The music for the entire Chitram show was composed by Kanniks. The lyrics for the yoga segment started with the words “Chaitanyam sarva bhootanam”, set to Raga Bhupali of North Indian classical music (equivalent to Raga Mohanam of South Indian classical music). The lyrics were composed by the great Sarangadeva in the 13th century AD and appears in his magnum opus work Sangeeta Ratnakara. Click here to see the full lyrics and the meaning. Bhupali is a pentatonic raga where every pair of neighboring musical notes is separated by at least two semitones. As a result, the musical tension was minimum due to the lack of strong dissonance. This helped create an ambience of peace and tranquility that is perfectly suited for yoga. In fact, I greatly admired Kannik’s choice of Ragas in all segments of Chitram. For example, the dramatic and intense moments of a dance perfectly matched the strong emotions evoked by the ragas he chose.
During our practice sessions, we had our choir group practice in the adjacent hall. Our team had the unique advantage of practicing the yoga sequence with live music with the choir each week. The talented singers in the choir group also practiced for the other segments of the show. I found the music so mesmerizing that it frequently captured my mind away from our yoga practice. I had to strive very hard to focus my attention on the yoga sequence when such enchanting music was flowing in the background (I guess I should practice more Pratyahara). You can listen to excerpts of the Chitram music in the two videos from Kannik’s youtube channel here and here.
While the technical aspects of our practice are certainly important, I wanted our performance to be much more than a mere drill that is technically perfect. I wanted the presentation to be imbued with Bhaava: great feeling. To let it speak to the heart and soul of everyone who is watching our show. How do we do that with yoga movements? Which brings up the important question — what is the feeling that we wish to communicate? What is our central message?
The answer was articulated beautifully and eloquently by Kanniks a few days before the show. Our team of yogis performed a demo of our yoga sequence before Kanniks. He gave plenty of feedback (and yes, they included a generous dose of changes to the sequence!). The most important thing he said to us was to showcase the grandeur of this rich and majestic tradition of yoga.
“Allow the audience to discover the wonder of yoga. Allow them to be inspired by yoga coming to life on stage.” ~ Kanniks
As they say, we have to cultivate the feeling in our heart first in order to express it in an authentic and effective manner. We always began our practice sessions with an invocation prayer to Maharishi Patanjali. This created a prayerful attitude and a spiritually charged environment where yoga can unfold. Kannik’s powerful words to inspire and create wonder strongly resonated with me and reminded me of Maharishi Patanjali’s famous Sutra on the four ingredients of a high quality yoga practice.
“Sa tu dheergha kala nairantarya satkara sevito drdha bhoomih” — When the practice is done for a long time, without interruption, with honor and respect, with an attitude of service, the state of yoga is firmly established ~Maharishi Patanjali, in Yoga Sutra 1.14
In fact, all art forms practiced in India is considered divine and auspicious. It’s far more than a mere entertainment. No wonder the eminent composers of music and dance are also revered as great saints. The Bhaava is all important; the technical aspects are just vehicles that convey this feeling to the audience.
On the day of the show the atmosphere was electric! We had one final rehearsal with Kanniks and the entire team and we were all set and ready to go.
We had over 1,200 enthusiastic people in the audience, including the special guest of the show, Consul General of India P. Harish. Judging from the response we received, the yoga was indeed a great success. So many people shared that they are inspired to learn yoga.
Regarding our yoga performance on stage: my memory of it is quite foggy. It feels almost like a dream… I recall very little of what we did. Thanks to the many months of practice, my body ran on auto-pilot throughout the sequence (big YAY to muscle memory!). After the show, a few in the team quipped that if they hear the music “Chaitanyam sarvabhootanam…” while in deep slumber, they’d instantly jump into the yoga sequence! I fully agree. (Nice way to set wake-up alarm perhaps?)
Looking at the pictures and the video afterwards, I noticed that the coordination in the team was just fantastic. Remarkably, the our performance was on stage far surpassed our expectations.. in fact, it was superior to all of our prior attempts during our regular practices. While there were some unintended, and thankfully very minor flaws (as I mentioned before), it was still a wonderful show. We were on cloud nine
What I do remember vividly from the show is the awe I experienced while appreciating the other dance presentations. Each group delivered a spectacular and majestic performance. There were many occasions during Chitram where I was deeply moved. All the segments came together so beautifully and it was indeed a magical experience! I made a resolution that day to attend more Indian classical dance shows in Houston. Furthermore, the choral music with 46 singers sounded as one powerful voice, transporting the listener to a different realm of consciousness. (Samadhi, perhaps?)
Click here to see pictures from the show. And here is a report on Chitram that appeared in the Indo-American News..