O! Neelakanta!


by Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

Spiritualism and Sringara have been the soul and substance of BharataNatyam over the centuries. The present day consciousness on the other hand encompasses myriads of
thoughts, images and changing values of a fast changing world. Science and Space age,
the mores of a materialistic society, ideologies of the races, economic and political upheavals, outbreak of violence and terrorism, impact of interpersonal relationships at home
and outside, environmental crisis that strikes at the root of existence- the global village has brought these and much else into the individual and collective consciousness of homo sapiens. Stuff for high drama indeed!

How is this ushered into the realm of dance? It is done through adaptation of the words and works of thinkers, philosophers and poets. Of these the poet bears a close relation to dance, as he is the one who ultimately distills the essence of the life around him and sublimates it into aesthetic experience and expression.

The following experimental pieces deal with both contemporary themes and forms of poetry.  All of them are set to Carnatic ragams. The first theme is that of Environmental
Pollution and is depicted through two songs. The first song is in the kriti format and in the Nindhasthuthi (mock praise) mode. Neelakanta, the blue-throated Siva, who once upon a
time drank the deadly poison Halahala, is addressed here. The kriti is set to the ragam Begada and the language has the flavour of the Tamil padams of the nineteenth
century. The translation is as follows.

Ragam: Begada       Lyrics & Music }   Sujatha Vijayaraghavan   Talam: Adi         


O! Neelakanta! Come hither Sir!
There’s work aplenty for Thee right now        (O Neelakanta)


Thou drank the Halahala I’m told –
To what avail is a mere sip of a wee bit scooped up in Thy palm?  (O Neelakanta)


In the earth, in the waters of the ocean, in the air,
We have spread poison far and wide
and thoroughly.
Show Thy prowess here, O Siva!
Show Thy prowess here, that by
drinking unto the dregs
Thou may, like Vishnu, turn blue from
top to toe    (O Neelakanta)

- Translated from the original in Tamil by the author

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