Ancients spoke not only about divinity of Creation but also of Woman, emphasising the respect SHE deserves, because by worshipping HER, gods are pleased. Therefore worship, love, respect and cherish HER!
Indian dance celebrates WOMAN as perhaps no other art form. The physical and emotional sensibilities of the female are in full display in Indian dance forms. They are celebrated as bringing change, opening up new paths, infusing passion, love and beauty in daily lives. The ability of a woman to shape new life, create extraordinary from the ordinary is truly awe-inspiring. Women through history have reinvented paradigms for dignity, equality and freedom. Although, history of world is written by men, women’s history of the world dominates the script. Her womb is the womb of Creation from which men and women come forth, men such as Rama & Krishna, Buddha & Mahaveer, Christ & Mohammed, Nanak & Gandhi, Mandela & Lincoln……….., and the list hasn’t been exhausted yet.
Women in History
I have been amazed and overwhelmed by women’s history in India. Many of my own choreographies are pegged to women such as Radha, Draupadi, Ahilya, Meera, Lal Ded, Kasturba Gandhi, Bhikaiji Cama, among many others. In a galaxy of luminous women, it is noteworthy how each one is fearless, brooks no indignity. Such women have written and lived according to their own script and idea of womanhood. I have paid my homage in dance to succeeding generations of self-confident, brilliant, strong yet compassionate women whose lives
are a message for contemporary times as well.
Indic family traditions teach respect to the four (4) entities, first among which is Mother ‘Matru Devo Bhava, Mother is God’. Next are Father, Guru and Guest! I have celebrated WOMAN as mother in my work such as Jabalaa, who honestly and fearlessly told the great Rishi Gautam that she did not know about who her son Satyakam’s father was. All she knew as the truth was that she was Jabalaa, the mother and Satyakam was her son. The Rishi rose from his seat to offer respect to this Satyavaadini, speaker of truth. Her son Satyakam grew up to become one of the great rishis in Upanishadic times. As I showed Jabalaa washing clothes in river (Narmada), drying them in the sun I could visualise this most ordinary woman with extraordinary strength of character. Audience shed tears as I enacted her confronting the Rishi who had earlier refused admission to her son in his ashram.
My Radha becomes exclusively mine in the choreography in which she fulfils a challenge thrown by Krishna’s chief queen Rukmini, to walk across a narrow beam of wood across a pond to prove total love for Krishna. Radha is self-absorbed, singing and dancing as she places a big pot of water on her head and walks across, while Rukmini, who also balances the pot of water, slips and falls in the pond. Rukmini is inconsolable as Krishna explains the reason, that she had fixed her attention on the pot rather than on beloved Krishna, whereas Radha had only him in her consciousness. Much to the incredulity of my audience wherever I have presented this, my Radha politely rejects the idea simply saying, “I was self-absorbed in my aatma, in my supreme self which contains the entire Creation and you too Krishna, as part of Creation.” My Radha is different, independent, dignified
and one with her own super-conscious Self.
Similarly my interpretation of the legendary Panch-Kanyaa viz Ahilaya, Taara, Kunti, Draupadi and Mandodari, is based on research, thought and action and the ultimate mystery around it.
Story of the human race begins with WOMAN. SHE is the representative of PRAKRITI, the mysterious NATURE. SHE is Mahamaya, the great conspirator.
SHE is SHAKTI, the power behind Creation. Indian dance deals with the absolutely mundane to supra-mundane concept of WOMAN in superbly convincing manner.
Did you know? The International Women’s Day 2016 theme is #PledgeForParity. While women across the world continue to contribute in various fields such as cultural, economic, political and social, the pace of progress has slowed down.
(Written by Padma Vibhushan Dr. Sonal Mansingh, an eminent dancer who has mastered multiple Indian classical dance forms like Odissi, Bharatanatyam and Chhau.)