Engrained in the rich tapestry of the opulent heritage and culture of Hinduism, Brahmotsavam is one of the most revered festivals to grace Hindu devotees. According to Hindu text, it is said that Lord Brahma performed the celebration of Brahmotsavam to Lord Balaji at Tirupati for Lord Venkateshwara. The celebrations are also a cleansing ceremony where several devotees cleanse themselves of materialism, aesthetics and ego. Prior to the celebrations, Ankurarpana is performed where this is the sowing of seeds that symbolise abundance, prosperity and fertility. It is followed by a prayer for Sri Vishvaksena who is said to protect worshipping devotees. Therefore Brahmotsavam, is an annual celebration of Lord Balaji during the month long fast of Purtassi, where Hindu devotees attend in throngs to Thirupati to deliver their much anticipated prayers and wishes to their merciful Lord.
Amongst these devotees was Srimati Verushka Pather who was invited by Shri Narshimha Rao, the CEO of Tirumala Tirupati Devastanams, to inaugurate the first day of the ten day celebrations. Srimati Verushka Pather is a disciple of her Gurus, the Dhananjayans, and has dedicated her life to the preservation of Bharatanatyam. Being well travelled and performing in several countries, Brahmotsavam is considered to be a life changing experience for the seasoned dancer. She describes the news of her invitation as “a boon from her Lord Balaji.” Her preparations to undertake this journey was one of self-discipline, prayer and focus, where she stated that removing ego and material attachment was imperative to attain divine connection to God.
The invitation is said to be the first for South Africa and all foreign artists and was received by Srimati Verushka with all humility. Accompanying her was stalwart to the classical music and arts fraternity, Shri Karthiegasen Pillay, accomplished musicians Kirthan Pillay and Sreelakshmi Venketraman and professional Bharatanatyam exponent, Srimati Shobana Bhalchandra from Chennai. Collectively this team provided a resounding performance and offering to Lord Balaji. Srimati Verushka describes her preparations for her offering as one of mixed emotions. She states that, “the journey was tough with rehearsals and my main focus was to use my gift of Natyam as an offering for my beloved Lord Balaji.” Srimati Verushka and accompanying musicians and dancers made their pilgrimage to Tirupati after being graciously sponsored by the Cycle Pure Agarbathie Family, the leading brand nationally and internationally of the finest Agarabathies and Fragrances. And a Family company focused on their Social Responsibility to Society, Sport and the Classical Arts.
Upon arriving at Thirumala, there was a cavernous sense of spiritual upliftment, where if one was unable to undertake darshan, being in the presence of Lord Balaji was deeply moving and soul satisfying. Being the first day of the Brahmotsavam celebrations, Srimati Verushka took to the open air stage to deliver an exceptional performance. The open air theatre was filled with the collective combined energies of prayers from all devotees that created an ethereal experience. This was not simply a performance but an anticipated submission of soul to Lord Balaji. Although the temple was bustling with activity of prayer, the music and emergence of Srimati Verushka onto stage was simply hypnotic. It was as though the cosmic energies shifted and attention was drawn to the narration of this offering to Lord Balaji. Each item was performed with the amalgamation of Bhava and Rasa, all of which danced to the glory and service of Lord Balaji. It sent a mesmerising and pulsing course of divine energy to thousands of devotees in attendance. Srimati Verushka used the ancient art of dance to depict the omniscient and omnipotent universal force of Lord Balaji and through His devotion had brought thousands of devotees together, where caste, materialism and ego dissipated in basking in His universal love. The orchestral emergence of dance and music provided a brilliant edge to the atmosphere and provided the audience with a transcendent experience of pure devotion. Through apt and precise theermanams and intricate footwork, her margam was delivered with a sense of conviction and devotion. The synchronism of musicians and dancers was fluid, moving together in ebbs and flows creating lyrical and dancing mastery. Thousands were drawn to the magnetic attention of Lord Balaji in performance and the expression of art brought forth the gravitas of the entire celebration.
Srimati Verushka declared that it was her love and devotion for Lord Balaji that had brought her to His abode. She expressed that, “the program was highly steeped in devotion and humility as I knew the Lord had personally invited me to His abode and this was not on merit but because of my heart and devotion to Him. I felt so privileged to raise my hands in reverence to our Lord and His golden Gopuram and Sanctum Sanctorum was in front of me.”
This pilgrimage to Lord Balaji’s abode had prompted Srimati Verushka to fulfil her lifelong desire to offer her hair. In the past she admitted that she prayed for Lord Balaji’s forgiveness because she did not offer her hair due to her programmes. However, it was this divine experience that seemed to be kismet for Srimati Verushka, where she knew it was through Lord Balaji’s grace and infinite love that He has brought her to His abode due to her persistent and unwavering devotion upon Him. It is said that during Brahmotsavam, Lord Balaji has a purpose for each of His devotees and through this realisation Srimati Verushka decided to offer her hair as it became distinct to her that her gift of Natyam is beyond aesthetics and materialism. She expressed, “after my program on the Saturday, it became so clear to me. The art is beyond me, greater than all of us. These material bodies are only instruments and when the art takes over, it makes anything beautiful and opulent. The beauty is not me. I am just the paraphenalia.” Every devotee comes to Lord Balaji to atone for their sins, to rid themselves of ego and materialism and for Srimati Verushka it was enough to dance for Lord Venkateshwara and offer her hair as detachment from ego and aesthetics of being on stage. She states that this was a freeing experience because being unattached to materialism makes her fully committed to serving her Lord and offering her gift of Natyam. Srimati Verushka describes her journey as both personal and professional as this experience has given her a new found love and commitment for the arts as well as finding herself in this journey and being comfortable to offer your soul in dance rather than the material visual aspects of performance. She states that her journey has provided her with a reaffirmed sense of faith and her unconditional devotion to her Lord Balaji.