vellury as Satyabhama thrilled the audience with her wonderful expressions, postures, and movements that captured the anger, jealousy and frustrations of Satyabhama so realistically. Sushma Yechuri brought Sri Krishna to life beautifully and captured the ordeal of Sri Krishna caught between the demanding, self-centered Satyabhama and the pious and devoted Rukmini. Leela Mennillo won the hearts of the audience through her charming portrayal of the lovable Rukmini. Krishna Sampada Velury portrayed the celestial mischief maker Narada impressively through her graceful expressions and movements.

THE SPEECHES

Prof. Vempati Kutumba Sastry, former Vice-Chancellor of the Rashtriya Sanskrit Sansthan, and the Guru of Sri Chamu Krishna Shastry (co-founder of Samskrita Bharati), delivered a 15 minute key- note speech entirely in Sanskrit via recorded video. In his speech he expressed his happiness and pride that Samskrita Bharati USA has completed 20 years. He pointed out that Sanskrit with its ancient literature and its ability to convey ageless life wisdom and values, is not just for India or for Indians, but rather it can provide an effective means for the well-being of the entire world. He expressed admiration for the dedicated volunteers of Samskrita Bharati, who are working in numerous way to revive Sanskrit. Prof. Shastry’s full speech may be viewed at this link.

Invited Guest Sujatha Vijayaraghavan, writer, musician, and choreographer and Founder of Natyarangam – Narada Gana Sabha, delivered a thought provoking speech on why Sanskrit is relevant and important today, starting with a quotation attributed to atomic scientist Oppenheimer that access to the Vedas is the greatest thing that happened in the 20th century. She compared Sanskrit which provides access to the Vedas to the lamp in a dark room filled with treasures, and Samskrita Bharati to the switch which can turn that lamp on. She emphasized that knowledge of dance won’t be complete without knowledge of Sanskrit and used a verse from Natya Shastra – “yatho hastha: thatho drushti:” to support this. She also praised the brevity and beauty afforded by Sanskrit, illustrating this claim with the phrase “shrutvaa gunaan bhuvana sundara” that Rukmini used in her love letter to Krishna - “one of the most beautiful love letters ever written”. She called Sanskrit modern and perennial, and a language that one needs to know to connect to the essence of Indian ethos.

Ranjani Saigal, Executive Director of Ekal Vidyalaya, herself formally trained in Kuchipudi, in her interesting address started off by turning the tables around and declaring that it is really Sanskrit that has to thank dancers for keeping Sanskrit alive. She also illustrated the beauty of Sanskrit by reciting a verse from the amazing “Sri Raghava Yadaveeyam”, which can be meaningfully read both forward and backward. When read forward, the poem tells the story of Ramayana, while it tells the story of “Sri Krishna Parijatam” when read backwards. She also talked about the history of Kuchipudi, and its creator Sidhdhendra Yogi, who always viewed himself as Satyabhama, and had profuse praise for the wonderful performance by the show’s artists.

Giri Bharathan, Vice President of Samskrita Bharati USA, spoke in Sanskrit about the evolution and activities of Samskrita Bharati. He pointed to the silent revolution being caused by Samskrita Bharati, with 4 million people trained in Sanskrit in 2000 places in India alone over the past 35 years. He identified Samskrita Bharati’s vision as making Sanskrit the preferred medium for personal enrichment and harmony in society, and its mission as promotion of Sanskrit as an everyday language and to provide access to its rich knowledge by making it our vehicle of thought.

Venkatesh Tyagasamudram, proposed a vote of thanks, and emotionally exclaimed that there was a stamp of approval from the Almighty experienced in the event. He thanked the Almighty for the smooth conduct of the event and cited the unexpected coincidences of the keynote speaker Prof. Kutumba Sastry hailing from a village near Kuchipudi (where Sri Vempati Chinna Satyam hailed from), and the invited guest Sujatha Vijayaraghavan being from an academy (“Narada Gana Sabha”) named after Sage Narada, a key character in the dance!

                                                                                        

जयतु संस्कृतम्

सुरससुबोधा विश्वमनोज्ञा
surasa subodha vishwa manogyaa
ललिता हृद्या रमणीया |

lalitaa hrudyaa ramaneeyaa

अमृतवाणी संस्कृतभाषा

amruta vaani samskruta bhaashaa

नैव क्लिष्टा न च कठिना ||

naiva klishtaa na cha katinaa

(A verse from a song portraying the beauty of Sanskrit and how easy it is to learn - full lyrics)



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1.More pictures covering entire dance drama from Tilak Mahodaya April 28, 2016k_arvind 
2.YouTube link to Sri Kutumba Sastry Mahodaya's talk April 22, 2016k_arvind 
3.More pictures from the event April 22, 2016k_arvind 

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