Archive for the 'theatre and dance' Category

Sakuntalam: Natana Kairali

The painted faces, rich costumes and elaborate headgear of Keralan theatre and dance have been so liberally sprinkled on tourist literature that, spectacular as they are, they have almost lost their power to command our attention.  To see such theatre in action, though, is to be mesmerised all over again. 

At 13 hours – spread over four days – Sakuntalam Kutiyattam bears comparison with the Bayreuth Festival’s Ring Cycle.  Here, though, there is no decade-long waiting list for tickets; entry is free and open to anyone who can find their way through the backlanes of a small town near Thrissur to Natana Kairali, a centre for traditional arts set up by Gopal Venu. The audience is an eclectic mix of Mr Venu’s former pupils, arty types, Sanskrit professors and the obligatory MLA plus flunkees (can any cultural event in India start without felicitating a local politician?).  The theatre is in Mr Venu’s backyard.  This being Kerala the backyard is a tangle of banana, coconut and betel nut trees bordered by a large tank; as we wait for the performance to start crickets provide the music and bats, which swoop through the stage, the spectacle.  The theatre itself consists of a banana-leaf roof supported with bamboos, from which hang spotlights and electrical wiring. Indeed, the electrical equipment and chairs are the only real concession to modernity.  Behind the stage, separated by a diaphanous cloth screen, is a smaller area which acts as a single changing room for all the actors as well as backstage.  The role of make up artist is assumed by younger pupils and the actors themselves, who use small handheld mirrors to effect their transformation.

Kutiyattam, like most other dance and theatre forms in India, grew out of temples and it retains its religious significance. The drummers who provide the music for the performance – alongside two young girls with small cymbals – pray before they begin.  Similarly the first entrance of each actor is a ceremony itself in which the actor, screened by a red and white cloth, turns first to the drummers and then, taking position behind the screen, stands ready to be revealed to the audience.   

The play from which this Kutiyattam performance is adapted is the fourth century AD Abhijnana Sakuntalam (The Recognition of Sakuntala), the most famous and probably the most beautiful of all Sanskrit plays by India’s most celebrated ancient poet, Kalidasa.  King Dushyanta happens across the heroine, Sakuntala, in her father’s hermitage while out hunting.  Enamoured he marries her according to the gandharva rite, a kind of ancient love marriage.  He returns to his kingdom, and Sakuntala, by now pregnant with his son, leaves the ashram to go to her husband’s house.  Dushyanta though, cannot recognise her due to a curse. Rejected, Sakuntala is spirited away to another ashram until such time as Dushyanta should have cause to recognise her and the son she has borne him – at which point they all live happily ever after.  Kalidasa, who took the story from the Mahabharata, rounded it off with the happy ending that Sanskrit drama – like Bollywood – requires. 

Much of kutiyattam is non-verbal, and involves only small movements: the swivelling of the eyes from target to bow, target to bow as an archer takes aim, or the dance of eyebrows.  Actors assume many different roles, sometimes all the roles, including those of animals; and they use no props.  Mudras or set hand formations are used to signify, where needed, which role the actor is playing at present. Some are obvious – like the sign for the deer – but others are difficult for the uninitiated to understand, along with much of the other complex dramatical language employed throughout.  It is a theatre of great subtlety which demands of its audience keen observation and patience.  Such observation and patience though are rewarded.  Few could watch Duśyanta’s charioteer enacting the happily grazing deer suddenly alerted to danger as the king starts the chase and then fleeing, crazed with fear, without feeling the deer’s terror. 


This production is Mr Venu’s adaptation of Kalidasa’s play, which was first performed in 2002.  The play is punctuated with sparingly selected verses and dialogues from the Sanskrit (and Prakrit – for non-Sanskrit speakers like women) original. The drums – which are continuously playing otherwise – fall silent for the delivery of these lines, which are stretched out in a sort of half-chant.  This manner of delivery does little to communicate the famed beauty of some of the verses – indeed Kalidasa’s plays were not traditionally used for kutiyattam perhaps because their lyric beauty was less suitable than other more dramatic texts – although it does at least ensure that every word is clearly heard. 

It is the combination of the pulsing drumbeats and the wordless acting that has the greatest power to move the audience.  The drummers watch the actors intently and create a verbal echo for every flicker of the eyes and dart of the finger, so that it is almost as if the actors’ movements themselves produce the sound.  The range of sounds the drums – two mizhavus, large bronze urns with leather stretched over their mouths, and one smaller edakka – can produce belies their seeming simplicity.  The power of the mime is thus doubled – we can almost see and hear the bee that Sakuntala tries to fight off. 

As the only living form of Sanskrit theatre, kutiyattam was recognised by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity in 2001. And Kerala has successfully marketed kutiyattam, along with so many of its other assets, to the foreign holiday makers who flock here.  While such recognition does of course help, it is these small, devoted bands of its proponents who will hopefully keep the theatre truly alive and thus prevent it being reduced to pre-dinner background entertainment at one of India’s seven-star hotels. 


This article first appeared, in a shortened form, in the New Indian Express here


Ram Vijaya: Monks at Play

A performance of the Rāmāyaṇa by Vaishnavite monks from Assam might be expected to be a fairly solemn affair. Ram Vijaya opened with a drum-beaten dance by suitably serious-looking white-cotton-clad men.  The sūtradhāra followed with a ceremonial unveiling of the manuscript from which he would later read, seated at the back of the stage surrounded by the musicians.


The shock of colour that Rāma and Lakṣmaṇa brought was the first hint of things to come but it wasn’t until Viśvamitra – terrifying sage of ancient India – started to scamper about the stage, his large false top knot wobbling as a podgy rakṣasa gave chase, that the audience dared a chuckle.


It soon became clear that humour was a large part of this performance, which portrayed the first part of the epic, culminating in Sītā’s svayaṃvara. The kings competing for Sītā’s hand showed these actor-monks at their best.  After bombastic, rhythmic, stomping entrances by each, the princess herself appeared (slim, fine-featured, with an appropriately bashful smile – it was only the voice that gave it away), garland at the ready for the lucky winner.  Two equally feminine handmaids warded off the premature advances of the portly bulging-eyed kings with a definitive tapping stamp.  Each then tried his luck with the bow, treating the audience to an elaborate show of muscle flexing and limb stretching. Rāma’s humble attempt and success at lifting and stringing the bow was almost anti-climactic by comparison.


The multicoloured costumes, with their spectacular wigs and weapons worthy of Ramanan Sagar’s battle scenes, added to the exuberance.  Janaka himself, better known for his yogic skills and Upanisadic appearances, could have passed for Father Christmas in the pre-Coca Cola days.  But it was the monks who made it such fun.


Sattriya is now recognised as one of the eight classical dance forms in India, dating back to the 15th century when it was invented by the Assamese Vaishnavite saint, Shrimanta Shankaradeva.  Up until very recently, it was the preserve of the sattras (Assamese monasteries) enjoyed only by the monks themselves and ultimately God.  Although it has now moved into mainstream theatre, it is still something of a rarity to watch a performance by monks, rather than professional dancer-actors.  Just as you might be surprised to find that a rendering of Christ’s birth practised for hundreds of years by a Benedictine order was in fact not far removed from the Christmas village pantomime, so Ram Vijaya was something of a shock – although a thoroughly enjoyable one.  This is religious devotion as celebration; Vishnu would surely approve.



Ram Vijaya, performed by the Sattriya Monks of Uttar Kamalabari Sattra and directed by Muhikant Barbayan was the first of a series of folk and traditional dance and theatre performances at Ranga Shankara theatre in Bangalore.  The rich programme includes Kattaikuttu from Tamil Nadu, Gondhal from Maharasthra, Dastangoi, Pandavani, Phou-oibi from Manipur and Theyyam and Kuttiyattam from Kerala and Yakshagana.  Sanskrit fans will particularly enjoy a Kuttiyattam performance of Shakuntala, in Sanskrit, by Gopal Venu of Natanakairali.


For more details click here.


As photography is not permitted in the theatre, the photos in this article are taken from the Ranga Shankara website.  If there are any objections to their being used here, please let me know and I will take them down.

A Buddhist Sanskrit Play

Sanskrit plays tend to be largely happy affairs.  The darker strains of a story are bleached out and any incidental unhappiness that occurs in the course of the drama is always set right in the end.  Even by these sunny standards, though, the Lokānanda of Candragomin, a rare Buddhist drama, stands out for its bright optimism.

Almost without exception, everyone in this play is good.  The baddies – a rakṣasa who demands the flesh of the hero and a Brahman who takes the crest-jewel that forms a part of his head – turn out to be acting out of concern for others.  The story of Prince Maṇicuḍa, one of the Buddha’s incarnations, which the play tells doesn’t need much whitewashing but Candragomin nevertheless edits out the nastiness of King Duṣprasaha (literally ‘insufferable’) and gives Maricī, the sage who takes the hero’s wife and son away from him, a selfless reason for doing so.  Even the viduṣaka (jester) Gautama unusually thinks more about others than what’s for lunch, although he still plays the fool.

Standing on the peak of this high moral mountain is Prince Maṇicuḍa.  So named for the inbuilt crest (cuḍa) jewel (maṇi) he was born with which acts as a physical extension of his own benevolent self, dishing out healing rays as he dispenses compassion, the prince is at times hard to stomach.  At one point, he explains to his long-suffering wife – he has by this stage gladly given her to Maricī – whom he has just saved from the clutches of some would-be abductors that he must of course send her straight back to the sage: were he to reclaim something he had already given away it would be “like a dog that/ in full public view/ slurps up its own vomit”.  He turns down Indra’s offer of a place in svarga (heaven) upon hearing that there will be no supplicants there and only ever experiences real happiness when a huge demand is sought of him, a demand he can only fulfil by ultimate self-sacrifice.

This eagerness to sacrifice himself results in two gruesome acts of violence upon the king’s body, both of which seem to be enacted on stage making this one of the bloodier Sanskrit plays, rather ironically.  In the first, the king slices off his own flesh for the hungry rakṣasa and is then partially eaten alive.  In the second, he rips off the top half of his own head for the Brahman who has come in search of his crest-jewel, and in doing so dies.  In both instances, divine intervention very quickly restores him.

Upon closer inspection, though, things are not so clear cut. It is almost as if Candragomin is here preaching to two different audiences: to the first he presents the drama with its loudspeaker message; to the second he offers a more subtle exploration of the difficulties involved in the renunciation that Buddhism espouses.  We are told that Maṇicuḍa wants to become a Buddhist monk at the beginning of the play, while his parents are desperate that he marry, rule and produce an heir.  In the end he does marry, but only out of pity for his future wife’s torment – she is already in love with him – and at the behest of others who urge him to do his duty (to his family).  It is the forest, far beyond all defilement, and the life of an ascetic, free from all human attachment, and ultimately enlightenment, for which he aims.  Nevertheless, when he tries to revive the fainted Padmāvatī, he doesn’t know whether to feel joy or sorrow; he is not yet free from emotion and the beauty and purity of this woman can still stir him.  Once married, it only gets worse.  He continues to ensure all his acts are in keeping with righteousness and to remind himself that attachment is to be spurned, but he is torn when his son is leaving and by giving away his crest jewel he indirectly causes his son’s death. To help one person is to hurt another.   To do the right thing causes suffering.

Like many Buddhist texts, this play has been preserved only thanks to an Indian pundit and Buddhist monk who translated it into Tibetan in Kathmandu 650 years ago.  Only seven verses survive in the original Sanskrit; the rest must be pieced together from various Tibetan texts, not all of which agree.  As a result of the difficulties in establishing the original text, the translator, Michael Hahn, decided against including the Sanskrit so we just have the English.  Professor Hahn, who is Professor of Indology and Tibetology at the Philipps-University of Marburg, has elsewhere produced a critical version of the text for the specialist scholar.  In this book, though, which is aimed at the generalist, knotty textual issues are not raised, allowing the reader to immerse himself in the play.  English approximations replace Sanskrit terms – a vidyādhārī is a “heavenly fairy” – and explanatory details are added to poetic, but for the unitiated mysterious, names, thus: “the bearer of treasures, the earth”.  The book is as beautifully produced as it is easy to read, with colour details on several pages and a richly reproduced painting.

The playwright, a well-known 5th century AD Buddhist teacher and author of a grammar, may irritate some readers with his abundance of self-praise – especially the peculiar closing verse of each act, not found elsewhere in Sanskrit drama – but he has a good imagination and some striking pen-pictures which come out well despite the complex transmission.

Thus Maṇicuḍa describes their flight with the vidyādhārī up to heaven on their way to Padmāvatī’s ashram:

The disk of the sun appears to plunge from the sky

and hurls itself down upon our heads.

The earth with all its mountains sinks from view;

the dark blue tamāla forests are skirted

by rows of clouds scattered and dispersed.

Act 2, 29

In the introduction Professor Hahn notes just how much we owe to Buddhist Sanskrit literature.  Many texts exist either fragmentally or not at all in the original and must be reconstructed from Tibetan or Chinese translations.  This is the first time that the Lokānanda has been translated into English.  Hopefully more of this literature, which forms an important part of the Sanskrit corpus, can be reconstructed and published.

To see the full details of this book, click here.

Joy for the World is published by Dharma Publishing as part of their Tibetan Translation Series.  For more details or to order a copy, please click here.


Stories Without Borders

Stories Without Borders has a simple mission: to use film to explore the two great Indian epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, throughout South and South-East Asia.  Simple but, like Hanuman’s many-yojana leap from India to Lanka, also overwhelmingly huge.  And all the more so when you consider that Stories Without Borders consists of just two people – Andrea Frazier and Jarrod Brown – who although clearly very talented probably lack Hanuman’s divine parentage.  The pair, with expertise in film and Asia respectively and plenty of shared passion, are busy fund-raising and grant-writing in preparation for a year-long documentary filming session that will take them through India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos (and hopefully Sri Lanka, Nepal and Myanmar) to capture the artistic ‘manifestations’ which the epics have inspired in each. And this is only their first project…

The pair talks here about where the project came from and where it’s headed:

What is the story and the concept behind this project?

The story of how this project came about is a bit complicated. The concept as a whole is Andrea’s idea. Last year, Jarrod quit his job as the director of an Indian education dot-com and spent four months traveling in his old home, Southeast Asia (Jarrod lived in India and Malaysia for five years).  Andrea, who currently works in television, stumbled across his travel blog and was inspired to contact him.  She had been contemplating working on a full-scale documentary for nearly a year, and decided that Jarrod would make a good partner.  Jarrod and Andrea share a similar cultural background, both growing up rural Appalachia in the mountains of Eastern Kentucky.  It made sense, and she contacted Jarrod about doing a travel documentary.

Little did she know that Jarrod was already at work on a side project, looking at the roles the Ramayana and Mahabharata play in Southeast Asia—how, for example, Muslim puppeteers in Malaysia are performing scenes from the Mahabharata. It was natural that the two projects should come together.

The medium for capturing these cultural articulations is film, and therefore to truly document it someone with Andrea’s skills and vision as a director and videographer was needed. Furthermore, both Andrea and Jarrod saw this as a way to explore shared cultural experiences that transcend nationality and even religion. The film should serve not only as an interesting visual documentary and something with academic value but also as something that can plant the seeds for a transformative experience in the viewer.

Charting the epics across Asia is a huge project – and presumably an almost overwhelming task – how are you going about it? Have you set certain parameters to make it more manageable?

We decided early on that it was the roles of the epics and their manifestations in culture that would define the parameters.  Therefore performances, art and architecture shape our explorations.  Although it is fascinating to study the Laotian version of the text, the Pra Lak Pra Lam, in which Rama is replaced by a Bodhisattva, we realised that wasn’t appropriate for film.  Whereas to see a performance of the Ramayana by a Laotion traditional dance troupe is appropriate only for the medium of film.

Jarrod’s expertise also shapes our agenda.  He lived for many years in South India, speaks Bahasa, and has close connections with Cambodia and Vietnam.  Given that, he can facilitate shooting and find the sorts of manifestations we are looking for more easily. Access, scheduling and budgets are realities that also constrain us. All these practical concerns played a role in our planning and managing the scope of the project.

What’s been the most striking thing so far? 

The classical Javanese dance of the Ramayana, the Balinese Kecak Dance (or “Hanuman Dance”) and the shadow puppet performances of S’bek Thom of both epics in Cambodia are some of the most visually stunning manifestations of these epics that we’ve come across. We both get giddy when we think about being present to film these.

What made these epics spread so far and have so much influence?

There are two ways to answer this. The first is like this: People often forget that India was and continues to be a major cultural force in Southeast Asia. Sumatra was conquered by the South Indian Chola empire; Malaysia’s first sultan was half Chola. Brahmanism exists today in a unique form only in Bali. Angkor Watt in Cambodia first housed a Siva-lingam before Buddhism came to Southeast Asia, itself another Indian import. We can go on.  So, cultural and political influence can account for their spread.

The enduring influence of these texts, however, cannot be explained by the account above as India is no longer a major cultural player in Southeast Asia outside its pop culture. We’d like to think that these epics, with their accounts of human perfection and imperfection, moral dilemmas and human wantonness as well as greatness, speak to something inherent in all of us. These are stories that speak to the fundamental questions of what it is to be a human in this world, and that is why today they continue to be retold time and time again by story-tellers, puppeteers, artists, musicians, architects and even filmmakers.

Is there a distinction to be made between the Ramayana and the Mahabharata in terms of their influence and reach? 

Yes. The Ramayana is by far more prevalent and well known. Most striking is the valorisation of Hanuman as the faithful servant. Some will say this is because of machinations of the state, but the ever-faithful Hanuman seems to offer an archetypical figure of devotion that transcends cultural and religious sensibilities. Perhaps the sheer volume of the Mahabharata made it less popular, although episodes, particularly of Arjuna and Krishna in the chariot and the battle at Kurukshetra, are common in art, and the story of the five brothers is still told in song and shadow. The Bhagavad Gita does not have any particular value as a separate text apart from the Mahabharata except in places like Bali where they are still treated as fundamentally religious texts. The chariot and charioteer motif so common in India is notably lacking.  In most of the cultures we will be exploring, India and Bali being the exceptions, these texts are cultural artefacts, rather than a canon of religious truths.

When can we watch the film? 

We will complete the initial fund raising reel within the next three months, and it will be fund raising and grant writing for most the year after that. We’re also working on establishing a non-profit organization to support our work moving forward. We are now planning to shoot the film in mid-2012 and hope to release it in late 2013.  You can have a look at a very rough teaser here.  And we also have a Stories Without Borders YouTube channel here.

For more about Stories Without Borders, have a look at the blog or the website and you can email them at ‘info at’.  The project depends entirely on donations and supports by individuals and is actively fundraising; if you’d like to contribute, either financially or in any other way, visit the website or click here

The images used in the article show (in order):

– A mural scene from Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha), Thailand which depicts the monkey army crossing the sea to Lanka in the Ramayana

– Javanese Wayang Kulit performance (Wayang Kulit Jawa) of a section of the Javanese Mahabharata called Babad Alas Mrentani – The Opening of Mrentani Forest.

– A detail from the Ramayana bas relief at Angkor Watt, Kingdom of Cambodia, showing one of the army monkeys attacking one of Ravana’s demon’s horses.

Satyagraha – An Opera in Sanskrit


A Review of Satyagraha

Elena Jessup – March 2010, London

In January of this year, a friend told me that the English National Opera was reviving its performance of Philip Glass’ Sanskrit opera Satyagraha in London.  Since my husband and I missed the first performance in 2007, a huge surprise hit, we decided to buy tickets for one of the shows in March.

Although both of us are Sanskrit teachers and have degrees in the language, we were rather nervous about investing a precious Saturday night on a work with which we felt we had no connection.  We were vaguely familiar with Gandhi’s life story and completely unfamiliar with Philip Glass’ music.  Would it be strange? Boring?  The running time of the performance was three hours, which made me nervous.  In the end, we opted for the cheapest tickets, consoled by the fact that we could leave after the first act. When we went for our chocolate ice creams in the interval, we were so impressed that we did not want to leave. 

Satyagraha is not a ‘normal’ opera like Carmen or The Marriage of Figaro.  Composed in 1980 by Philip Glass, it uses the text of the the Bhagavad Gita as a contemplation of Gandhi’s concept of non-violence.  Like a meditation, the work is non-linear and cyclical; as my husband put it, ‘Don’t expect to be entertained.  This is about becoming still.’  In spite of this, the ENO’s performance was amazingly enjoyable due to two factors.  First, the music is moving and powerful, and the orchestra and performers, especially Alan Oke (Gandhi), conveyed it so brilliantly.  Second, the staging was done by Improbable, a UK-based company known for its fresh approach to theatre.  Puppets, masks, and other novelties provided the audience with surprises and insights.  Another original innovation was the integration of the surtitles (i.e., the translation of the Gita verses) into the production, which was accomplished by projecting the words onto different locations on the stage.

However, there were two flaws in the performance, both of which relate to how Sanskrit was used in the work.  The first is that the Sanskrit text was garbled and indistinct.  It would be useful next time for the producers to employ a Sanskritist to help to clarify the performers’ pronunciation.  The second was that the surtitles were so cleverly integrated into the staging that most of the audience members could not see them clearly, unless they were sitting in the most expensive seats.  This was distressing for many people because the meaning of the Sanskrit was so important to the spiritual effect of the opera.

Nevertheless, Satyagraha had replaced The Magic Flute as my favourite opera and I was keen to go again.  Two weeks later we brought some Sanskrit A-level students.  I asked them what they thought.  They said they mostly liked it – not bad coming from a group of 18 year old Londoners.  Hats off to Philip Glass and Improbable for pulling in the punters for a contemplative opera with a Sanskrit libretto; it was great to see so many people experiencing the power of the Bhagavad Gita.

Elena Jessup teaches Sanskrit at St James’ School in central London

Satyagraha’s run at the ENO has now finished, but you can listen to and follow part of the score – and the libretto – on a special site the ENO have set up here. 

Leather Puppets In Action


Stones hang from electricity pylons to ensure a ready supply of siphoned off power in Vaderahalli, a village in between Bangalore and Kanakapura.   A cluster of five or six pale green houses on each side of a narrow street form the village.  Each low tiled roof juts out above a verandah filled with fodder upon which cows are grazing.  The verandah of the second house on the right though houses not cows but a makeshift theatre for this evening’s   Togalu Gombeyaata performance.

Togalu Gombeyaata is a the particular type of shadow puppetry – an ancient art form which originated in India but is now most famous in South East Asia – practised in Karnataka.  It is used most often to narrate episodes from the epics, and tonight’s performance is taken from one of the many sub plots of the Mahabharata, that of the duel between Arjuna and his son, Babhruvahana.


Four puppeteers  – two men and two women – from Kollegal, another village in Karnataka not far away, enact the violent confrontation between Arjuna and the son he disowns.   The play opens with Ganapati, the god for all beginnings, flanked by two troll-like creatures and two elaborately decorated trees.  Behind the white cloth that forms the screen for the shadow play the artists break into a wild-sounding Kannada song, accompanied by a harmonium and a dhol, as one of the women sweeps the invocatory god and his foliage offstage to be replaced by a narrator with a maniacal dance.  Next come the epic characters, each beautifully crafted on fine almost paper thin leather and painted in colours brought out to vivid effect by the back lighting – a single, pendulous bulb.  Recognisable characteristics identify each character: Bhima has his club, Krishna is an electric blue. 

Babhruvahana challenges his father’s ashvamedha – a sacrificial rite involving a horse by which rulers assert their sovereignty – by stealing the horse.  Despite the intercession of various tiny women – all the male characters are at least twice the size of the females – the father and son eventually proceed to a duel.  The ‘sarpa-bana’ – ‘snake arrow’ – warrants a wonderful display of the puppeteers’ skill as the snake slithers up and down before shooting across the screen.  Each puppet is controlled by one or more bamboo sticks that are used to push the flat leather shape across the screen – the humans all have stick-controlled arms so Arjuna can touch Krishna’s feet, the two warriors can fight with sword and bow and the women can indulge in almost perpetual frantic gesticulation.  Undoubtedly the best scene involved the mass decapitation of certain evil characters that would appear in hideous splendour before a shooting arrow separated their heads from their bodies. 

In between the singing, the puppeteers share the dialogue between the characters on the screen.  They sit opposite one another shouting with a very convincing agression as they act out the father and son dispute.  The stories, like the puppets and the techniques, are passed on from one generation to the next.  This performance was only an hour long, but the team could use the same puppets to entertain a village for a whole night or longer.

In addition to the 15-odd city types with large cameras and an unusual interest in local traditions, many villagers crowded round to watch the performance.  The children watched in delight, favouring this novel type of entertainment to the television in the house behind the stage.  Two old men came up at the end of the show to congratulate and thank the artists and the woman who had organised it, a software engineer who runs a quirky travel company.  They explained how they used to do Yakshagana theatre as well as ‘bayalu’ in their village many years ago, with real people running up and down ropes rather than just puppets.  ‘Santosh ayata’, announced one with a large grin, “I am happy”. 

The puppet show was organised by Vasanti Panchakshari who runs the travel company Tazad – click here for more details.


The Endless Voyage


Tara, a London-based theatre company, is presenting The Endless Voyage this Saturday, 14th March.  The dance theatre performance is based on the Mahabharata and Ramayana’s two heroines, probably India’s most famous literary women, Draupadi and Sita.  Showmi Das, a Kathak (North Indian classical dance) performer, and Senjuti Das, an exponent of the South Indian Odissi dance, will combine Kathak, Odissi, folk and stylised contemporary dance to highlight the humiliation and suffering these two royal protagonists endured in their respective stories.

For tickets, please contact the box office on 0208 333 4457  or  The performance will be held at Tara Studio, 356 Garratt Lane, London, SW18 4ES on Saturday 14th March at 7:30pm.

For more information about Tara, please click on

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