Exploring Ashtapadi through Mohiniyattam

Renu Ramanath | Oct 01, 2014 | Vol. 6, Issue 4
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The 'Geethagovindam Saptham,' an entirely new production, choreographed by Nirmala Paniker following extensive research work last over years, was staged recently at the Madhava Natya Bhoomi of Ammannur Gurukulam at Irinjalakuda(Kerala, India).

In an innovative step of experimentation, Nirmala Paniker, the well-known scholar and guru of Mohiniyattam, has come up with a novel production that explores the ancient links that existed between some of our precious cultural heritages.

The 'Geethagovindam Saptham,' an entirely new production, choreographed by Nirmala Paniker following extensive research work last over years, was staged recently at the Madhava Natya Bhoomi of Ammannur Gurukulam at Irinjalakuda(Kerala, India) . With Parvathy Sreevallabhan and Sandra Pisharody, two quite promising, the young dancers now emerging from Natanakaisiki, the Mohiniyattam guruklulam run by Nirmala Paniker, in the lead, the production explored the first Ashtapadi of Gita Govindam, the famed 16th century poem composed by the poet Jayadeva. 

The discovery of a 200 year old manuscript titled, 'Geethagovindam Nrithyalakshanasahitham,' from the Sarbhoji Mahal Library of Thanjavur was the starting point behind this search, according to Nirmala Paniker.  The work contained an acting manual which had described the style of enacting Geethagovindam. Even before that, legend had it that as Jayadeva sung the verses of Geethagovindam, his wife Padmavathi used to dance, enacting the beautiful poem. The manual obtained from Thanjavur also contained the references to mudra-s (hand gestures) from many ancient treatises including Natyasramam, Natyamanorama, Abhinayadarpanam and Hastalakshanadeepika.

The New Production

The new production encompassed all the techniques of Mohiniyattam currently in use. It began with a brief Devi sthuthi (sloka offering prayers to the Goddess), starting 'Lokanathe…' rendered by the three dancers, Sandra, Parvathy and Anima V.P. Then, Parvathi and Sandra continued with the rendering of the first Ashtapadi, with the opening sloka, 'Meghairmeduramambaram,' in which Nandagopa, watching the sky getting dark with rain clouds, asks Radha to take home the young boy, Krishna. As Radha starts walking along the banks of Yamuna through the forest with Krishna, the child transforms into a young lad, to her astonishment. The young couple starts exploring the beautiful forest together.

The beauty of the forest and the banks of Yamuna was described beautifully, with a peacock dance enacted exquisitely by all the three dancers together. Then started the main portion, 'Pralayapayodhijale…' which contains the Dasavathara, performed by Parvathy and Sandra, exploring the nuances of abhinaya beautifully. The imageries chosen to depict each one of the Dasavathara-s were exquisite and unique.

After the Dasavathara, the sloka beginning 'Vedanudharathe..' was performed, briefly depicting the ten avathara-s of Lord Vishnu. Then followed a brief rendering of the 'Rasakreeda,' with a group of young students joining in to perform 'Lalithalavangalatha…'  The performance wound up with the dancers paying obeisance to Sangemeswara, the deity of Koodalmanickyam Temple of Irinjalakuda. The other dancers included, Hridya Haridas, Gayathri T. Menon, Chaithanya N., Sreelakshmi T., Unnimaya S. and Rudrapriya E.V.

The music, composed by Kalamandalam Jayaprakash and rendered by Neelamperoor Sureshkumar was a combination of the Sopanam style, the Carnatic music, some alapana-s close to Hindustani music and pure instrumental music. The accompanists were Kalanilayam Prakashan (maddalam), Kalanilayam Ramakrishnan (edakka), Murali Krishna (veena) and nattuvangam by Guru Nirmala Paniker.




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Mrs Nirmala Paniker Mam, i would like to say Thanks for your Presentation of this Cultural events..Now a days Most of them don't 've the time to concentrate in Art & Culture, Very few of them are following, you are one among them such a kind of cultural respecting its a good thing.... Such was the Excellent Expression of this Mohiniyattam from this Photographs ... I like this very much and i respect & i like this culture... All the best for your future Presentation May God Bless You..... Regards Muthu Tamilnadu

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