Angikam Bhuvanam Yasya Vachikam Sarva Vangmayam
Aaharyam Chandra Taradi TamVande Sattvikam Shivam
If Nataraja, the king of dance, wore the moon and the stars as his aaharyam, its significance cannot be overemphasized. The oldest surviving text in the world on stagecraft, Natyashastra elaborates on the role of aaharya in intensifying the visual impact of a dance performance. Aaharyam refers to the costume, ornaments, make-up and hairstyle of the dancer. It also includes stage props and decor.
Rooted in spirituality, classical dances originally aimed to create a transcendental experience for the viewer. Aaharyam played the role of bestowing a celestial aura on the dancer, armed with which she would proceed to deliver a spiritual message to the audience. In each classical dance form, the aaharyam plays a unique role. In Manipuri, the circular puffed up, stiff skirts along with the twirling dance movements refer to the infinite cosmos. In Kathakali, the performers are assigned make-up according to the characters they play in the dance. In Odissi, the head gear, a tiara, symbolises a temple peak and shows the urge of the dancer to reach out to God.
Another notable aspect of aaharyam is its indigenous nature. Bharatanatyam is inseparable from its costume in rich, vibrant, Kanchipuram silk and temple jewellery; a textile art and a craft popularised in the temple towns of Tamilnadu. Mohiniyattom would be incomplete without the elegant, off-white and gold kasavu sari drape and the kaasumaala, traditional creations of the artisans of Kerala. Odissi dancers wear their own handicrafts too, the Sambalpuri ikat sari and intricate filigree silver jewellery, a 500 year old craft that is the handiwork of artisans on the eastern shores of Orissa. Our arts and crafts have walked hand in hand for many centuries. A heart-warming fact indeed!
It is the aforementioned thread that links me to Mamangam. As an art enthusiast, working in the field of fashion, it was a pleasure to collaborate with Rima, a fashion enthusiast, working in the field of arts. To just say that we understood each other would be an understatement. Designing costumes for the classical dances at Mamangam was an exercise I enjoyed immensely. Here was a space where traditional and contemporary arts rubbed shoulders with each other. The easy camaraderie of art, tradition and youth which was taking shape here had to be recreated in the costumes. I hope the vibrant handloom saris, the block-printed blouses with hints of pop art and the retro styling have captured the essence of Mamangam – a festival of art, a confluence of talent and a burst of colour.
July 5, 2014
To see more photos from the Mamangam collection, please click here.