An ode to the Kaveri River

Nirupama Vaidyanathan and the Sankalpa Dance Foundation created an ode to the life force of the Kaveri River in their recent production, Whispers Along the Kaveri: New Secrets Unravel on Aug. 19 at the Sunnyvale Theater in Sunnyvale, California.

Vaidyanathan brought to life a narrative of how the Kaveri River served as the epicenter of Carnatic music and Bharatanatyam in the 18th and 19th centuries. Not only were the great trinity of Carnatic composers, Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, and Shyama Sastri, all born in Tiruvarur near the Kaveri river, but also the famous Thanjavur Quartet of brothers, who shaped Bharatanatyam, visited there to learn music and receive mentorship.

The creative lifeforce of the Kaveri River

The production opened with a piece about the beginnings of the river, Kaveri’s birthplace: Talakkaveri. Next was The Kaveri Sings And Dances showcasing the Bharatanatyam Margam where dancers illustrated the first pieces that a student learns – the alarippu, jatiswaram and abhinaya. Three dancers skillfully wove between the pieces and then joined Vaidyanathan on stage for the Mohamana varnam, a composition by the Thanjavur Quartet.

Of Fish, A Tamil Verse, and a March to Freedom depicted a story of escaping the cycle of birth and death – samsara – through the story of a fish. The dancers then portrayed the poetic meter of Tirumazhisai Azhwar, which was created on the banks of the Kaveri, followed by the words of freedom fighters Subramania Bharati and Namakkal Ramalingam Pillai, illustrating how that same poetic meter was used in the peaceful pursuit of India’s independence.

The production concluded with Kaveri Sangamam, a beautifully choreographed piece showcasing all eight dancers.

Performing dancers were: Priyanka Chary, Vedika Iyer, Janani Kalyanaraman, Abirami Murugappan, Haritha Rajasekar, Dhanya Sethuraman, Advika Srinivas and Nirupama Vaidyanathan.

Sree Sripathy joined India Currents as a staff photographer and CatchLight Local Fellow as part of CatchLight's California Local Visual Desk program in June 2022. Reach out with story ideas or comments...