Thursday, April 15, 2021

M is for Mudras in Modhera #AtoZChallenge

Dear Readers,

Welcome to the third week of the #Blogging from A to Z  April Challenge 2021. My theme this year is based on the Japanese concept of Ichigo Ichie which means--"What we are experiencing right now will never happen again. And therefore, we must value each moment like a beautiful treasure."

I'm exploring the 'Enemies of Ichigo Ichie' this week. Yesterday, it was 'projections'. Today's focus is on 'analysis' and 'impatience.'

Let's step into a day in January of 2017 in Gujarat for today's post.

Thank you.

                             "There is a common saying that goes, 'If you want to be happy, don't analyse everything.' 
The joy of the moment can't be defined, dissected, understood; it can only be lived."

"Ichigo Ichie demands that we give ourselves over to what we experience without any kind of expectation."
Quotes borrowed from The Book of Ichigo Ichie                
January, 2017.
By the time our group of six had paid for the entrance ticket at the Sun Temple in Modhera (an 11th century Chaulakya Dynasty temple), the mid-day sun was high in the sky. It was January but the bright heat was threatening to dampen our exploration. 
As is usual for me, after deciding on a time when we'd head back, I broke away from the group to explore the temple with my camera. 
Something caught my eye:
red. green and graceful.
From across the pond, with limited zoom,
a scene was born.
They didn't look like casual tourists.
They must be dancers, I thought.
I'd seen banners and posters at the entrance announcing the dance festival.
First two, then six and then seven.
I spotted others clicking them.
My heart skipped a beat.
Stumbling into a dream,
I clicked
dancers breathing life
into stones and relics.
They took their time to adjust, 
change, agree, disagree and finally settle to strike their dancers' pose.
I was lost 
in their sequence, of course.
What synchronicity!
such luck...
to witness ancient carvings come unstuck
from pages of history 
to float ethereally
like an open mystery.

Every moment I absorbed patiently,
mudra* magic unravelled right in front of me.

lost in a breath, in a split second
the bubble burst as soon as I heard
the outside world.
I hope you enjoyed these magical moments in Modhera as much as I did back when travelling was easy.

Patience pays and analysis doesn't. Had I rushed ahead to tick all the must-see boxes of the Sun temple, or asked around to find out what was going on, why those people were allowed inside the 'out of bounds' area, I would've missed it all.

We ended up buying tickets for the dance festival. And we came back later that night with great expectations only to be bitterly disappointed. 

In my opinion, the artificial and garish lights cast an ugly glow on this ancient temple and the gazillions of speeches and garlands to thank all the 'important' people to kick start the festival made us very, very impatient for the dancers to come on stage. 

But when they did, the loud speakers washed away their delicate movements. It was such a cacophony of sound and light that it felt more like a mockery of our ancient culture than a celebration. I may sound harsh but sometimes, actually most times, less is better when it comes to showcasing that which is already so beautiful--classical dances, poetry, architecture. We should be preserving it, not distorting it with 'newness'.
The dancers I clicked would perform Odissi dance which  is considered to be the oldest (traced back to 2nd century BC) and the most graceful of all Indian classical dance forms, at the festival. 
Their mudras and poses from the afternoon would outperform their evening presentations in my view. 
According to Deepam Odissi Academy Muscat's website, "A Mudra* is a symbolic hand gesture used in Hindu and Buddhist iconography, performing arts, and spiritual practice, including yoga, dance, drama and tantra.
There are a total of 28 mudras in the Abhinaya Darpan or the The Mirror of Gesture."

I'm sharing this translation of a prayer that appears in The Mirror of Gestures and according to this site and others I came across while researching, it is taught to Indian classical dancers.


Where the hands are, the eyes follow

Where the eyes are, the mind follows

Where the mind goes, there is expression

Where this is expression, mood is evoked

Doesn't the prayer sound  like Ichigo Ichie to you? It's all about paying attention.

Leaving you with a short Odissi dance piece performed in Venice. It's beautiful. Enjoy.

Coincidentally, I came across a blog post on 'G' day which explores the famous poet, Jayadeva's Gita Govindam which is an integral part of Odissi dance and music. You can read more here: Gita Govindam - the ultimate romance

This year, I'm participating in #BlogchatterA2Z  powered by 


  1. Your photos and descriptions are beautiful. Less is often more, although that's an oxymoron.
    Visiting from A to Z

  2. What a lovely prayer..I am jotting it down. Pics are breathtaking. Yes this commercialization of art takes away its beauty. Glad you saw the dancers in their element that morning.

    1. I feel lucky to have been there at that precise moment.

  3. I always thought that you have been often lucky with your travel discoveries and today’s post of clicking these dancers in one of the most fascinating historical monument proved it. Never mind, if you didn’t enjoy the flashy and loud were lucky to see and experience their best version. Good luck for ‘N’.

    1. I think so too, Pinkz:) Travel gods like me, maybe.

  4. You were so lucky to find them practicing in the afternoon. I absolutely love the pictures! Ad bang on about how the artificial light and sound takes away the natural beauty and grace of the art. At least you could see the real performance and freeze it forever.

    1. True Srivalli. I haven't come across anyone who likes those kinds of garish shows. Don't know why they put them up!

  5. Oh, beautiful photos, and dancers very graceful! Too bad for the show...
    Quilting Patchwork & Appliqué

  6. Arti, M for Marvelous, pardon me for my limited vocabulary, I am truly running out of words to describe your clicks each day! And today's quote is my mantra too, I will leave it at that without any further analysis.
    Way back when we were on our routine family Holiday to Kerala for the nth time. Nth time because, that is our native place and parents had this agenda to tick the boxes of all the must visit temples (each trip)which was not exciting for us. Either it was Guruvayur or Trichur's famous Vadakunnathan temple Iam clearly confused, that evening as we were walking around the temple, I was walking fast with Appa who got distracted with some group of locals loud discussions. There were men getting dressed up for an event to perform in the temple. The make up was LOUDER than their words and the half done makeup looked scary too. But Appa was fascinated by them. These were Kathakalli dancers who were to perform in some time. There was no fancy stage or lights, the orchestra was live and the performance was breath taking & mosquitos in abundance being a spoil sport! That was the first time for me, a close interaction with Kathakalli artists. Those days I associated dance with women only,seeing men dance,make up and convey a story with their performance was an eye opener for me. I/ We didnt own any camera to capture that moment, but it is etched in my memory forever.

    1. Thank you for sharing your memory here Vidya.
      I can picture you and your awestruck self.

      Watching Kathakali dancers put on their elaborate make-up is a spellbinding experience.

  7. Amazing pictures and a beautiful prayer too

  8. Hari Om
    I so know what you mean about the light and sound so out of balance with the tenet of the dance itself... So glad you caught these moments to remember what the beauty could be - and to see the steps and portals of the ancient being honoured with an equally ancient art! YAM xx

  9. What an amazing group and routine!

  10. Wow Arti... What luck to discover those dancers just like that... Were they practising for the night performance... But yeah as you said enjoy the happiness of the moment... Its no charm to dissect analyse and logicize every single thing. Did you say Odissi dance... I love those Mudras of that dance so much... Well being a native of that land I can only thank you for this lovely post and the snaps of the dance forms 💕

    1. Ira, did you learn Odissi dance in school?
      I love watching it. And the tribhanga posture makes me go 'wow' every time.

    2. No dear Arti... I was not born and brought up in I haven't learned Odissi.. Rather I learnt a bit of Bharatnatyam :)

  11. Sometimes unexpected moments can be utterly amazing as your experience that day at the temple. Your photos captured it beautiful. I am sorry the more formal dance festival that evening was a disappointment. Weekends In Maine

  12. What a serendipitous discovery! And what gorgeous photos. I'm so glad you got to take them, and to share them with us - I feel like we been gifted a glimpse at something quite magical. The prayer is lovely, and such a perfect reminder about how to be in the flow of the present moment. What a delight to see the Odissi dance - thanks for sharing that video.

    1. So glad you enjoyed the offerings of the post Deborah.

  13. Wow! ... This is a place I have to visit ... Thanks for sharing the info and some lovely photos.
    M for Mayo Hall

    1. You'll love it Pradeep. Gujrat has a lot of architectural gems to offer.

  14. Gorgeous pictures! And that temple looks like a place I would definitely love to visit... :)

    The Multicolored Diary

    1. Thank you.
      You'd love the entire state of Gujrat. It's a story-collector's dream.

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  16. What stunning images! What a stroke of fortune! I have been to Modhera and the temple and the temple tank are very picturesque. But these graceful dancers adorned the ancient shrine and made it even more beautiful. Thank you for sharing.


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