International Odissi Festival 2003: Seminar - Bichitrananda Swain on Janana
Duration: 00:12:02; Aspect Ratio: 1.778:1; Hue: 333.809; Saturation: 0.023; Lightness: 0.231; Volume: 0.141; Cuts per Minute: 2.075; Words per Minute: 40.098
Summary: The 2nd International Odissi Festival was organised by IPAP between August 28 - 31, 2003, in Washington D.C. Dedicated to the memory of Guru Pankaj Charan Das, who passed away in June 2003, it brought together Odissi dancers and scholars from all over the world.
Guru Bichitrananda Swain, the director of Rudraksh, is an Odissi performer, teacher and choreographer. He served as a visiting instructor at Nrityagram, Bangalore as well as being a chief instructor of Orissa Dance Academy.
He gives a short demonstration of janana, a verse that may take the form of a prayer, appeal or remonstration addressed to a divine being.
Bichitrananda Swain makes a presentation on janana.
"The word 'janana' literally means expressing the pains and burdens of life. Though the devotee asks for solace and comfort, it is thought to be a method to feel the closeness of god."
Out of sheer love and devotion, the devotee sees the divine as an intimate being. This relationship allows the devotee to scold god, plead, beg and also get angry.
The janana that Swain chooses to explain is 'ahe nila saila'. The leprosy-stricken poet Salbeg is outside the Jagannath temple at Puri, which he cannot enter because of his leprosy and also because he is Muslim. Till date, the temple at Puri denies entry to non-Hindus and foreigners. A great devotee of Jagannath, in this sixteenth century poem, Salbeg eulogises Jagannath by recounting some miraculous instances where he has come to the rescue of his devotees.
Swain announces that he will demonstrate the stanza -
Gajaraja chinta kola ghora jalena
chakra pesi nakra nasi uddharile apana
The king elephant Gajendra called you to his rescue, there, in the deep waters; (when he was trapped by a scheming crocodile)
Brandishing your chakra, you killed the crocodile and saved the day and proved your greatness.
The elephant decides to enter the deep waters in search of the flowers that grow in it. On doing so, he is trapped by a crocodile who has a vice-like grip on his foot. He is dragged deep into the water by the elephant; the crocodile is unrelenting and holds on tight even as the elephant struggles. On being appealed to, Jagannath kills the crocodile with his chakra and saves the elephant.
Ahe nila saila prabhala matta barana
mu arata nalini banaku kara dalana
Behold the blue mountain, as majestic as a great intoxicated elephant,
Just as the elephant tramples upon the water lilies in a pond, I implore you to destroy the weakness in my heart.
Jayant Kastuar comments on the janana. He remarks that the janana privileges the bhakti bhava by its dramatised reference to specific episodes as opposed to abhinaya that involves a hero and a heroine. He asks if janana should be dramatised only to a certain extent because there is always a temptation to exaggerate divine attributes and getting lost in the story. He mentions Kudiyattam and Kathakali as examples of such long-winded storytelling structures and wonders if the same would be relevant here. Even a text used for mangalacharan is too highly elaborated and digresses into excessive sanchari, taking away from what mangalacharan should be - an offering and invocation to the gods, gurus and the audience.
How to treat a text thus greatly depends on where it is used in the structure of the marga or the repertoire and which part of the evening (of performance) it falls in.
DN Patnaik elaborates on the different kinds of jananas. The one performed here for instance is a prayer. Another kind of janana directly scolds the god. It is a 'ninda stuti'. What type of god are you; you are formless, not effective at all.
Kastuar's closing remarks - There are prayers, appeals; others scold the lord. We talk of prayer in English, but janana is structurally different from a bhajan and is conceptually different from a kirtan. In janana it comes directly from the devotee, while kirtans are collectively sung and experienced. Bhajans are largely solo offerings but could also be collective.