Sonal Mansingh

Mera Bharat

BHARAT, that is India, is a land of many wonders. Awe-inspiring, mind-boggling, thought-provoking, intensely moving, deeply-disturbing, hair-raising or ever-en-chanting, but never boring. One of the oldest known land-masses on the Earth, the Gondawana Plateau in India separates North from South and forms a rich water-shed for some the ever-green (so far!) rivers of India like the Narmada, Mahe Sone and Tapti. Even clearly visible geographical features, when described, begin to sound like cliches in the case of Bharat, that is India. Those who lived beyond the River Sindhu (Indus in Greek), when seen by a distinguished visitor frorn Greece, Alexander, began to be known as Indians, and the land, India. Thus, BHARAT, the land of the Bharata's, a clan of scholars, singers, actors, and dancers, gradually came to be known as India. But the name BHARAT also echoes time-honoured conventions and traditions in Dance and Music. It combines the first syllables of the essential ingredients of the performing arts. BHA for Bhava, feeling, sentiment, RA for Raga, melody as well as love, TA for Tala, a perfect measure of Time. Thus, the name BHARAT was also perhaps a perfect metaphor for Life and Living, an existence that would be harmonious, balanced, delightful and in perfect synch with the surroundings. The influence and power of the environment in relation to human existence in all its enriching and invigorating dimensions were never understated in the cultural streams which nourished the Indian soul. A healthy environment bred a healthy mind which was capable of soaring in the realms of the deep mysteries of Creation, of having visions of the magical workings of nature, and of feeling in tune with self and the surroundings. I too am a creature of my environment. It has changed so radically and deteriorated in so many aspects that it has set me thinking about what an individual can do about it. As Dance is my medium. I am using it to present a case for my understanding of some of the environmental problems. As my dance takes its form and content from the ancient values, concepts, beliefs and perceptions of BHARAT, it was only appropriate to look for parallels to our sad situation today in the classical texts. And there they were: SHIVA, meaning Cosmic Auspiciousness and the Beatitude of Creation pervades the snowy expanse of the Himalaya. SHIVA causes the life-giving waters of thousands of rivers to flow down and nourish this populous land. The lush, thick forests of the Himalaya form his matted locks of hair and the snakes on his body symbolise the flow of Life through many regenerative cycles. The Moon on his forehead is a symbol of the countless planetary systems where SHIVA, the Auspiciousness, pervades, and his Third Eye denotes the all-knowing nature of this cosmic power. SHIVA, the Male Principle of creation, accompanied by PARVATI, his consort and daughter of HIMALAYA, live on Mt. Kailas in popular imagination, spanning many centuries and many countries. So, what is the state of Himalaya today? The thickly matted forests are disappearing, the snakes are exported for their skin, the waters of the rivers are dammed and drying up, the Moon and the stars barely visible through clouds of pollution, and the abode of snow sullied and strewn with debris, and the precious medicinal herbs and plants pulled out by their roots for export. My SHIVA'S third eye is shedding tears, I feel, instead of opening in fury to destroy the world. Krishna, that character radiating love and mischief, state-craft and hard discipline has many stories to his credit which provide clear metaphors for our times. The sinking, dark, effluent-infested waters of the Yamuna are sought to be cleaned by order from the Supreme Court of India. The polluting industrial units are asked to relocate themselves away from populated areas. So did Sri Krishna ask the mighty poisonous serpent Kaliya with its thousand heads (innumerable chimneys spewing poisonous gases), to vacate the Yamuna and re-locate itself in the Ocean, far away from places that could be harmed by his poison. And what to say of Devi, the Creatrix and nourisher of the created cosmos, the power and the energy ( so woefully inadequate in these times!) of the Universe? She is manifest in myriad forms at as many levels. Without her indulgence nothing can live or move. I have invoked her image through the terrifying and benign forms Usha the Goddess of Light, Sri the Goddess of Prosperity, and Saraswati, the Goddess of Art, Wisdom and Learning. Also, the geographical image of BHARAT is that of a graceful female. Therefore, the soul of BHARAT is invoked through an inspired poem at the end. I feel that the artist community today must take up the challenge of awakening the increasingly callous and insensitive attitudes of our society towards an Awareness, a Luminous Consciousness which is our natural heritage and without which only a desert of arid hearts will greet us in the future. Mera Bharat is demanding our loving involvement and sincere contribution to create a better environment all round. Only then will our hearts breathe fresh and light. -Sonal Mansingh   View Other Choreographies