Pavitra Bhat hopes to project the grandeur of Vishnu’s most intriguing form through Bharatnaytam
Last November when Bharatnatyam dancer Pavitra Bhat performed a piece on the reclining form of Lord Vishnu at a dance festival in Mumbai, there was something about the concept that stayed with him. "There’s much mystery around the reclining form of Lord Vishnu. He doesn't look directly at the devotees, but from a slightly diagonal angle. Nobody precisely knows how this came into existence," he says. Curious and eager to learn more, Bhat visited the Sri Ranganathaswamy temple dedicated to Ranganatha, a reclining form of Vishnu, located in Srirangam, Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu. "As I started studying more about the deity, I realised the form could lend itself to Bharatnatyam beautifully," he says. Bhat is set to present his dream production, Shri Ranga —The Reclining Lord at a concert next week in Dadar.
Through the 70-minute solo dance performance, the 30-year-old wants to showcase the grandeur of Shri Ranganthan through dance. Having grown up in a home where classical music was a staple at dinner table discussions, Bhat, chose MS Subbulakashmi’s legendary song, Sri Rangapura Vihara as the background score for the performance. "It’s a track that I have listened to from the time I was a child because my mother is a classical singer. By incorporating such a legendary song, I wanted to make the performance more audience friendly and relatable," he says. Bhat, who spent four months reading up on Hindu mythology for the project, has also added various aspects of Lord Vishnu to the dance. For instance, there's a song on Garuda, an eagle-like creature that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Garuda is the mount (vahana) of the Lord Vishnu.
He also tried to weave in stories from the Ramayana that speak of the emergence of Lord Ranganath temple. According to legend, lord Rama gave the idol of Shri Ranganath to King Vibhishana as a token of appreciation for supporting him against Vibhishana's own brother, Ravana. "But, he was told to never place the idol on the ground because then it would get cemented at the spot. So, when Vibhishana was carrying the idol to his kingdom of Lanka, midway, he placed the image on the banks of Cauvery. After performing his pooja, he tried to lift the Vimana, but it could not be lifted. Mahavishnu appeared to him and said that he desired to stay as Ranganatha in the place, which went on to become Srirangam."
The intention, he says, is also to present Bharatnatyam in its purest form. "When production comes into the picture, you try to dilute the dance form to make it audience friendly. I have tried to retain the traditional form, simply using expressions to tell the story."
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