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Abhimata: A Wish Upon A Star!

Pallavi Nagesha
11/16/2017

In the galaxy of wishing stars AIM for Seva shines bright, bringing joy and fulfillment to countless through its programs. On November 11, 2017, generous donors and selfless volunteers teamed up to engender hope, while giving New England a glimpse of a true shooting star. Rapidly climbing to take her place among the stalwarts of Bharatanatyam, Rukmini Vijaykumar enthralled us all with a presentation of Abhimata, The Beloved. Through a portrayal of love and devotion, Rukmini spread the message of Seva as envisioned by Swami Dayananda Saraswati; to serve the world with compassion and selflessness. Those who are engaged in true Seva understand that the only way one can achieve deep, heart-felt service, is through love and devotion. To cultivate true altruism is to relate to the universe from a place of profound self-awareness. Those of us aiming for Seva must discover such a place within ourselves. Scriptures show us many paths, both spiritual and mundane, following which we can reach this place of awareness. Rukmini Vijaykumar has chosen dance as her path, and rightly so. The Nayaśhastra says that stepping out of your mundane self to become an empty vessel (pātra) enables us to become open to many astounding experiences. Through these encounters, we can let go of all that his holding us back and do, just for the pleasure of doing. This brings us closer to fulfill our true dharma. As each of us travels down our own paths, the common emotion binds us all: yearning. A deep and urgent demand to merge with that source of joy, personified as a beloved, be it a lover, a child, a parent, or God.

Throughout her performance, Rukmini stuck to this refrain, the yearning of the human to be with the beloved.

She opened her repertoire paying homage to Dēvi, the female energy that churns diverse emotions, creating the perfect storm to generate bliss. In the pulsating rhythm of Rajkumar Bharati’s composition, Rukmini portrayed the destructive force of Kāli, the nurturing essence of Annapurnēshwari, and the opposing nature that embodies Ardhanārīśwara. Rukmini moved from one character to the next in skillful, dextrous and sculpturesque moves. She followed this with a wonderfully lyrical Varnam composed by the maestro Lalgudi Jayaraman. Set in a highly meditative rāga Charukeshi, this Varnam is taking Krishna to task for forgetting the nayika’s heart’s desire. The message is subtle, yet profound and the emotion is intense. As a mugdha, Rukmini moved gracefully thorough the many moods in this poem. Her skilled nritta and nuanced abhinaya did perfect justice to the eternal quest of humankind, searching for meaning between the right and wrong, between dharma and adharma. A search that we hope will lead us to that place of selfless devotion.

Rukmini’s skill of playing a mugdha (young ingenue) shone through her portrayal of Pārvati in the modern composition, Apasara Niranurāga Śambho. Composed by Dr. Shankar, this poem takes us through a very human emotion, jealousy. Even the power of the universe, Śakti herself, is not exempt from this green monster. Inspired by the squabbles of her own parents, Rukmini shows us another facet of love and devotion that requires selfless offering.

Rukmini displayed her unique innovative streak in the popular Tulasidas bhajan, Śri Rāmachandra Kpālu. Instead of simply showing the journey of the great lord, she depicts Rama, the beloved. With each episode, she dwells on the emotions that lord Rama must have felt. Pride at breaking the bow of Shiva, the passion of a beloved when taking Sita’s hand, the sorrow of losing his beloved, and the frustration of the long separation. By humanizing Rama, she is creating a medium where common persons can relate to God, thus opening a path to the source of joy.

She concluded her performance with a scintillating Thillana in rāga Kadankutuhalam. Composed by Dr. Balamurali Krishna, this bubbly song concludes in a couplet, demanding lord Krishna to hurry to him, the devotee. This brilliant composition renders itself for some truly clever choreography. Rukmini proved her might as a skilled performer as she glided through the Thillana just as skillfully as she had with the rest of the Mārgam. Not only was I impressed by her brilliant performance, I was also touched by her commendable dedication to Seva. With the brilliant career as a Bharatnatyam dancer ahead of her, she is in a perfect position to influence many Rasikas and herd them towards selfless service. Institutions like AIM for Seva give much needed hope to the less fortunate, and keep the ideal of Seva alive. In the words of Sheetal Pundir,  a Seva scholarship recipient who is now a post-doctoral scholar at McGill University, how can these children lose hope when so many ‘sevaks’ have invested their faith in them? I commend the work the AIM for Seva does and the dedication of artists like Rukmini Vijaykumar to this noble cause.

In one fell swoop, Rukmini’s brilliant performance at the Regis College in Boston won the hearts of many connoisseurs and raised much-needed funds for a very worthy cause. I am honored to be a part of this wave and hope to see AIM for Seva thrive. As for Rukmini, an honorary Bostonian, her dedication, skill, and passion are sure to bring her to great heights. I look forward to many more brilliant performances and see her star shine brightly in the galaxy of Bharatnatyam dancers.



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