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Ranjana Gauhar’s magical tale of “Matsya Avatar”

The Konark Festival 2018 presented their recital Matsya Avatar as a grand finale. Conceived by Ranjana Gauhar (who has created a niche for herself in the field of Odissi and has worked single-mindedly for popularising Odissi dance in North India, which has won her, not only the Sangeet Natak Akademi award, but has also earned her  the prestigious Padma Sri from the President of India) the dance presentation, titled Matsya Avatar is an episode drawn from Indian mythology, which narrated the story of the first ‘Avatar’ of Lord Vishnu as one amongst his ten incarnations. Lord Vishnu came to earth as Matsya -the fish to save life on earth and the four Vedas.

The drama presented through dance, as one would expect, started with the invocation of Vishnu in praise the first of his ten appearances as Matsya Avatar with the customary greatest of devotion.

Brahma-one of the holy trinity, whose beginning was from the lotus that came out from Vishnu’s navel, inspired by his inner spiritual strength, was in the process of writing the four Vedas, the books of wisdom and knowledge. Demon Hayagriva who was an egoist stole the Vedas in order to deprive the world from light and knowledge. Vishnu’s scheme of things was to scuttle this.

Lord Vishnu took the form of Matsya Avatar not only to take back the Vedas from the demon Hayagriva, but also to save life on earth from prayala or dissolution, which was to take place within a span of seven days.

When the Lord first appeared in the form of a tiny fish he chose Raja Satyavrata- who had taken to a life of devotion and had become a Rishi or a hermit- to protect and nurture the earth. The fish grew at an incredible pace and pleaded with the Rishi to help him survive. The kind Rishi Satyavrata continued to transfer the fish into different water bodies and lastly help to put him into the Ocean.

Finally, the Matsya Avatar took its full-grown form, and Lord Vishnu informed Satyavrata, who was in a state of utter disbelief and awe, about the ‘pralaya’ – dissolution and destruction of the universe that takes place at the end of each age and precedes a new creation-that was about to take place. As Matsya Lord Vishnu slew the demon Hayagriva in a fight and retrieved the Vedas, and finally truth prevailed.

The presentation ended with a prayer to Lord Vishnu as the Matsya Avatar.

The disciples of Ranjana’s Odissi Dance repertory have been trained into the Odissi form meticulously and rigorously. Both guru and disciples, hailing from Punjab, have spent precious hours to master an art, which is from the Eastern Region of Odisha, the language of which as well as the Sanskrit verses of the songs were alien to them.  Starting from scratch they have researched into the Sahitya of the songs, besides learning the Odissi syntax perfectly and present them at Konark, in the heart land of Odisha. The dancers could hardly be distinguished as non-Odia girls; such was their charm and charisma.

A still from Matya Avatar

The Concept and Choreography were by Ranjana Gauhar. She was able to choreograph an hour-long piece centring round a small episode from Dasavatar. A Pallavi incorporated in the drama gave the piece substance. It also helped the performers their adeptness in the nritta portion.

Saroj Mohanty and Suresh Sethi’s music composition was indeed invaluable and helped to promote untold beauty. Lyrics were by Harish Chandra Pati, while rhythm composition Prafulla Mangaraj

The good light design by  Sandeep Dutta cast a magic spell.

Vinod Kevin Bachan was in the role of Matsya while the character role of Vishnu and Raja Satyavrat was danced and enacted Dinabhandu Dalai.  Anika Tandon as small Matsya won the hearts of the audience.

Aditya Srivastava in the role of Hayagriva fighting brilliantly with Matsya, though only to be defeated, sent a chill down one’s spine. Dancers: Vrinda Chadha, Ankita Bakshi, Swati Jakhmola, Sanya Chadha, Vritti Tandon, Archisa Arya and Asutosh Parida were delightful to watch.

Accompanists:  Guru Ranjana Gauhar on Manjira, Shri Prafulla Mangraj on Mardal, Vocalist Shri  Saroj Mohanty, Agnimitra Behera on the Violin, flutist Abhiram Nanda, Sitarist Jeeban Prakash Das contributed in a big way to provide aesthetic delight.

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