Love has become a very loose term which we throw around in various contexts these days. “I love your dress!” , “Love them curls”, “I love food”, “I’d love to go to the movies with you” ! As a staunch propagator of true love and believer in the Disney princesses, I can safely say that i think that love is the basis of most things that we do. By that reasoning, we dance because we love. Topic closed. Thank you for reading. (Cue unfollow and leave a nasty comment) I’m kidding ofcourse! Welcome to my second blog post where I try to explore why we dance and if it’s Bhakti or Shringara that drives a dancer to yearn for the supreme.
When i was younger, I often used to have this question probing my mind – Why do i enjoy dancing the same thing over and over again? Why am I – the constant damsel in distress pining for different gods through my dance? How is it any different whether I call Krishna or Muruga? One rides a peacock and the other has a peacock feather on his head. Is it about a physical difference? What is the significance of any of this? What does my dance mean?
Of course, these are all deep questions that I couldnt fully understand then, or even now for that matter. Growing up in Chennai, I did not have anyone i could openly discuss or ask any of these questions to. It wasn’t like i was arguing against the basis of our culture, i just wanted to understand the purpose of what i was doing. But as is the case with most tam brahm rituals that you simply must follow or else – “ummachi kanna kuthiduva” (God will poke your eyes), its always easier to ask a child to shut up than to try and answer complicated questions that make you uncomfortable.
As i grew older, these questions still haunted me. I enjoyed bharatanatyam like no other form of dance. I knew it was my calling. But i couldn’t fathom why. It became more and more imperative that i find the answer before i dedicated my life to this wonderful art form. Why do we dance? Why do we spend years to train our bodies to move in an inorganic manner? What makes it exhilarating? Why do we endure the long hours, soreness, injuries and constant urge to better ourselves? What is that feeling that urges us to persist and makes all of these hardships worthwhile?
I don’t think this answers all the questions I had. But this two word explanation has given me a sense of self, peace and contentment with what i do. Indian classical dance, like yoga, meditation and music is meant to serve only one purpose – Self Realization.
When we dance, we transform into someone else. There comes a new energy within us. We let go of all our ego and accept that this energy is bigger than us. We shed our ‘I’ and ‘Mine’. When we surrender, we become one. We lose ourself to this energy and by doing so, we find ourselves. This is something beyond quantifiable or describable quality. It is the need for this experience that keeps us going. This feeling I get through my dancing is what kept me going even when I didn’t actually understand what drove me. I think it is the need to experience this energy again and again that motivates us to persist.
Of course this does not happen right away or even every time we dance. Imagine if you want to climb the Everest. If one climbs steadily, one will evetually get to the top. It doesn’t mean that everyone who climbs will reach the top. Nor does it mean that anyone can just go ahead and start climbing the tallest peak in the world without preparation. They have to be ready and trained for the journey. Likewise, the initial years of training we recieve in our own art forms. They might climb smaller peaks in preparation. Same way we start by doing an arangetram and small performances (this is not a necessity). Finally as they stand looking up at the peak, they need the courage, determination, dedication and belief that they can make it. Belief and dedication – Without these qualities our art will mean nothing.
Dance to me has been the most honest soulful form of expressing and finding who i am. That being said, whether you are calling Muruga or Krishna becomes irrelevant. You are him and he is you. He is within all of us and we are all the same. We as humans are only differentiated by our memories, experiences and actions in this current physical world. Through our art we are trying to let go of these physical attributes and feel one supreme consciousness. We are driven by the necessity to feel this consciousness within us and become a part of it. Is it bhakti? Yes it is the utmost devotion to recognize and accept something so much bigger than us as a part of your own being. It is love? Most certainly. It is a love that is beyond human comprehension.
There is no light without love, no love without light.