Gandhari: Dance Ballet By Rajeswari Sainath at Ravindra Bharathi, Hyderabad
Asmita was founded nearly two decades ago to create a space where we could address a diverse range of issues and concerns relating to women. Our attempt has been to reach out to people across class, caste, community and region to collaborate towards creating equal and democratic spaces.
Asmita has worked with communities, creative writers, artists, activists, public professionals, government officials, university students and faculty, adolescent girls, elected leaders and media professionals to build an open and tolerant society.
Our work continues to emphasise themes like citizenship, gender justice, equality, adult learning. We attempt to address societal exclusion as well as marginality in a rights-based manner.
Our major cultural campaigns have been the performances of dance ballets War and Peace and Lakshmana Rekha in Kuchipudi, which ran to several hundreds of performances across Andhra Pradesh. Our ballets with English lyrics performed in Bharatnatyam were Menakaa, Peace on Earth, Ahalya showcased the confluence of classical and modem themes, music and dance while raising issues that would hold worldwide significance have been staged at Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai. The latest in this series is Gandhari.
Our cultural activity, which is aimed at the middle class, includes art exhibitions, creative writing, street theatres, dance performances where we script, produce and direct the performance.
The ballet, Gandhari, looks at silence and speech, greed for power and Dharma, through the tales of gods and heroes fighting battles for justice and truth. Through the battle of Mahabharata, the tone of the ballet is set by transforming the power of hate to the healing power of compassion and love.
A mother of a hundred sons, Gandhari is the central figure in this ballet. Despite her allegiance to her sons collectively called the Kauravas, who are considered as villains, the Mahabharata attributes high moral standards to Gandhari. She was praised and respected for refusing to see a world her husband, Dhritarashtra, couldn’t. Blindfolding herself which led to an austere life gave her great spiritual powers which allowed her to see the battle field. Her insistence to abide by principles even in battle were shunned and disobeyed. The ballet focuses on her anger and pain at the death of not just her sons but the destruction of men, women and children. It touches upon the stripping of dignity of human beings through the acts of deception both on and off the battle field.
Scene one: The first scene introduces the character of Gandhari and her struggles to conceive. Blessed to bear a hundred sons, Gandhari grows impatient when her womb doesn’t yield life. Her patience paid off with a hundred sons and a daughter. The celebratory tone of this sequence transforms the ballet.
Scene two: The second half of the ballet dwells on the greed, anger, grief of the battle that is yet to be fought. The focus here is of the patriarchal dharma in the actions of the men. Despite her self-imposed blindness, Gandhari is lorn by \he war that is waged on her through the bodies of her sons. The ballet moves from the aggressive acts of violence and rivers of blood to the calming atmosphere in the forests for Gandhari, Dhritarashtra and Kunti.