By Arijit Basu
Indian Cultural Center and temple in Memphis celebrated a week-long Hari Hara Yagnam which in Hinduism signifies worship, offering in front of a sacred fire with mantra (chants in the name of God) at the temple premises from June 10-16, 2019 to solemnize the temple’s glorious and amazing 25 years of success and growth in the Mid-South, Tennessee.
The rituals performed during the 7-day period by various eminent priests from United States and India. The ceremony began with Sri Ayyappa Utsava Vigraham- Prana Prathista on the first day, followed by Ganapati Puja, Vasthu Puja, Agnimadhanam, Lakshmi Homam, Hari Hara mahayagam, Chaturveda Mantrapushpam, Nakshtra purvaka, Amrita Pasupata Maha Mrityunjaya Homam, Navagraha Sahitha Subrahmanya, Sri Ramataraka Sahitha Manyusookta Homam. These are but the few from several yagnas conducted during the period both morning and evening hours.
Besides several yagnas, there were Ishti homans conducted twice daily at the end of Yagnam. Each homams were aimed to be conducted with the specific significance and benefits, namely “Lakshmi Ganapati” – homam for the relief from financial problems and debts; “Badabanala Jwala Maha Sudarsana” Homam for good health; “Amrita Pasupata Mrityunjaya” Homam for prevention of accidental deaths, increased longevity, and freedom from Jupiter’s malefic effect; “SriRamataraka, Manyu Sookta” Homam for employment, marital harmony, obtaining a new home and relief from longstanding legal problems. These are few among the long list of Ishti homams.
The silver jubilee celebration brought together an enchanting international array of artists for each evening during the week.
The evening on June 10 brought on stage Anindita Neogy Annam, a leading exponent of Indian Classical dance – “Kathak” – and a renowned instructor, performer and choreographer, as well as one of the first Indian Kathak Dancers to be appointed as the Secretary in Wisconsin Dance Council board in the United States. She performed on Pt Jasraj’s composition, a beautiful Ashtapadi (Sanskrit hymns) from Jayadev’s Geeta Govinda. Lalita Lavanga portrayed the story of Lord Krishna and his love Radha where Anindita depicted the feelings of Viroha Kantitha Nayika, or a heroine who is suffering the pain of separation and wishes to be united with her lover. The other pieces she performed were Rajasthani Maand, “Padharo Maare Des” (Welcome to my Land) in Jaipur style of Kathak. This maand reflects the popular folk of Thar desert and inspired by the love story of Dhola and Maru so it also has a touch of Shringara Rasa or romantic love.
Other items were a dance composition on Durga Bhajan which was set in Teen taal and composed by Kathak maestro Pandit Rajendra Gangani Anindita, presented the evocation of Goddess Durga and her various manifestations as empowered woman. Though it’s a traditional Bhajan but she has tried to portray both the shringara and raudra rasas (the romantic love between a man and a woman) through in her composition.
Set in Raga Charukeshi and taal teentaal Anindita presented todas, tukdas, tihais, ladi, kavitt, paran, gatnikas and various facets of Kathak dance ending with fast pirouettes on an 18-minute-long dance composition.
The evening of the 12th was made more enchanting by the presence of a Peruvian dancer known worldwide for her Bharatnatyam Ananga Manjari Malatesta Gonzalez, who travelled from Peru and stole the hearts of the Memphians present in the venue. She was full of vigor and grace.
Ananga Manjari started her studies in Bharatanatyam at the age of 4 with her mother Herlinda Gonzalez, who is the director of Gopesvara Arts academy in Peru and pursued her training under the guidance of Gurus Sri Shankar Kandasamy and Smt. Janaki Rangarajan has training in classical ballet (Royal academy) and contemporary dance – she has performed in many stages of USA, Peru, Europe, Malaysia, and India. The pieces she performed in Memphis – Pushpanjali in Vijay vasanta raga, rupaka tala Choreographed by Guru Shankar Kandasamy, Tisra Ghati allarippu – were choreographed by Guru Shankar Kandasamy that shows glances of lord Ganesh in between Varnam in bhairavi raaga adi tala, choreography by Dr. Janaki Rangarajan, varnam on lord krishna, nayika asking her friend to go and bring him to her, she tells about him and his lilas, how he amazes devas and humans, how her love grows for him.
- Theruvil Varano-Choreography by Guru Shankar Kandasamy – A poem describing the longing of a young girl for Lord Shiva s glance, a dream to see him turn around just to see her while he goes on procession.
- Dasavatar, the ten incarnations of Lord Vishnu were depicted through her dance composition and choreography by Guru Shankar Kandasamy.
- Chong Chiu Sen, a sensational renowned Malaysian born Chinese vocalist accompanied by Prasad Mantraratnam on Violin & Dr. Ekambaram on Mridangam.
Chong, a recipient of several awards and accolades worldwide sang Indian Carnatic music through Bhajans (devotional songs) with such skill and finesse and fluency over the language. He delivered a rendition of several of the classical Carnatic ragas (a piece of Indian music based on a traditional scale or pattern). It was a breathtaking sight to watch Chong and an absolute delight. His music was all about transcending barriers and cultures, nature, religion and language. Other scintillating performances were Nadaswaram (a double reed wind instrument from South India) by Kasim and Babu. The instrument is known to be very auspicious and played in almost all Hindu weddings and temples of South India. Kuchipudi another form of Indian classical dance recital by the students of ICCT Dance Academy.
There were appreciation dinners for Life members on Saturday and Annadanam or mahaprasadam were served by Gujrati Cuisine, Mayuri Indian Cuisine, Tamilnadu Cuisine, Andhra / Telangana Cuisine and many others. Thousands of devotes attended the week long silver jubilee celebration marking it as one of the biggest even in the state of Tennessee and was celebrated in full fervor and frolic. <>
Arijit Basu is a Sr. Clinical Research Data Analyst for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital as well as TOI NRI Associate at The Times of India.