Adi Ashtakam


Adi Ashtakam

By Padmini Ganesh

On the morning of 6 August 2023, a confluence of Bharatanatyam and verses from the eight-stanza compositions of the venerated Adi Sankaracharya was presented at ADA Rangamandira in Bengaluru as a part of the silver jubilee celebrations of Vaishnavi Natyashala. This series of events was visualised, conceived, and presented by Usha R.K., a well-known art consultant and impresario.

Talented dancers – Arundhati Patwardhan, Anand Satchidanandan, Keerthana Ravi, Prachi Save Saathi, Mithun Shyam, and Vaidehi Rele Lal – showcased various episodes of deities, as explained by Adi Sankaracharya in his verses of 32 lines each, known as ashtakams.

Vaidehi’s gentle expression of Sarada Ashtakam, Anand’s pious representation of Dakshinamoorti Ashtakam, Arundhati’s immersive presentation of Panduranga Ashtakam, Prachi’s captivating Ganga Ashtakam, Mithun Shyam’s energetic and strong representation of Kalabhairavar Ashtakam, and Keerthana’s serene depiction of Guru Ashtakam showcased the visual aspect of the verses in all its splendour.

In Usha’s words, something as beautiful and elaborate as these Sanskrit verses needed time and understanding to bring out their beauty within the framework of classical arts.

The apt music for each ashtakam was composed by singer Vidya Harikrishna, who mentioned that she used different texts to understand the meaning of the ashtakams before composing the music. She said it was a challenge to give them their unique identity, sometimes using syllables like Jal-Jal for Ganga Ashtakam, Tatah-kim for Guru Ashtakam, Vithala for Panduranga Ashtakam and even ragas with five swaras to bring out the musicality and retain the purity of the verses, while making the ashtakams visually appealing following the dancers’ choreography. Vidya had an exceptional ensemble of musicians - Kalishwaran Pillai on the nattuvangam, Dakshinamurthy on the mridangam, Mangala Vaidyanathan on the violin, Saraswati on the veena, and Pandiselvi on the saxophone.

Organised with able guidance and extensive explanations by Usha, the performance was a success that left the rasikas steeped in bhakti rasa.


 (A dance teacher and connoisseur of music)