Sanjukta Panigrahi - a phenomenon
-jhelum paranjape


'Raghunath Panigrahi’.  Lifelong  vocal accompaniment to Sanjukta Panigrahi.  Enhancing her already spiritual dance with his soulful singing. ‘Sanjukta Panigrahi’. The perfectionist,  the moralist, the memory wizard. ‘Kelucharan Mohapatra’ the bundle of energy, the Pandora’s box, the phenomena in Odissi. All  three  deeply  religious. Jaggannath their inspiration... Dance for the Lord, is Odissi’s tradition.
Keeping that intact these three stalwarts took Odissi ahead. A woman presenting ‘Tulsi Ramayan’ in the Odissi dance style at the Sankat Mochan Temple in Varanasi was indeed a major step! (Women were not allowed into the temple of Hanuman).
Sanjunani wanted to discipline Odissi, systematize Odissi - she wanted to do this,  it was her strong wish. But performance was her forte… her life… her soul! She would have done this after she was sixty. She would have done this meticulously - being a daughter of the soil – a Kalinga  Kanya. In her own words: “I have a dream , to start a school like Kalakshetra. I want to share every experience that a dancer goes through to evolve and I also want to teach students to be good human beings - not only good artistes. If I had to live life again  I would still want to dance”.
Sanjunani was religious and spiritual, and with tremendous regard for tradition. Once at a performance in Mumbai she had forgotten her ‘alta’. She asked me to get mine. But my modernity had made me switch to a red marker pen. I took that to her, she was shocked and pained!  But this was not orthodoxy,  this was her respect for tradition. She did everything traditionally – the alta, her hair, her make up, her pooja  before a performance. Make up - she was firm about one thing. Never wipe your make up immediately after a program. People should see you the way they saw you on stage. That  image,  that impression should remain. Though I have never followed it personally, for myself, I think I followed it in her death. When I spoke to her over the phone after learning about her illness, I had this strong wish to go meet her in Bhubaneswar. But I didn’t. I remembered this principle of hers. I did not see her sickly form; the image, the impression, the visual of her strong spiritual form dancing with abandon remained with me. Sanjunani as always remained with, still remains with me. Often, watching her moksha, I felt she was really one with God…. But I think, God  took her ‘moksha’ too seriously…..

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Smitalay Students Dipali Tikam, Rupali Kadam and Apurva Dani awarded the 'Odissi Jyoti' title, at the Naveen Kalakar Festival, Bhubaneshwar.