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Expressing Narratives of Panchatantra through Dance in Chennai to teach Lessons of Life

Stories of Panchatantra are all about separation of friends, gaining of friends, war and peace, loss of gains and ill-considered action or rash deeds

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Dancing to stories of Panchatantra
Indian Dance Form. Pixabay
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  • A dance narration was organized as a part of a recent summer program for high school pass outs at IIT-Madras
  • The recital is based on the stories of Panchatantra, also known as five principles of life that are the ancient Indian collection of animal fables
  • These principles of life were narrated to the princes in the form of tales by Vishnu Sharma

Chennai, June 29, 2017: Dancing is a form of expression that exhibits power to educate one of the practical ways of life. When a narrative is communicated through dance, it leaves an indelible impression on the learner. On similar grounds, a dance narration was organised was organised as part of a recent summer programme for high school pass outs at IIT-Madras.The recital is based on the stories of Panchatantra, also known as five principles of life that are the ancient Indian collection of animal fables.

The Research Science Initiative-Chennai programme, organised by PSBB Group of Schools is a six-week exhaustive research programme as part of which selected participants are trained in different subjects under experts from reputed colleges and bestowed life lessons through amusing and educative cultural programmes.

Being a part of educational programme this year, dancer Pavithra Srinivasan was summoned to teach students on the stories of Panchatantra through the dance form – Bharatanatyam.

ALSO READ: 7,000 girl students perform classical dance ‘Kuchipudi’ in Andhra Pradesh to set a Guinness World Record

According to Pavithra, the reason behind choosing the stories of Panchatantra was presenting the examples related to all types of human conditions.

When such narratives are expressed through a visual medium like dance, it prompts speculation of thoughts thus creating an in-depth understanding of the subject and spurring critical reasoning skills among the viewer, says Pavithra.

She further added, “The most interesting aspect about the Panchatantra is that the words of wisdom are imparted by animals interacting with humans.”

Pavithra chose the story of the monkey and the crocodile for narration The tale teaches how to think intelligently in difficult situations. Another story of a crow who tries to emulate the peacock is a lesson which edifies that one should cherish its own peculiar character.

Psychologists confirm that such setups of storytelling help the viewer to easily perceive the message hidden in the story.

“Storytelling involves a combination of audio-visual and kinesthetic (hand movements by storyteller) movements. This makes it easier for the viewer to visualise the story and learn it faster. Anything that we picture stays in the brain for a longer time. This makes storytelling a powerful learning tool,” says psychologist Dr Nappinai Seran.

It is believed that Panchatantra was inscribed in the 3rd century BC by Vishnu Sharma. Sharma devised this medium of instruction to educate the three sons of the king Amarasakthi. Panchatantra according to Sharma

Panchatantra is all about separation of friends, gaining of friends, war and peace, loss of gains and ill-considered action or rash deeds. These principles of life were narrated to the princes in the form of tales. Many of these stories have formed the background of Tamil literary works like Silappadikaram, the tales have also found a spot in the Western literary works as well, having been primarily translated into classical Persian.

– by Naina Mishra of Newsgram. Twitter: @Nainamishr94

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Rukmini Devi: The Woman Who Revived Bharatnatyam

The women who chose dancing over being the President of India

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Rukmini Devi could have been the President of India had she accepted an offer by the then Prime Minister in 1977. Wikimedia commons
Rukmini Devi could have been the President of India had she accepted an offer by the then Prime Minister in 1977. Wikimedia commons
  • Rukmini Devi met Anna Pavlova, a ballerina, who inspired her to dance.
  • She revived the art-form of Bharatanatyam which was earlier associated with only the Devadasi community.
  • The women who refused the offer to become president, so she could continue with dance.

Bharatanatyam, an Indian classical dance form, one of the most widespread in India today. Several institutes of Indian art forms have Bharatnatyam as a special course. It is adored, respected and is extremely popular in the Indian society. However, not many people know that once it was considered ‘vulgar’, and a ‘low-caste practice’ as it was limited to Devadasis.

Not until a married woman from a Brahmin family adopted the dying art form and eventually revived it, was Bharatnatyam came to be accepted in ‘Bharat’. She was Rukmini Devi, the women who established Kalakshetra Academy.

You may also like: Traditional dance representing cross-cultural connection of India and Paisley 

Anna Palova was the one who inspired Rukmini Devi for the art of dance. Wikimedia commons
Anna Palova was the one who inspired Rukmini Devi for the art of dance. Wikimedia Commons

A ballerina

Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova was in Bombay in 1928. Rukmini Devi and her husband, a prominent British theosophist Dr. George Arundale, had gone to see her performance.

Later, the couple was on the same ship as her to their journey to Australia, where Pavlova was to perform next. Rukmini and Anna become close friends during the journey. Soon Rukmini started learning dance from Anna’s leading solo dancers, Cleo Nordi.

Eventually, on the advice of Anna, she started discovering Indian dance forms which were dying. Her life would remain dedicated to the objective of reviving these arts.

Bharatnatyam is an art form revived by Rukmini Devi. Wikimedia commons
Bharatnatyam is an art form revived by Rukmini Devi. Wikimedia Commons

The first performance

It was at the Annual Conference of Madras Music Academy, in 1933, that Rukmini Devi saw, for the first time, a performance of Sadhir (Bharatnatyam).

And in 1935, she gave her first public performance at the Diamond Jubilee Convention of the Theosophical Society.

This event was noted in history. It received widespread attention. There was some confusion and remaining anger within conservative sections of the society.

Though the major mark was, it opened gates for an average Indian girl to enter the dance form and cherish it. It somehow was the beginning of a reverse effect.

Read more: Ramli Ibrahim: A Malaysian steeped in Indian classical dances 

Revival

Bharatnatyam was earlier associated to the Devadais. Wikimedia commons
Bharatnatyam was earlier associated with the Devadasi. Wikimedia Commons

Bharatnatyam is a form which is at the center of global attention, Rukmini Devi had an unmistakable role in this.

  • She was successful in eliminating the extraneous ‘Sringaar’ and eroticism from the dance form, which was a legacy of Devadasis.
  • She introduced various new elements. For example musical instruments like violin, set and lighting design elements, innovative costume, and jewelry that was inspired by temple sculptures.
  • Dance dramas based on epics like Ramayana and Gita Govinda were a result of Rukmini Devi’s associated with noted scholars and artists with whom she collaborated.

Kalakshetra Academy

Rukmini Devi, along with her husband, established Kalakshetra academy of music and dance. It functioned under the Gurukul system.

Today, the academy is a deemed university having a 100-acre campus. It is considered one of the best and most reputed universities for learning classical Indian art forms.

Names like Radha Burnier, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyay and Yamini Krishnamurthy have emerged from Kalakshetra.