Yesterday, for the first time, I transformed into a classical dancer, without a full length mirror to guide me. Nor did I have anyone to assist me on any fronts! With playfulness, excitement, faith and a prayer in my heart, I draped myself instinctually, into an original costume, inspired by the ironed creases of my deep-green cotton Gharwal saree, speckled all over with jari buttis/dots, laced with a bold magenta border that was studded with ornate, golden peacocks motifs!
With a lighthearted playfulness, that reminded me of my childhood preoccupations, I did my own make-up, tied my hair into a long jadai/plat. Tuning in to the joyful flutterings in my heart, from the window of my eyes, I chose my jewelry. I wore a delicate gold waistband with the motif of Goddess Lakshmi in the center. In the centre parting of my neatly oiled and combed hair, I carefully placed the single gold, central matal/ bindi, belonging to my great grandmother. It delighted me to admire the sun and the moon emblems that had been so skillfully gilded, into a single pendant, with red rubies and sparkling diamonds, neatly fringed with loose pearls. I chose an antique golden necklace with a string of beautifully designed mango motifs, all around. In my nose, I wore the traditional diamond mukuti/nose-ring, that shone like sparkling dew drops, on a single lotus leaf, under a full moon night.

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In my ears, I chose a finely crafted pair of flower-shaped earrings also studded with diamonds and rubies. I carefully connected this pair with dangling jhumkis that were shaped like a bunch of grapes. Yet another long vine of fine pearls, joined this grape bunch to the back of my hair. I placed a golden brooch at the center of the back of my head, where the two pearl vines met.
Between two gold bangles, I slid a thick pair of viridian-green glass bangles, bought at the Goddess Ambabai temple, in my maternal grandmother’s native town of Kolhapur, in Maharashtra. I chose a simple gold ring for my finger. Turning my attention to my feet, I hooked silver melodious anklets around my ankles, and slid a pair of silver mettis/jodavis in my toes, sacred symbols of my marriage.
Then with soft cotton, dipped in the blood red colored liquid of the Bengal Alta, I took my time, colouring and defining, the tips and contours of my toes and fingers. Meditatively, I drew round circles at the center of my palms and feet.

I observed that in all these years as a classical dancer, I had not known being as independent and helpless! This experience of getting ready, completely on my own, was magical, liberating, grounding, and enlightening!

After getting ready, I walked by myself, through the temple streets, with a transparent ornate veil shielding me, from lingering glances. I felt as if I was walking through an ancient time, with silver anklets and a veil, with an inward gaze into my heart, in complete union with the Gods residing in the temple yonder. I stepped gracefully and consciously, upon the dusty brown earthy path, leading to the temple premises.

Unexpectedly, a woman called out to me, offering me flowers for my bejewelled hair, bereft of flowers. There were two kinds of flower garlands: white flowers interspersed with small red roses; white flowers interspersed with yellow marigold flowers. I chose the one speckled with red roses. Adrenaline tingled through my body. My heart beat drummed nervously, like a swarm of bees. I stepped upon the stage with a prayer in my heart. The music unleashed itself, and once again, I became a receptacle for God’s magic, love, play and joy!

(My journal page, 20th January 2013, NATYA SANGRAHAM,
a resident camp for Bharatanatyam dancers, Thennangur, Tamil Nadu)