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Ashka’s Arangetram

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Photos: Ghanshyam Patel

By Sanchali Basu

HOUSTON: The evening was arranged in the most elaborate way one possibly can. It had to be, because it was Ashka’s Arangetram. Parents Dr. Vipul and Sheetal Patel had gone all out to leave no stone unturned in the planning of this event. Starting from the stage decorations to the food spread both at the beginning and at the end of the event, the choice of venue, the program card and warmest hospitality, the Patel family made all attendees feel very welcome.

On Saturday, July 22nd, Ashka Patel performed her Arangetram under the capable guidance of Guru Smt. Dipti Dave. The audience was in awe when the curtains to the stage opened after the brief introductory remarks by mother Sheela Patel. The stage was very beautifully decorated with peacock feather props mimicking the main entrance of a Haveli, and two side doors mimicking the entrances to a temple with huge bells decorated with flowers. A gigantic Nataraj sculpture adorned the right side of the stage. A very luxurious dais with lavish bright yellow and gold silk sheets, cushions and pillows for the musicians adorned the left side.

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Ashka began her repertoire with the Vinayakakantuvam where she offered flowers to Lord Ganesha, the god of beginnings, and the Lord of Dance, Nataraja. Nritta based dance of rhythmic movements of the head, arms and feet, Jatiswaram followed, where the dancer drew a visual picture of the sounds. As is the norm in a Arangetram performance, the Shabdam followed, where Ashka playing the role of a lover, pled to the lord to not fall in love with another woman. Interestingly, several Gods and Goddesses were portrayed through this dance including Brahma, Vishnu in all his Dasavatar forms, Goddess Saraswati and some others. It combined both the Nritta and Nritya aspects of Bharatnatyam.

The Varnam, the longest, most important and demanding dance of the repertoire, “Main Giridhar ke ghar jaoon” was a Krishna Vandana performed effortlessly by Ashka with tremendous poise and grace, reflecting her long hours of practice. She portrayed Mirabai, who despite facing various obstacles as a queen, worships Lord Krishna through Shringar Bhakti and becomes one with God. A Kirtanam followed which was a eulogy to Tridev – Brahma, Vishnu, Maheswara, the creator, sustainer and the destroyer respectively. Of special mention is the fact that Hinduism, the 3rd largest, oldest, polytheistic religion is in fact monotheistic since it believes in the oneness of the universal Brahman.

Chief guest Congressman Randy Weber, accompanied by wife Brandy flew in from Washington DC just for the day of the event to grace the occasion. He lauded Ashka’s commitment, discipline and huge amount of training and commended her on her dance skills and hand gestures. He remarked that with such performances, the rich heritage of India was being woven into American culture.

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Arya Patel, brother of Ashka mentioned how Ashka proved to be his role model though she is younger. She maintained her academic excellence as she is enrolled in the WAVE program for gifted and talented students in school and also continued to play the violin in the school orchestra in spite of her rigorous dance training schedule. The Padam depicted the child Lord Krishna saving countless lives from drowning in the Yamuna river. Javeli was a beautiful narration in Gujarati, Pag Dhova Do Ne Raghurai from the epic Ramayana. It told the story of a devotee boatman and his feelings while carrying Lord Rama, Sita and Lakshmana across in his boat. They are all in the same profession in the sense that, while the boatman helps passengers cross the river, the Gods help mankind to cross Bhavsagar.

The Tillana that ensued had a beautiful blend of grace and pace, with sculputuresque poses and the brisk footwork that a climactic number demands. The Mangalam, the concluding piece was a final salutation to God, the Guru and the audience expressing the dancer’s gratitude for their blessings and encouragement.

Guru Dipti Dave and her team of musicians did an incredible job with the music. It was amazing to see how Guru Dipti Dave kept it all in the family, with herself on the Nattuvangam, husband Hemant Dave and celebrity daughter Mauli Dave on the vocals, son Dr. Omkar Dave on the Mridangam, son-in-law Mukul Majmudar as singer and on the keyboard, daughter-in-law Lopa Dave as stage coordinator and Damini Dave helped with the costume hair. The only 2 outsiders were Biplab Samadder on the violin and make-up artist Beth Hardin, and they were both excellent in their own right. Ashka was presented with her graduation certificate by Guru Dipti Dave. Ashka then came on to the stage followed by father Vipul Patel and they offered their vote of thanks. All in all, it was quite a memorable ceremony.

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