Mahabharata in the best of South and North Indian formats

Nirmala Balram

Nirmala Balram

Wellington, September 27, 2023

Kaushiki Roy

Kaushiki Roy

Wellington, September 27, 2023

Mayur Dance Academy presentation at Lower Hutt Town Hall on October 7 at 5.30 pm

Bharata Natyam and Kathak performers, students and enthusiasts will have a rare opportunity to watch a combination of these two ancient Indian dance formats at a forthcoming production of the Wellington-based Mayur Dance Academy. 

The event will be held from 5.30 pm on Saturday, October 7, 2023 at the Lower Hutt Town Hall, located at 32 Laings Road, Hutt Central, Lower Hutt in the Wellington region.

Mahabharata, (meaning the Great Bharata) is an ancient Indian epic written in Sanskrit centred around the great battle of Kurukshetra, fought between the Pandavas and Kauravas, two princely families descended from King Bharata,  after whom the Indian subcontinent was originally named.

Dating back to the Third or the Fourth Century BC (according to some scholars, the Battle of Kshetratra dates back to about 6000 years from the present day, while the story of Mahabharata is even older).

It is the longest surviving epic in the world, comprising 200,000 lines and is roughly ten times the combined length of the Iliad and Odyssey written by Homer (written in the Eighth Century BC describing respectively the story of the wrath of Achilles and the story of Odysseus as he travels home from the War). Mahabharata contains the Bhagavad Gita, the famous philosophical discourse delivered by Lord Krishna (an Avatar of Vishnu) to Arjuna, one of the heroes of the Epic.

About Mayur Dance Academy

The Mayur Dance Academy has been training children and adults in two principal Indian dance forms, Bharata Natyam and Kathak since 2011.

The Academy, under the expert leadership and tutelage of Principal Suparna Basu, has nearly 100 students attending classes at Wellington, Johnsonville and Petone, as well as online.

Suparna learnt the dance formats when she was just three years old and was trained by Krishnakali Bhattacharya, one of the foremost students of the legendary Thankamani Kutty in the Kalakshetra style of Bharata Natyam.

She learned Kathak in the Lucknow Gharana from the late Pandit Brojonath Lahiri, a student of the unforgettable doyen Pandit Shambhu Maharaj.

A busy working mother, Suparna is committed to upholding and spreading Indian culture and tradition in New Zealand amongst the future generations of the Indian Diaspora, as well as members of other ethnic communities interested in learning these classical dance forms.

Indian Dance Formats

Suparna said that Indian Classical Dances are an ultimate source of delight and help with both physical and mental fitness.

“It is spiritual, dynamic and devotional. Our Dance classes help one to express their artistic self into a true representation of the beautiful. The teachings also demonstrate how the Indian traditional dance forms fuse with contemporary rhythms and everyday aesthetics. We believe in the dance forms that we teach, that it helps create a sound mind in a healthy body and plays a prime role in building self-confidence and determination to succeed in every aspect of life,” she said.

Bharata Natyam

Suparna said that Bharata Natyam as a Classical Dance form originated in the Temples of South India.

“The term Bharata is believed to have been named after the famous performance art sage to whom the ancient Natya Shastra is attributed. According to this belief, Bha stands for Bhava (feelings, emotions), Ra stands for Raga (melody and framework for musical notes), and Ta stands for Tala (rhythm). The term Natyam is a Tamil word for dance.

Kathak

“Kathak is an Indian Classical dance form that began with the travelling bards of ancient Northern India known as Kathakars or storytellers. The term Kathak is derived from the Vedic Sanskrit word Katha which means story, and Kathaka means ‘the one who tells a story,’ or ‘to do with stories.’ Wandering Kathakas communicated stories from the great epics and ancient mythology through dance, songs and music,” she said.

In the forthcoming production, Suparna artfully blends the two forms, both of which combine rhythm, harmony, graceful hand gestures and facial expressions, capturing the entire spectrum of human emotion or bhava, and complex footwork. Added to this are the vibrant and colourful traditional costumes and adornments which promise to make the production a visual and auditory feast.

Tickets priced at $5 per person are available. For bookings please call Suparna Basu at 021-1431341.

Email: suparna.basu2010@gmail.com

Nirmala Balram is a Conservator of ethnographic Objects and Sculpture at the Museum of New Zealand (Te Papa) based in Wellington. She evinces a deep interest in Indian fine arts and culture and promotes classical music and dances.

Kaushiki Roy is a Project Manager based in Wellington. She evinces interest in writing, singing, Indian philosophy, Mythology, Culture and Tradition.

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