Shiva’s leelas narrated through Kuchipudi dance recital in Delhi
Kuchipudi dancers Yamini and Bhavana Reddy — daughters of Padma Bhushan awardees Raja Radha and Kaushalya Reddy — performed Shiva Leela, which also depicts Shiva’s slaying of the demon Mukasura.
The term ‘leela’, which loosely translates to ‘play’ is usually associated with Krishna. But the stories of Shiva took centrestage as Kuchipudi dancers Yamini and Bhavana Reddy — daughters of Padma Bhushan awardees Raja Radha and Kaushalya Reddy — performed Shiva Leela at a recent event Samsrava, in the Capital. “Shiva Leela is an old piece choreographed by our parents and they used to perform it as a duet. So, we revived it a few years back,” says Yamini. She adds the dance piece shows 10 actions of Shiva.
“In the beginning we talk of Him appearing as the lingam, the One supreme being. After that we go on to different stories of Shiva... In Kumarsambhav, when Cupid comes and disturbs Shiva’s penance, he is burnt to ashes; then there’s [depiction of] marriage of Shiva and Parvati,” she elucidates. The choreography also depicts Shiva’s slaying of the demon Mukasura who disturbs Arjuna’s penance. “But Shiva, to test Arjuna’s skill and strength, comes disguised as a hunter and challenges Arjuna saying ‘I’m the one who killed Mukasura, not you’. They get into a duel; Shiva is very impressed by Arjuna’s valour and skill, and gives him the Pashupatastra,” says Yamini.
Performing these tales from Shiva’s life on stage has inspired the dancers in real life, too.
Referring to the episode of Tripurasura demon, Bhavana, says, “Tripurasura stands for three demons. And Shiva is known to have destroyed all these three demons. To me, these three demons are associated with the three qualities of me, mine and not mine. Shiva sets out to destroy the three, and can only do so when they are aligned. That, I really relate to. I’m inspired by Shiva, and also find it intriguing that Bholenath is depicted as riding on a dog. Dog symbolises attachment, territoriality and dependency. Dogs are considered inauspicious, which is very mind altering for me because I’m a dog lover. But Shiva makes us think of dogs in another way. So, the qualities of Shiva — being detached yet compassionate — is what we all aspire to be.”
Presenting the choreography, however, wasn’t easy since the original (performed by Raja and Radha Reddy) had two dancers but of different genders, in contrast to the two female dancers now. Yamini says, “It was definitely a challenge to bring out Shiva’s masculinity. But, that’s the beauty in dance, to bring out the essence of the narrative irrespective of the gender.”