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Nandalala – Beloved Divine

Pallavi Nagesha

Nandalala – Beloved Divine

“tasmātsarvagataṃ brahma nityaṃ yajñe pratiṣtitaṃ” (BG: C3, V15)

The absolute truth, the creative consciousness is inherently, and inseparably present in acts of sacrifice. The Bhagavad Gīta teaches us about service with love, a refrain heard in the words of AIM for Seva’s anthem “kuru sevāṃ tvaṃ”. In its sixth annual fundraiser to help rural and tribal children in India complete high school education in the face of heavy odds, the Boston chapter of the All India Movement (AIM) for Seva brought to us the essence of this teaching through a beautifully presented ballet (nṛtyanāṭakaṃ), Nandalala, portraying the life of Śri Kriṣṇa. Through Anita Guha’s inimitable choreography, deftly executed by a group of extremely talented dancers the audience caught a glimpse of the divine. On September 9th, the Casey Theater, Regis College, Weston reverberated with the stories of the Lord’s birth, his victories over evil, his romances with the maidens, culminating with his sacred teachings, The Bhagavad Gīta.

These episodes came alive not just with the buoyant choreography, but also with the way Anita Guha managed to fit disparate pieces of the puzzle together. The movements glided seamlessly through 6 different dance forms, her signature “mixed style”. The theme was woven together with poetry from all over India, blending 7 languages and a myriad of poets into an offering.

As the ballad began, we saw the many facets of love unfold for this charming lord. Maternal affection showered through songs such as āo nadalāla, gopiya bhāgyavidu, and lāli. Romantic love portrayed through Jayadeva’s immortal verses from Gita Govinda, the rās, the abhang, and myriad other folk traditions. The antics and the daring of Krishna in the Kāḷinga nartana and Mayya mori mein nahi mākhan. My favorite was the Sūrdās bhajan mayya kabhi baḍhegi choṭi. An innocent question with a heavy philosophical undertone that blurs the line between the self and the supreme (jiīvātma and paramātma). Jyothsna Akilan as the young Kriṣṇa most definitely stole all the hearts in the audience.

Anita Guha’s creativity was evident in the rās scenes where Kriṣṇa “magically multiplied” to be with every maiden at once. I was also impressed with the intricately constructed dialog between Kriṣṇ, Arjuna, and Duryodhana. Not only did it have nuances of Kathakali, it evoked images of old Telugu movies with NTR playing Kriṣṇa.

The fight scenes were expertly choreographed by T K Thiruchelwam. Kriṣṇa played by Pavitra Bhat and Balarāma physically (and often audibly) exerted their energy as they wrestled with the nimble Muṣṭika and Cānūra played by Yogeshkumar.

The final decent of the Viśvarūpa astride Garuḍa and the tableau of the Daśavatāra was inspired, bringing to the forefront the idea of His omnipresence. Choosing the path of love as an offering in service is so relevant, especially in this day and age. It is not enough if you simply have the intention to serve, but to be able to set your ego aside to do what is best for someone else. To love completely is to lose oneself for the benefit of the other, this is a lesson that all of us should learn to embrace. AIM for Seva embodies this selfless sacrifice and, very aptly brought to us a story of loving kindness, as a tool for Seva. I congratulate them on yet another successful event and look forward to many more entertaining and educative opportunities to serve.

Pallavi Nagesha is a Bharatanatyam dancer, performing artist, writer, and an Āyuryoga practitioner. She is the founder and artistic director at Bhūmikā, where she teaches Bharatnatyam, Yoga, Sanskrit, and the Āyurvedic lifeltyle.

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