Tag Archives: Dance

Personalities: Vasantaraya

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Source: Vasantarajeeya book, via Spandana

Those of you following us on our All-India site, Indic Civilizational Portal, would have seen our article on Vasant Utsav. Well, it just so happens that Andhra had a king who became so identified with the festival, he took his name after it.

The next installment in our Continuing Series on Andhra Personalities is none other than King Kumaragiri Reddi, better known as:  Vasantaraya.

Background

Kumaragiri Reddi (1386-1403 CE) was the son of Anavota I. He succeeded his uncle Anavema after the latter’s highly successful reign as the greatest king of the dynasty. “The Anaparti grant, his earliest extant record, dated in S.1312/1390 A.D., says that he had, by that year, friendly relations with the kings of the north, east, south and west. ” [1, 122] His reign is generally considered to have run from 1386 to 1403,

The family tree of the Reddi dynasty also plays an important part in the fate of the Kingdom. As previously discussed, there were 3 main families that decided its fate: the descendants of Prolaya Vema Reddi, Maacha I, and Kataya Reddi.  Thus we see that “Kumaaragiri’s succession to the throne was not a smooth and peaceful one and that he had to fight for it.” [1,122]

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The “rival claimants to the throne might have been his cousins, Vema and Maaca, sons of Peda Komati, and grandsons of Maaca I, brother of Prolaya Vema.”[1,123]

Despite being known more as a man of culture and less as a warrior-general, it is said that…

Kumaaragiri fought successful wars with the kings of the west, north and east, that is, probably with Vijayanagar, Raajakonda and Kalinga respectively. [1, 126]

Either way, the meteoric expansion of the Reddi dynasty that occurred under Kataya Vema’s generalship, also led to its later contraction and final division and downfall. The campaigns of this era, therefore, are better attributed to Kataya than Kumaragiri, and should be described under his account, focusing on Vasantaraya today.

Vasantaraya

A man of pleasure, learning, and celebration, Kumaragiri revived the ancient Vasantha Utsavam (spring festival).

There was a great carnival and the King would go to a park specially decorated for Vasant. There would be a pandal for Kama and Rati, Vishnu and Lakshmi, Siva and Sakti, and Sachi and Indra. Perfumes such as camphor, musk, civet, saffron, sandal were used, rosewater was freely sprinkled on people along with water mixed with turmeric. A bamboo water soaker was used (like pichkaris in holi). “The sport included sprinkling and scattering of various powders, coloured and un-coloured, perfumed and non-perfumed, and sandal paste. Camphor pieces and powder were showered on the crowds” [1, 358] People mixed freely and the Reddi kings, especially Karpoora-Vasantharaya, gave it royal grandeur.

He generally left administration to his brother-in-law, Kataya Vema Reddi, to pursue artistic and literary interests.

He was a great lover of music and dance and studied all the old works on dance written by Bharataacaaryas and dance-experts and produced a comprehensive work on that art called Vasantaraajeeya after his own name.  [1,145]

The sanskrit treatise on dance was called Vasantarajeeya as he was called Vasantaraya. A man of art and aesthetics was naturally a great lover of loveliness. He was said to have been enamoured by the narthaki Lakumadevi, who was a stunning beauty. The love story between the two is a touching tragedy, as recounted here, but is nevertheless symbolic of the sacrifice and burdens of ruling a kingdom.

Due to varied attacks from the Bahmanis, Recherlas, and Vijayanagara Emperors, Kumaragiri had many threats to face.  Kumaragiri eventually elevated Kataya Vema to generalissimo.

They were simultaneously attacked by the Gajapatis who were defeated outside of Viharanagari or Kridaad. Vijayanagara also attacked and occupied a portion of the south. Kumaragiri also had to face a rebellion by the Kandukuru branch, and prince Komati Reddi, son of Maacha I occupied territories as far as Tenali in Guntur district. [1, 148]

An invasion by the Bahmanis, under Firuz Shah, threatened the Reddi kingdom in 1398 C.E. “Gajaraavu Tippaa Naayaka, a distinguished noble of the kingdom, appears to have defeated the muslims on the plain outside the town of Kambamumetta and driven them back.” [1,147]

A matrimonial alliance was concluded with Vijayanagara, and Kataya Vema was given Harihara Raya’s daughter (Hariharamba) in marriage. This would have ramifications on the Reddi Kingdom in a few years. Kataya Vema would go on to make conquests in the East and expand the dynasty’s direct rule to Rajamahendri.

As mentioned previously, the campaigns to Bengal are better discussed in future articles. Nevertheless, Kumaragiri’s military commanders such as Kataya Vema and Allaya Reddi are said to have taken Vasantaraya’s banner to central and eastern India. Another name that bears mention is Ariyeti Annamantri (from the family of Musunuri fame). He was appointed governor of the fort of Bendapudi.

Kumaragiri’s only son and viceroy at Rajamahendravaram, Anavota II, died prematurely, some time around the year 1395. He therefore appointed his brother-in-law and prime minister Kaataya Vema the Raajamendri Rajya ruler, out of gratitude for recovering southern territories from Vijayanagara. “This step caused considerable discontent in the country and we cannot call Kumaaragiri’s action exactly wise. Kaataya Vema, always had many bitter opponents in the court. Peda Komati Vema and his supporters had always looked askance at his achievements; and their jealousy and resentment at this signal recognition by their king, of this daring rival of theirs must have been impossible to bear.” [1,146]

This led to an internecine dispute within the dynasty, and Pedda Komati Vema took back the throne for the main line of Reddis and drove away Kumaragiri, who took refuge in Kataya Vema’s court at Rajamahendri. This also led to division of the Reddi kingdom, and courts at Rajamahendravaram and Kondaveedu warred with each other. Kumaragiri Vijayam, rather ironically, marks his reign.

Vasantaraya’s rule ended under his viceroy’s protective care. King Kumaragiri passed away in 1402 C.E., with no heirs.

Achievements

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While the Reddi Kings traditionally had reputations as warrior-generals and as defenders of Dharma, King Kumaragiri demonstrated the softer power of culture that they also wielded. If Kataya Vema represented the Vaana (bow) of his reign, Kumaragiri represented the Veena (lute).

Perhaps nothing showed this more than the Vasanta Utsava from which Vasantaraya takes his name. Although this title was also attributed to his predecessor, it is Kumaragiri who truly owned it. The enthusiasm with which he celebrated that festival, rightly earned him the title of Vasantaraaya, which was later embellished to Karpoora-Vasantaraaya by the generous quantities of camphor he scattered among people during this festival. [1, 145]

  • Celebrated and Revived the ancient Spring Festival known as Vasant Utsav
  • Well-read Sanskrit scholar and authority on dance and music
  • Composed a respected Sanskrit text on Dance called Vasantarajeeya (now lost).
  • Brought the Reddi Dynasty to new cultural heights, with not only learned Brahmanas but the Aristocracy and the King himself actively leading literary and musical accomplishment
  • Gave patronage to a large circle of cultural exemplars, such as poet Annaya, son of Pinnaya, son of Manuma Durgasuddhi.
  • Presided over the most widespread, successful campaigning of the Reddi Kingdom, with commanders such as Kataya Vema and Allaya Reddi. Under him, Coastal Andhra arms reached as far as Odisha, Bengal and Jharkhand.
  • Led a building programme which beautified Kondaveedu and constructed many structures such as the grha-raja samjhanam, dedicated to Goddess Lakshmi.

Legacy

Image result for kumaragiri reddy

Kumaragiri’s rule is recorded in the work Kumaragiri Vijayam. From his brave biruda-rahatta (knights-cavaliers) to his love for Lakumadevi to his Vasantarajeeya to his revival of the Vasant Utsava, Vasantaraya’s reign truly represented the noon-tide of the Reddi Rajyam: Romantic Age of Andhra.

King Kumaragiri was freed from burden of ruling & became a lover of music & arts. He was an artist (kalaavan) in every sense. “Vasantaraaya (another name of Kumaaragiri) constructed many pleasure houses (leelagrhaan) with gold and precious stones, a lofty palatial mansion, termed grharaaja-prasada with pinnacles (prasaadam-unnata-sikha griharaaja-samjnam), pleasure-ponds (kreedaasaraamsi) and pleasure-chariots (keli-radhaan), and sported with his beloved women (priyaabhih).” [1,449]

Despite the cultural accomplishment of Vasantaraya, his reign shows the dangers of a king completely outsourcing administrative responsibility to his Prime Minister and other officials. Kataya Vema was a skilled general and brave warrior, but his own ambition for power led to the break up of the Reddi kingdom. The Antar-yuddham or Civil War in which it was plunged in the later part of King Kumaragiri’s reign demonstrated this danger.

The Reddi kingdom split up in 1402 CE, with Pedda Komati Vema taking the throne of Kondaveedu from Kumaragiri, who fled to Rajamahendri. While Kumaragiri nominally ruled, it was Kataya Vema who was the real power behind the throne. It was thus natural that after Kumaragiri’s passing, that Kataya Vema would formalise his bid for power. Despite his loyalty to Kumaragiri, once the way was clear, he would make his own claim to the throne, and the warring of the Reddi kingdoms made the downfall of both inevitable.

In the succeeding decades, Vijayanagara would swallow up Kondaveedu and the Gangas of Odisha would take over Rajamahendravaram. Kumaragiri may not be directly to blame for this outcome, but his reign shows the danger of a king retiring completely from administration and becoming too dependent on ministers, and especially, prime ministers.

Nevertheless, Kumaragiri will remain Vasantaraya in the hearts of Andhras, not only for reviving this great festival, with which he is identified, but for truly making the Reddi Rajyam the Romantic Age of Andhra.

References:

  1. M.Somasekhara Sarma. History of the Reddi Kingdoms.Delhi:Facsimile Publ. 2015.
  2. Rao, P.R. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the earliest times to 1991. Delhi: Sterling. 1994
  3. http://gloriousindianpast.blogspot.com/2016/01/lakuma-devi.html
  4. Prasad, Durga. History of the Andhras. P.G. Publishers. 1988

A Showcase on Artists of Jayathe Kuchipudi

The following Post was  composed by BhavaniChowdhary@MullingTales on her site.


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While ‘Jayaho Kuchipudi’, an initiative of AP govt to develop Kuchipudi as Smart village, is undertaken by Silicon Andhra, ‘Jayathe Kuchipudi Europe Tour was conceived by UKTA in collaboration with ICCR1 and Europe partners to showcase the diverse classical and folk music of AP &Telangana.

Originated centuries ago in Kuchipudi village, the classical dance form of Kuchipudi has undergone many transformations since the 20th century. The solo and dance dramas have dominated the attention of practitioners and all connoisseurs of kuchipudi, overshadowing the traditional genre –Kuchipudi Yakshagaanams and Bhamakalapams. By including Yakshagaanams in Jayathe Kuchipudi, the tour has gained an historical significance for presenting ALL art forms of Kuchipudi, apart from the fact that it’s a Europe wide tour in 9 countries and 12 locations.

This article showcases the ‘Jayathe Kuchipudi’ artistes at the inaugural function on 12th Jun’16 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, London, graced by eminent personalities2 from India(Dr.Yarlagadda Lakshmiprasad3, Jasti Chelameswar ) and UK (Srinivas Gotru).

Act 1-The Torch Bearers (The local UK Kuchipudi artists)

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Ms. Avanthi Meduri, a distinguished Reader and grand-granddaughter of Tanguturi Prakasam panthulu garu (Andhra Kesari) anchored the event. Her skills as a Dancer/Actress/Playwriter/Curator of Jayate Kuchipudi is reflected in the array of programmes and workshops planned.

The disciples of danseuse Deepa Viswamohan presented Brahmanjali,a kuchipudi repertoire that offers puja to Lord Nataraj, to Guru, to all musicians, poets and connoisseurs of dance invoking  their blessings. Deepa & Co performed self-choreographed Annamacharya keertana “Govinda Govinda ani koluvare” a melodious subtle dramatic recital glorifying Lord Vishnu in different names.

Danseuse Arunima Kumar’s little disciples of age 2-7 displayed their antics of dance learning with an innocent charm that won instant adulation from all.  Arunima’s solo rendition of Ardhanariswara-depicting one half of Lord Shiva and other half of divine female grace Parvati through her riveting facial expressions (abhinaya), sculptural and precise foot work, and presentation of Shiva-Shakti principles, kept audience engaged and enthralled.

As the stage gets transformed for the 45 artistes from India, Ms.Avanthi befittingly sung “Maa Telugu Talliki Mallepoo danda” first sung by her great aunt Tanguturi Suryakumari. Supported by just a hand thaalam, the voice modulations in her impromptus singing evoked a nostalgic pride of Telugu heritage.

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Act 2: A Trilogy by Glorious Stars

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Homage to Paramaguru Siddhendra Yogi—the progenitor of kuchipudi art, the prime nattuvar and choreographer of 14th century CE—was presented by three multi-award and multi-title winning Dancers with their disciples. Foremost was Smt.Muddali Ushagayatri, honoured with AP Govt’s highest award “HAMSA” and ‘Nritya Ratana’ is disciple of Late Shri Vedantam Jagannadha Sarma and Y.S.Sarma. With her group “Nrutya kinnera” she performed a Ganapathi Stuthi called Jhem Jhem thanana depicting Lord Ganapati’s movements in intricate rhythmic footwork. We are transported from Son to Father’s world of dance-Shivathandavam  -an intense, energetic, and scintillating pure dance by ‘Nritya Bharati’ Dr. Jwala Srikala & Co. We are glided beautifully into a Dashavataram recital by Kalaratna ,Sringara Mani, Dr.Vanaja Uday & Co., in elegant and graceful kuchipudi costumes that synergized the quicksilver narration of Lord Hari’s dramatic ten avatars.

Act 3: Debut of Yakshagaanam in Europe

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One of the most dramatic and exuberant manifestations of Kuchipudi repertoire is Yakshagaanam,the oldest of the traditional Telugu formats. It is a dance ballet that involves singing, dancing, narrating dramatically with a well defined plot leading to Dharma and Success, involving many characters—an ensemble that steals the Show.

Usually performed over three days, the one hour narration was a condensed version with all the rasa (sentiment) intact.  Dr.Vedantam Venkata Naga Chalapathi, from the illustrious Vedantam family of Kuchipudi, as Hiranyakasipu (Antagonist) in the Bhaktaprahlad ballet displayed his prowesss with masterful abhinaya, walk, voice, intensity and dramatic gestures. On par is 10yr old Ms.V Hasita as Bhakta Prahlada(Protagonist), who, with her innocence, dialogue modulation and on-stage improvisation won flash applauses all through the show. Keeping in tune with the Yakshagaana tradition, five musicians Kumara Suryanarayana (Vocal), Palaparthi Anjaneyulu (Violin), S Kumar(Flute), P. Haranatha Sastry(Mridungam)  V.Satyaprasad (Sutradhari)  conducted live music that accentuated the dance drama riding us on peaks and troughs of entertainment.

Other technical artists supported altering between multiple roles, which is why being an artiste of Kuchipudi Yakshagaana troupe is a testimony of an artist’s multidisciplinary skills and a privilege to watch. Rest of the Europe shows may have a surprise treat of Bhaamakalapam or Usha parinayam ballet too from this Natyaramam troupe of Kuchipudi village. Hope it doesn’t get curtailed due to time constraints.

Act 4: Entertaining Jaanapadam (Folk Songs)

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With daruvu and dappu (traditional folk instruments) for common man (Jana) using common words (pada) the not-so-common, but famous Folksinger Vaddepalli Srinivas from Telangana with his dancing troupe invoked Mahankali (The rural mother Goddess). He then entertained and made the audience dance to his folk numbers from Jaalari (fishing) and Lambadi(tribal) community to few Tollywood numbers. What a better way to transcend from Classical feast to winding up with peppy Folk songs, JayaHo in one night.jk-10

 “Telugu vaaru andharu idhi naadhi -na anukodagga

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Jasti Chelameswar at Jayate Kuchipudi,London 12 Jun’16

It’s a matter of Pride to watch. Don’t miss, and do catch the next show…

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References:

  1. ICCR-Indian Council of Cultural Relations; UKTA-UK Telugu Association
  2. Padmabhushan Yarlagadda Lakshmiprasad-Indian Writer and Politician; Hon’ble Justice Jasti Chelameswar (Supreme court Judge, Former Chief Justice of Kerala High Court); Srinivas Gotru-India Minister (Culture), Director-Nehru Centre,London;  Dr P Killy ; K.S.S.Prasad;  UKTA organisers from UK, Germany, Northern Ireland and Switzerland.
  3. Audio speech of Padmabhushan Yarlagadda Lakshmiprasad https://soundcloud.com/bhavani-chowdhary/ylp-speech-jayatekuchipudi
  4. Translation: Kuchipudi Dance is the only wealth that every Telugu person can say it is mine.
  5. UK tours- July 5thNehru centre,London; 8th July-Balaji Temple,Birmingham
  6. Europe tour- Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Netherlands, France, Ireland And Northern IrelandFor venue details- check uktas.org.uk

The author of this post, Bhavani Chowdhary, can be reached on Twitter and via email. This article was originally published at the author’s site on June 14, 2016.

Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions of the Author, and should not be considered a reflection of the views of the Andhra Cultural Portal. The Author is responsible for ensuring the factual veracity of the content, herein.

Personalities: Sobha Naidu

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Completing our tour of Dance over the past few weeks is a modern artiste who has been described as “Elegance personified”. A Natyacharyaa in her own right, she is a doyenne of dance and a treasure of the Andhras.

The topic of our next installment in the Continuing Series on Andhra Personalities is none other than the masterful and beautiful danseuse, Srimati Sobha Naidu.

Background

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Sobha Naidu gaaru’s story begins in the sleepy town of Anakapalli, Andhra Pradesh (in Visakhapatnam district). She was born into a culturally conservative yet professionally progressive family. Her engineer father, Venkanna Naidu, wished for her to become a medical doctor. [2] However, young Sobha was destined for dance, and passionately sought it out. Her mother, Sarojini Devi, sensed her talent, and despite familial objections, obtained lessons for her under dance instructor P.L. Reddy, at Rajamahendravaram.

Her talent only blossomed from there, and she eventually studied Kuchipudi under the legendary exponent and maestro, Sri Vempati Chinna Satyam gaaru.

Kuchipudi is a cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh. Being a Telugu girl, it is but natural that I get a feeling that I should propagate this art in my own way. [2]

For twelve years she studied this classical dance under the rigourous standards and guidance of its greatest and most progressive reviver. It was, after all, Vempati gaaru who fully implemented Vedantam Lakshminarayana gaaru’s policy of opening up this dance to women, after 500 years of being under the purview of men.

Along with completing her Kuchipudi studies in Chennai, Sobha Naidu also earned a degree from Queen Mary’s College. Despite marrying and having the obligations of traditional family life, her husband was understanding of her talent and dedication [6], and she has since travelled the world, training over 2,000 students. In fact, the greatest concentration of her most devoted students can be found in the United States and Russia.

As a Natyakarini, she is perhaps best known for her performance as Satyabhama, but she has come to define the element of Strong women in general. Other than Sri Krishna Parijatham and her second most famous ballet called Bhamakalapam, again as Satyabhama, she performed as aspects of the Devi in the Navarasa Natabhamini, in the 2011 Nrityotsav. [4]

Achievements

Celebrated for her agility, her fluidity of movement, and her exceptional grace, [2] Sobha Naidu is considered the Atiloka Acharyaa of Abhinaya.

Having learned from the illustrious Sri Vempati Chinna Satyam, the famous Natyacharya of Kuchipudi, Sobha gaaru has become a Natyacharyaa (extended aa for female teacher)  herself. She climbed to such heights as a Narthaki, that the great Bharatanatyam guru, Vazhuvoor Ramaiah Pillai, offered to teach her the style free of cost. She respectfully refused, noting that despite her admiration of Bharatanatyam, her whole life would need to be dedicated to properly master Kuchipudi. Although she has performed for decades, she remains active to this day, her most recent performance being in 2015.

  • Credited with 80 solo numbers and 15 ballets as choreographer [3]
  • Has performed all over India and around the world
  • Honoured with the Kala Saraswathi-Andhra Ratna Award by the AP Kalavedika
  • Recipient of the title of “Nritya Choodamani” by  Krishna Gana Sabha of Chennai
  • Award from the Central Sangeeta Nataka Kala Academy in 1991
  • Received “Nrityavihar” given by Sri Sringara Samsad of Bombay
  • Granted the Hamsa Award and N.T.Rama Rao Award by the State Government of Andhra Pradesh
  • Honoured by Telugu University with “Telugu Puraskara” Award
  • Established the now 30 year old Kuchipudi Art Academy of Hyderabad
  • She has trained more than 1500 students from India and abroad
  • Awarded the Padma Sri in 2001 by the Government of India

She has been acknowledged as an outstanding dancer with a great gift for nritta, natya and abhinaya; a brilliant choreographer and a highly successful teacher. [3]

Legacy

“Dance is the Hidden Language of the Soul”

The Legacy of Smt. Sobha Naidu is one that defines the era since Yamini Krishnamurti, whom she admires. While the latter was an exponent of both Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi, Sobhi Naidu focused on the Andhra dance alone, purely for its Abhinaya. She has become as associated with it as Jaya Senapati was with Nrtta. Much like the elegant and stylish Satyabhama (warrior queen and wife of Sri Krishna), Sobha gaaru has come to define elegance in the world of dance.

Satyabhama&KrishnaIn fact, she famously was captivated by this strong and fashionable character from the Mahabharata, and longed to play her. She achieved this dream in Vempati gaaru’s Sri Krishna Parijatham, and became synonymous with Satyabhama and Kuchipudi, developing into the doyenne of dance we know today.

 Sobha Naidu as Satyabhama in Sri Krishna Parijatam

According to her, states like Tamil Nadu and Kerala lead the way in giving patronage to dancers and other artistes. While Andhra Pradesh does give some support, she believes it must do much more in order to revive the traditional and High Arts. The obligation is double for the people and business elites, who of late, seem more enraptured by bollywood and hollywood culture, than their own.

Indeed, she has bemoaned the fact that although there are audiences for classical dance, performers and patrons alike continue to gravitate towards pop culture films. She hopes that those with wealth will take on the obligation of preserving our common culture so that it can be passed on to youth. She herself has noted that whatever the current obsession with serials and other drivel, it is inevitable that people will tire of it and return to our illustrious Samskruthi. But it must be there when they are back!

Wise words from Srimati Sobha Naidu gaaru:

People should realise that by being westernised, they are respecting the neighbour’s mother and neglecting their own mother.

As long as electronic media influences the new generation, classical arts will always struggle for survival.

We have such a great heritage and culture that the whole world respects it. We are not able to make out the value of our own culture.  [3]

Therein lies a lesson for our “New Generation” Girls and Guys. It is your culture which gives you respect, not no-class song and dance sequences from kitschy phillims. Even if you do not learn Kuchipudi, learn a lesson from this great danseuse:

Wedded and dedicated to her art, she has rejected lucrative offers from the film industry with a feeling that art should be developed with its Pristine purity .

References:

  1. http://sobhanaidu.org/
  2. http://www.deccanherald.com/content/245521/dancer-difference.html
  3. http://www.hyderabadbest.com/discoverhyd/personalities/dance/Shobhanaidu.asp
  4. http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-features/tp-fridayreview/buoyant-bhama/article3813796.ece
  5. http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/nine-aspects-of-the-goddess/article2533952.ece
  6. Kuchipudi Dancer Shobha Naidu Exclusive Interview.HMTV.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gs1J-XTMhdk

Literature: Nrtta Ratnavali

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Last month, we discussed the eminent dance maestro and warrior-general Jaya Senapati. As a companion article, this month, we present an overview of his celebrated treatise  Nrtta Ratnavali.

Author

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Readers can review our in-depth article on notable Andhra Personality Jaya Senapati here.  For those who have already read the post, here is a quick recap.

Jaya Senapati, also known as Jayappa Nayudu, was the chief of the Elephant Corps in the army of Kakatiya King Ganapati Deva. Though he was one of around 70 Nayaks, military commandeers and feudal barons, Jayasena had an artistic side (as many of the elite did in those days).

A true aesthete, he was a sahrdaya par excellence. The embodiment of balance that our modern elite should aspire toward, he was neither a brute ruffian nor a pretentious fop, but possessed the qualities of manliness and refinement in equal balance. A General and a Dance maestro of great repute, his life demonstrates how a life of culture and a regimen of vigour on the dance floor also inspires vigour on the battlefield.

He was trained under Gundamatya in the art of Dance, that is Nrtya. Nevertheless, Jayasena had a predilection for Nrtta, that is pure rhythmic dance, and so, titled his treatise on the topic Nrtta Ratnavali. This is unsurprising as the work itself has a large section dedicated Perini Thandava, the vigourous male aspect of dance.

Composition

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Click here to buy the book today!!!

For those reading the Nrtta Ratnavali, whether in Sanskrit or English, one is immediately struck by how poetic this veritable work of Dance actually is. While it is certainly the standard to compose great treatises in Sanskrit poetic verse (sloka), to find a serious work of scholarship aspire to Kalidasan heights is indeed rare. Despite being a non-brahmin from the Dakshinapatha, this man of the deep South quite obviously appreciated the subtleties and splendour of Sanskrit and its literature.

Indeed, he held Bharatamuni in great reverence, and specifically notes that his “text is the result of repeated study of Bharata’s literary work, tedious delving into the depths of many commentaries, debating with well-disposed people adhering to the tradition of seeking from a guru, Lord Siva’s grace and unravelling of the secrets in the Sastras.” [1, 6]

This great treatise of Dance and treasure of all true Telugus, has come down to us today due to the efforts of traditional scholars. Whether you are a dancer of Perini or an admirer of Kuchipudi or simply a collector of books, here is one “must have” to any respectable collection of Andhra literary works.

Divided into 8 Chapters, it is a splendid manual on the aspect of Nrtta, an integral part of Nrtya (that is dance). It can be conceived of being in two parts. The first four chapters form part one and centre around the classical marga dance of Bharata muni. The remaining four focus on desi.

Chapter One consists of 74 verses with the traditional introduction and benediction. It moves on to provide an explanation of terminology.

Chapter Two is made up of 437 verses, and deals with various movements of the limbs.

Chapter Three deals with caaris and mandalas. He places emphasis on physical exercise. This chapter has 198 verses.

Chapter Four has 377 verses and deals with karanas and their variants. [1, xvii]

Chapter Five is the first of the Desi chapters. It has 109 verses and deals with various postures.

Chapter Six focuses on foot positions and related concepts. It has 187 verses.

Chapter Seven has 239 verses and provides an overview of the teaching methodology of dance and various desinrtyas such as perini. The author provides detailed discussion of musical accompaniment, ranging from individual vocalists to orchestras.

The final chapter has 84 verses and focuses on the audience, dancers, and musical components. [1, xviii]

The work is dedicated to Jaya Senapati’s patron, Kakatiya Ganapati Deva, whom he eulogises in every chapter’s ending sloka as “the superior King of Kings“.

Selections

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Chapter One

The Nrtta Ratnavali commences with lovely slokas explaining the symbolism in dance. Sloka 2 in Chapter 1 reads as follows:

vaame bhaavaabhinayasusama alankrtaam laasya bhangee-

mardhe nyasminnudita damarum bibhratas taandavam ca|

svasvaksetravya vahrtakaraa loka dattaavadhaanaah

sambhoh kaantaa kalitavapuso drstayah paantu yusmaan|| sl.2, c.1

“May the glances of Siva, who shares his body with his consort, and exectures the laasya style, brilliant with bhaava (emotion) and abhinaya (expression) embedded on the left side of the body and the taandava style to the accompaniment of the damaru on the right side of the body, while glancing with concentration at the appropriate (hand) gestures he uses, protect you.” [1,2]

This shows the principle of Ardhanareeshwara, or the concept of the Supreme Being (and individual souls) being part male and part female. Parvati represents Shakti, the female left half, which is personified by lasya dance. Shiva represents Purusha, the male right half, which is personified by thandava. Jayasena then moves on to standard salutation to Lord Ganesha, the destroyer of obstacles, and learned in his own right.

spandanaarthatayaa dhaatornateh saatvikapooritam|

rasaasrayam catad jneyam vaakyaartha abhinaya atmakam||  sl. 26, c.1

The verbal root ‘Nata’ means pulsation-when the innermost feelings of the being are awakened and moved towards awareness.[1, 11]

This sloka is important to call out as it shows the fundamentally spiritual nature of the arts in the Indic tradition. Dance is not merely expression, but a path towards higher consciousness and awareness. This is underscored by the lasya and tandava symbolism above.

Thus, to truly be involved and a master of dance, one must be steeped not only in the “secular” but also in the sacred. This is seen not only in Natya, but in other aspects of dance. Jayappa states “when the preposition ‘abhi’ is added to the verbal root ‘nyi’and ends with ‘ac’, ‘Abhinaya’ is formed. Since the purpose is to bring forth and express, it is called abhinaya.”  He goes on to write in sloka 28: “Abhinaya is the act of feeling and expressing the various meanings with clarity through the parts of the body, major and minor limbs”[1, 28]

Interestingly enough, for those interested in biological classification, Jayasena goes into various schema for classifying animals into biped, quadrupeds, and limbless. Nevertheless, he moves on with key definitions for the core aspect of his work:

Geeta-vaadyaadi-militam layamaatra-samaasrayam|

Angaviksepanam nrttam bhaved-abhinayojjitam|| sl.53, c.1

Nrtta is the movement of the limbs of the body, based solely on the rhythm (laya), accompanied by the song, instruments, etc and devoid of abhinaya[1, 18]

Laasya-taandava-bhedena dvayametadvidhaa punah|

Sukumaaram tayoradyam bhavedaparamuddhatam ||

Thes two (nrtya and nrtta) are of two kinds each, Laasya and Taandava. Of them, the former, Laasya is delicate and the latter one, taandava, is the vigorous.

The mutual feeling between man and woman is Laasa. That which is meant for laasa or which suits it is Laasya. Laasya comprises those delicate movements of the body which arouse a pleasant, erotic desire. Since Siva initiated Parvati to this, it may be performed only by women.[1, 19]

Lasya has ten parts: Geyapadam, Sthitapaathyam, Aaseenam, Puspagandhikaa, Pracchedaka, Trimoodhaakhyam, Saindhavaakhyam, Dvimoodhakam, Uttamottamakam, Uktapratyuktam. sloka 59 [1,20]

Chapter Two

Chapter two discusses the nature of the angas, meaning “limbs”.

Sanaatyayorathaangaani vaksyante nrtyarttayoh|

Siro hastaavurah paarsve kateepaadauca satkramaat|| c.2, sl.1

The Angaas or major limbs of natya, nrtta and nrtya will now be mentioned. They are head, hands, chest, sides, waist and feet-six in that order.

Greevaadohkuuksiprsthoru-janghah pratyanakaani sat|

Vilocanabhroo naaso sthakapolacubukaani sat|

Upaangaanyatha vai tesaam bhedaanvaksye salaksanaan|| c.2, sl.2

The neck, shoulders, stomach, spine, thighs, shanks-the six of these are pratyangaas. Eyes, eyebrows, nose, lips, cheeks, chin-the six of these are upaangaas. I shall now detail the different ways to use each of these and their qualities. [1, 27]

Per Bharata, Jayasena lists 13 different ways to move the head. [1, 28]

He notably bases the qualities of glances that is, drsti as being based on the rasa listed by Bharatamuni. These are further informed by glances based on the Sthayi bhaavas, the lead feelings or leitmotifs.

Unfortunately, soon after the above points, the manuscripts in possession have missing portions, in the chapter. Nevertheless, they are not so substantial as to grievously injure the text. Only 87 slokas are inserted, and within chapter 2 itself, we return to Jayana’s text starting from Osthalaksanam (movements of the lip).

Descriptions in the chapter include the various emotional states among husband and wife and the body movements and facial expressions associated with them.

Bharata or Jayasena, what is truly astounding is the sophistication and the specificity of all the eye movements described, right down to the pupil and eyelid [1, 52]. There is even description of various eyebrow movements that would put Stephen Colbert and his emoticon to shame.

Jaw, teeth, and cheek movements (Kapolalakshanam) are descriped, specifically in the manner of Bharatamuni. Even colours of the face (mukharaagah) are determined based on moods (svaabhaavika, prasanna, rechita, and syaama). [1, 71]

Particularly notable are the hand gestures described.

Catura-makaraaji prollasat-padma-kosam

Bhramara-lalita leelam hamsa-paksaabhiraamam|

Pravicalad-alapadmam karkata-dyairupetam

Jaladhikalami-vedam broomahe hastalaskma|| C.2.75

The gestures of hands are as vast as the ocean. The waters of the ocean house the wily crocodiles, lotuses on the surface and bees moving gracefully. The waters are beautified by the wings of the swans and by the dancing petals of the lotus. It is also home for animals like crab, etc.

The hand gestures are the like of Catura, Makara, Padmakosa, Bhramara, Lalita, Hasapaksaa, Alapadma, Karkata, etc. I shal now describe such hand gestures.[1, 71]

These are then expounded upon based on single hand gestures, double-hand, and nrtta hastha, totaling 64, in the manner of Bharata. [1, 74] The purpose and verisimilitude of them are also described in great detail and precision. Vivid war-imagery is also utilised (i.e. “pulling an arrow”, “wrestlers striking their shoulders and things in combat”) as well as animal movements (“move from side to side to trace the curvilenar path of the fish”).[1,84]

But Jayappa Nayaka does not merely recite Bharata like a parrot; there is originality and variation in his definitions too, as in the movement called parrot’s beak (Sukatunda), where Bharata uses a different hand. Differences are also seen with that famed Kashmiri commentator. Jayasena writes that “Aacarya Abhinava Gupta describes Nisadha hasta differently” in sloka 182 of chapter 2. [1,100]

Indeed, Jaya Senapati specifically asserts “the infinite nature of hand gestures”.[1,103] writing:

Abhineyam jagatsarvam anato bhinayao pyayam|

Ya eva yujyate hasto ttesaamapy-anantataa||sl.194, c.2

The whole universe can be expressed. The ways to express are endless. The appropriate hasta must be used and there are many hastas that befit a particular context. Hence even the hastas are infinite.

Most importantly he says something that our gyaanis should take into account in all fields of learning:

Desa-kaala-prayogaarthaavedee netraa-dicestitaih|

Anukookaih prayunjeeta sthaayi-sancaaree-soocakaih|| sl.197, c.2

The intelligent must use these, taking into consideration place, time, plan and purpose. The sthaayi (static) and sancaaree (transitory) emotions must be supported with the fitting movements of the eye.

He then moves on to various arm movements baahu prakaranam, thigh movements, and other limbs, with particular attention to the feet movements (pada-laksanam). [1,115]

Chapter Three

Chapter three deals with the Caari Laksanam. [1,141] While chapter two treated individual movements, chapter three gives an overview of combination movements from the waist to the feet. These are called caris (pronounced: chaarees).

Paadasyaikkasya yascaarah sa caareeti nigadyate|

Karana paadayoscaarah, khandastu karanaistribhih|| sl.6, ch. 3

The movement of one leg is caaree and of both legs karana. Three karanas, when executed as a unit is khanda. [1,152]

Four khandas, in turn, make one mandala.[1,153] These are useful definitions for dancers today, whether of Andhranatyam or Bharatanatyam. Caris according to Bharata are defined as thirty two in number. Jayasena, however, states the varieties are endless.[1,169]

Interestingly, Jayappa defines various postures for men and women. For purusasthaanaani (male), there are six sthanas: Vaisnavam, Samapaadam, Vaisaakham, Mandalam, Aaleedham, Pratyaleedham. P.170

He then refers to nyayah, or axioms for various purposes. These are Bhaarata, Saatvata, Vaarsaganya, Kasika. Four in number, they give rules for the usage of weapons. It is interesting how some fighting is described as dancing. Here we see dancing described in the manner of fighting. This is why “Integral Unity ” is so important. By understanding the system, rather than deconstructing to oblivion, we understand not only nomenclature but purpose, in fields as different as martial arts and classical dance. Here is an example:

Kooryaadudvestanama bhooyo mastakam parivestayet |

Lalite vestane dvaabhyaam yatraasau bhaaratah smrtah|| sl.90, ch.3

The shield is held in the left hand to ward of rival’s weapons and the weapon (sword or any other) is held on the right. These hands are stretched repeatedly. Then the hand with the weapon is raised in a sweeping action and turned from one side to the other and turned around the head. Thereafter the wrist is moved in the cheek area and around the head once again. The movements of both hands must be graceful. This is Bhaarata.[1,175]

In sloka 95, of chapter 3, Jayana goes on two write that “Weapons are of two kinds. Those wielded by one hand and those by both hands. The sword and lance are of the former kind. The bow, spear etc. are of latter kind. The names of pravicaaraa are superior and extraordinary and hence apt.”[1,177]

Clearly a General’s diktat to fighters as well as dancers! It is no wonder this is the work of a warrior. We see here, Jayasenapati is one and the same as the Kakatiya Elephant commander. This is the value of culture, both on the battlefield, and off!

Of course, he naturally describes the postures of the more beautiful of the two genders, the female, under Streenaam Sthaanaani. He begins with standing postures, naming three for women: Aayatam, Avahitthaa and Asvakraantam. [1, 183]

For those attempting to digest dance, it should be noted that in sloka 131, the presiding deity is listed as Sarasvati. The integrity of the tradition, therefore, must be preserved, despite the efforts of the previous government.

Of additional note is the distinction within the category of mandalas. There are ten earthly mandalas and ten aerial mandalas. [1,194]

Chapter Four

Chapter four describes Karanas. These are movements of both legs forming the basis for dance.

The groups of Karanas are listed as follows; Valitoru (encirclement), Aaksipta (embrace), Kraanta (anklet movement), Harinapluta (jump), Bhujangaancita (radiation), Parsvakraanta (sideward moving feet), Apaviddha, Vrsabhakreeda (both entertain) and Urdhvajaanu (raising of knees). He provides a colourful reference to interactions between Siva and Parvati in the first sloka to explicate the types of karana.

A long list is then provided in succeeding slokas, discussing various combinations of sthaanakas, nrtta hastas and carees as the root of the various karanas. [1, 208]

These karanas are then further developed into Angahaaras. [1,267]

A combination of two, three, or four karanas is generally called an Angahaara. Since this rule is sometimes relaxed, Bharata used the prefix ‘vaa’ to indicate approximation. Two karanas together as a unit was named Maatrka, three as Kalaapa, four as Khanda and five as Sanghaataka by some scholars. So these karanas can be made into sets of six, seven, eight, and even nine to form angahaaras.”[1,268]

The various aspects of angahaaras are then described. The simple fact that mere changing of the sequence of karanas can give us infinite angahaaras in Jayasena’s own view show how in depth the study is.

Chapter Five

The fifth chapter is particularly engaging as it is focused on Desi Prasamsa, that is, an encomium to Provincial Dance.

The praise Jayasena lavishes upon Desi is seen in the second sloka of this chapter. That he compares it to a skilled and well-educated courtesan only goes to show how highly viewed both desi and courtesans were in the tradition:

Bhaasaavesa-vibhoosanair-anugunaistaistair-manohaaribhi-

Rnaa-naadesaruceen vidagdha purushaa naavarjayantee gunaih|

Bhoopaalairupa lalita bahikalaih praudheva vaaraanganaa

Desee samprati danti sainyapatinaa saandraadaram varnyate||

With utmost reverence does Ganasenapati now elucidate Desi which is like the experienced courtesan who is adorned with appropriate language, costume and ornaments, who is an embodiment of qualities to which one’s heart is sold out; whom well-travelled, discerning men find attractive and is patronized by those kings knowledgeable in various arts.[1, 303]

He then proceeds to explain the importance of Desi dance. Too often we privilege high culture and city life without appreciating the provincial, regional, and even tribal. That is the beauty of the Indic tradition, which values all of them. Due to the sheer variety available via Desi, the elite is naturally captivated by it.

Bhavanti dharaneepaalaah praayenaabhinaya(va) priyaah|

Atastatpreetyate dyaapi yadyadutpaadyate navam|| s.3, ch.5

Kings are usually please by novelty. The dance formulated to please them belongs to that particular region (desa). Hence the term Desi.[1,304]

Nrttam tatah smrtam desee tattad desa anusaaratah|

Bhootam saastramukhaat jneyam bhavisyan naavagadyate|| s.4, ch.5

The practice that was, must be studied through text. The practice that would be is beyond comprehension. It is therefore necessary to understand the provincial abstract dance of the present day. [1,304]

After praising Ganapati deva, who was the ruler of Andhra desa, Jayasena lays out the desi sthaanakaani. That is, the twenty three provincial stances of Desi dance.

He lists and describes all twenty three, giving the specific nature of the postures in an illustrative fashion. He then moves on to describe ancitam and alagam and their varieties. One is a leap up and the other is a fall to the ground. There is even alagaancitam, which combines the two. He rounds out chapter 5 with a description of bhramaris, which are leg movements or leg circles.

Chapter Six

Chapter 6 focuses on foot positions.

Jayappa begins with a citation of Rishi Matanga, who mentions 16 foot positions that add beauty to desi dance. These are: Sarika, Svastika, Ullaala, Sphurika, Ardhapura, Puraati, Vestana, Udvesta, Khutta, Ardhaskalita, Praavrta, Prsthatotksepa, Lataaksepa, Nikuttaka, Sammassvalita, and Utksepa. Jayasena then explains these in detail. Moving on, per the Nrtta Ratnavali, there are twenty eight foot movements, described in detail.

Matanga’s own work is listed as the Brihaddesi, wherein desi nrtta is also described. Jayasena in fact gives a quotation in sloka 57 of chapter 6:

Matanga, while describing deseenrtta in his Brhadddesi said at the end of the discussion on paatas that ‘in this way, more paatas can be formulated according to individual, intellectual prowess.’ ” It is therefore interesting to see just how far reaching this parampara of dance was, and how literate one had to be to in the associated literature in order to become a master. Classical Indic dance was clearly highly sophisticated and already very well-developed by the medieval period, and only the highly-motivated with suspect agendas would argue otherwise.

Some interesting definitions are then provided:

The body parts are held in such a way that they add beauty to one another in their place while in sausthavam. They are placed such that the audience is enamoured. This is Rekhaa” sl.124, ch.6, [1, 370].

If the feet, hands, waist and things move in beautiful coordination in slow an dmedium templos, mostly in the horizontal direction, in sama (equilibrium), it is called Caalih.” sl.126, ch.6 [1,370]

When Caali is performed in fast tempo, mostly facing forward, it is called Calaavalih”p. sl.127, ch.6 [1,371]

The seamless imeense joy caused by the beauty that emanates from a sumptuous combination of abstract dance and instruments is Lali. To move the upaangas, etc delicately and pleasantly, in rhythm is Lali as said by others.”p. 371, sl.129, ch.6

Interestingly, even martial arts are incorporated again here,and are exhorted to be done so elegantly. This is called Amsagati.[1,381]

Descriptions too are also very poetically done. Jayasena clearly not only knows how to dance a dance, but paint a beautiful picture for the reader whom he is instructing:

Having danced appropriately for the combination of song and instruments or for instruments alone, the experienced dancer either winds up with representational dance (nrtya) or freezes momentarily like in a painting with neatly held limbs. Dancers name this Candanam” sl.170, ch.6. [1,382]

Gatis are rhythmic patterns of various tempos: slow, medium, and fast. These patterns or progressions are called gatis.

Chapter Seven

The Seventh Chapter discusses the system of training for dance.

Of relevance to neophyte students of dance, he advises the following as ideal days to begin instruction:

All the lunar days, save the idle ones of the days of the week, Wendesday, Thursday and Friday; of the stars, Hastah Satabhisa, Pusya, Anooraadha, Uttara, Uttaraasaada, Uttaraabhaadra, Dhanisthaa, Revatee, Jyesthaa Are most recommended to begin dance.” sl1, ch.7 [1,391]

It then moves on to discuss the ideal age (6 or 7) and the specific dress recommended. Contrary to the statues of Hindu iconography, which typically feature unbodiced bodies in idealised form, Jayasena clearly describes upper and lower garments for girls, and for maturing young women, bodices for breasts. [1,393] Other aspects of training are then discussed, such as initiation into various slokas and the details of the tradition’s lineage. Aspects of instrumentation are discusses before the author moves on to Perini.

Qualities of Perinee…A Peranee is one who is capable of taking the audience/spectator to the heights of aesthetic pleasure, one of attractive personality, reputation and commendable pedigree, sentient, connoisseur, adept at rhytm and nuances of music, master of the various limbs of the tune, well-versed in the science of astronomy, devoid of aberrations in the body, an expert at languages, of good body line, knowledgeable in instrumental music, efficient, eloquent, conversant with singing songs from the classical texts, acquainted with both laasya and taandava, executes karanas involving leaps, wheeling movements and circles with ease and can converse in different ways.”[1, 400-401]

There are five parts to Prerana: Nrttam, Kaivaaram, Ghargharam, Vikatam and Geetam.  Jayappa explains them in detail. [ 1, 402]

The arrangement in Perini is also discussed in depth. Undoubtedly, Nataraja Ramakrishna gaaru is likely to have relied greatly on this section in revitalising Perini Siva Thandava. The arrangement of the general provincial system (Desi Paddhati) is also discussed, including musical accompaniment.  Various nrttas (dances) are discusses such as the dance of clowns Bhaandika nrttam, and even Caarana nrttam (which is the dance of saurashtrian performers). These nomadic musicians go from place to place singing ballads in the dohaaka metre. [1,427] Kollata nrtta (recognisable today as kollattam) mentioned in sloka 150 of chapter 7.

He concludes with descriptions of various qualities, respectively for the female dancer (narthaki), male dancer (narthaka), and even the stage (nrttamandapa) and sabhapati (the president of the gathering). These are all very vivid and specific. Clearly performance standards were very refined back in those days.

When describing various characteristics and qualifications for musicians, specific terminology is also provided:

Mukhari (instrumentalist). Orchestra (vaadyabrnda). Mukhyagayaka (main singer). [1,437] Many more such can be found in the chapter.

Chapter Eight

Chapter 8 discusses the king and the festive occasion

He gives the following exhortation to the King, and presumably, other elite patrons of the arts.

Whether of his region or otherwise, the king who is desirous of fame must wholeheartedly praise those rich in different arts, the reverential scholars and the poets of other regions who bring fame. He must honour and please them by granting gold, jewelry and garments as per their wish.”p. sl83, ch.8, p.478

That Nrtta Ratnaavalee which is replete with parts of nrtta like sooceemukha, gati, gunaa and sikhara (the garland of Nrtta Rantaavalee which is knit along the needle and string and suits the hair knot) has been written by the Chief of Elephant Forces, Jaayasenaapati.” sl.84, ch.8. [1,478]

One can see just how evolved dance was in this period, before the destruction of heritage that took place with the fall of Warangal. One can only wonder, how many more texts beyond the Geeta Ratnavali were lost with the sack of Maha Andhranagari, by the barbarian Turks.

Mandapam of the Once Magnificent Svayambhunatha Temple

Therefore, Sri Nataraja Ramakrishna is an inspiration here in reviving our traditional dances, not only though patronage, but also through scholarship and study of traditional texts such as the Nrtta Ratnavali. That is the best way to appreciate the legacy of Jaya Senapati & the Kakatiyas and honour our Andhra ancestors. Indeed, chapter 8 has one such concluding thought.

Jaya Senapati notes here that there is a decorum and expectation for the Gathering or Audience itself. Therefore, the audience too is expected to be cultured and refined so as to be capable of fully appreciating the performance and culture of the dancer. Truly a lesson for the Telugu of Today.

References:

  1. Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Nrtta Ratnavali of Jaya Senapati. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2013.

Personalities: Jaya Senapati

Jayappa

From the realm of Sangeeta (music), we move on to the world of Nrtya (Dance). The next installment of our Series on Andhra Personalities is on the great Jaya Senapati, master of warfare and…dance.

Background

kakatiyasamrajyam

Jayana, Jayasena, Jayappa Nayudu, he is known by many names, but above all, Jaya Senapati. A general, a feudal baron, of royal background, he was a narthaka, nayaka, and Natyacharya par excellence.

Despite his exploits both on and off the battlefield, he was humble by nature, and paid due reverence or made reference to the great masters who came before him: first and foremost, Bharatamuni, but also Matanga, Kohala, Tamburu, Somesvara, and Abhinavagupta. Indeed, due to his contributions to Andhra culture and Indic civilization, he now takes his place alongside them.

Jayana belongs to the Ayyana dynasty. His ancestors hail from Velanadu area, Kroyyuru.” [1,x] His family is said to have been subordinate rulers of the Telugu Cholas, who reigned in Velanadu from their capital, Chandavolu.

Jayappa’s grandfather, Narayana Nayaka, is credited with constructing a municipality on an island on the Krishna Delta, very near the coast. His father Pinnachoda Nayaka was ruling the island when Kakatiya Ganapati Deva conquered it, but reinstated the family.

rp_Interesting-Facts-About-Rani-Rudrama-Devi-1.jpg

As a token of good relations, Ganapati Deva married both of Narayana Nayaka’s daughters Naramaamba and Peramaamba.

Queen Naramaamba

So close was the bond between the families, that the Kakatiya King himself took Jayana under his care as a small boy and had him educated. He appointed the latter as Nayaka of Taamarapuri, per a 1213 CE inscription.

Preksya prajnaamatisayavateem svaamibhaktim ca harsaad

Aakaumaaraad ganapatinrpo jaayanam yam samarcya |

Gundaamaatye sakalasumanas sevyamaane jayantam

Vaacaam patyau haririva kalaaslaaghaneeyam vyanaiseet ||

He in whom Ganapatibhoopaala noted great talent and loyalty (towards patron) and entrusted him to the care of the much sought after Gundamaatya, just as Indra entrusted Jayanta to Brhaspati and had the meritorious art taught. [1,x]

Jayana therefore learned the arts from Gundamatya. The Royal Narthakis of the time learned from brahmana acharyas, hence the Nattuva mela was known as Brahmana mela. [2, 67] Jayasena later refers to himself as gajasaadhanika and senapati (that is elephant corps commander and general). He subsequently served under Maharani Rudhrama Devi as well.

Gajabetakaara
Rudhrama Devi on elephant-back

He is said to have accompanied the rulers of the dynasty on their many campaigns, and played an important role in their success against neighbouring rival kingdoms.

That is what makes his background so interesting. Despite being a high level field commander, nayaka, and general, Jaya Senapati was also Jayacharya, learned authority on the art of dance and song. If the great God Siva is the literal “Lord of the Dance”, then as a nayaka, Jaya Senapati was “[l]ord of the Dance”, small L. That a feudal lord or baron was a maestro of dance and a scholar of sangeeta in his own right, only goes to show the level of culture not only in the Kakatiya Rajya or the Ancient Andhra desa, but Indic Civilization itself.

An inscription refers to young Jayana as “very gentle, humble, polite, confident, graceful and valorous”[1, xi]. It is no wonder he was a warrior dancer in the Perini Thandava tradition. In one account, he is said to have dismounted from his elephant and danced the Thandava to boost the morale of his troops. One can only imagine his performance as being something akin to this.

Nrtta (Pure Rhythmic Dance) in Action

Per Jayasena’s own record, he composed the Nrtta Ratnavali as follows:

Kalau yaate tu varsesu bhoota baana agni saagaraih|

Mitesvaanandasamjne bde jagadaananda daayini||

Sasvat kuvalayollaasiyasah praaleyarocisi|

Prataapatapana praudhi taapitaaraati maanase ||

Now, in Bharatavarsa, the period of vaivasvata manvantara, Kaliyuga, after 4355 years during this period, in the year Aananda which gives joy to the world. [1,xiii]

This corresponds to 1253 C.E. [1,xiii] Interestingly, the Ramappa temple, constructed in 1213 CE by Recherla Rudradeva, Army Chief and minister of Ganapati Deva, is said by some scholars to have inspired General Jayasena. The sculptures are absolutely beautiful, and can be found today in the modern state of Telangana, just outside of Warangal.

Achievements

Jayappa1

Despite the passage of time, and the destruction of the Kakatiya Empire, many of Jaya Senapati’s numerous accomplishments have come down to us.

He authored the Geeta Ratnavali, the lesser known counterpart and predecessor to his famous Nrtta Ratnavali.

He codified the various Andhra Desi dance traditions all while stating and preserving the strictures of Margi. Contrary to foreign and foreign-sponsored revisionists, this demonstrates the integral unity of the tradition. [5] Indeed, he held Bharatamuni in great reverence, and specifically notes that his “text is the result of repeated study of Bharata’s literary work, tedious delving into the depths of many commentaries, debating with well-disposed people adhering to the tradition of seeking from a guru, Lord Siva’s grace and unravelling of the secrets in the Sastras.” [1, 6]

He described the various dances of the Devadasis who performed on the Natya Mandapa of various temples. Jayasena, in fact, consecrated 300 of them to the Chebrole temple in Divi taluk. [2,67] He composed dances for not only Devadasis but also Raja-narthakis, that is, the dancers of the Royal Court. They enacted yakshaganas, a dramatic style of dance that portrayed episodes from Puranas, but with all characters performed by a single dancer.

Nevertheless, his magnum opus and most famous accomplishment remains the text that will forever be associated with him. The Nrtta Ratnavali is held in high esteem, mentioned along side neighboring Seuna Kingdom’s  Sangeeta-Ratnakara by Sarngadeva, and behind only the Natya Sastra itself.

Composed in Sanskrit verse, this artistic and literary gem of Andhra is chock full of wisdom, along with dance technique and principle. Jayana held nrtta (pure rhythmic dance) above all. For this reason he does not expound upon the other aspects of nrtya and natya in much detail, and so aptly titled the work Nrtta Ratnavali.

He describes not only Lasya, that is the delicate dance of the Lady, but also Thandava, the vigorous dance of the male. In fact, Perini is described in great detail. One can only imagine the depth of study Sri Nataraja Ramakrishna must have engaged in to revive this tradition via Jayasena’s text. Not only does it delve into the intricacies of footwork, rhythm, and musical accompaniment, but also describes the regional tradition of dance, instruments, and orchestral accompaniment. Clearly this was the work of a master of both theory and practice. It is a balance of the musical and the spiritual.

This great treatise of Dance and treasure of all true Telugus, has come down to us today due to the efforts of traditional scholars. Whether you are a dancer of Perini or an admirer of Kuchipudi or simply a collector of books, here is one “must have” to any respectable collection of Andhra literary works.

nrttaratnavali
Click here to buy the book today!!!

Legacy

JayappaSunset

The legacy of General Jayasena is one that has stood the test of time and against the test of rubble and decay. Though the Kakatiya Samraajya and its greatest king, Ganapati Deva, are long gone, the legacy of not only his patron, but the man himself remains intact. Jaya Senapati’s contributions to dance trenchantly demonstrate the integral unity of the Indic tradition. Unlike Bharata muni, Jayasena was neither a brahmin nor a man of the north, yet still composed his work in veneration of Bharata, was directly influenced by his theories, and communicated his composition in sanskrit verse.

And yet, the Nrtta-Ratnavali is an eminent work of Andhra literature in the truest sense of our tradition. Jayappa careful wove the Desi (local folk tradition) with the Marga (the spiritual great tradition). As Sri Nataraja Ramakrishna would show 700 years later, the true Telugu is very much also a true Indian, and local and regional can and must be given patronage alongside the national and civilizational.

Historically the Aandhra region has always been endowed with various ancient traditional dances not always based on the treatises…Jayana gets the credit for codifying and presenting the regional forms of Aandhra dance in this treatise.”1, p. xxi

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We findJayana’s integrity, sincerity and commitment to this subject, respect or the earlier writers, loyalty to patron and confidence in himself as significant qualities. [1, xxi]

A true aesthete, he was a sahrdaya par excellence. The embodiment of balance that our modern elite should aspire toward, he was neither a brute ruffian nor a pretentious fop, but possessed the qualities of manliness and refinement in equal balance. A General and a Dance maestro of great repute, his life demonstrates how a life of culture and a regimen of vigour on the dance floor also inspires vigour on the battlefield.

Jai Jaya Senapati! Jai Andhra Pradesh/Telangana! Jai Telugu Talli! Jai Bharat Mata!

 

References:

  1. Pappu, Venugopala Rao. Nrtta Ratnavali of Jaya Senapati. Kakatiya Heritage Trust. 2013.
  2. Devi, Ragini. Dance Dialects of India. Delhi: MLBD.2002.p.76