Women and Wari

A play highlights the role of women believers and saints

Written by Rushil Dutta | Published:July 3, 2013 4:08 am

Baya,dar ughad literally translates into “woman,open your door”. Figuratively speaking,the “door” here is that of the mind,and the woman is being told to see the world lucidly and not through the blinders of taboos,stigma or superstition. This proposition,forward and contemporary as it may seem,emerges from the collective philosophy that female saints from the country propounded from the 13th to 18th century.

Sushma Deshpande’s play Baya,Dar Ughad was staged at Patrakar Bhavan on Monday,as part of an event by Maharastra Tourism Development Corporation to spread awareness about the Palkhi. “The story revolves around four women during a pit stop in the procession,” says Deshpande,its director. These women sing,dance and play games during such halts,says Deshpande,adding,“They sing praises of Vitthal (a reincarnation of Krishna) to submit to whom every warkari undergoes the arduousness of fasting and days of walking till Pandharpur. The female protagonists run into an audience of three onstage: a student of anthropology and sociology,a journalist and an NRI youth. The women are then showered with questions on the wari tradition from their newfound audience. They sing,dance and enact excerpts from the lives of female saints such as Mukta Bai,Soyera and Kanho Patra.

“The teachings of these saints and the way they lead their lives predates modern feminism,” says Deshpande. They had a strong connection with Vitthal,who,according to Deshpande “was not only a deity to them but also a symbolic media of self-expression”.

The play not only highlighted the teachings and philosophy of the female saints but also gave a glimpse into the history of and practices involved in the tradition. The power-packed acting of the members of Avishkar,a theatre group from Mumbai,was complemented by melodious live music.

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