Blurring borders: A mystical-musical Bangladeshi evening in Delhi

bangla-danceA saffron blaze illuminated the contours of her crown and the skull-garland sitting on her bosom as she emerged from the darkness. Fiery and graceful, swift and steady at the same time, she swirled around in a circle to face the crowd. The yogic goddess, Vajrayogini, transcended eons and boundaries to provide a glimpse into Bangladesh’s mystical past at a spiritually charged evening in Delhi.

Dance-drama, poetry and melodious songs reverberated in the twilight air in Delhi last week when the Bangladesh High Commission organised an evening interspersed with mystical music and dance performances by Shadhona — one of the leading cultural centers of Bangladesh. The captivating performance was staged barely days before India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj heads to Dhaka on her maiden visit and has set the right tone for what is billed as a goodwill visit that will bring the two nighbours together in a closer embrace.

The programme, entitled Atma theke Parmatama (Finite meets Infinite), conceptualised by Lubna Marium, interpreted the concept of Sahaja (meaning natural, spontaneous) in different religious ideologies and tradition.

Seated on the left corner of the stage, Marium, Bangladeshi dance pioneer, took the audience on a mystical journey. “Sahaja is anti-structure. Everything created by nature that is thriving in accordance with the laws of nature is sahaja. Trees and rivers, birds and animals are all sahaja. However, the boundaries created by men are not,” says  Marium. All the mystical beliefs of this land are born out of and converge into the sea of sahaja, says she.

A white-blue mist filled the stage and the concept of sahaja emanated in another form —the form of love. It seeped out of Lord Krishna’s flute. Manobashi (the one who dwells in the heart) Krishna symbolised the absolute and the infinite. He lured his devotees with flute and led them to the ultimate purpose of life — the infinite.

Bliss: The Natural Way

bangla-lubnaThe performance brought out kindred artistic and religious traditions that animate the cultural life in both India and Bangladesh. Sage-poet Rabindranath Tagore has remained a great connector. Emerging from the folds of Brahmo Samaj, his name is a tradition in itself to people on both sides of the border. Tagore gave expression to all possible manifestations of life in poetry and prose and had a profound influence on the artistic, religious and literary traditions of Bangladesh.

But how does one interpret sahaja with respect to Tagore’s poetry? Explains Marium: “Sahaja transforms into bliss for Tagore.” Joy is the primal cause of the creation of the world and filled with the joy of life, Tagore wishes to fill the sky with his poetry. Linear postures and brisk, lively movements celebrated the natural bliss that forms the core of the creation of this universe.

After basking in the bliss of life, the focus shifted to a somber reality. This religious ideology believes in the Vartaman (Present and the known) as against Anuman (the unknown, uncertain). Rooted in the present, the followers of this tradition, fakirs or bauls (wandering  mystical minstrels of Bengal) espouse radical beliefs. Their religion is an amalgamation of Vaishnava, Buddhist and Sufi beliefs. They interpret sahaja in opposition to concrete structures and forms. Talking about the futility of all man-made constructs, including boundaries, castes, sects and creed, they envision a society that’s sand parchoialism.

Shadow Lines

This dance-drama did not merely evoke the historical traditions of Bangladesh; it held up a mirror to both the sides and showed how each one reflects the other. Poetry, religion, ideology, history and traditions cannot be segregated with boundaries. Tagore and Qazi Nazrul Islam do not belong to one nation or another. And this mystical evening did just that. It reminded people how shadowy the man-made boundaries are.

 

 

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