No other epic in the Hindu mythology continues to capture public imagination as much as the Mahabharata, and especially the role of Lord Krishna, as both the creator and the destroyer of the universe.  Focusing on some of the lesser known aspects of Krishna’s life, both as a child and during the great war of Mahabharata, the Shriram Bharatiya Kala Kendra (SBKK) is presenting its annual dance-drama KRISHNA on the occasion of Janmashtami at Kamani Auditorium, New Delhi. 

Shobha Deepak Singh, Director of the ballet and Vice Chairperson, SBKK says, “The first Krishna ballet was presented in 1977 to a full house and we have seen the same interest in Krishna’s life year after year. This is the 41st edition of the ballet and the passionate zeal to present Krishna every year arises out of the paradox of his dual personality. His leela consisting of his dallying with the gopis, butter stealing his romance with Radha—all have risen from the Bhakti movement. On the other hand, there is the statesman Krishna who embraces divine intervention in the war of Mahabharata and most importantly his imparting the Gita upadesha. In today’s times, where wars are still fought over land, property and materialism all the time, it is Krishna’s message that continues to evoke righteousness in all of us.”

Four decades ago, the ballet commenced mainly with Raasleela, devoting much time to Krishna’s childhood and youth. Since then, the ballet has travelled to a thoroughly researched and artistically gratifying experience for the viewer. Each year, with a view to broaden the spectrum of the production, larger time is devoted to the lesser known aspects of Krishna’s life.

For instance, in this production, a new dimension has been added to the status of women. While Gandhari has been presented as a larger than life figure in the episode Gandhari’s curse, Krishna himself elevates the status of Radha from being a beloved to being his “Divine Consort”. Other episodes that find prominence are those featuring Bhishma, Jarasandha, Shishupal, Karna and Duryodhana among others.

“The war of Mahabharata does not belong to a bygone era, it is a dilemma we face every moment even today,” says Shobha Deepak Singh. “The second half of the ballet relies on a specially commissioned script of lesser known incidents from the Mahabharata. There has been a conscious effort to strep out of the grove of blind faith and throw up questions of relevance. There is a marked difference between human relationships in the Ramayana and Mahabharata. While the former is mainly about sacrifice and virtue, in the latter the war between families and brethren become a vehicle to resolve disputes in a moralistic way.”

The ballet has rich production values and is far grander in aesthetics this year. “My inspiration comes from the research that I do by reading a lot and watching other plays. The dialogues have been rendered by Manohar Singh and the dance forms range from martial arts forms like mayurbhanj chau and kalaripayattu to softer, creative contemporary styles,” she concludes.

The program will be presented at 6.30 p.m. daily  till 15 August