Un-Superficial Un-Instagrammable - Now, that's real Navratri!

Un-Superficial Un-Instagrammable - Now, that's real Navratri!

Udaipur’s Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts tried something really novel and radical this Navratri. Something that can be a good answer to fight Depression too!

Un-Superficial Un-Instagrammable - Now, that's real Navratri!
by: Pratima Harigunani
All the years we had probably not even known that ‘Shailputri’ stands for the feeling of calmness and serenity or that ‘Brahmacharini’ can inspire us to lead a life of real tapa-or discipline.

Ever tried connecting the essence of Nav Devis to Nav Rasas and Nav Taals? Udaipur’s Kala Ashram Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts tried something really novel and radical this Navratri. Something that can be a good answer to fight Depression too!

What a year it has been! What a strange feeling to see festivals pass us by so uneventfully – these are the same festivals that made us flock to malls, markets and massive grounds every year!

But there must be some wisdom to this bolt from the blue that has left us disoriented, disillusioned and disheartened. May be the universe, and the Gods we worship, really wanted us to look inwards this year and understand the true meaning of every festival. After all, let’s face it – most festivals had been reduced to excuses for more and more marketing-noise, discount-carnivals and unnecessary shopping sprees.

You might have felt a tinge of this truth this year when you celebrated Navratri. Most times, we did not even know the right names of all the nine Devis that this festival was based on. Often, we were too busy buying/renting the best matching jewellery to the Dandiya costume to notice that Shailputri’ stands for the feeling of calmness and serenity or that ‘Brahmacharini’ can inspire us to lead a life of real tapa-or discipline.

But the unfortunate reality is as hard-hitting as the realisation that we worship these Goddesses in a sleep-walking state. “Why should you be surprised? Is that not how are we are going through our lives as well?” asks Dr. Saroj Sharma, Director of Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts. It is an uncomfortable question but Dr. Sharma, who is a revered and veteran Guru of Classical Dance and Inner-engineering therapy here, is nailing the hammer on the right head. With numerous distinctions in various research areas and fellowships in domains like psychology, alternative medicine, Astanga Yoga, Ayurveda and Kathak, Dr. Sharma is on to something bigger and deeper here.

“All the nine rasas that our ancient dance scriptures talk about – they are pointing to the elusive answer that we are seeking as we struggle through mental health and depression. We have stopped taking time to feel every rasa when it emerges. We just skim through life. Hopping from one day to another, never taking time to feel ‘karuna rasa’ when it arrives, never allowing a moment to experience the fascinating notes of ‘hasya rasa’ or ‘adhbut rasa’ when it pops. We have stopped feeling amazed, feeling soft, feeling curious, feeling happy. We have simply stopped feeling what we are feeling.” - Dr. Saroj Sharma, Director - Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts, Udaipur

And that’s not a good way to live a life – not if you want to live a healthy, honest and happy life, she cautions.

As she explains why the cognizance and immersion of all the rasas is critical for not just artists but for people in everyday life as well, she unfolds the idea that led to a very unique Navratri composition this year.

Last week, the students at this Ashram, embodied all the nine Devis along with all the nine Rasas. They researched, understood, discussed and introspected about individual stories, origins and power-sources of all these Devis. They also understood the meaning and significance of all the rasas at a deep level.

Then the Kathak Mastero (who packs stellar titles from Nritya Alankar, Nritya Praveen, Nritya Visharad, Nritya Prabhakar, and the ‘Nitya Sadhna Award 2017’) wove all these stories and emotional-states into a clever and intricate string of nine Taals of Kathak – like Rupak Taal, Keharwa Taal, Jhaptaal, Chautaal, Dhamaar, Panacham Sawari, etc. to culminate into a final crescendo of the fundamental Taal –the Tritaal.

It was an out-of-body experience to watch this phenomenal, soulful, beautiful and well-engineered composition that blended three totally different elements in a seamless way – Nine Devis, Nine Rasas, Nine Taals.

When Dr. Dinesh Khatri – Chairman and Trustee, Kala Ashram Foundation, Udaipur welcomed Guru Sri Vasudeva (Trinidad and Tobago), an international spiritual teacher and author of landmark books (like -You are the Light, Seek God Within, Self as Leader and Reflections on the Inner Light); Guru ji underlined the concept of this endeavour with a poignant observation. “Every human being, specially every woman, is born with an amalgam of powers – if you cannot feel the soft powers you cannot wield the strong ones – every dimension is important to have a complete, empowering and fulfilling life.”

So, this Navratri after a very interesting Chaupaal of Kathak, there was a lightning-fast Dev Stuti performance, but also some true dialogues, deep conversations here. The girls and women truly felt the empowerment that comes by looking inside. At Kala Ashram College of Performing Arts, they truly celebrated the essence of every Devi. And every Rasa.

And thus begins a more powerful and healthy life! As Dr. Sharma enlightens – “Ignoring sadness or anger or confusion is never the answer. Feel every emotion, but when you do that, you will also have the wisdom and the power to come back to your default emotional state – The Shaant Rasa and the happy state.”

What a way to be mentally-healthy and powerful! What a festival! What a year, indeed!

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