A historical tale gets a contemporary spin with Asha Krishnakumar’s new dance drama
Seven centuries ago, a group of devotees had set out from Srirangam, with the idol of Lord Ranganatha on their shoulders, determined to keep him out of the hands of invading armies. Today, the 48-year journey is being recreated in Aranganin Pathaiyil, a Bharatnatyam dance production that promises to blend history, drama and a whole lot of devotion. “The story is amazing, but while it is an interesting read, it is a challenge to depict on stage,” explains Dr Asha Krishnakumar, a social scientist, who along with Dushyanth Sridhar, an expert in scriptures, directed the performance with 20 dancers.
She turned to friend and historian, Dr Chithra Madhavan, to help her conceptualise the two-hour presentation. Divided into eight scenes, it traces the idol’s journey across the four southern states. “We relied on historical documents and inscriptions found in the Srirangam temple,” says Madhavan, adding that they also included folklore to give it colour. Like the story of a thief who tried to rob the procession but later joined in to protect the idol. Since many would not be familiar with the story, booklets—detailing the context of the journey—will be distributed at the venue and every scene will be preceded by a narration by Sridhar.
Staying true to the period, Krishnakumar says composer Rajkumar Bharathi has created the music, using poems and songs penned before the 14th century. “We’ve sourced from the Azhwar Pasurams of the fourth century and compositions like poet Vedanta Desikan’s Abheeti Stavam, which was written specifically to calm the people when the idol was first moved,” she informs. Though they won’t rely on sets, an LED screen will be used and a replica of the idol and the palanquin will be the only props.
On May 31, at Narada Gana Sabha, from 6.30 pm. Rs 250-Rs 2,000. Details: eventjini.com
Surya Praphulla Kumar