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Deva Dasi

The Triple Salutation

by Liltawen Kalome
 
 

1. A Short History of the Classical Dance in India.

When the Aryans invaded India in approximatly 1500 B.C.E. they noticed that, as far as dance and dramatic art was concerned, that the original
inhabitants of India did things differently than they did. This prompted an Aryan writer named Bharata to codify dance and  dramatic
art in a book: the Natya Shastra.
History in India can be a confusing subject but it is believed that the original Dravidian dance form is the origin of the modern Bharatha Natyam
form of dance in Tamil Nadu; and the Aryan form is the origin of the modern Odissi style in Orissa. However, India being India, both styles
used material from the Natya Shastra for millenia before largely abandoning it today.

In the South of India Bharatha Natyam gave birth to various daughter styles. Kuchipudi is a variant in which "acting" is very important. In Kerala
on the South-West coast of India you find the intimidating male dance style of Kathakali and it's very graceful female style of Mohini Attam.
During the great Chola empire of 1000 years ago Bharatha Natyam was spread throughout South-East Asia as far as Viet-Nam, giving birth
to many forms which have been developing on their own ever since.
In the North of India the main variant is Kathak which develoed in the North-Western states of Rajastan, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh.
It was greatly influenced by the Moslem invasions and is a very abstract form in contrast to the more narrative styles in the South.
Another very different Northern style is the serene Manipuri in the far North-East. It developed in isolation only being discovered by Rabindranath
Tagore in 1919.

Originally dancers were attached to various Temples and were used to tell stories and participate in rituals on divine subjects
instead singers as happened in the West(as India has many languages).  They were called 'Deva Dasi' or 'Servants of God' (Bharatha Natyam,
 Odissi, and Manipuri). As time passed Kings became more important and  Deva Dasi's became attached to the royal Courts and they became
known as 'Raja Dasi' or 'Servants of the King' and their subject matter changed to that of War and Battles and loving princesses and Kings
(Kathakali and Kathak). As time went on even the Kings could no longer afford them and Western countries came to India and so the Raja Dasi's
went to the stage and became known as 'Ranga Dasi's or 'Servants of the Stage'.
Then in the 1920-30's British 'reformers' tried to outlaw 'native' dancing by passing 'Anti-Nautch' legislation. Of course at the time even ballet barely
existed in England and as badly as colonialists treated dancers in India, it wasn't as bad as the American West where colonialists shot the Ghost Dancers
of those other 'Indians'.
For almost a generation these reformers made the dance climate very difficult and many of the styles came very close to dying out.
Bharatha Natyam struggled through it as the most wide-spread form. Rukmini Devi Sastry, a bhraman girl, was training to be a ballerina with Anna Pavlova.
Pavlova one day asked Rukmini whether there was any classical dancing in India? Rukmini started looking around and discovered the last of the
deva dasi's and started taking lessions eventually founding the dance school of Kalakshetra in Madras/Chennai.
The other dance styles didn't fair as well. Kathak managed but it's current form is very different than it was even 100 years ago.
Kathakali, and especially Odissi, had to be almost completely revived.

2. Ritual- the Triple Salutation.

All dance rehersals and performances begin and end with a prayer. It is said that if one sees a dance performance that doesn't begin and
 end with a prayer you will be reincarnated as an animal for who but an animal would want to see a performance that doesn't have God in it?
You've been warned!

This one is from Bharatha Natyam and is called 'The Triple Salutation' or 'Tatti  Kumbidal' (Greet with Stamping).
One of the characteristic features of Indian dance is it's extensive use of mystical hand gestures known as 'Hastas' which have a great
variety of meanings as do the various positions of the body. Bharatha Natyam dancing has been described as "moving mandalas of meaning".
For the Triple Salutation you will need to know 4 of these:
Kathakamukha ('opening in a link')- the thumb and next 2 fingers are held together in a point. The 2 little fingers are held up and stretched as much as you can.
Shikara ('spire')- hold your hand in a fist but with the thumb raised up (ie.:"thumbs up"). This is the hand of Shiva-Lord of the Dance and of men in general.
Pataka ('flag')- Thge fingers are extended out and the thumb is raised so that it is along side of them.
Anjali ('greetings')- 2 Pataka hands are placed together (as in praying).

0.First stand up straight, leaning slightly forward ('samapada'). Hold your hands in Kathakamukha Hasta with the tips of the 3 meeting fingers touching (the little raised
fingers pointing up) at the level of your chest, about 5" away from you.
1.First lift horizontally your right foot and then stamp it down (this is called a 'tat'). Accent your right hand as you do so. Lift and stamp your left foot accenting your left hand.
2.Then, draw your hands apart horizontally until they are in front of your shoulders. While doing this (and in general) follow your right hand with your eyes.
3.Change your hand gestures to Shikara Hasta with the thumbs pointing down towards the floor. Draw them in towards your shoulders, then over, then describe
a great horizontal backwards circle, around, until the bottom of your fists meet in front of you with your arms extended out, your thumbs will be pointing out.
4. Change your hands to Pataka Hasta with the palms facing down still extended out in front of you at chest level. Sit down in a very deep plie ('MuzhuMandi').
5. Touch the ground with the tips of your fingers and then touch your eyes with the tips of your fingers, first right then left.
6.Then stand up with your hands making a great outward vertical circle.
7. Meeting your hands high over your head in Anjali Hasta (as in the picture).
8. Then, still with your hands in Anjali, bring them down until they are in front of your forehead.
9. Then bring your Anjali hands down until they are in front of your heart.
10. Next move your hands into Pataka Hasta resting on your waist, palms out, fingers over your back, finger tips meeting over your spine.
Then lift and stamp your right foot, and then your left foot as in the beginning.

3. Explanation

The general explanation that one is given of this is that first you announce yourself in the Temple-1- (the word actually is 'ranga' which means
'a place where dramatic things takes place' where ever and what ever that may be). Then you invoke Shiva Nataraj-3-and next you ask for the
blessing of Mother Earth-5-upon whom you will dance. Then you spiritually salute the devas or higher beings-7. Then you intellectually
salute your teachers and elders-8. Then you emotionally salute your friends and equals-9. Then you are either able to start,or you can leave-10.

However, as a Qabalist, I interpret all this this way:
0-1. You are God (or Nuit) and you are wondering how to manifest yourself-First you choose a place to do so (Hadit).
2.Then you contract out of it ; in Lurianic Qabalah this is called 'Tzimtzum'.
3.Then you create the Sephiroth (you describe a horizontal Disk, but should remember that the Disk is really a Section out of the Sephirotic Globe).
These are the organs (brain,muscles,lungs,etc.) of Adam Qadmon/ Hoor-pa-Kraat. This protoplasmic blob of a creature corresponds to primordial invertibrates
in the sea. Also to the feminine Aeon of Isis.
4.But the vessels that you put the Divine Light into is not strong enough so they break and l the Divine Light falls into the chaotic Tohu Realm of the
Qlippoth as Sparks/Souls (Nitzotz). This is the 'Shevirath HaQelem'.  You follow the Sparks down as you sit in MuzhuMandi. You are no longer God-having 'Fallen".
5.You search in the Realm of the Qlippoth for the Divine Sparks ( hands touching the ground-first to your Right, then Left), and identify which is yours
(touching your eyes-first Right, then Left). This is the Knowledge of your Holy Guardian Angel and the G.'.D.'.Neophyte Ritual.
6.Then you Redeem your Spark ('Tiqqun') by correctly constructing and then aligning the structure of your Soul/Spark with the Divine Pathways between the
Sephiroth. This is the Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel and climbing the Pathways up the Tree of Life. Together the horizontal disk in #3
and the vertical disk in #6 are the entire Qabalistic universe. These are the structures (bones, blood veins, nervous system) of Adam Qadmon/ Ra-Hoor-Khuit.
This corresponds to the invertibrates on the land. Also the male Aeon of Osiris with it's "dying god" systems of resurrection.
7. You take your soul upto Atziluth where it is purified with Divine Light in the redeemed universe. This is as Shiva Ardhanarishvara/the Divine Gynander/N'aton/ and
 Heru-Khuti (depending on how you interpret the phrase 'Lord of the Two Horizons').
8. You bring the purified Light down into B'riah and Purify your Intellectual World.
9. You bring the purified Light down into Yetzirah and Purify the Emotional/Astral world.
10. You then bring the Light down into Assiah where you Purify your Temple in this world.

The effect of all this should be like 'The Qabalistic Cross'.
The Triple Salutation is thus a "Moving Mandala of Meaning" for the Great Work (as one of my teachers use to describe Bharatha Natyam).