Monday, December 27, 2010

More on Devadasi vs Rukmini Devi...

Saskia Karsenboom gave two statements in her talk of deseating Nataraja from his wrongly exalted pedestal. She recalled a private joke of T.Shankaran (Balasaraswathi's cousin) "When Bala danced there is Bhakthi and when Rukmini danced there is Agarbatti". She also questioned the identity of the urban Indian Bharathanatyam dancer who has been wrongly told the varnam swamiye is talking about spirituality. "The identity should be Meenakshi. She is addressing Siva, seaking conjugal bliss". Ok granted. But then there is something called Swadharma in Indian tradition. Since that Meenakashi is expressing herself through the dancer's body which is in current time and is fed by current sensibilities and if this Meenakshi decides conjugal bliss is spiritual too. Who are we to question her?

Though she insisted it was a joke, her first statement brought focus to the Bala camp that North American academia wants everyone to belong to. They are some how against Rukmini Devi and Kalakshetra. Harikrishnan has the advantage of indulging in fanciful modern avant garte productions and invite people to the Bhoga mela dances and claim to be traditional. The north Americans get ears by their sheer orality and bombastic academic jargan.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saskia Karsenboom, Devesh Soneji, Harikrishnan

Saskia Karsenboom, Devesh Soneji, Harikrishnan are the new policemen for the classical dance world. They tell you what we should like and dislike and they want to glorify the crime of dedicating young girls to temples and also the bhoga mela members. It is fine, guys if only it was out of choice of the girl. Did she have any say in what she was doing? What about her human rights? The upper caste men of the medieval ages made a cosy arrangement for themselves. They married their cousins when they were very young, had several kids by the time the girl was 16 and then they needed entertainment and sex. So they got the temple to supply to them girls who had been married to God and trained in the fine arts. They could be entertained with the finest music and dance and bodily pleasure and since the girls were wedded to the God, had no responsibility towards the children produced by this association. The children went in their mother's name and made do with whatever the father had gifted their mother. Dr.Muthulakshmi Reddy fought this system and got the Devadasi system outlawed. Then the dance was available to the wide world to interpret it and dance it without having to surrender rights of wifehood, motherhood etc.
Balasaraswathi, the crowning glory of the Devadasi line which claimed descent from the Rajarajeswaram of Tanjavur, had the advantage of belonging to a lineage, the revival scene and the Madras Music Academy to back her up. She never was a Devadasi. She was not married to a God and work in a temple. Bob Brown, a great lover of her dance, took her and her brothers to the US where she impacted hugely, the academia while Rukmini Devi Arundale, coming into the dance through the International route, impacted hugely, the practitioners here. The academia in North America finds fault with the nationalist movement, the dance revival, the use of Nataraja on the stage and they question the urban Indian dancer's right to dance and her identity. All of them are not native born to the Balasaraswathi tradition but claim to be the keepers of the tradition. I have not heard and seen such a paradox ever in my life. They dont like the Nataraja figure, they dont like English education, urban girls learning dance (they themselves are very urban and international). The British should not have ruled us, the education system should not have been there, Muthulakshmi Reddy's father should have just kept her mother (like many of his generation had done very respectably and not married her making her give the same rights her paternal cousins had to her maternal cousins) Then the North American academia would have been happy perhaps.

So Sir Devesh, Hari, Saskia madam, shall we revive the system of dedicating young girls to temples, create bhoga melas, bar women of upper caste view these and limit the dance to them? Why then not revive the sati system, child marriage, multiple marriages, untouchability etc also?