Apr 13, 2012 - Uncategorized    Comments Off

Desire and Lust

When I just look around I see so much angst and pain in lives of people. There is rage on roads, people fight at homes, hatred is wide spread and voilence seems to be the answer for everything around us! From these flames  of madness that turn everything to ashes rises the big question, what caused all this? Why do people carry so much anger?

On another lever I see people who are neck deep in the ocean of grief. People claim to be in grief and project this grief in the most horrendous way as possible. I see people who abuse others, who molest others and diusturb others to gratify their frustrations. There are others who are lost in fantasies and are usually struck with a huge blow! The cause of all these behaviors are beautifully explained by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya in his great treatise “vivEkachUDAmaNi”

Cause for grief

tirObhUte svAtmAnymalataratEjOvati pumAn

anAtmAnam mOhAdahamiti sharIram kalayati

tatah kAmakrOdhaprabhritibhir amum bhandaka guNaihi

param vikShEpAkya rajasa uruShaktir vyathayati

when the atma which is of supre effulgence is concealed, due to the lack of discrimination between real and virtual, a man considers his BODY to be the ATMA. With this assumption he is trapped by the qualities of desire, anger etc, all of which find their roots in rajOguNa which creates illusions and leads to limitless griefs.

Acharya uses the word VikShEpa – which means wrong projection. Due to tis wrong projection of BODY as the ATMA the person is lost in bondage. He is prey to kaama, krodha and lobha! These people tend to work towards satisfying the needs of their body and are angry when their desires are not met, and become miserly on getting it. Similar sentiment is reflected in the BhagavadgIta

“trividam narakasyEdam dvAram nAshanamAtmanah|

kAma krOdhasthathA lObha tasmAdEtat trayam tyajEt||” – the gate to hell has three doors- desire, anger and miserliness. Hence one should abondon the three.

Nature of grief:

mahAmOha grAhagrasana galitAtmAvagamanah

dhiyO nAnAvasthah svayamabhinayan tadguNatayA

apAre saMsAre vishayavishapUre jalanidhau

nimajjyonmajjayAyam bhramati kumatih kutsitagatihi

The man of peverted intellect is lost in this illusion so deep that it grabs him lika a crocodile and prevents him from realising the real nature of the Atma. He delves in the madness of his BUDDHI and falls into this ocean of samsAra. Rising and falling henceforth unable to attain Brahma-Realisation and drifts endlessly

When one thinks from his body and is neck deep in grief, he becomes a kumati – pervert and hi falls down to hell. He rises and falls in the madness of his sense organs and swims endlessly in the samsara sagara without finding the shore ever!

After discussing the cause, Acharya compares samsara to a tree beautifully

bIjam samsmrutibhUmijasya tu tamO dEhAtmadhirankurah 

rAgam pallavam ambu karma tu vapuh skandhOsavah shAkhikAh

agrANindriyasamhatischa vishayah pushpaaNi dukham phalam

nAnAkarmasamudhbhavam bahuvidham bhOktAtra jIvah khagaha

samsAra itself is a tree . . . its seed which is the primal cause for everything is ajnana . . . tu shows that ajnAna is the only cause and nothing else . . the idea that the body is itself the atma is the shoot (amkura) . . rAga(attachment) is the tender sprout arising from ajnAna . . rAga makes opne believe that doing what the body desires will also satisfy the atma . . next is ambu (water) which is the primal element of every tree which is KARMA . . the human body is the Trunk of the tree . . the prANas are the branches that comeout of the trunk . . . the contact of sense with objects are the tendrils . . the sense-objects are the flowers . .suffering is the fruit of this tree . . and the jIva which is trapped in this whole excersise is the bird that eats the fruit ot suffering from the tree . .

After this beautiful metaphor of the tree for samsAra, Acharya talks about the only solution to free oneself from this madness . ..

nAstraIr na ShAstraIr anilEna vahninA

chettum na shakyO na cha karmakOTibhihi 

vivEka vijnAnamahAsinA vinA

dhAtuh prasAdEna Shitena manjunA 

the illusion caused by ajnana, the illusion that I AM MY BODY – and the perverted desires to satisfy the body cannot be destroyed by any missile or weapon, nor by wind or fire, nor even by doing crores of karmas is this illusion destroyed, except by the great – sharp and attractive sword of sujnAna obtained only by the grace of paramEshwara.

People who are lost in lust and bondages can be cured only by the paramEshwara Acharya says. An attempt to transform them will be futile because people thinking from their bodies will never digest the truth! Only when they take the first step to free themselves from the bondings will god guide them to the path . . otherwise they are forever drifting in this apaara saagara of mysery and grief . . .

Apr 12, 2012 - Dance    Comments Off

Excerpts from Ratnakara – elements of a dance performance

Here are a few interesting excerpts from the pages of the epic treatise on Classical arts, ‘’Sangeeta Ratnaakara” authored by Sharanga Deva. The book is attributed to the 13th century. The work extensively studies Human Anatomy, music and dance. Sharanga Deva categorises and defines certain elements pertaining to the performances of classical dance. Here are a few excerpts that I found very interesting. 

1. The President of the Dance ceremony – Sabhapati – his qualities and eligibility

Shringaari bhoorido maanyo gaatrapaatra vivechakaha

Shreeman gunalavasyaapi ghraahakaha kautuke rataha

Vaagmi nirmatsaro narmanirmaana nipunaha sudhihi

Gambheerabhaava kushalaha sakalaasu kalaasu cha

Samasta shaastra vijnaana sampanna keertilolupaha

Priyavaak parichittajno medhaavi dhaaranaanvitaha

Tooryatraya visheshajna paaritoshakadaanavit

Sarvopakaranopeto deshimaarga vibhavavit

Heenaadhika vivekajna praajno madhyastadheeradhihi

Swaadheena parivaarashca bhaavako rasanirbharaha

Satyavaadi kuleenascha prasanna vadanottaraha

Sthiraprema kritajnascha karunavarunalayaha 

Dharmishta paapabheeruscha vodvadbhandu sabhaapatihi 

Of an amorous disposition, generous, honourable, one who can discriminate the qualities of a the good and bad body type of the dancers, wealthy, one who responds to merit, interested in entertainment, eloquent, free from jealousy,  with a good sense of humour, intelligent, dignified, skilful in all the shastras, orator, one who understand the mindset of the others, judicious, blessed with good memory, good orator, exceptional knowledge of the triple symphony – vocal, instrumental and dance, one who knows to give good gifts, who knows the in and out of desi and marga paramparas, one who can distinguish the deficiencies or excesses, bold and impartial mediator, truthful, having a gracious face, full of affection, unbiased, kind and a friend of good scholars – A man who possesses all these qualities qualifies to be a sabhapati.

2. Acharya 

A man of personality, who knows the science of dancing, who is clever in laya, who can provide a good beginning and end to every performance, who is knowledgeable in instrumental and vocal music techniques, who knows the grahas (sama, ateeta and anaaghata perfectly), who has a wealth of traditional knowledge, who knows the truth about the beauty of sounds, who is conversant and has a in-depth knowledge of the saahitya and granthas, proficient in dhruta, madhyama and vilambita kaala pramaanams, who can easily execute difficult taalas like chachatputi, who can compose musical orchestras, who is an expert in mukhavaadya (kunnakol), who is inventive by nature, who can communicate with pupils and teach them with love, who can establish sampradaaya, one who is devoid of loose talks; in whose heart the dancer enters, or who himself enters the heart of the dancer, who can attract people, has a sense of humour, commands respect, who is unbiased and spiritual by nature is a true Teacher!

3. Audience 

People of moderate views, attentive, passionate, who can express their happiness or dissatisfaction well, who know the sukshmas of nyaaya, who have studied the shastras and know the right and wrong of dancing, who hold their heads down in modesty, without pride and ego, knowing well the rasas and bhavas, people who send out positive vibes, who protest against sampradaya bhrashtas and who strongly criticize performers without merit, clever, free from jealousy, have their hearts overflowing with rasas – these are the qualities of an ideal rasika!

It is such a beautiful thought process and Sharanga Deva has hit the bull’s eye in characterising these three classes of a performance. Its ironical that today we are not blessed enough to have such noble sabhapatis! It is sometimes humiliating to see uneducated and uncultured bruits climb the Diaz and deliver meaningless rants in the name of presidential address at concerts . . . Today anybody and everybody is a Guru! The most abused word in India according to me. Immature and self appraising artists call themselves gurus not realising that their demeanour reflects upon the art. It’s a responsibility that should be guarded with too much sanctity and dedication. . Forget rasikas, even many critics today don’t  qualify to sit in a performance. It is also sad that a few people use art criticism as a means to promote their personal bias or to abuse their position to earn personal favours. Such critics should be identified, widely discredited and should be thrown out of the field. 

All this said and done there is still immense hope! There are a few very deserving sabhapatis who increase the glory of performance by multifold. There are great gurus who selflessly work to promote art and there are a few critics who work towards the betterment of art in its true sense. 

At the end of the day only merit survives and shines! Everything else fails or fades away . . . . 

Apr 11, 2012 - Uncategorized    6 Comments

May their tribe flourish . . . .

Yesterday evening I was at ISKCON and the Brahmotsava celebrations were on. The cultural activities featured a dance performance by the talented young dancer Parshwanath Upadhye. The audience gathered in large numbers whilst the stage was set for the evening. Parshwa chose a new production for this special performance titled “Punya Krishna”. This creative masterpiece is set to ragamalika and tala malika and is a selected compilation of the verses from Krishnashtaka penned by Jagadguru Adi Shankaracharya. Parshwas understanding of this work and his interpretation of the subtexts hidden under the heavy Sanskrit texts was visible in his presentation. It is amazing that at such a young age he is able to delve into such depth. 

The stage was lit beautifully with the iconic Peacock feather and flute as the motif for the back drop. The best part of the production was that there was a sense of maturity and balance in the entire production. Parshwa captivated the audience with his very opening stance depicting Krishna. His perfect postures, form and sense of aesthetics are a feast to every connoisseur.  The production is set in a backdrop of some amazing music that’s dominated by the soulful singing of Shrikant. Karthik Datars nattuvangam and Jati renderings are like always a pleasure to hear and top notch. Parshwas hold on laya is commendable. The intricate jatis were ornamented by his intricate foot work and perfect synchronisation. His perfect aramandi, the beautiful naatadavus and anga shuddhi were almost picture perfect.  He covered the stage with his vigorous and yet wonderfully poised and graceful movements. The choice of adavus interspersed with selected karnas were indeed catchy and beautiful. 

Parshwa gave beautiful interpretations to the texts of Krishnashtaka. The beautiful padashas for phrases such as “swabhakta chitta ranjanam”, “sunada venu hastakam” etc caught my attention. His sanchari for “sadaiva paadapankajam” was brilliant. Though I would love to write in detail what it depicted I wouldn’t want my blog to be a spoiler for those watching this production for a first time. All I can say is that the Tunga river and moon episode was heart touching and mesmerising. Even the sequence of the gopika stree vastra harana was depicted beautifully.  The Kalinga nartana sequence I must confess is a thriller. The ease with Parshwa blends movements of kalari without letting it ever overtake the mood of the performance is a delight to watch. His elevations are classy and neat. The entry of Kalinga is beautifully choreographed using the samotsarita mattali chari and other sequences saw some brilliant usage of Harinapluta chari too. Parshwa’s attention to detail is noteworthy. 

It is a pleasure to watch youngsters like Parshwa take dance so passionately. His work speaks for himself and his true merit shimmers in all his performances. Art is enriched by such dynamic young artists and may their tribe increase. Kudos to Parshwa for a wonderful performance. 

Apr 9, 2012 - diary    Comments Off

Where are you?

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your deep eyes staring at me

every time I  entered home

the bearded face looking into my soul

with a quite dialogue

your slow walk through the hall

with glasses full of coffee

an occasional turn to acknowledge my presense

and silence again as you retired into your world

your occasional smile and touch

that very unique baritone with which you expressed anger

that very childish face you made while fighting

that deep red eyes when you were insulted

how u seemed lost sitting in your chair

how alone you seemed in your last few days

how helpless you must have felt

how much you must have thought

all the years of unwanted ego

all that years of unreasonable anger

kept me away from you

and yet I was so close

I never talked to you much

and yet you appeared in most of my conversations

I never expressed my gratitude to you

yet I live the life you have given me

I don’t remember holding your hand

don’t remember hugging you

don’t remember chatting with you

don’t remember opening up to you

I remember the wires

the oxygen mask

the helpless look

and the serene smile

I remember that day in the ICU

you called upon the nurse

and told her “he is my son”

I remember watching you helplessly

I remember how your heart stopped

I remember how you slept besides me in the ambulance

I remember setting up your pyre

I remember carrying you

the flames burnt away the past

and the only Man from whom i could rightfully demand love was gone

I am left here alone struggling to put pieces back together

struggling to cope with this silence

I hear you no more from the next room

I dont wake up to see you walk through the hall

you dont answer the door anymore

where have you gone pappa?

its hard to say this . . and may sound fake . . but I miss you

Apr 8, 2012 - Dance    1 Comment

Artistic Ecstasy

Its true that I feel blissful to be an artist. So many moments and so many experiences that I embark upon as an artist has left me magically transformed. What art can give nothing else can! Those inexplicable moments leave a heart print for ever. As a musician I live through such magical moments. 

Recently I had an awesome trip to Hassan. It was a for a dance program directed by My guru Ambale Rajeshwari. Spending time with her and performing with her is always a beautiful experience. Her insatiable thirst for knowledge, her deep passion for dance and her persona as a strong individual always inspires me. I grow nostalgic every time I see her.  Her family moved to Coorg a few years back and instigated a renaissance of sorts there. the innumerable sacrifices and hardships they ventured upon to propagate art soon made Bharateeya Nritya Kala Shale as the hub of art there. My sister Seetha Hebbar grew into a dancing star at a very tender age under the guidance of Guru Rajeshwari. My sisters dance learning and training made a very deep impact on me since my child hood. I grew up with dance and music all around me and today its dance and music that define my life.

This trip to Hassan was very special because i got to spend a lot of quality time. The most memorable moment for me was one particular rehearsal in the early morning. Guru Rajeshwari’s senior student Unnat Jain is a remarkable performer. His vibrant Nritta, perfect lines, enviable form and deep passion for dancing is remarkable in its true sense. I have recently worked with Unnat a couple of times and have enjoyed his dancing. To be frank even though I loved his dance i always felt there was some minute incompleteness in his performances. His abhinaya seemed over controlled and extra subtle. I understand that bharatanatyam is a stylized form and abhinaya is just suggestive in this form, but If this over consciousness about subtlety hinders the very essence of abhinaya wiz to communicate then i truly believe that dance fails! Many dancers leave you with a sense of blankness because of this unreasonable control.

Well, Unnat was to perform a abhinaya piece on Hanumanta and I was slightly apprehensive about how he would carry an entire item without even a proper tattimettu nRitta form. In the rehearsal I began humming the raga and Unnat entered the dancing area posing to be a devotee of Hanumanta. After the initial formalities of opening the temple door and offering flowers the song began and Unnat expressed from the depth of his heart, his yearning to seek the art of devotion from Hanuma himself. His face crumbled in Karuna and his eyes really pleaded with the lord. This was no controlled abhinaya! this was the purest form of devotion and i connected to it in a snap. He proceeded with different sanchaaris depicting life of Hanumanta and I was lost in them every time. I was surprised to realize that I had shed a small tear without my knowledge when Hanuma discards the Navaratna Haara that Rama presents him as useless since none of the gems can match the greatest gem of all – Rama Ratna.  Unnaths involvement was breath taking and left me startled. The same involvement manifested even in the show the next day and he excelled in this composition.

Hanumanta is always a character that has inspired me. In my Harikate on Sundara KanDa i have very intimately experienced his life stories and character. His single minded devotion and never dying devotion on Rama has been an inspiration to me.  I feel I am Hanuman and Art is my Raama. After the rehearsal that day, the whole day I was happy and serene. Thanks to Guru Rajeshwari for this opportunity and Thanks to Unnat for his complete and true involvement. I see him grow day by day and feel proud that some one from my Guru parampara is growing so promisingly. I hope Hanuman blesses him with the single minded focus towards dance. I hope he is blessed with patience to take blows that life throws at artists and that he walks the hard path towards accomplishment. I hope he remains true to himself and that his dance will always protect and guide him towards the right path. I hope he imbibes the quality of Hanumas devotion and Dance is glorified through his every breath.

Apr 7, 2012 - Poetry    Comments Off

Question and Answers

I stand by my terrace and stare into the moon

A  thousand questions flickering before my eyes

I try to look for answers

And nothing but the sky stares back at me

with its never ending dark  visage

a few years back i stood in the same place

with a thousand dreams in my heart

little did i know that they would fade

into an unknown abyss

into an unknown horizon

The colors have now faded away

the light is gone

the darkness is everywhere

a single moon shines

with a strange smile on his lips

a smile that evokes serenity

a smile that heals the pain

a smile that knows the real answer

that some questions are never meant to have any answers . . .

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