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NEELAM...Drowning in Bliss - Synopsis
A solo by Anita Ratnam
75 mins, 2006

Srimal - the dance of Nambi-Vishnu

NEELAM - a selection of compositions drawn from ritual and temple texts in praise of Lord Vishnu. The program contains four sections.

The first SRIMAL, the dance of Vishnu, extols the numerous forms of the Tamizh God NAMBI. With lyrics taken from the chanting arayer priests into the hyms of the Alwar saint poets, the choreography elaborates the legend of the 8 sacred syllables of Vaishnavism - OM NAMO NARAYANAYA.

The soundscape is inspired by the meditative corridors of Vishnu temples. Neelam's costume and visual design reflects the androgynous male-female qualities of Vishnu and Lakshmi. Nambi and Sri, Andal and Madhusudhana, Krishna and Radha and finally Rama and Sita.

The chant of Goda

Growing up in the temple town of Sri Villiputtur in Southern India in the early 9th century, Goda was raised by the family of the head priest of the local Vishnu temple. Trained to string the daily flower garland for the Vishnu, Goda dreamt of her romance, love trysts and ultimate merging with Lord Vishnu. Her classic poems, called Pasurams, throb with emotion, devotion and a single minded obsession with the Lord of her dreams - Vishnu as Krishna. Through the nearly 400 verses of the Nachiyar Tirumozhi, Goda sang of her love, frustration, rage and longing for her beloved Krishna. Today she is praised as ANDAL, the one who ruled the heart of Vishnu and who, in her final moments, realized her dream of becoming a part of His being.

Among her more famous verses are the PAANCHAJANYAM PATTHU - ten verses composed as a her monologue to Krishna's conch held in the Lord's left hand. Envious of the conch's closeness to her beloved, she cajoles, praises, teases, scolds and threatens the Paanchajanyam.

Tell me dear conch
How do my Krishna's lips taste?
Of camphor or the nectar of Lotus?
O great conch -born out of the bones of
The fearsome demon Panchajana
Your sound makes evil hearts tremble
Although you lay in the ocean among many other conches
You alone rose to the position of a King
Even Lord Indra envies your position
So near to my beloved Krishna
You shine like a moon glow in His palms
You are with Him always
and deny all of us
A Taste of his lotus lips
You usurp all His time and attention
What will become of me o conch?
Please, tell me
How do my Krishna's lips taste?
Of camphor or the nectar of Lotus?

The humbled Krishna

For me deliverance is not in renunciation. I feel the embrace of freedom in a Thousand bonds of delight.

Jayadeva's most celebrated 12 century lyrical poem, Gita Govinda, is a constant source of religious inspiration. Dedicated in devotion to the God Krishna, it concentrates on the love of this mischevious Man-God towards the cowherdess, Radha. In the midst of the spring season, earthly passion is the metaphor Jayadeva uses to express the complexities of divine and human love.

With his lovely dancer wife Padmavati as his muse, Jayadeva composed his garland of erotic verses - Gita Govinda. In the process of writing the poem, Jaydeva conceived the climax of Krishna's supplication to Radha as a command for Radha to place her foot on Krishna's head in a symbolic gesture of victory. The story goes that the poet hesitated to complete the couplet in respect of Lord Krishna. He left his words unfinished and went to bathe. While he was gone, Krishna came in the guise of Jayadeva himself and completed the verses of the now famous Priye Charusheele. When Jayadeva returned to his writing seat, he realized that he had received the divine grace of Krishna in exalting the loving relationship of Krishna with Radha.

At night he approached Radha
His face weak and tired from endless remorse
Krishna stammers these words

Radha, cherished love
Abandon your baseless pride!
Love's fire burns my heart
Bring wine to your lotus mouth!

You are my ornament, my life
My jewel in the sea of existence
Yield to me forever
My heart forever pleads

Place your lotus foot on my head
A sublime flower destroying the poison of love
Let your foot quell the harsh sun
Burning its fiery form in me to torment Love

Radha, cherished love
Abandon your baseless pride!
Bring wine to your lotus mouth!

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