What does Stree Shakti mean to you?
Sandhya RajuKuchipudi Dancer, Performing Artist and Artistic Director of Nishrinkala Dance Academy
7 min read
What Is UR Stree Shakti?
Sandhya Raju – Kuchipudi Dancer, Performing Artist and Artistic Director of Nishrinkala Dance Academy
Sandhya Raju is a scintillating dancer who speaks to the world through her choreographed dances, melodic gestures and expressions to express the Devi within her. Having been trained under the legendary guru, she holds a vision of passing on the legacy to many more students across-the-globe. Read on know what her meaning of Stree Shakti is and how dance helps her heal her mind, body and life.
What does Stree Shakti symbolize to you?
Stree Shakti symbolically means the power behind any action that we do. Brahma is the creator, and without his consort Saraswati- the Goddess of knowledge, there is no creation. Lord Vishnu is the sustainer, without Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth, there is no means of sustaining anything in the world. Lord Shiva is the destroyer, without his consort Goddess Parvati “the power shakti’ there is no way to destroy anything. Stree Shakti is a dynamic feminine aspect which women powerfully bring into this world.
My spiritual journey with the nine devis began when I started reading the Amar Chitra Katha’s, then dance and doing Nava Durga dance choreographies. But, in a modern context, my relationship with them is the fact that we celebrate the Goddesses. Goddesses to me, represent someone who is powerful and at the same time very kind and benevolent. Someone who has an idea of the past, present and future, this is what we call an ideal woman. But here we have nine avatars of women which represent unique energies, body forms, characteristics and more. This is how we should celebrate and welcome womanhood in the present life. There’s a goddess in all of us.
What Devi Shakti avatar do you most relate to & why?
I relate to Shailaputri Devi because she represents benevolence, innocence, sincerity and motherhood, which is what consumes my daily life too. I’m a heartfelt and dedicated person, which to me signifies a tapas in the form of dance and penance to Lord Natraja.
Every time I look at my son, I think of how Goddess Parvati is a doting mother to her son Murugan and Ganesha. Similarly, I also think of the love she has for her father which is quite similar to the relationship I have with my father in my life.
What role does performing arts play in one’s mental well-being journey?
Performing arts is a magical tool which transcends UR mind into exploring non-existent realms. Arts possess the power of connecting you with different forms of ideas, to connecting you with a poet’s mind from the 14th century, to my dance teacher’s choreography done in the 21st century. This is my tapas, and it brings positivity and magic in my life.
What is UR fitness regimen or go-to exercise to stay mentally & physically fit?
Along with my tapas for dance, I consider running as my go-to exercise, it keeps me mentally and physically fit. It could be outdoors, or on a treadmill, I usually run three-five kilometres in a day, to boost my physical energy and mental health for the day. Whenever I run, I’m a better dancer, performer, mother and as an individual. Running is an ideal cardio workout with a plethora of benefits that range from boosting UR blood circulation, lightening UR mood, enhancing UR overall health and URLife.
How has dance helped UR body, why do you consider it UR superpower?
Dance has given me an identity. It has become my superpower and taught me how to make my mind stronger than my body! Dance and art keep me grounded, balanced and help my mind push my body beyond its limits. Generally, in sports, pain can be noticed in the sportsmen’s face when they are either lifting weights, playing tennis or any other sport. But when U R dancing UR mind and body don’t seem to react or give in to pain easily with only you who is in complete control. This is a universal feeling which every dancer across-the-globe progressively develops and masters in their life and becomes our unique superpower.
What gives you the most strength?
For a dancer, just dancing every day doesn’t keep you going. One of my secrets to consistently dancing well and keep a certain quality is resistance or weight training. I recommend this for women of every age group or profession. Resistance and weight training help keep my muscles strong and also helps me have a positive mindset. When U have a positive attitude, it is easier to achieve and accomplish UR dreams.
What is UR relationship with food, what is UR diet like?
My relationship with food is on and off. I’m not too fond of sweets, I tend to be an emotional eater, and I tend to eat a bit sometimes. When I’m taking a break from my exercise regimen, I tend to eat a lot a bit more out of boredom or stress. I would recommend having an exercise regimen in UR daily routine to keep UR mind and body healthy and happy. This helps my body understand what it requires.
What has dance taught U in life, how and what did it heal for U?
Dance has taught me an unconditional love beyond blood. The love U have for UR guru is immeasurable. Dancing has taught me how to be loyal, be in a sisterhood, how to be a magnanimous and benevolent person. To be able to possess a knowledge which you’ve been given through generations and have the ability to pass it on to my students, that is how I’ve grown into the person I am today. Dance has taught me many unique life lessons which I wouldn’t give up for the world.
All our lives have their own set of ups and downs, and we sometimes miss to meet them to our satisfaction. Dance has given me the ability to reach back to it to find myself again when I’m feeling lost and down. It makes me who I am and continually heals me.
How do you celebrate the Devi Within U?
I celebrate the Devi within me by expressing my ideas through my choreographed performances with the intention to change the world. I express and represent myself or different women through dance to change the way how society perceives women. Choreography has given me the freedom to express woman from all types of walks through my dance and breakthrough stereotypes to further explore and celebrate the Devi in me.
What’s UR message to the world to stay optimistic during COVID?
My heart goes out to all the people who have lost someone during this pandemic, for the rest of us who are lucky enough to have our families around them. It’s time for us to count our blessings and be grateful for the smaller things in life. We are very blessed to be living in a time where medicine and science have evolved to take on the coronavirus. It could’ve been much worse if we didn’t have such scientifically advanced technology.
What is UR powerful message to all the wonderful women that are inspired by U?
Never stop dreaming and believing in yourself. When I was young and wasn’t a well-seasoned dancer, I decided to never give up dancing until I became the best version of myself. The way you see UR self is the only truth, and the sky is UR limit.
What do you consider as UR blessings?
My maternal family has given me security, wealth and opportunity. I’m very thankful to have learned from my guru Dr Vempati Chinna Satyam garu, who has given me a different meaning to my life along with my dear son. After I gave birth to my firstborn is when I’ve become more alive and independent.
5 women U admire
Bijayini Satpathy she’s a reincarnation of a goddess on earth. She’s the most graceful dancer I’ve ever seen.
Shrimati Priyadarshani Govind has made me cry by watching her dance.
Banu Priya is the most incredible dancer I’ve seen on screen.
Anushka Shetty is one of the most beautiful actresses who I truly admire.
Zoya Akthar for her brilliant direction and bringing screenplays to life.