Concert-goers in Southern California have several choices in this eventful summer art season. Among them is a two-part show: the premiere of Kodhai’s Dream, a bharatanatyam presentation by Rangoli Dance Company; and Kala Yatra, dances of India by the Nadam Dance Company on July 8 in Hollywood.
Kodhai’s Dream features excerpts from the sacred texts Thiruppavai and Nachiar Thirumozhi, where Kodhai’s pure love for Krishna is depicted. Also known as Andal, Kodhai is one of the most beloved poet-saints of southern India and lived in the eighth century. She is one of the 12 Alwars (worshippers of Lord Vishnu) and the only woman in the exalted group. She is also revered as the benevolent Mother Earth, making an appearance in this world as the goddess Lakshmi, Vishnu’s consort.
Kodhai was discovered under a tulsi plant by a devout priest, Perialwar, who raised her as his own daughter. As a child she grew up worshipping Krishna, listening to Vedas, epics, and sacred hymns. Over time, she developed an intense love for Krishna and began to adorn herself in flower garlands made for him. She would then offer the garlands to the God, which enraged her father. In her dream one day, she was reassured by Krishna himself that he relished only the garlands worn by her. With a firm belief that Krishna was her husband, she refused to marry anyone else.
The distressed father was directed in his dream by Lord Vishnu to take Kodhai to Ranganatha temple in Srirangam, and marry her to the Lord. As directed, Perialwar took Kodhai to the temple in a bridal costume, in a palanquin. On reaching the temple, Kodhai moved swiftly towards the Lord in the sanctorum. The Lord extended his arms to receive and embrace his long-expected bride. She was said to have merged with the deity in front of an assembly.
“As a child I used to hear my parents and the priests recite the poetry written by Andal (Kodhai) during puja and special ceremonies,” recollects choreographer Malathi Iyengar when describing her reasons for choosing this theme. “The story of Andal is very inspiring. It is spiritual and filled with vivid imagery about her love for Krishna.”
Lakshmi Iyengar, Hema Iyer, Mary Khetani, Shaheen Sheik, Soumya Sundaresh, Shivani Aysola, Shayan Chalan, Sheel Jagani, Sarah Mathew, Sandhya Rajan, Aarti Rao, and Kalpa Viswanadhan are some of the dancers in this production.
Kala Yatra features dances of India led by artistic directors of Nadam Dance Company, Murali Mohan K. and Nandini Mehta. Murali Mohan K. is a disciple of the celebrated kathak masters, Dharamshi Shah and Kumudini Lakhia. He has performed, choreographed, and taught kathak and folk dances of India throughout India, Europe, Canada, and the United States. Mehta is a versatile artist proficient in kathak and bharatanatyam. She has had the opportunity to learn under eminent gurus like Maya Rao, Maulik Shah, Ishira Parikh, Narmada, U.S. Krishna Rao, and Bhanumathi. Their group, consisting of dancers Tushar Bhat, Kirti Ramgopal, Niveditha Srinivas, Smitha Srinivasan, and Svikruth B.P., will perform kathak, folk, and a special piece where tap dance and kathak come together.
The music for Kodhai’s Dream is composed by Rajkumar Bharathi. Lighting design for the productions is by Eileen Cooley, and set design by Suresh Iyengar. —Smita Garg
Saturday, July 8, 7 p.m. The Barnsdall Gallery Theatre, 4800 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood. $15. (323) 644-6272, (818) 788-6860.