The Canadian Bazaar
TORONTO: In multicultural Canada, Dr Alakananda Nath is the cultural keeper of the Sringeri Vidya Bharati Foundation as she, as an expert in Bharatanatyam, Carnatic music and Sanskrit literature, has taken upon herself the task of passing her skills on to the next generation.
On the sixth anniversary of the inauguration of the Sringeri temple in June 2016, she created history by staging the world premiere of the Adi Shankaracharya’s epic poem ‘Soundarya Lahari’ – which comprises 100 verses devoted to Goddess Maha Tripurasundari – as a dance drama theme.
Soundarya Lahari, meaning ‘Waves of beauty,’ invokes blessings of the goddess.
Dr Alakananda Nath, who created this unique performance with students of her Sri Laasya Kala Kendra in Mississauga, says, ‘‘Many artists have performed Soundarya Lahari on stage by taking one or two stanzas. However, this was the first time that someone took the whole of Soundarya Lahari for drama performance.’’
Performing Soundarya Lahari in the form of dance drama for the first time was a great spiritual experience, she says.
‘‘Dance, culture, Sanatana Dharma, Hindu philosophy and Sanskrit literature are interwoven. The combination of Sanskrit literature, dance and music led me towards spiritual awakening. That’s what I am now sharing with people here by conducting classes and lectures on the Adi Shankaracharya’s works,’’ says Dr Alakananda Nath who is fluent in Hindi, English and Tamil, apart from Sanskrit.
Every week, she holds classes on temple premises on Soundarya Lahari and Lalita Sahasranama (1,000 names of goddess Lalita Amba) for students varying in ages from 25 to 85.
‘‘I explain to them the philosophical interpretation of works of the Adi Shankara. We have 6-month batches, starting from Vijayadashami. Classes are free and last 2 hours a day. Each week, we put in six hours. I just do all this to share the joy of it.’’
Every month, her students also do chanting of Soundarya Lahari and Lalita Sahasranama.
‘‘Thanks to this temple, we have been successful in creating awakening among people about the works of the Adi Shankara. As a result, we are becoming a healthy community with the right mindset and values,’’ says Dr Nath.
A Ph.D in Sanskrit from Bombay University, Dr Alakananda Nath was a lecturer in dance in Mysore University and later in Bangalore before she moved to Canada in 1995.