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My kind of fusion

To me, religion, art and culture are deeply inter-linked, through mind, body and soul, writes Vyjayantimala Bali.

india Updated: Mar 27, 2006 14:32 IST

To me, religion, art and culture are deeply inter-linked, through mind, body and soul and the links between these three. Religious consciousness keeps rising within the body, mind and soul through various experiences. This paves the way to realising the devotional aspirations of the heart. For me, this finds expression through my art. The themes describing each dancing deity like Krishna, Siva, Parvati or Ganesh in Hindu mythology find frequent and lavish interpretation in Bharata Natyam. So religion and art are inseparable for me.

What then is “culture”? It is merely our kalaacharam, our mode of life. Culture expresses Indian sensibilities and involves being conscious of our deep-rooted values. This may or may not be happening in today's trendy times, but in fact, the ancient poets were themselves activists in their times. Their cause: love for God. And has that cause really changed?

Personally, I wouldn’t be “I” without my love for the Alwars, the Vaishnava saints of ancient Tamil Nadu, particularly Sri Andal ("Aandaal"), the girl-saint who is said to have merged into the Lord at Srirangam. From childhood I grew up in an atmosphere filled with her divine hymns and chants and was the first to dance to Sri Andal's 30 devotional songs, the Tiruppavai.

Recently, I had the chance to present the poetry of another famous saint, Tirumangai Alwar. In this work he imagines himself as the lovelorn heroine who gets so fed up of waiting for God, the hero, that she starts scolding Him.

What specially appealed to me was the strong emotion, the undaunted approach to love and the way Alwar's Nayika (heroine) runs the gamut of emotional possibilities- so highly spirited and sublime! The dance concept and direction were quite challenging for me. Well, this is not the first time I have tried to present ancient voices so that the youngsters of today may get acquainted with the beauty and power, the lyrical and musical content of the masters of centuries. This is the kind of fusion I believe in, between the old and the new.