Soorya Namaska : A Fusion Of Dance & Yoga

As a part of Parangathothsava-98, Dr. Vasundhara Doraswamy, the noted Mysore-based Bharatanatyam dancer of the Pandanallur school and an expert yoga practitioner who holds a doctoral degree in yoga, presented Soorya Namaskar, an artistic fusion of yoga and dance, dedicated to Soorya, at Jaganmohana Palace Auditorium, Mysore, in the last week of December 1998.

The performance

To the recitation of Pranava, the Omkara, Vasundhara entered the dimly lit stage representing the pre-twilight period through the initial asana-s of Soorya Namaskar, to the intonation of Soorya mantra in the sombre raga Revati:

Om Bhaskaraaya vidmahey

 Mahadyutikaraya dheemahi

Tanno Adityaha prachodayaat.

Raga Revati, a pentatonic scale, has its equivalent in raga Bairaagi Bhairav of the Hindustani mode. The term Bairaagi is derived from Viraagi, one who has renounced all raga-s, that is, all attachments and stands all alone on the path of his spiritual quest. Many devotional poets, mystics and yogis of our country have described this penultimate stage of self-realisation as 'viyoga', that is, total loneliness. It is only when the aspirant transcends this stage, he becomes a true yogi, who it is said, acquires a 360-degree vision and becomes one with the Universal Consciousness. The Bhairav suffix in the raga name is because the raga is classified under Bhairav (Mayamalavagaula). According to the time theory of ragas, the time of this raga is very early morning, roughly between 3.30 to 4.30, when the world is asleep and only the sadhaka is awake.

The light progressively increased in intensity when the first of the sloka-s, propitiating Bhaskara, was sung in raga Bauli. The nearest equivalent of Bauli in Hindustani system is raga Bibhaas, derived from the term Vibhavasu, another name for the sun. Srimad Bhagavatam (Canto VI, chapter 6 stanza 16) narrates allegorically that Usha, the wife of Vibhavasu, gave birth to three sons— Vyushta, Rochisha and Aatapa. From Aatapa (the sun's rays), came Panchayama, the span of the day, who awakens all living entities to activities (yena jagrati karmasu). The dancer, accordingly, started executing jati patterns which indicated the shining one killing the two demons, namely, Darkness and Inertia:

Hamsaya bhuvandhwaanta

 Dhvamsaaya amita tejasey

Hamsavahana roopaya

 Bhaskaraaya namo namaha.

The sun, having commenced his onward journey, is now in the Arabhi mode. The second stanza rendered in raga Arabhi describes him as:

Vedaangaaya Patangaaya

 Vihangaarudha gaaminey

Haridwarna turangaaya

Bhaskaraaya namo namaha.

He himself is visualised as a bird and as riding a bird. The dancer had ample scope to demonstrate this aspect of the Sun. The movements to the swara patterns and the subsequent bhramari-s were reminiscent of Odissi movements.

The following suite bracketed in Amritavarshini refrains, were sung in Hamsadhwani, Shanmukhapriya and Hamsanandi, where the poet sees the variou s aspects of th e Vasundhara Doraswamy Supreme like Gayatri, Savitri, Saraswati, Brahma, Rudra in the form of Nataraja and Vishnu:

 Namastey Brahmaroopaaya

Namastey Vishnu roopiney

Namastey Rudra roopaaya

Bhaskaraaya namo namaha.

 The Hamsadhwani portion integrated into the recital the Brahma Sandhi Kavuthuvam, with its typical mridanga bol-s in khanda nadai pattern. The eka-nada bhramari, which the artist executed, brought to mind the movements of Manipuri drummers. The Hamsanandi portion brought in the Natesa Kavuthuvam to portray Nataraja, where the bol-s were like Kathak bol-s or the present-day Rap. The artist clarified later that all the Odissi, Manipuri and Kathak movements seen here are very much native to Bharatanatyam and though regional differences have come about, the roots are the same.

When the sun reaches his full resplendence in the forenoon, the poet visualises the eternal Supreme entity behind him and sings His glory in Kalyani:

Adi madhyaanta soonyaya

 Veda Vedanta vediney

 Naada bindu swaroopaaya

 Bhaskaraaya namo namaha.

The extensive swarajati-s gave scope for exuberant jati-s aligned to the mood of the sun's march onward. The fifth stanza was a veritable aggregation of the various names of Soorya, rendered in raga Mohanam:

 Mitra Ravi Soorya Bhanu

Khaga, Pooshan Hiranyagarbha

Mareechaaditya, Savitru,

Arka Bhaskarebhyo namo namaha.

It was quite a realisation to see how raga Mohanam is such a spirited one. That is probably why the lakshana granthakara-s cateogrised this raga under Veera rasa. The enthusiasm in the movements, especially the utplavana-s were something to be witnessed.

The artist concluded her recital with obeisance to Sooryanarayana Swami, flanked by his consorts

Chhaaya and Samjnaa: Chhaaya Samjnaa sameta

Sooryanarayana swaminey namaha.

This was in the auspicious raga Madhyamavati. In the Hindustani system, this raga is known as Madhyamad Sarang. The various types of Sarang are sung mostly at noon-times. It was thus very appropriate that the artist concluded her recital indicating the Soorya blazing away in all his glory at the zenith.

During the course of the recital, the dancer, known for her enviably trim figure, depicted an array of asanas. The approach to the asana-s from dance movements and transition from the asana positions to the dancemovements again were so smooth, they could come about only through long rigorous practice in both disciplines, yoga and dance. Many a time, combination of asana-s in succession were like the anghara-s in dance. When the artist executed the Ardha Matsyendrasana followed by Vaataayanasana, that is getting up from a sitting position to depict Brahma, this writer had tears in his eyes at the mind-boggling feat. At no time did the recital degenerate into a circus or a yogasana demonstration or acrobatics or a contortionist's exhibition. It was an integral whole. What it evoked in the audience was the adbhuta rasa.

Vasundhara, in her red colour dress, had only one prop on the stage: a thermocole cut-out fixed on the rear screen representing the forenoon sun. The music ensemble comprised of Varija Nalige, a senior disciple of Vasundhara and an instructor of nattuvangam at the Academy; Guruprasad (vocal); B. Ravishankar (mridanga); H.S. Thandava Murthy (violin) and Jairam (flute). A pakhawaj or a mardala in addition to the mridanga would have heightened the overall effect of the performance. In response to a query, Vasundhara said it was only by continued practice of breath control, by means of pranayama and yoga, she was able to hold the various positions. She wished the government would pass a law making it mandatory to teach Soorya Namaskar to children above the age of eight years, in all schools.