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Oh! Parama Sukham – Chapter 15

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Shiva as Nataraja

The great Master of dances 



Charm came to borrow betel leaf mix and Appa therefore, changed the topic of discussion. 

” So, we were discussing about the vratham ” he continued, ” Your adhyayanam ( education ) is complete, you have decided to enter into grihasthasramam
 (  family life ) and obtained the blessings of Indra and other gods. Now you can decorate yourself with panchgatcham, yoga vastram, slippers etc , a luxury disallowed during the student days. In North India even brahmacharies wear panchagatchm, though “

” Why cover my eyes ?”

” It  symbolizes your sitting in a quite place where even sunlight has no entry so that you can contemplate on your past and plan for the beginning of a new chapter in your life ” 

” I think it is time for Kasi yatra ” Charm reminded after collecting enough pan leaves.

” Why Kasi yatra ?” I asked Appa. 

“The bride groom is welcomed as Mahavishnu swaroopi (in Vishnu’s form ) and therefore, he has to make himself fit for that high position by self purification.The ideal method for that is by dipping in the Ganges and worshiping Viswanatha Swamy and other gods,  in Varanasi, the holiest place for a Hindu. Another purpose of this yatra was to get the aspirant for married life   exposed to the vagaries of the world around. In the olden days Kasiyatra,  travel by foot, was tedious  extending to several months covering several regions of different habits .The boy who was hitherto confined to his gurukulam 
(school ) , after the tour, returns prepared to accept fresh  responsibilities, better equipped, having learned how the people, work, live and manage their day to day problems.  The bride’s father, then welcomes him and offers his daughter’s hand” 

” Get ready for kasiyathrai ” alerted Vaadyar, ” the make up man has come “

Those days even women were not seeking the assistance of make-up experts and I was wondering why one, for me. ” Hope my son is not going for a cinema shooting ” my father too raised his eye brows.

“PMS wants everything to be done in style ” vaadyar clarified, ” our Seshu vaadyar is doing a part time job in his friend’s studio. Your periappa sought his help “

” Great ” I exclaimed remembering the arrangement he had made on the previous evening for my Janvasam, ” yes, PMS wants everything to be done in style”.

Seshu vaadyar did a good job. I looked like a genuine mendicant. Unlike the present days, the umbrella was not ornamental, the stick was thick enough to support a thatha of seventy and the fan, a real vaadyar visery, crude and heavy. 

My uncle, who had to lift me for exchanging garlands,  was no match for the body builder uncle on the opposite side, who joyfully lifted his niece like a dove, twisted and turned  but still the garlands from her hands fell exactly around my neck. A cousin with a better build came forward to help the weaker side, but that was not acceptable. Who would like to share a coveted post ?  My uncle  turned to his wife, grabbed the message from her lively eyes , made a ‘hoom’ sound,  grew like Hanuman and accomplished his task admirably. 

Later Appa explained to me the significance of the exchange of garlands, ” What you have exchanged is your fragrant hearts , your very souls. You are two in bodies but one in soul now. A garland worn by a person should not be used by another, as per our sastras. Here,  you have garlanded your wife with the one worn by you and she too has done the same, not once but thrice. See how importance this exchange is.”

” Why don’t we use that swing hanging from the tree ?” I asked vaadyar pointing the one in the front yard, ” with fresh air and chirping of the birds around, that will be more enjoyable “

” No” said vaadyar. “Why not asked?’ Appa. ” What is important is they should move in harmony. The to and fro motions represent the undulating waves of life and when the connecting link with the top is strong, nothing to worry. Only make sure that you don’t slip” He added, ” I can read from her face that Ratnam also prefers  the open air swing which she is familiar with.
There is another advantage. The women can throw the rice balls after ‘suthipodu’ in any direction they want, without the fear of hitting on someone’s face or head. 
One more advantage .Youngsters can not only sing, but dance too”

That was received with claps  by women and young ones. Who cares about the rest?

 “But, I am with the vaadyar ” Appa surprisingly withdrew his consent, ” the reason is that there is a chance of their slipping, as my son, in his  buoyant mood,  will rock forth and back in full speed. That will be construed as a bad omen by some.”

” can we at least shift the conventional swing from the hall to the open ?”
 I asked

“Why not ?” Appa agreed and it was done in ten minutes .The women drew kolam in different desingns, circles, triangles, dots, and stars .

I love swinging. Who doesn’t ? in the olden days, swing was there in most of the houses, in the main hall, simple or ornamental depending on the status of the house owner. Oonjal for the gods is an integral part of the daily rituals in the temples.  In Gujarat, every house has a swing even today. The women folk there, mostly are home makers and they have more time to swing. When their husbands return home from their work, they swing together. Very thoughtfully, the thing which goes up and down has been introduced in the marriage function. The married life is not often, a horizontal motion. Ups and downs are bound to be there; but you will enjoy even that, if you swing together. If The link with the top, your belief in God is strong, you need not worry of a fall.

Swamy Vivekanantha says, ” the Indian mythology has a theory of cycles, that all progression is in the form of waves. Every wave is attended by a fall, and that by a rise the next movement, that  by a fall in the next, and again another rise. The motion is in cycles” 

” The swing automatically and effortlessly slides down. When it is about to stop, one of you should give it a push at least by a toe-touch, when needed ” My father said,  emphasizing on the words, ‘one of you’ .

After the usual ‘Seetha kalyana vaiboghamae’ and other songs, Sharada teacher asked Appa’s permission for ‘kaikottikkali’ ” Go ahead ” Appa gave clearance. She collected a group of girls and there was merriment all around when women of all ages, moved around in graceful rhythmic steps, with mild claps on each otter’s hands accompanied by sweet songs in slow voice. 

A form of self expression through body movements that are rhythmic, patterned (or sometimes improvised), and usually accompanied by music, dance, one of the oldest art forms,  is found in every culture and is as old as almost our origin. As Prof Mithen  said: “all people are musical in the sense that they appreciate it in some way. We all respond to it.—-Music and language developed together. The Neanderthals would have had set songs and phrases, which could not be broken down like modern language. They would have used singing, clapping and dancing to communicate their state of mind. They didn’t have words. In a sense they were more musical than we are—Their get-togethers in caves helped group bonding—-The Neanderthals would have enjoyed it. They weren’t particularly creative people but they would have passed on little songs down the generations.—–They would have danced and slapped their bodies and banged sticks”
As in Greece, dance was highly religious in India where  the temples promoted that art form. Bharatnatyam, one of  the oldest documented classical dance forms in the world, dating back to 500 BC, blends pure lyric movement and pantomime drama and is highly developed and purely religious. Isadora Duncan. says “the dance of the future will have to become again a high religious art as it was with the Greeks. For art which is not religious is not art, is mere merchandise” Her views, however are not shared by many.

The dance has been a way of giving expression to internal tranquility and harmony, and  the unique charm of human body, from top to toe is revealed, when the body moves in a rhythm, when the heart overflows with happiness. Sometimes, even sorrow or anger, find expression through dance. Time or space matters little and that is why God Nataraja,  that divine master of dances was equally comfortable in a graveyard or on a mountain top always covered by ice. True to his life style, Krishna was choosy about the location and company, for dance. I have not come across any other human form as beautiful as that of dancing Nataraja, though I had occasions to view several statues of east and west and many of them did attract me. Symbolism enhances  Nataraja’s charm, by stimulating your thoughts while pleasing your eyes.

Krishna’s dance with mortals and Natarja’s in the grave yard, signify  the  Divine’s universal embrace of living and lived, present and past. Only from such union can one expect the evolution of a star of unique brilliance and bliss, the ‘Makarajyothi’, the star of hope, the star of future.  
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