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Dancers who brought Buddha to life

December 6, 2010

Divya Kapoor
Daily Pioneer
December 06, 2010

Originally meant to please the Dalai Lama during his visit to India in
January this year, a group of dancers recited Buddha Tatvam as part of
the Delhi International Arts Festival recently. Vadodara-based
choreographer Parul Shah along with 10 Bharatanatyam dancers, traced
the life of Gautama Buddha through an elaborate dance.

“I had created this dance specially for the International Buddhist
Heritage Conference where we were blessed by the Dalai Lama. We gave
one more performance in Vadodara and this is our third performance,”
said Shah, who took about six months to research on Buddha and
understand his philosophy. “I read Divided into five parts, each
depicting a significant period of Buddha’s life, the recital showed
temptation, political turmoil, friendship, life cycle and the strength
of people against negative energies. “Legend has it that Gautama had
three palaces and about 4,000 dancers to keep him amused. But he
learnt early in life that luxury does not lead to happiness. So when
he was about 29, he abandoned his life as a prince and went into the
forest, dressed in rags, so seek enlightenment in the solitary life of
a Hindu ascetic. We tried to put these elements in the performance
because they are prevalent even today,” she said.

The audience was first given a glimpse those 29 years which Siddhartha
is said to have spent as a prince in Kapilavastu, how his father
shielded him from religious teachings and knowledge of human suffering
and ensured that he was provided with everything he could need and how
he realised that material wealth was not life’s ultimate goal. Then
came the spiritual fraction where his search for enlightenment began.

“According to Buddhist scriptures, he remained in meditation for 49
days. He emerged from this experience as the Buddha,” she explained.

Instead of opting for a story-telling form, the dancers opted for a
symbolic interpretation of Buddha’s life, said Shah, “I wanted to
depict the five stages symbolically, letting people interpret it in
their own way.” Each stage was also explained by a voiceover. “He
searched foe solace everywhere and ultimately found that it is within
one’s own self. The idea was to show his search,” she added.

And since Buddhism travels all over the world, Shah said, they decided
to use varied music instruments too. So from Kerala drums, viola and
flutes to Thai drums and tabla, one found a amalgamation of different
beats and rhythms. “I have also consciously used bright colours like
pink and blue to show his life as a Prince and deep shades like yellow
and maroon to show the period after transformation,” she said.
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