BENGALURU: In India, women are paid 25 per cent lesser in wages compared to men and a woman is sexually assaulted every 15 minutes. The irony is that this is the country that worships female deities for knowledge, wealth and protection.
To explore this contrast, between mythologies’ worship of women and present society’s abuse, Shraavya S Narayan will present a dance commentary Shakti.
Shraavya, founder and performing artiste at ARTitudeStudio, says, “Indian culture is definitely not misogynistic. It has been twisted and turned to make it what it is today.”
Feminine is usually associated with feeble, gentle and docile. So this performance will present different shades of femininity. She says, “For example, Goddess Saraswati embodies the creative, calm and imaginative side of femininity. Goddess Lakshmi embodies the nurturing, sustaining and passionate side and Kali the aggression.”
‘Shakti’ attempts to go back to our roots and re-examine today’s approach towards genders. She says that portrayal of characters in Indian mythology is progressive. “The Shakta texts tell us that Tridevis - Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali - are the Shaktis or energies of Trimurtis - Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. That they cannot function wholly without each other.” Both the sexes were regarded as equal and complementary.
The performance is set around the story of Adi Shakti. She says, “According to the Shakta texts, all that existed before the world was Shoonya Bindu, a divine zero feminine energy. It was a formless, timeless, pure eternal consciousness called Adi Para Shakti, the eternal, limitless power.” She further adds that to create a physical world, this primordial energy expressed itself as Prakruti or the female and Purusha or the male. Prakruti as the dynamic form of Adi Shakti and Purusha as the static form.
“As Purusha, Adi Shakti manifested as Brahma, Vishnu and Maheshwara. As Prakruti, the power manifested as Mahasaraswati, Mahalakshmi and Mahakali.” Shraavya and two of her students Kavya M Kumar and Sheetal B S will be portraying female manifestations of Adi Shakti.
Female goddesses are believed to have slain powerful demons, when the gods failed. Many slokas say that Tridevis are greatly revered and worshipped by Trimurtis, she says. “Kali is referred to as Digambari, a nude goddess, for whom the universe itself is clothing. That nudity isn’t treated as shameful,” she says.
Shraavya has been working on this project for three years. Being a non-religious person, she found the research to be interesting. She says, “Most of our mythological stories, in their true form, are broadminded and progressive, unlike how they’re recounted today by many culture and moral gatekeepers.”
Though choreography was easy, scripting wasn’t. It was challenging to convey the contrast between the present and the values advocated by our mythology, she says. Choreography took only a month, the music is mostly slokas and mantras dedicated to each goddess. The costumes have been designed as a fusion of classical and contemporary styles.
Be it from history or mythology, strong women have always inspired Shraavya. She had performed dance-dramas based on lives of Meerabai and the Hoysala Queen Shanthala Devi. This time, she wanted to explore Indian mythology. “Most of us know the stories of Trimurtis, but stories of Tridevis are rarely told. That’s why I chose to tell a story that combines feminism and mythology,” she says.
Shades of feminism
Enjoy the dance Shakti at ARTitudeStudio, Jayanagar, on September 3, 4 pm. The entry fee is `200. For details, call 95916 66114.