Reviewing SHIVA: Chhandam’s story of the dark arts
by Nikhil Thakur.
Nikhil Thakur is a patron of the arts and a member of the Chhandam family. He is an IT professional, philosopher, and a follower of the teachings of Pandit Chitresh Das. In his spare time, Nikhil enjoys science fiction and women’s softball.
[Pandit Chitresh Das] was a genius. The choreography and music of each show was distinctly different and driven by his desire to go deeper into concepts that fascinated him. Concepts around spirituality, knowledge and he was forever seeking to discover more about the human condition. He delved deeply into the Indian tradition and had such depth of knowledge that there was never a need or desire to pander to Western audiences—he was just so fearless. And then, of course, there’s the amazing variety—from ‘Pancha Jati’ to ‘Yatra’ to ‘Sita Haran’, from ‘Darbar’ to ‘India Jazz Suites’ to ‘Shiva’—each one is unique, each one is exceptional. –Celine Schein Das
As the musicians enter more deeply into a trance while playing their special brand of Indian rock and roll, the forces of the underworld are slowly summoned. The sitar, sarod, tabla and vocals are tuned in a way so as to illuminate the difference between traditional Vedic asceticism and the Left-handed path of Tantric embodiment, of form and formlessness, of light and darkness.
Constant, steady and unchanging, the Ascetic walks along the borderland of these worlds in order to appease the shadow of the god Shiva so that a balance between this world and another world, between order and chaos, might be maintained.
Meanwhile, the four ghouls that come from the plane of the Dravidian zombie-land have revealed other plans as they seek to disrupt the precarious harmony that exists between and amongst creation, destruction and re-birth.
All of these instances of universal human sloppiness serve to enrage Shiva, whose anger is manifested on the Earthly plane as an uncontrollable wildfire. And yet, at the same time, it is Shiva’s flame that supplies the force designed to produce the glow that will remove the barriers which cloud a human vision that remains spellbound behind a veil of avidya that is poisoned by ignorance.
This is SHIVA, the story of a menacing, cosmic dance, brought to you by the good people at Chitresh Das Dance Company. Throughout this performance, an array of characters vie for supremacy in a mad scramble for power as they engage in the black lila of the making, taking and breaking that has ensued in the firmament.
We witness a Tantric yogi, with questionable intentions, being tempted by a couple of mischievous spirits who have ascended from the depths of a Narakan hell for the sole purpose of distracting, deterring and de-railing the already confused practice of the yogi who has ventured into a land that is forbidden to mortals. The undeviating Ascetic is most dismayed by this unfolding of events as (s)he becomes compelled to intervene in order to restore a sense of equanimity to the situation so that Shiva’s steady flame can be allowed to sustain its blaze.
After great trial and tribulation, the trickster spirits are expelled, the yogi regains his faculties, and the god Shiva is satisfied for the time being. The winter of Sati gives way to the springtime of Madhan, Rati and Parvati. And for another season at least, the bitter cold is re-created in a different shape, as the warmth of the welcome sunshine.
And in this same way, as the winter prepares to turn to spring next year, the artists of Chhandam will present to you another blessed (and slightly re-envisioned) manifestation of this dazzling show, of SHIVA.
So mark your calendars and make your plans to attend now, because the last thing you want to do is miss this show and provoke the ire of the god of destruction who would become extremely displeased should you be absent.