‘Tis the season to be jolly! It’s also the season to fill one’s calendar with music concerts, and dance performances as well. Most musicians will not have padams on their list and seldom do we hear those composed by Kshetrayya. Dancers hopefully will.
We know little of this poet who lived in the late 17th Century. He was an indefatigable traveller, and gave structure to the padam as we know it today and opened the door to metaphors in Telugu.
By the 19th Century, patron structures in music changed. The venue moved away from temples and palaces to urban merchant and lawyer homes. Castes of the patrons changed and so did their levels of western education. Brilliant lawyers, landlords with urban presence were the new patrons. Educated by Victorian standards that despised the human body and anything to do with it, Kshetrayya’s graphic metaphors that had direct sexual imagery was taboo. The Trinity, their path to bhakti, their intense appeal to the heart and mind to merge with the divine, sat more comfortably than Kshetrayya, who seeked union with the divine through physical union.
A different patronage structure slowly separated drama, dance and music that was till the early 19th Century seen together. Musicians connected deeply with their heart and intellect, their attention on the body was minimal, dancers were able to continue their connection and thus explore the depth of the wholesome union Kshetrayya saw in reaching and our
Upanishads define as moksha and mukti — a point when we are fully and mindfully aware of what we think, feel and do by paying attention to how our thought is connected to our sensorial pleasures, what the gut feels and the body moves.
Take for example, Kshetrayya’s padam in Bhairavi. The first charanam focuses on senses that stimulate thoughts and feelings the most obviously — eyes (didn’t he find the moon a heap of glowing embers?) and ears (didn’t the prattle of parrots hurt his ears?). In the next stanza he goes deeper to food and sleep and in the final stanza he goes deeper into feelings . So as the stanzas progress, the depth also does — primary then secondary senses and finally within the body. As musicians embrace the verses of Kshetrayya, how can they help move audiences to greater self-awareness not just by moving the listener’s mind and heart but the body as well, for it is our body that has lived every experience we have had, and yet our awareness of its wisdom or our gratitude for it is so limited.
That's a posting full of inshgit!