New Delhi: Thirty-three years after the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra, the capital`s oldest cultural hub, recreated on stage the life of Hindu god Krishna, his childhood mate Radha gets the official status of a "divine consort" in the latest version of the religious dance-drama Aug 18-22.
Krishna endorses her status personally in the ballet, its producer-director Shobha Deepak Singh said. "We have given a new dimension to the status of women in the ballet."
A little over three decades ago, the ballet "Krishna" commenced with the "maharaas", a tale of love that Krishna shared with Radha in childhood and `Gita updesh` (discourse from Bhagwad Gita), recalled Singh who manages the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra.
"My mother had conceived it. A year later, I took over and added several scenes to the original episode of the butter-stealing Krishna, the "makhan chor" years of baby Krishna," Singh told reporters.
"But I realised that the scenes that I had added were good in terms of poetry rather than visuals. I had to cut many of them out. After several years of research at the Sahitya Akademi I got the impression that there were two separate avatars of Krishna which had merged over the length of time.
"I wrote a new script that treated the two incarnations in dramatically converse ways," she said.
The script has since remained the framework of the ballet with "minor additions and subtractions every year".
The new avatar of Krishna is divided into two segments.
The first act deals with Krishna`s childhood, while the second act is an account of his days as described in the epic Mahabharata. The script uses a combination of `bhajans` (devotional songs), dialogues from Mahabharata, music and dance.
Krishna, commonly considered as an avatar of the Hindu deity Vishnu, was born to Vasudev and Devaki in prison. He was smuggled out by his father and left in the care of Yashoda in Braj Bhumi. He met Radha as an adolescent and began an affair of "playful ecstasy".
Later, he slew his parents` incarcerator Kamsa and fled to Dwarka with princess Rukmini when Kamsa`s father-in-law Jarasandh threatened to attack Krishna`s kingdom in Mathura.
Krishna reappears during princess Draupadi`s "swayamvar" (wedding) at Kampilya, the capital of ancient Panchala kingdom in modern Uttar Pradesh, as the epic Mahabharata suggests, Singh said.
"Mahabharata says Krishna first appeared in Draupadi`s `swayamvara` without Radha and mother Yashoda. There is no evidence of the butter-stealing Krishna till 700 years ago. Research shows that the idea of baby Krishna is relatively new," Singh said.
The audience for "Krishna" has changed over the years, she said.
"The perceptions have changed. Initially, viewers did not want to know much about Mahabharata but now they want to know more about the epic and Krishna`s life because they are pertinent even today," she said.
The treatment of the ballet is also new. "The costumes this year have been block- printed and the choreography is modern with 23 short acts to cover his life," Singh said.
The age of the performers is much younger between 18 and 25 years, she said.
The ballet coincides with Janmashtami Aug 22, the festival associated with the birth of Krishna.