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Sat 30 Sep 2023
Mon 02 Oct 2023

9:00 AM - 5:00 PM (UTC+5.5)

Workshop On Rare Compositions On Vahanas

Prakriti refers to a primal creative or natural force and with it comes a reverence for birds, animals, plants, rivers and even the Panchamahabhutas or elements. Brahma is said to have hidden a secret in each one of them to signify a spiritual significance to humans.  Shiva is believed to have given them varied states of yogic awareness. Sanatana dharma sees divinity in every being and by doing so has invested man with the responsibility of taking care of nature. The beautiful connection between our raga system and the natural world, can be traced to the founding blocks of Indian shastriya sangeetha – the Sapta Svaras. The sound of animals and birds has given rise to swaras.

The series of Carnatic workshops on rare compositions will focus on the interplay of nature and divinity as seen by great composers. There will be workshops bringing to light rare compositions on vahanas, plants and rivers, no longer sung or heard.

The second workshop on rare krithis to be conducted by Dr Ramaa Kausalya of Marabu Foundation in conjunction with Indic Academy will be held against the beautiful backdrop of the Arunachalesvara shrine at Tiruvannamalai, in Tamil Nadu. As thematic workshops in Carnatic music go, the upcoming one on Vahanas, is rare and special as there are very few compositions on the animals and birds that transport our divine forms. Dr Kausalya with her ability to ferret out rare musical works will bring together four resource persons and several students between September 30th and October 2nd, 2023 at Sangama (Confluence) Retreat to learn and study these precious works.

The mounts or Vahanas and the deities are often represented together in iconography, with the animal or bird, often beneath, transporting the divine form. Of the earth, these mounts are seen as the earthly embodiments of their celestial counterparts. These creatures are often worshipped as conduits to the Gods and Goddesses, conveying our desires and devotion. There are stories, tropes and iconography related exclusively to them conveying their special connection and role with respect to the Gods.

Some of the vahanas are so special that they are seen as deities themselves. Some reflect one aspect of a deity’s personality.  One scholar says the vahana of Agni, the God of fire and the manifestation of fire itself, is a ram considered to be the “bodily form of penance.” This association of the ram with Agni is a continuation of our understanding of Agni as a penance done in rituals and in yoga, with associations of burning and renewal.

It is interesting that Nandi, Shiva’s mount is said to have been born in Thiruvaiyaru, Dr Kausalya’s hometown, and is a symbol of Dharma. The devi of the Iyarappar shrine in Thiruvaiyaru is called Dharmasamvardhini, who protects righteousness or Dharma. Nandi as the symbol of Dharma represents all that Shiva would want us to embody, including balance and harmony in nature.

Co-existence which is so central to Sanatana Dharma is also depicted through these vahanas. The beautiful relationship between Ganesha and his mouse shows how two beings so apparently different can live together in harmony. Garudar, depicting Vedic knowledge, co-exists with Adisesha, the cosmic serpent on which Vishnu lies.

The workshop will feature compositions on Anjaneya or Hanuman, Garuda, Peacock, Adisesha or the Divine serpent and Nandikeshwara. The compositions are by both eminent composers including Thyagaraja, Badrachalam Ramadas, Swati Tirunal, as well as lesser known compositions by composers from Karnataka. Ugabhogas, a rare musical form from Karnataka, will be taught in the workshop. Ugabhogas usually contained simple messages in an open ended prose style, with emphasis on devotion. They usually contain five lines and are set to a particular raga but not to any particular tala or rhyme.

The workshop promises to explore all these layers of symbolism and more. The resource persons have strived to find rare krithis on these thematic ideas in order to preserve and propogate music that holds values that promote sustainability and a reverence for nature.

Please write to us at namaste@indica.org.in for more information about the workshop.