24 May, 2019

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The Story Of ‘Karnan’ My Hero Through The Splendour Of Dance

By Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

Karnan is my hero, the character I most love in the epic, Maha Bharatham, even better than Arjunan or Tharman. His story is both soul stirring and heart breaking yet edifying. Though immortal I believe Karnan was sent to earth for a purpose to – exemplify noble qualities! And in one evening both the story of my hero and the splendour of Bharathanatyam dance came together in one innovative production – need I ask for more?

Bharathanatyam is an exquisite dance form you would agree, and Naatykalakulanithy, Smt. Vanitha Kugenthiran with her originality, creativity, skill and expertise, not to mention amazing choreography has proved beyond doubt, each time she puts on a show, that she knows how to dig deep into the treasure trove of this versatile and rich art form and take it to incredible heights! The arangetram of Mithuzha Thangavel at the Armenian theatre, Scarborough, Canada, on August 27th 2016, before a rapturous audience, showed the student was up to the task the Guru had set, by her perfect execution of a somewhat demanding and challenging repertoire. It was another thematic presentation, another gem and a winner..This time depicting the story of Karnan. Karnan is my hero, a character I most love in the epic Maha Bharatham, even better than Arjunan or Tharman. I’ll tell you why.

mithuzha-thangavels-bharathanatya-arangetramFirst credit where credit is due.

Mithuzha the star of the evening showed in her debut, she has both promise and potential. Undoubtedly this unique presentation was held well together brilliantly by her and undeniably by the skill and finesse of masterful accompanying artists, by some original heart rending lyrics and musical compositions and by an eloquent and erudite master of ceremonies.

Smt. Vanitha Kugenthiran – Nattuvangam, Shri. Ahilan Sivanandan – Carnatic Vocal, Shri. Kugenthiran Kanagenthiran – Miruthangam, Shri. Mithuran Manogaran – Violin, Smt. PrabhaThayalan – Veena, Master. Ajey Kiruba – Gadam, Mr. Balraj Perampalam and Mr. ‘Supu’ – Lyrics, Mr. ‘Supu’ – Musical Compositions and Mrs. Kothai Amuthan – Emcee, together took our breath away.

While the brilliant Kothai Amuthan set the scene, Ahilan Sivanandan, visiting carnatic vocalist living in Australia, now taking Canadian audiences by storm with his marvellous voice and renditions, raised the tempo; ably assisted of course by an extraordinary orchestra, enhanced further by some original lyrics and compositions, especially created for this production – altogether bringing out the required emotions in Mithuzha, the dancer and in turn the audience that stayed connected with her until the very end.

Karnan is my hero and most everyone’s hero I should think, the endearing character from Maha Bharatham, the story of the triumph of good over evil. Why is he my hero, because Karnan epitomised the best attributes, those that I admire most; he was endowed with the finest and noblest qualities that we human beings can only aspire to and even otherwise in testing times would find hard to hold on to.

Karnan showed that in the toughest situations he could remain steadfast to the values and principles of compassion, generosity, kindness, magnanimity, loyalty, gratitude, of true friendship and chivalry. Karnan who had a father, mother and siblings never enjoyed the love of his mother or brothers; though born a prince, was pitiably an orphan brought up by a charioteer in the royal court; conceived out of wedlock, his mother Kunthi, through shame, was forced to abandon him in the river.

The saddest part was that he found himself in the middle of a major conflict between the Pandavas and the Kauravas, two feuding royal families, rejected even by eminent teachers to royalty, who should have known better; his ancestry at first unbeknown to him and everyone else- except Lord Krishna (his mother being Kunthi, the queen of the Pandavas and his father being the Sun God). Although a brave and skilful warrior, and given a principality as a reward by Thuriothanan, the crown prince of the Kauravas and treated with dignity and respect, Karnan was the object of taunts and much scorn all his life, because of his perceived “lowly” birth. Even as the Lord later offered him the kingdom of Hasthinapuram as the eldest progeny of the Pandavas, Karnan, in typical form said he would accept if only the crown was given to Thuriothanan, the loyal and ever grateful friend that he was.

Karnan did not die because he did not have the strength, skill or wherewithal to fight and win the fiercest of opponents; he died because the arrow of Arjunan’s Kandeepam pierced him as he tried to lift the wheel of his chariot from a hole after his charioteer abandoned him, Krishna alerting Arjuna of the most opportune time to ‘kill’ Karnan. Even as he lay dying, his ‘Kavasa-Kundalams’ were craftily taken away from him, all in the course of divine play, so that his soul would depart. A man of unparalleled generosity, Karnan gave it away graciously to Indiran, when asked, who came disguised as a Brahmin. It was so willed that Karnan had a set of ‘Kavasa Kundalams’ – Kavasam – an armour already embedded in his chest at birth, given to him by his father, the Sun God and Kundalams – a pair of ear-ornaments that he earned through his meritorious deeds – that together protected him from any attack, so that he could not be killed.

That’s why, though immortal, I believe Karnan was sent to earth for a purpose to exemplify noble qualities.

Amazingly, the tragic but heart warming story of the ever gallant and noble Karnan ( I classify him noble because of his noble qualities – on the contrary classifying anyone by caste is something I find repugnant – it’s not a measure to judge people in my book, it’s their actions that count) was narrated and portrayed effectively in the ‘Margam’ (repertoire) Guru Vanitha had put together; in one item, the nine different human emotions, known as ‘navarasam’: Sringara – Love, Hasya – Comic, Karuna – Compassion, Raudra – Anger, Veera – Valour, Bhaya – Fear, BhiBhatsa – Disgust, Atputha – wonder and Shanta – Tranquility, that was so part and parcel of Karnan’s life, was so well choreographed by the Guru and wonderfully performed by Mithuzha; similarly, in the scene where Karnan lay dying with an arrow plunged right into his chest, Mithuzha got into the parts demanded of her, dramatising it realistically, performing to the ever popular hit song, “Ullaththil Nalla Ullam”, (from the movie Karnan – one we never tire of listening bringing tears to our eyes every time), but here set to ‘Supu’s musical composition that Ahilan sang so movingly, that simply melted the heart!

It’s incredible that the Margam was arranged following the disciplines set for an arangetram, in traditional Vazhavoor style and I don’t know how Vanitha teacher manages to do it!

Congratulations to Canada’s Kalai Kovil Academy of Fine Arts, for yet another fine presentation and for producing and nurturing young and blooming artists and committed to developing their potential in an admirable way! May the academy’s service grow and flourish.

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Latest comments

  • 6
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    Bharathanatyam

    So Tamils celebrate Indian Dances as theirs. SO much for the unique Tamil culture.

    • 5
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      Usha S Sri-Skanda-Rajah

      “Karnan is my hero, the character I most love in the epic, Maha Bharatham,”

      So you love Mahathya (Mahendrarajah former deputy leader of LTTE) who was sacrificed by VP in the interest of Tamils’s Peyattam (devil dance).

    • 2
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      LLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL tamils are better at dancing and it is their story

  • 7
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    You have the most adorable smile, me lady!

    • 6
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      kumaran
      Don’t be deceived. That is a deadly smile that brought death to many innocent Tamils!

      • 3
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        Eusense, that’s nonsense. Her smile does light-up her world and those others. VP’s (if that was what you referred to) is the demonic grin of evil) I may not agree with all she says but to me, she looks like a decent human being.

        Sooner than later, we will find a way to live together and share our lives in good times and bad times. I m truly sorry for the deep divide between our peoples.

    • 3
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      kumaran

      Don’t listen to Nuisance the stupid I for she is in her second childhood.

  • 11
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    Dear Aunty Usha

    This is something both you and I appreciate and hold in high esteem. Bharathanatyam may in fact be the most valuable contribution to south Asian art from Tamil Nadu.

    As a practitioner myself, I know how difficult it is to portray the navarasa. Sounds like your friend did a great job!

    I hope that more and more Sri Lankans from all ethnicities learn each others’ art forms, as a means to appreciating each other’s culture.

    • 6
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      i appreciate your comment and sentiments Sinhalese Buddhist..truly!

    • 4
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      sinhalese buddhist ,

      then you are not aware of the european perfected art form. the sword is to protect the woman from men. by spanish professor of artform dance. valencia.
      this is difficult. and Bharatanatyam fattens the dancer I understand.
      This girl is insane – Sara Guirado
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WsFUkej9U4c

  • 6
    10

    Didn’t you know that the Mahabharatha is just a comic book, like the Mahavamsa? Just ask Cholan about it.

    • 3
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      So the Homers,
      Iliad and the Odyssey, is among the oldest copies of Mahabharata.

  • 6
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    Can you count the number of child soldiers in Maha Bharatham and file a case against the perpetrators?

  • 3
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    So you have two heroes !!! How cool….

  • 2
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    Sumaney.

    It should be three heroes! Why have you left yourself out?

  • 4
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    Dear Mrs Sriskantharajah, The Mahabaratha war is depicted as a war between good and evil. In this war, Karnan stood and fought on the side of evil, for the sake of ‘Sengottuk kadan'( a deep form of gratitude to Duryodana). Do you condone that position or should he have moved away?…..or at least remained neutral and refused to fight?
    I struggle with the conflicting messages of Mahabaratha……..particularly with the roles of ‘Krishna’ and ‘Karna’
    Best wishes
    Nirmalan

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      M. Nirmalan

      I endorse what you have said. From age 10, I have had the same viewpoint.

      • 2
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        I too have my misgivings with the story of Mahabaratham.
        One is that which concerns that able Ekalaiva the Dalit boy and the Pandava’s Brahmin Guru Dronachariyar and the other is where Krishna despite his promise to remain neutral takes the side of the Pandava and helps Arjuna in the war by sinking the chariot’s wheel into the ground to immobilise it and avert the Nagasthra aimed by Karnan on Arjuna’s head.
        But Kishna’s Bagavat Gita teaching on the battle field is Faultless and it is that which makes Mahabaratham a world classic.

    • 0
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      The characters in Mahabharata are all fictitious characters created for the epic. It is a lengthy guideline, as you said, to teach the future generation the good and the evil. But the present generation would not understand the theme in the Bharatanatyam performed by smt.Vanitha Kugendran. I really do not understand the purpose of writing this article where the readers would not have patronised the performance.

    • 5
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      Mahesh Nirmalan and Barathan
      Appreciate the question and the doubts mentioned – life is all about conflicting and competing interests, it’s a battlefield of negatives and positives. In my humble opinion it shows it would be a mistake to see everything in a straightjacket, please read my article again, it would be wise not to compartmentalise – we all have good and evil in us, which ever side we are on. One can be on the wrong side – but still demonstrate noble characteristics and vise-versa – nothing is entirely good and entirely bad! Krishna’s role is to bring out the best and worst in mankind, it’s meant to be edifying, it’s for us to learn lessons from it…the law of Karma is being played out as well and the play of egos too, that separates us from self (atma). Whether the Mahabharatham was a myth, or it really happened, there are spiritual lessons and morals to deduce from it. Clearly at different times in our lives we can see it differently, depending on our awareness.. and there is the danger we can misconstrue the teachings. i am barely scratching the surface, i don’t know the answer to your question, that would be pretense on my part..i only tried to answer it! The doubts and the intrigues are cleared and clarified, i suppose in the Geeta, where the Lord (God principle) reveals the truth, explains what is false, what is true, what is detachment and discrimination!

      • 4
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        Mrs Sri-Skanda-Rajah, thanks. I am not suggesting that anyone of us truly understand the fundamental messages in either Mahabaratha or the Geetha……..perhaps there is none, perhaps it was meant to mean different things to different people, depending on their own spiritual journeys. But what lessons are we meant to learn from the slaying of Dhrona, Karna, and Bhishma, where treachery, deception and cowardice played a big role. What is more, the key person who was responsible for all that treachery and deception was Lord Krishna himself. What lessons do we learn from the Geetha itself? Do we conclude that ‘mass killing of kith and kin’ is justified or perhaps even essential, if the ultimate goal was to establish a just society…….that essentially seems to be Krishna’s message to Arjuna at the beginning of the war. Why did the Pandavas – who fought to establish justice, end up in hell whereas the Kauravas, the agents of evil, reached heaven? Why was Yudistra (or Dharma) subject to so much torment, anguish and agony at the last stages of his life, if he was merely acting as the agent of a ‘divine purpose’?…….these are some of the areas I struggle with – both in Mahabaratha and the Geetha itself.
        Best wishes, and thanks for giving the opportunity to share these doubts
        Nirmalan

        • 0
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          Dear Nirmalan,
          Is there a parallel between Mahabaratha conflict and what is happening in Srilanka :
          1. Pandavara the rightful owners of the land against Kauravars the usurpers. – Tamils as Dravidians the rightful owners of Srilanka against Sinhalese the usurpers.
          2. Pandavars asked for their share of the land and Kauravars refused. – Tamils are asking for their share of the land and Sinhalese are refusing to give.
          3. Pandavars gambled and lost everything and went to jungle. Tamils through madness of LTTE gambled rejecting any reasonable settlement are now in dire straits.

          What will follow. Will there be another war. Who will play the role of Krishna to bring justice. I thought that India will fit into the role of Krishna, but now it is increasingly clear that India is playing the role of Sakuni to mess up the matter for its own selfish interest. Who will be Krishna – Now that China has taken a firm footing in Srilanka thans to Mahinda’s madness, with an eye to break up India and dominate this part of the world, or USA/UK/NATO as what they did in Balkan states. Let us wait.

          Gnana

          • 4
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            “” Now that China has taken a firm footing in Srilanka thans to Mahinda’s madness, with an eye to break up India and dominate this part of the world, or USA/UK/NATO as what they did in Balkan states. “”

            Both European wars WW1&2 commenced in the balkan valley so it was inevitable that it had to be divided with a new europe steaming in.

            north korea Kim Jung Un has to vanish and China is needed by Trump. Ranil is rightly taking the island under indian fold or there would be cannibals with Trump having withdrawn all unnecessary bases that don’t pay its cost- $$800 billion saving drones are capable doing the intercontinental strikes within hours as of today- faster than 7th fleet arriving etc. Imagine Diego Garcia has only 7 marines stationed.
            Sing the Sikkim Hindu song- Coming home sweet caroline.

        • 3
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          Same to you Nirmalan, you know so much more than me and these are valid questions..

          • 2
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            Mrs Sri-Skanda-Rajah, Peter Brook’s adaptation of the French stage play ‘Le Mahabaratha’, gives a pretty accurate description of Viyasa’s original version of Mahabaratha. As it’s a stage play it lacks the grandeur of Hollywood or Bolly wood movies…..but the story is pretty accurate as described by Viyasa. You should be able to get it on Amazon. You may want to get it if you are interested in getting an accurate account of Mahabaratha.
            Good luck.

          • 1
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            Nirmalan, you have won the lady ! Congrats !!

      • 3
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        “”we all have good and evil in us, which ever side we are on.””

        We are all born 1/2 Tao and 1/2 Confucius
        Therefore Confucius’ grandson, Tsesse, author of The Golden Mean (aristotle). Win Win or half and half song- Since life’s of sweet and bitter compounded, Who tastes but half is wise and cleverest.

        dumped the northern ceylon with ammunition….

  • 0
    2

    Bharatha Natiyam exponents can perform anywhere.

    https://www.colombotelegraph.com/index.php/jai-jagdeesh-the-singer-and-the-dancer/

    This dancer performs on the street.

  • 2
    5

    USSR,
    Wasn’t Parayabakaran your hero? The guy that wiped out a generation of Sri Lankan Tamils!

    • 3
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      Nuisance the stupid I

      “Wasn’t Parayabakaran your hero? The guy that wiped out a generation of Sri Lankan Tamils!”

      When Tamils were wiped out wasn’t it a cause for celebration for you? Didn’t you dance with your Zimmer frame on the streets, in the house, on the rooftop, … ?

    • 2
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      kumaran

      Don’t listen to Nuisance the stupid I for she is in her second childhood.

  • 1
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    Wow super now Usha have two heors.

  • 1
    3

    Natiyam and ParathaNatiyam have been used since ancient time for some specific intentions. As a buffer pool of young ladies for sexual purposes, T o attract crowd, For the propaganda of damn lies of the Invaders and rulers.
    In the new Testament Natiyam was used to Kill John and hope you know the story. That is to kill the one who speak for the truth or …

  • 2
    1

    Dearest Usha,

    I have come out of retirement to comment on your article. It is a brief encounter.

    Karna originally known as Vasusena, is one of the central characters in the Hindu epic … Karna is often quoted for his sacrifice, courage, charity, valour.

    I like the follwing and that is what I want to comment on.

    And in one evening both the story of my hero and the splendour of Bharathanatyam dance came together in one innovative production – need I ask for more?

    Karna is renowened for his genorocity. What right hand gives is not known to the left. Just comapre that with the “RUTHRA THANDAVAM” performed by MS & MR in protecting the Hambanthotta THUGS.

    RUTHRA THANDAVAM and Treachery by MS & RW

    • 2
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      “”RUTHRA THANDAVAM and Treachery by MS & RW “2

      They never asked for the vote and Donald who visited was totally disenchanted with ranil just before the vote- he is in retirement too??

      The southerner mangala seduced the northern boat people so the slaves of the north voted blid.

      the pendulum swings again.

      Like the nepali there is no northern endeavour at the american elections.
      The southerners await Trump to fall on their lap .

      The Invention of Lying
      The Invention of Lying is a 2009 fantasy romantic comedy film that was written and directed by Ricky Gervais and Matthew Robinson.
      Mark Bellison (Ricky Gervais) is a down-on-his-luck writer who lives in world where falsehoods are completely unknown. When Mark suddenly develops the ability to lie, the notion that “honesty is the best policy” goes out the window, and he uses his newfound skill for personal gain.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVR2-W8OdVE

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