ON THE face of it, one may not see any similarities between women of today and mythological characters Ahalya, Mandodari, Sita, Tara and Draupadi. However, Panchkanya, a dance-drama by city-based danseuse Swati Daithankar draws parallels between women of today and the five Hindu epic characters — Ahalya, Mandodari, Sita, Tara and Draupadi — who make the group Panchakanya (five virgins). Daithankar presented a dance-drama titled Panchkanya on Sunday at Balshikshan Auditorium, Mayur Colony, Kothrud.
According to Daithankar, all these women characters from the Hindu epics had no say in their marriage. Be it Ahalya, who was cursed to remain invisible for 1,000 years by her husband for allowing Indra into her hermitage or Sita, who was not accepted by Rama after her long captivity under Rama. Mandodari knew all the faults of Ravana who never paid heed to her, while King Vali’s wife Tara who lost her husband when he ignored her advice and gets killed by Rama. Draupadi faces humiliation when her husband Yudhishthir loses in a game of dice. “None of them raised their voice against all the injustice that was meted out to women. Sadly, even today, you will find Ahalya, Mandodari, Sita, Draupadi and Tara in so many households, where it is the man who is in-charge. In an indirect way, by remaining mute, we are contributing towards the rise in crimes against women. It is time we find our voice and raise it,” said Daithankar, citing examples of horrific crimes such as acid attacks on women and cases like Nirbhaya and Khairlanji Massacre of 2006 where four members of a Dalit family were killed and two women members were paraded naked before being murdered.
While Daithankar started researching about the Panchkanyas around a decade ago, it is only after the Nirbhaya case that she came to draw parallels between the atrocities against the women of the two eras.
“Whenever I come across any report related to any kind of crime against any woman in a newspaper or on the television, it disturbs me a lot. The Nirbhaya incident set me thinking and with a lot of questions. Yes we have begun to fight but are we fighting enough? I realised that while the epic characters were written hundreds of years ago, deep down inside, not much has changed. I find a strong correlation between the Panchkanyas and women who allow men to run their lives. Hence, I decided to present a piece using my medium of expression,” said Daithankar, who has combined poetry, dance and drama in her performance Panchkanya.
Daithankar has been associated with Bharatnatyam from the time she was three years old. After finishing her degree course in English literature from Bombay University, she enrolled at Nalanda Dance Research Centre in 1985 for a four-year course. From the early 1990s, she has been giving solo performances throughout the country and as well as abroad.