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Leading Kathak exponent Pandit Birju Maharaj bats for Artistic Compositions on Environment Issues

The face of Indian Kathak, Birju Maharaj talks about his love for nature and finding artistic inspiration in natural aspects

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Birju Maharaj, Wikimedia
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Amaravati, Feb 11, 2017: Dancing like a peacock in the rain, leading Kathak exponent Pandit Birju Maharaj held audiences here spellbound with his new composition. Soon after, confessing his ardent love for nature, the face of Indian Kathak in the world stressed on more artistic creations on key environmental issues.

“I really love nature. Whatever I feel, as inspired from nature, I try to bring it out. There should be compositions on environmental issues (like climate change, natural resource depletion et al) for the people, the veteran told IANS in an interview at the Amaravati Global Music and Dance Festival here.

Birju Maharaj performed with his ensemble, including danseuse Saswati Sen, at the Pavitra Sangamam amphitheater, straddling the confluence of the Krishna and Godavari rivers.

Talking to IANS after his performance, the Padma Vibhushan awardee expressed displeasure at the man-made “disruption” of natural balance.

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“I see big buildings going up, the earth being dug out and nature harmed. Our environment should be preserved. The balanced is being disrupted. It pains me. You see metro construction happening all across. Although this is for our convenience, but it shouldn’t happen at the cost of disrupting the natural balance,” he lamented.

The torch-bearer of the Kalka-Bindadin gharana of Lucknow, Birju Maharaj is a direct descendant of Ishwari Prasadji, the first known Kathak teacher.

Admitting his voracious appetite for nature-related TV programmes, he said he sees rhythm in every step of life and that is what keeps him ticking at 79.

“I watch a lot of Discovery and Animal Planet. If you see a lion walking or a cheetah running, you find rhythm in every movement, in every step. There is rhythm in everything in life. When this rhythm stops, everything stops. For example, for one who is walking at a slow pace, we would co-relate it with the introductory ‘vilamvit laya’ (slow tempo) in the Hindustani classical genre,” Birju Maharaj said counting out the beats.

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“This rhythm in nature should keep going and we have a responsibility to do that because humans have a connection with their surroundings,” he explained with a smile of contentment.

At the young age of 28, the living legend received the Sangeet Natak Academy Award, besides several other prestigious awards like the Kalidas Samman, Soviet Land Nehru Award, Shiromani Samman and Rajiv Gandhi Peace Award. He has been conferred honorary doctorate by Banares Hindu University and Chhattisgarh’s Khairagarh University.

Asked about his future projects/compositions, the master artiste said a lot of things simultaneously go on in in his mind.

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“There are a lot of things I am inspired by. For example, dancing here tonight, at the riverfront, I was taken by the sacred confluence of the rivers. It is also always enchanting to dance in a temple courtyard. The compositions will come as the inspirations come,” he signed-off with a twinkle in his eye. (IANS)

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Mahalaya: Beginning of “Devipaksha” in Bengali Celebration of ‘Durga Puja’

“Mahalaya” is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha” and heralds the celebration of Durga Puja

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Mahalaya morning in Kolkata. Flickr
  • Mahalaya 2017 Date: 19th september.
  • On Mahalaya, people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers; which is called ‘Torpon’
  • Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted in All India Radio
  • The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent

Sept 19, 2017: Autumn is the season of the year that sees the Hindus, all geared up to celebrate some of the biggest festivals of India. The festive spirit in the Bengalis all enthused to prepare for the greatest of the festivals, the ‘Durga Puja’.

About Mahalaya:

Mahalaya is the auspicious occasion that marks the beginning of “Devipaksha” and the ending of “Pitripaksha,” and this year it is celebrated on September 19.

Observed exactly a week before the ‘Durga Puja’, Mahalaya is the harbinger of the arrival of Goddess Durga. It is celebrated to invoke the goddess possessing supreme power! The goddess is invited to descend on earth and she is welcomed with devotional songs and holy chants of mantras. On this day, the eye is drawn in the idols of the Goddess by the artisans marking the initiation of “Devipaksha”. Mahalaya arrives and the countdown to the Durga Puja begins!

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The day of Mahalaya bears supreme significance to the Bengalis. The day is immensely important because on this day people throng to the holy river Ganges in order to pay homage to their ancestors and forefathers. Clad in white dhotis, people offer prayers and take dips in the river while praying for their demised dear ones. The ritual is popular as “Torpon”.

Mahalaya
An idol-maker in progress of drawing the eye in the idol of the Goddess. Wikipedia

As per Hindu myth, on “Devipaksha”, the Gods and the Goddesses began their preparations to celebrate “Mahamaya” or Goddess Durga, who was brought upon by the trinity- Brahma, Vishnu, and Maheshwara; to annihilate the fierce demon king named Mahishasura. The captivating story of the Goddess defeating the demon got popularized with the goddess being revered as “Durgatinashini” or the one who banishes all the evils and miseries of the world. The victory of the Goddess is celebrated as ‘Durga Puja’.

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Mahalaya remains incomplete without the magical chanting of the scriptural verses from the ‘Chandi Kavya’ that is broadcasted at dawn in All India Radio in the form of a marvelous audio montage enthralling the souls of the Bengalis. Presented with wonderful devotional music, acoustic drama, and classical songs- the program is also translated to Hindi and played for the whole pan-Indian listeners.

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Mahalaya
Birendra Krishna Bhadra (1905-1991). Wikipedia

The program is inseparable from Mahalaya and has been going on for over six decades till date. The magic is induced by the popular Birendra Krishna Bhadra whose voice makes the recitation of the “Chandi Kavya” even more magnificent! He has been a legend and the dawn of Mahalaya turns insipid without the reverberating and enchanting voice of the legendary man.

Mahalaya will keep spreading the magic and setting the vigor of the greatest festival of the Bengalis- the Durga Puja, to worship the supreme Goddess, eternally.

                 “Yaa Devi Sarbabhuteshu, Shakti Rupena Sanhsthita,

                     Namastaswai Namastaswai Namastaswai Namo Namaha.”

– by Antara Kumar of NewsGram. Twitter: @ElaanaC