Tag Archives: bharat natyam

Festival of India in Cambodia – Dance Festival and Buddhist Festival


Rama Pattabhishekam – Rama Attaining Throne


The Embassy of India and the Ministry of Culture, Government of India recently hosted The Festival of India in Cambodia. There were two events held in February. One the Buddhist Festival with a Buddhist themed photo exhibition and the other, Ramayana Classical Dance Performance by the world acclaimed and well esteemed Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai.

The epic Ramayana was performed by Artists from the famous Kalakshetra Foundation, Chennai, Tamilnadu, in Siem Reap province for two days at Sophitel Pokheetra Hall (14.02.14 and 15.02.14) and in Phnom Penh at Chaktamouk Theatre for three days (17.02, 18.02 and 19.02.14).


captivating performances..





Kalakshetra was established in 1936 after the extraordinary success of Rukmini Devi’s first performance of Bharata Natyam at the Theosophical Society, in Adyar, a suburb of Madras, in the South of India. The founding members, Rukmini Devi, her husband George Arundale, and their associates at the Theosophical Society, were deeply committed to Theosophy and an arts academy was an extension of this commitment. The academy was also symbolic of the struggle for India’s independence; it was to culturally revive a country that was losing its identity under British rule. http://www.kalakshetra.net/history_1.html


Rukmini Devi founded Kalakshetra in 1936. She devoted the next fifty uears – until her death in 1986 – to this institution, now India’s premier dance school. It focuses on bharatanatyam, carnatic vocal and instrumental music, the visual arts, traditional crafts, textile design and heritage, besides history and philosophy.


Director of Kalakshetra Priyadarsini Govind



The Dancers, Vocalists, Instrumentalists and the very important Behind the Screen Technical Artists arrived as a crew with the Director of Kalakshetra,  Priyadarsini Govind a renowned dancer herself. She is immensely respected for her gentle blending of traditional dance with new choreography. Her inseparable talent has loaded her with numerous awards and honours, among which are the Prestigious ‘Kalaimamani’ title by the Government of Tamilnadu in 1998 and ‘Yuva Kala Bharathi’ in 2000.
Ramayana on Stage

The classic dance drama, not only showcased the rich cultural and artistic heritage of India but also served as a connecting link between many of the Asian countries. Ramayana is popular in various parts of south east asia, where the epic is adapted according to the country’s culture and life style. Even within India, Ramayana in each language, adapted from the original Valmiki Ramayana, has unique features of the respective territory.


As in many oral epics, multiple versions of the ramayana survive. In particular, the ramayana related in north India differs in important respects from that preserved in south India and the rest of south-east Asia. There is an extensive tradition of oral storytelling based on the ramayana in Indonesia, Cambodia, Philippines, Thailand, Malaysia, Laos, Vietnam, and Maldives. Father Kamil Bulke, author of Ramakatha, has identified over 300 variants of Ramayana. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramayana

Here in Phnom Penh, Guests from various countries thoroughly enjoyed the rendition and felt the connect.

The connect was not only because of Ramayana, but due to the immensely talented artists who performed on stage – who brought the characters in true picture. The enthralled spectators would have been comparing their version of Ramayana with that performed on stage.


the artists






and instrumentalists


The Performances were a class apart, with the incomparable discipline in the steps and outstanding co-ordination of movements, the super speciality of Bharata Natyam.The traditional way of having the vocalists and instrumentalists on the side stage, with live music was another feather on the cap!

Rukmini Devi based her production largely on Valmiki’s classical version, but had made minor differences in the sequence of events. In her own words –


There are certain fundamental differences between Valmiki, Kambar and the great Ramayana poets. There is no definite mention in Valmiki of Surpanakha transforming herself into a beautiful maiden in order to tempt Sri Rama.
We are also accustomed to think Ravana lifting Sita with the part of the earth on which she was, to protect himself from magnetism which was like fire, destroying him. This is not so according to the Valmiki version, which says Ravana lifted her physically.
I have made slight differences in the sequence of events for it is important to think of what appears best on the stage. – Rukmini Devi Arundale


The performances were done under three themes, one on each day –
1. Jatayu Moksham
2. Choodamani Pradhanam
3. Mahapattabhishekam

These are some of the pictures which would explain the sheer beauty and poise of the dance and the stunning stageappearance and the almost real characters on stage!

In Tamil, names have the suffix  ‘an’ for male names as raman, lakshmanan, bharathan and ravanan; and here ‘ai’ for female names as in seethai and surpanakai. As I am comfortable in addressing the characters in the Tamil version, the names are mentioned likewise.
1. Jatayu Moksham

For info on the topic, I found this blog – http://ramayanainfo.blogspot.com/2010/06/jataayu-moksha.html%22 helpful.


seethai, raman and lakshmanan



raman and seethai



encounter with surpanakai, ravanan’s sister



ravanan in his court



ravanan disguised as an ascetic to kidnap seethai



ravanan kills jatayu


2. Choodamani Pradhanam and Lanka Dhahanam

Please refer http://srimadramayana.blogspot.com/2007/04/choodamani-pradanam.html for the story of the episode.

Also http://www.kalakshetra.net/choodamani_pradanam.html


hanuman lifts raman and lakshmanan



war between vali and sugreevan



the war



hanuman watches the pathetic state of seethai from behind the bushes



seethai hands over her ornament to hanuman



3. Maha Pattabhishekam

Read http://www.kalakshetra.net/maha_pattabhishekam.html for details of the story.


war between raman and ravanan



post war – seethai meets raman



raman accepts seethai



raman and seethai arrive for the coronation



elegance personified





Crisp Steps of ‘Bharatha Natyam’, co-ordinated with other forms like ‘Kathakali’ made the performance an undoubtedly unique affair. The make-up, jewellery and the importance given to costumes gave a feel of a celestial wonder!

The verses sung were in Sanskrit from the original Valmiki Ramayana. Yet, the translated version which was displayed continuously on side monitors helped in comprehension of the scenes better.


Committed to artistic excellence whether in classrooms, in auditoria or during tours around the world (as a performance company), Kalakshetra productions are widely recognized for their in-depth research, impeccable technique and refined aesthetics.


Formerly, the Buddhist festival was held at Wat Ounalom, with the Himalayan monks performing Lama Chanting, a specialized form of chanting that produces multiple distinct pitches simultaneously. The monks also created sand mandalas and butter sculptures showing an innovative version of Buddhist worship medium. A photo exhibition named Dhamma Dharshan portrayed various aspects of Buddha’s life and the eight important places in the life of Buddha – the venues located in India. It was surely a wonderful journey and a unique experience of knowledge gaining of the great Man’s life under one roof.

Still in store – a Food Festival and Film Festival are also being organized here in Cambodia in the month of April, as part of the Festival of India. Surely the True Flavor of India!


Indian Food and Dance Festival in Phnom Penh!


the Taj Mahal


Here in Phnom Penh, the Capital City of the Kingdom of Cambodia, The Indian Food and Dance Festival was organized by The Embassy of India along with India Tourism and India Tourism Development Corporation, in coordination with one of the best Hotels in Cambodia, Naga World Hotel, at their Pangea Fusion Restaurant. The much awaited event was actively supported by the local Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Indian Association Cambodia (IAC). The festival was held from October 30-November 9, 2013. The Cambodian, Indian and the MNCs -(Multi-National Connoisseurs) of Exotic Food, got to relish the culinary talents of experienced Indian Chefs including Mr. Sanjay Dasari and Mr. M.C.Pal of Ashoka Hotel, New Delhi.


vilakku/lamp and pookkolam/flower arrangement



In India, Traditions vary from clan to clan – astonishingly they might vary from family to family too! Although,the overall festive nature can be the same. Here comes the importance of celebrating a festival, if not keeping track with the traditions. That is how, the celebration of Diwali with Indian Food and Indian Dance played a very significant part in rekindling the values and festive atmosphere at a home away from home!


vaazhai maram/banana tree at the entrance



The Chefs – Chef Pal and Chef Dasari from India and Chef Rana from Hotel Naga World

at work


Why call it a festival?

All festivals in India are marked by good music and very good food. The diverse nature of the nation, might be the result of the British, mapping the then different kingdoms, cultures, languages, cuisines and above all different races (Aryan, Dravidian and the Mongoloid) to one country! Not only did the 10 day program bring to true form the multi-ethnical cuisines from various parts of India, but also presented some enchanting classical dance performances from different regions of the country and the much adored Bollywood numbers by renowned dancers from Mumbai, India. Surely a memorable family event!


the main course -ready to be revealed!



 dosai from the chef


The Dancers specially arrived from India, solely for this event. The Madhurita Sarang School of Kathak is a renowned Arts school in Pune, Maharashtra. Under the able guidance of their Principal and Guru Ms. Archana Sunjay, a group of five of her students – wonderful, experienced artists gave one of the best ever Indian classical, Folk and Bollywood numbers that the city had ever seen.


the performers


The versatile performances made the event a huge success. Bharat Natyam, Kathak, Folk, Contemporary and Bollywood dances kept the spectators enthralled. The performances were not limited to the stage alone; the dancers also performed while the guests enjoyed variety Indian cuisine at the restaurant! While on stage it was a more classical affair…. at the restaurant the floor was open to folk and peppy bollywood beats.


A few clicks –


Kathak – (classical dance form of northern India)


the Guru



and her students




Bharata Natyam (classical dance form of Tamilnadu, southern state of India)










There are numerous festivals exclusive to individual states or some festivals celebrated with different names in most of the states. Diwali is one festival which is celebrated with different reasons in the same name throughout the country.


Diwali need not be the festival of lights throughout India (see https://dosaikal.com/2011/12/09/thirukkaarthigai-ancient-festival-of-the-tamils/). In Tamilnadu, Karthigai Deepam is called the festival of lights. It is celebrated in the Tamil month of Karthigai which falls in November-December. Kaarthigai Deepam or Thirukkaarthigai is celebrated in all Shiva temples throughout Tamilnadu. But Thiruvannamalai temple holds a special place. Lord Shiva is worshipped in the form of fire – Agni Lingam in Thiruvannamalai.


The common feature of Diwali can be celebration of the victory of good over evil.

India is undoubtedly a country of Fusions – culture, cuisine, language and so on… Dance Performance without Fusion? There was some fusion dance too!



The essence of any festival depends on individual views – but none can deny the foremost -that’s Happiness. This year’s Diwali was certainly a true happy affair with the younger generation enjoying the fun loaded events and the older generation nurturing the festive emotion with the Indian touch of food, music and dance! The folk, contemporary and bollywood numbers brought in, the vigor of young India and true India.
Folk Dance – too fast for good clicks… I need to learn more on this (the clicks).








There was always an aura of freshness and unexpected turns in the numbers that were performed –


The Contemporary Dance sent everyone mesmerized –






The Food Festival


When it came to food – the chefs had brought most of India in their pockets. Chef Sanjay Dasari, a prominent chef in successfully leading various Indian Food Festivals around the world and Chef M.C.Pal, a specialist in authentic Indian desserts showcased Indian cuisine at its best.


Rasam and Soups; Appalams and Papads; Tandoori Rotis, Naans, Dosais, Aapams and Pulavs;  Plain Dal, Dal Makhani and a huge authentic variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian main courses; Grill corner – with prawns, chicken, fish and vegetables and a wide selection to Indian and Western desserts to choose from – I might have left out some more too that went uncounted yet digested well!


dosai, naan and potato dry curry…



dal and paneer..


photo courtesy (dal):keonila of blueladyblog.com


chicken and lamb..

DSC_4558_640pxIMG_3463photo courtesy (chicken):keonila of blueladyblog.com


the wide variety of desserts –



the unavoidable jilebi and gulab jamun…



Food Demonstration


The food festival was not restricted to the spread in the restaurant, it was an extended affair of learning from the chefs – a demonstration of easy yet authentic recipes was organized.



Three recipes –

1. kariveppilai era – marinated prawns with the flavour of curry leaves

2. meen moili – fish curry in coconut milk

3. sooji phirni set in glasses- semolina pudding

were demonstrated by Chefs Sanjay Dasari and Madhab Chandra Pal.


the chef –



and the platter – kariveppilai era and meen moili with pulav



the chef and the dessert – semolina pudding –



This was some mind blowing team effort transformed into a success story. The Indian Food and Dance Festival is over and the Chefs and Dancers have already left for India, yet the music and dance still lingers in the air and the taste of food is remembered during every meal. I think this would go on for a few days from now.. atleast till the next festivity steps in!


Recipes learnt – Kariveppilai Era, Meen Moili and Semolina Pudding in the next post.