Navratri Celebrations at Isha Yoga Center
Now with almost 8 months experience to show, the active and vibrant Isha Kalachaara, overseeing all ashram celebrations and festivals, has made another attempt at making memorable and relevant the traditional antiquity of Indian culture. As the unusually hot October sun beat its rays on the open grounds of Isha Yoga Center, preparations were being made for the culmination of the nine day Navratri celebration, better known as Dussehra.
As with many other traditional festivals and celebrations of India, this Dussehra was punctuated by the timeless presence of pooja, performing arts and prasadam. What more could you want? With volunteers inaugurating the event with an Ayudha pooja, one not accustomed to such culture might wonder why laptops, books, vehicles, internet hubs, cooking vessels, tools, musical instruments and many more possessions are placed on white cloth, garlanded, kum kum clad, and so meticulously kept, surrounded by an appetizing array of fruits and sweet kitcheri. These items are in fact worthy of worship, because it is with these that we are able to perform our work and ultimately connect with the world and its ways. The Divine expressed in material form, valued for the capability it bestows, allowing us to flourish and succeed in the modern world.
Promptly following the Ayudha pooja, the Isha Samskriti children were quick to find their way to the dais and captivate us with chants and songs specially prepared for the occasion. From their festive drum ensemble, to their vocal choir, Samskriti performances are a unique glimpse of natural perfection. When the last song concluded, with an interlude of loud applause, the Sounds of Isha made their way to the dais to perform. Sounds of Isha is known to exhibit different types of genres and soundscapes depending upon the team members and situation at hand. For this occasion, supported by a guest drummer from Chennai, the team made no hesitation to woo the audience with songs about Devi; more specifically, our Devi, Linga Bhairavi.
As the sun finally began to set over the seventh hill, and it shown its light on the western face of the Velliangiri mountains, the main performance was just about to begin. Bharatnatiyam is a classical form of Indian dance that is as much a science as it is an art form. The dance teachers of Isha Samskriti had prepared three pieces of this classical art to offer on this occasion. Though the initial intention was to dance on the main dais, slightly raised from the ground, this was suddenly changed last minute due to technical issues. With no other option at hand, the dancers agreed to perform on a carpet-covered ground, close to the audience. Although this change of location might have dimmed the spirit of the dancers, it hardly showed as they gracefully made their entry onto the earthen stage. Vibrant story lines, evocative expressions, and undeniable agility and dexterity are just a few highlights of a Bharatnatyam dance recital; not to mention the intense accompanying live music, which is in no way underplayed or background.
As the evening sandhya began to merge into the night, the 6.10pm Darshan concluded the gathering and brought everyone together in a different level of involvement and celebration. Darshan includes Nirvana Shatakam chanting, song offering, Guru Pooja and soft Brahmananda Swaroopa chanting while vibhuti is offered to all.
But the event was not over yet. After dinner, the residents and guests all gathered once again on the open grounds to participate in a traditional group dance known as garbha. The word “garbha” literally means ‘womb’ and is symbolically performed in a large circle, a spinning ring of dancers moving in tandem. This is a dance of devotion towards the feminine aspect of the divine, and is traditionally accompanied by lively music in six beats. This night dance, under the mountain, in devotion towards the Devi, surely left an impression in the air, a residue of exuberance, that can only merge with the countless memories this sacred space has witnessed.