The characters of the Mahaabhaaratam have a
timeless appeal. The 13th edition of Narada Gana Sabha Trust's Natyarangam
festival annual Chennai event re-creates important episodes from Vyasa's
Naatyaachaarya Sri V.P. Dhananjayan presents "Bheeshmaachaarya", on the
Mahaabhaarata's grandfather figure. Major incidents from Bheeshma's life
are narrated through flashbacks by his grief-stricken mother, Ganga. She
describes her son's death at the hands of the effeminate Sikhandi during
the Kurukshetra War, then segues into his birth, upbringing, and "unthinkable"
vow that earns him the name "Bheeshma" from the gods. Dhananjayan uses subtle
and neat satvika abhinaya in this cohesive presentation.
Episode One : After the opening Nritta-samaaraadhana in the raga
Gangalahari, mother Ganga emerges from the waters with tears in her eyes
to receive the oblations from the remaining Pandavas who are submerging
her formidable son's ashes and are performing the last rites. She
wonders with pride and pain, an invincible warrior extraordinaire felled
by an effeminate Shikhandi, a wrath unreasonably cast on him
Episode Two : On the birth of Devavrata: Breaking the promise given
to Ganga, King Santanu stops her from throwing their eighth child into the
water. But as promised to the king at this time, Ganga brings back the boy
after equipping him with all scriptural studies and the art of warfare from
the indomitable Parasurama.
Episode Three : Knowing the cause of his father's depression, Devavrata
approaches the leader of the fisherfolk (Daasa) and requests him to give
his daughter Satyavati in marriage to Santanu. Acceding to the demand of
Daasa, Devavrata makes a stunning vow (pratigna) proclaiming his determination
to remain celibate all his life, for fulfilling the desire of his father.
The celestials proclaim him as Bhishma.
Episode Four : Satyavati is brought by Bhishma to Hastinapura to
be wedded to Santanu who blesses him with a boon that he would embrace death
at his own will.
Ganga's lamentation : Sri Krishna consoles Ganga that the death of
great men are celebrated, for in truth, they are of immortal fame. She then
feels comforted as her son has returned to her to Ganga (the water element).
NATYARANGAM, dance wing of the Narada Gana Sabha, was launched in
September 1995 with a twofold purpose: (1) to provide a platform for talented
young dancers of proven merit, and (2) to create awareness in the audience
about various aspects of dance appreciation. It organises dance recitals
and lecdems on every third Saturday and Sunday every month. Natyarangam
honours eminent gurus, and presents endowment awards to famous dancers,
accompanying musicians and young dancers.