april 06 programmes

saturday 1st april
7.00 pm ‘Young Dancers Festival : Ishta Devata - Bharatanatyam’
by Lokesh Bhardwaj

Though today both musicians and dancers in the Carnatic tradition freely invoke multiple gods, in the past they more often dedicated themselves to one particular deity, either out of personal choice or tradition. Lord Rama, believed to be a human incarnation of the Supreme Being, has been worshipped throughout the centuries and as such is the chosen deity, ishta-devata,of not only countless individuals, families and communities throughout Southeast Asia, but of many poets and musicians as well. Lokesh will present pieces on Rama which cover a large gamut of his persona. The musical and textual sources are 19th and 20th century with excerpts from the much more ancient Ramayanam of Valmiki, whilst the dance composition stems very much from the present century.

Lokesh Bhardwaj is one of the finest young male dancers performing Bharatanatyam today. A student of Justin McCarthy he started dance with an extensive practice of Asian martial arts in Mathura (U.P.) . The knowledge of this body language lends great vigour to his dance. He is the lead performer in the group performances of Shri Ram Bhartiya Kala Kendra and has danced in “Mattavilasam and Bhagavadajjukam” two ancient comic Sanskrit places and the dance drama “The Mystic Bride and the Sacred Witch” and in many tours with his guru Justin McCarthy.

friday 7th april

7.00 pm ‘The Kashmir Shawl : A Talk & Slide presentation’ by Dr. Janet Rizvi

The Kashmir shawl at its finest was among the most exquisite textiles ever woven, the product of consummate artistry and skill applied to one of the most delicate fibers in the world. But more than that, for at least three centuries, the shawl’s excellence and worth made it the centre of a huge and complex commercial operation involving, in its heyday, tens of thousands of people, and extending from Tibet to the marts of west Asia, Europe and America. The classic Kashmir shawl was an object of desire for Mughal emperors and Sikh maharajas, for Iranian nobles, Armenian merchants, French empresses, British aristocrats and, eventually, for the increasingly prosperous mercantile bourgeoisie created on both sides of the Atlantic by the Industrial Revolution. It inspired any number of imitations, but none that could even approach the softness, delicacy and charm of design of the original.

Janet Rizvi introduces the Kashmir shawl as not merely one of the world’s most sumptuous textiles, but as a cultural artefact with a known history spanning four centuries, and a geographical spread from Tibet to the United States. Her original research, with its new insights, lays many persistent myths to rest. She analyses the significance in west Himalayan geopolitics of the historical trade in this valuable commodity between Tibet and Kashmir. Her research also shows for the first time how the manufacturing technique of the shawl is rooted in the indigenous skills of Kashmir’s village textile workers, and invites the reader’s sympathy with the weavers whose skilled fingers incorporated into the designs of their shawls the whole range of the Valley’s lovely flowers, but who were themselves the poorest and most exploited section of the people. She takes a fresh look at the nature and importance of the shawl in Mughal India; and reveals the extent of the trade in shawls to Iran and the Ottoman Empire long before they became an article of high fashion in the West. Finally, she shows how Kashmir has left a permanent imprint on the aesthetic sensibility of the modern world in the so-called paisley, derived from a motif developed in the ateliers of the region’s shawl designers.

Janet Rizvi, freelance writer and researcher, was brought up in Scotland, and graduated PhD in history from Cambridge. She has spent many years of her adult life in Jammu and Kashmir as the wife of an officer of the state Government. Her book Ladakh, Crossroads of High Asia has been continuously in print for over 20 years; she is also the author of Trans-Himalayan Caravans, Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders of Ladakh . As well as the chapter ‘Woven Textiles’ in The Crafts of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh , she has contributed articles on the Kashmir shawl to The Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion (New York) and The Encyclopedia of India . She contributed the chapter ‘The Asian Trade in Kashmir Shawls’ to Textiles from India, The Global Trade.

saturday 15th april
7.00 pm ‘Young Dancers Festival : The Sakhi Story Bharatanatyam’ by Bilva Raman

The Sakhi , confidante or friend is ever present in the abhinaya, dramatic pieces in Indian dance. Her importance , always acknowledged but never explored is the theme for Bilva’s Bharatanatyam performance this evening. This Companion is the one to whom the Nayika will convey her feelings, she is the one who will take messages from the nayika to the nayaka, she is the one who will sort out the differences between them. She could be a Daasi (servant), Sakhi, Chatriya (step sister) Prativamshini (neighbour), Lindini (saint) or the Nayika (heroine) could herself act as a messenger ( swaa ).

However, philosophically, the Sakhi is seen as the Guru, guide or teacher to the Nayika . The Nayaka is the Supreme being and the yearning of the Nayika for union with the Nayaka signifies the yearning of the human soul for union with the Divine.

Bilva started learning dance at the age of 6 from the Rajarajeshwari school of dance in Bombay. She received training from Guru Vishwanathan Pillai and later Sri Kadirvelu Pillai. She then concentrated on her Post graduate studies and work for sometime . The need to go back to dance was too strong and she restarted learning with Leela Samson in Delhi. In 2002 she decided to become a dancer and joined Spanda (The dance company which presents Leela’s choreographic work ) Today she says that “ I feel like I have not even touched the surface of the deep deep ocean of dance which is an integral part of my life.”

wednesday 19th april
7.00 pm Shiva : The Creation of a Deity A talk/slide show by Dr. Nilima Chitgopekar

Shiva, is one of the most widely worshipped deities in India. His early appearances in texts is of a lone hunter and an almost frightening god, but at some point of time he is not only “spousified,” but “ phallicized “ . The linga becomes an object of worship and Shiva the dancing God becomes the reluctant father of two famous sons Ganesha and Kartikeya . Clad in animal skin, with snakes slithering on his chest, with matted hair and sacred intoxication – all render Shiva a deity who embodies paradoxes. A journey through the colourful myths, manifest an almost unwilling husband, a hapless father and a god who inspires both awe and devotion.

The lecture will endeavour to combine the historical impulses that characterize Shiva in Hindu mythology factoring in philosophy and iconography with the help of slides.

Nilima Chitgopekar has been teaching history for over 23 years at the Jesus & Mary College and to the MA students of Delhi University. She is the author of 'Encountering Sivaism : The Deity, the Milieu, the Entourage‘( Munshiram Manoharlal, 1998) and 'The Book of Durga' ( Penguin 2003) and edited 'Invoking Goddesses: Gender Politics in Indian Religion'( 2002).

Nilima possesses an abiding interest in Shiva and his pantheon. Having lectured in different parts of India and in universities overseas, including Oxford , Nilima has just completed a semi fictionalised biography of Shiva being published by Penguin this year.

wednesday 26th april
7.00 pm ‘Chanderi: Dress for Royalty – An illustrated talk and exhibition on Chanderi textiles’ by Shubhanginiraje Gaewad

Chanderi is one of the most famous weaving villages in Central India (Madhya Pradesh). Producing according to Balfours Encyclopedia Asiatica “a very fine fabric made in Chanderi on the left bank of the Betwa from the cotton of Amraoti”. From the 15th to the 19th Centuries this was a 200 count handspun cotton thread used both in the warp & weft. Pure gold & silver threads imported from France were used to make the intricate borders & bootis.

According to the 16th Century Ain-e-Akbari the dresses, sarees, chunnis and turbans created in Chanderi were amongst the most favoured items for the Royal Families of the region & the Mughal Courts of Delhi. In the 1930’s with the import of 13/15 denier raw silk thread from Japan & the difficulty of making such fine cotton thread, the weavers started making sarees using a silk warp & a coarser cotton weft. Also in course of time pure zari thread was substituted by copper with gold & silver polish.

However the fine tradition of handweaving still continues producing the exquisite, delicate and artistic Chanderi sarees and dupattas. The name has been protected by the Government and India has also petitioned the World Trade Organization for its protection as a geographic indicator (like the protection given to champagne as a trade name for the sparkling wine of that region).

Shubhanginiraje Gaekwad, the present Maharani of Baroda , whose ancestors were initially purchasers of the fine fabrics of 18th century Chanderi has been trying to revive the lost beauty of Chanderi. She and her family have been specially commissiong the weavers to produce sarees using only real jari and weaving with cotton thread instead of the kataan material which they had started doing. She will be exhibiting a large collection of the old very heavy jari dupattas and old sarees woven in Chanderi over 50 yrs ago for the Baroda royal family.

Shubhanginiraje is the Managing Trustee Stree Udyogalaya.An institute which offers several vocational training courses for lower income women, Vice President All India Women’s Conference, Vice President Society for Clean Environment An organisation for stopping pollution in the city of Baroda and Trustee of The Maharaja Fatehsinh Museum Baroda which houses the largest collections of the paintings of Raja Ravi Varma.

26th april to 29th april  
10 am to 6 pm ‘– Exhibition . A small selection of Chanderi sarees designed ’
by Shubhanginiraje Gaekwad will be available for sale along with the exhibition.

friday 28th april
7.00 pm ‘A Voyage of Discovery - Odissi dance ’ by Sonia St-Michel & Dali Basu

Two young friends from Canada are on a different quest using the same medium - Odissi dance, as a means of self fulfillment. Sonia with a background of Mexican folk dance and ballet came to India to work in an NGO. Returning to Canada she continued her Indian journey in the Odissi dance school Upasana of Savita Sharma in Ottawa.

Dali born and brought up in Canada wanted to discover her Indian heritage and chose Odissi and the same dance school as a way of connecting with her roots. Both these talented students have been studying under Guru Aloka Pannikar in Delhi.

Sonia has performed in the Odissi style in Mexico and Canada and Dali in the US and Canada. This will be their first performance in India before they return to Canada.

Their traditional Odissi repertoire of Mangalacharan ( an invocation ) , Pallavi ( pure dance ) , Ashtapadis ( expressive pieces from the Geeta Govinda ) and Moksha ( salvation ) is being sponsored by the Canadian High Commission and Art Kendra.