Thursday, December 10, 2009

What God means to me


Why do we pray? What do we pray for? Who is the favourite God? A leading dancer gives some answers

By Shevlin Sebastian

In 2005, noted Mohiniyattom dancer Pallavi Krishnan was planning to go for the Toronto International Dance Festival in Canada for a group recital. One week before her departure, Pallavi got her visa, but her four disciples were denied it. “They were going abroad for the first time,” says Pallavi. “Maybe, that was the reason.”

Pallavi became desperate. She went into her prayer room at her home in Thrissur. “I prayed and prayed,” she says. “I asked God not to abandon us. If we did not go, I would have to pay a substantial compensation.”

Through a friend, Pallavi got in touch with an official in the Ministry of External Affairs in Delhi, who was a dance aficionado. The visas were issued a day before they were leaving. “There are many situations like this where God has saved me at the last moment,” she says.

Pallavi prays every evening for half an hour. “When I am in front of God, I say, ‘Please protect my family and friends.’ I pray that they don’t have any difficulties in life. I feel that God has given me more than what I wanted. So, I don’t ask for anything.”

For Pallavi, her favourite deity is Shiva. “When I close my eyes, I see the image of Shiva sitting in a meditative pose,” she says. “From my childhood I had special feelings for Shiva.” Pallavi may have been influenced by her father, a devotee of Shiva, while her mother prays to Goddess Kali.

Pallavi has prayed in many temples – the Guruvayur Krishna and Mammiyur Shiva, the Kuttankulangara Vishnu, close to her house, as well as the Vadakkunnathan Shiva in Thrissur. But her favourite is the Chidambaram temple in Tamil Nadu.

Pallavi had gone there to dance for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Natyanjali festival. “I saw the deity during the arati,” she says. “The ambience was so powerful, no doubt helped by the sound of the big bell. There was a strong sense of spirituality.”

Not many people know that Pallavi is a Bengali. At the Vishwa-Bharati University in Shantiniketan, she became fascinated with Mohiniyattom. In 1992, she came to learn the dance form at the Kerala Kalamandalam. But the initial years were difficult. “I faced a lot of opposition,” she says. “I had to depend a lot on God to see me through.”

So who is God? “God is a power, an energy, an intangible shakti,” she says. “When I close my eyes and meditate, I see a huge ball of light. I believe God exists.”

However, sometimes, Pallavi, like all human beings, does get disappointed with God. “If I am suffering a lot or if nothing has happened despite an intense effort, I tend to get angry with God. Then I tell myself that you cannot always expect the good things in life.”

But she will always be grateful to God for a priceless blessing. “I had ardently prayed for a daughter,” she says. “Priyamvada was born eleven years ago. It was the best gift I received.”

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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