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Glimpses of eternity

GAUTAM CHATTERJEE

Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra, Odissi maestro, left the mortal coil on April 7, 2004. But his spirit still dances in the memory of his admirers.


The movement of expression must slip by and by, like a flower smiles in the morning for the first time.

Photo: Sruti Mandal

AN EXPRESSION THAT NEEDED NO WORDS A file picture of Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra.

Lucknow. It was 1st April 2004. Odissi Guru Kelucharan Mohapatra gave perhaps the best performance of his life, with his expression that needed no words, in `Rama Kevata Samvad'.

After his dance performance, we were in a little room. He was to come to Varanasi on April 11 for the Sankatmochan Sangeet Samaroh, where he had been a constant presence since 1975. He was the person to start women's participation on the stage of this Samaroh with Sanjukta Panigrahi, Swapna Sundari and Kankana Banerjee.

"I am coming on the eleventh, if Sankatmochanji is interested to continue to grace me, for I have been coming there only by His grace," he said with his familiar simple confidence. Only nine days remained.

`Spiritually adult'

His son Ratikant and dancer daughter-in-law were present. "I don't know why, but I feel this must be my last presentation," he began with his innocent smile. "I am not tired. Now I can say that I am spiritually adult to dance in grace. Odissi is not a mere dance form to entertain people but to inspire and elevate. I don't actually dance but pray in compassion and the spectators say that this `form' is dancing."

Of course, when he moved his hand as a hastaka in space, it had a tendency to remain still there, eternally. And when he interpreted the ashtapadis of the Gita Govind, translated into the Odissi dance discipline, Radha seemed to appear in person.

"Actually in `Dheera Sameere Yamuna Teere', when Sri Krishna waits for Radha's arrival on the banks of the Yamuna, I wait for grace," he explained. "I never find myself in a hurry to move on speedily with words and expression. The movement of expression must slip by and by, like a flower smiles in the very fine morning for the first time."

Pleasant memories

He remembered how he had been greeted warmly in Varanasi in 2003 in a programme organised specially for him by Pandit Kishan Maharaj and Vidushi Girija Devi.

"It was a nice and rich morning there that came as a surprise. Besides the Sangeet Samaroh, it was amazing. I was completing my seventieth year. This dance form having sublime grace and exquisite beauty, requires the piety of a temple, and the Sankatmochan temple allows me to fulfil my devotion. There are several temples in this country now for dance performances, but desh mein jagrat mandir bahut kam hain."

He continued, "The real dance must convey the feeling of undivided existence, that a spectator can feel that he is not different from the thing observed.

The observer is the thing observed. Drashta aur drishya mein laya ho jaana chahiye. Bhed drishya mein ho, kintu darshak aur drishya mein na ho. Drashta, drishya aur darshan ek hain. Sri Krishna hain, Sri Rama hain."

It was his final culmination. He said, "As the dancing body moves into a space, it creates its own space where its soul remains to dance forever. Is akash mein kuch nahi chhutata. Isliye hum gyarah ko mil rahe hain." It was the first time one heard him use words so freely. He was not known as a great talker. On the seventh of that month, Ratikant informed me over telephone from Bhubaneshwar that he was no more.

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