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Devi Mahima - A Review

Jeyanthi Ghetraju

Devi Mahima, a thematic group performance highlighting the divine female energy was presented by the students of Smt. Ranjani Saigal (Burlington, MA) and Smt. Kausalya Srinivasan (Chennai, India) on Nov. 2 at the Sri Lakshmi temple, Ashland, MA. This was the second program in the newly created monthly series sponsored by the New England Hindu Temple's Youth Cultural Wing, which has attracted a lot of attention and praise.

Ranjani Saigal introduced the items with her lively comments and in depth knowledge of the subject. The idea was aptly suggested by Smt. Durga Krishnan, one of the organizers, to go in for a woman-based theme, considering the timing of the program - flanking Navarathri and Deepavali. Quite appropriately, the gurus brought together their expertise and gave a vivid and visual representation of the theme by starting with Saraswathi and ending with Lakshmi.

The program commenced with a pushpanjali in ragam Gambhira Nattai set to Chathusra Ekam talam, by Sruthi Shah, Rutvi Shah, Prerana Patil, Sanjana Puri, Nikita Salker and Nikita Minocha. Tribute to Saraswathi, the goddess of knowledge, was then soulfully offered by Amrita Saigal and Amudha Pazhanisamy in Mamavatu Sri Saraswathi, (ragam Hindolam). Varalakshmi, goddess of Wealth, was welcomed and worshipped beautifully by Kavita Vijayasekar in Lakshmi rave maa intiki, (ragam Begada). Then came the turn for Shakthi, from the defense side in Yarukkum adangatha neeli, offered by Susruthi Rajanala, Prerana Patil, Gayatri Menon, and Richa Singh. Ranjani's choreography was perceived very well by these young children and brought out the underlying emotion of courage very effectively.

Maitreyi Shankar then presented "Devi neeye thunai" highlighting the greatness of goddess Meenakshi. Ranjani had picked the varnam, ' Nee indha mayam" in ragam Lathangi, which was composed by Andavan Pichai, a female poet. Amudha did full justice to the piece, be it the fast nritta or the underlying abhinaya, with sincere approach and devotion. Vatsalya bhava was brought in at this point in Masil ayodhiyil by Kavita Vijayasekar. Kausalya's wonderful choreography, interspersing the whole Ramayana, came alive in this piece and the audience was totally moved by the expression of the underlying emotions. Use of tunes from popular songs such as Sita Kalyana and Malai Matrinal in the Sanchari made it very interesting and kept the audience connected to the program.

Sringara bhava was next in line and was brought about quite beautifully by Amudha in Sringara Lahari, the vintage piece composed by Lingaraj Urs in ragam Neelambari. 
Moving into the contemporary side, Pudumai Penn was portrayed by Amrita, as a crisp short piece. Poet Subramanya Bharathi's lilting lyrics and Roja Kannan's brilliant choreography were clearly captured and presented by Amrita in this lively item. 
The grand finale was a brisk thillana in Amritavarshini in honor of Kanchi Kamakshi presented by Amrita and Amudha The duo were at their best in executing the creative patterns and were totally synchronized. 
The program ended with the traditional Lakshmi arathi, where the kids took the arthi plate and walked in while the whole audience joined them.

It was quite a tribute to womanhood and poets like Jayadeva, Mira, Andal, Thirmangai Azhwar and Subramanya Bharathi who have portrayed a woman as symbols of love, joy, devotion and hope, sure, were all blessing from the heavens.

Ranjani and Kausalya have collaborated on projects over many summers and this highlighted the win-win for all, a great chance for them to introduce innovative choreography drawn from many years of their experience, for the students to draw the benefits of learning from two senior gurus from different schools of dance and the audience to appreciate the confluence of the same.

The efforts of several different groups are commendable in bringing such programs to the community;

- First and foremost, the YCC of the Sri Lakshmi temple, headed by Sri. Rajagoplan Raghavan, in sponsoring such events and encouraging the young and senior students by providing a platform to perform,

- Secondly, the gurus in taking time from their busy schedules in coming up with ideas and training the students,

- Thirdly, the students, esp. senior students in high school and college, who practice and perform with pure passion, in spite of demanding academic assignments, and

- Finally, the audience for attending the programs regularly and encouraging the performers.

( Jeyanthi R. Ghatraju is a Bharatanatyam dancer, teacher and a music lover, based in Westford, MA. )

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