Ramayana, a dance and music production presented by renowned Kalakshetra Foundation was hosted by the President of India and First Lady on their state visit to their honoured hosts King Willem-Alexander and Queen Máxima of the Netherlands. This dance music performance had the audience mesmerized. To me, it was the moment where I felt a powerful connection with my Indian roots. The Ramayana epic is very close to my heart and I couldn’t have thought of a more fitting production to mark the 75th year of diplomatic relations between India and the Netherlands.

The story of King Rama, written several centuries ago by sage Valmiki, is an integral and vital part of our collective consciousness. It is a set of belief systems that people of the Indian descent preserved through different art forms: literature, dance, music, sculpture, architecture and the building of places for worship such as Ayodhya.

Ramayana

This historical epic depicts the cultural heritage, traditions, moral beliefs and philosophy of ancient India. Once upon a time, India was known as Bhārata-varṣa. It was named in the honour of one of the famous Emperors of India, namely Bharat, who was the son of Dushayant and Shakuntala. The production Many Faces of Love featured the love story of Shakuntala’s parents, Sage Vishwamitra and celestial nymph Meneka. These stories behind the stories make ancient literature so fascinating. Hence, Ramayana is much more than just an amazing tale telling a life story about Lord Rama.

This narrative is a connecting link in the Indian society as well as across Indian diaspora. The tale of lord Rama has been widely spread in several versions and in all parts of the world. We may easily conclude, wherever Indian people live, there the story of Ramayana is being told. However, this important part of Indian History is not taught in the lessons of Western literature or history. Hence, the initiative of the Embassy of India in The Hague and the Government of India to institutionalize the Ramayana as an integral part of our national historical legacies is highly appreciated. It is also a great way to mark the Independence, 75 years of Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

Indians drawn to the West

Having said that, one gentleman observed that many Indians are ashamed to speak in Hindi or their regional language. And it’s not just the language, it’s anything related to their ancient cultures or heritage. What a shock! These middle-class Indians prefer to talk in English to prove that they are educated and even westernised. Bollywood films personify their mentality. Most scripts are in English, hardly any Hindi or Urdu is spoken, so these mainstream films give a very distorted picture of the West, or shall I call it trapping their audience in a colonial hangover. That is why it is important to promote institutions like Kalakshetra Foundation, founded by Rukmini Devi. Kalakshetra has been acknowledged by the Government of India as an Institution of National Importance. The purpose of the Institute is to establish a profound understanding the theoretical, the literary and the musicological foundations of traditional arts.

It was in 1955 that Rukhmini Devi had produced the first of Ramayana dance and musical production called Sita’s Swayamvaram, which is a tradition where the woman may choose her own groom. Rukhmini Devi based her production largely on Sage Valkimi’s classic edition, which counts 24,000 stanzas. To her credit, Ramayana has retained her freshness as well as her beauty until today. She has succeeded in making the epic part of our collective consciousness as well as sharing the collective heritage with the rest of the world.

For more information visit https://www.kalakshetra.in

Photo Credits: Embassy of India in The Hague (2022)

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