Friday, May 7, 2010

Sakuntalam in Jaffna

Sakuntalam in Jaffna

By Indian Council for Cultural Relations

The Indian Council for Cultural Relations presented the world famous classical Sanskrit play Abhijñana Sakuntalam (The Recognition of Shakuntala) of Kalidasa in the form of a musical dance drama in Tamil before a packed audience at the Veerasingham Hall in Jaffna on 5th May, 2010. Hon’ble Governor of the Northern Province, Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri, graced the occasion as Chief Guest. The Governor and Mrs. Chandrasiri were received upon their arrival by H.E. Mr. Ashok K. Kantha, High Commissioner of India, and witnessed the performance with him. Members of Parliaments, the Mayor of Jaffna Mrs. Yogeswari Patkunarajah, Chief Secretary Mr. A. Sivaswamy, Government Agent Mr. K. Ganesh, Mr. L. Illangovan, Secretary for Education, Culture and Sports, Northern Province and senior government officials were also present.

Speaking at the occasion, the Hon’ble Governor highlighted the importance of epics, classical literature and the fine arts, in particular the performing arts, in the nurturing of the cultural and social life of the society and transmission of culture and human values from generation to generation. The Governor recalled that Jaffna had been a society that had produced many eminent personalities in field of the fine arts and had had close cultural linkages with South India that included regular exchanges of well-known artistes and expressed the hope that these linkages would resume with the end of the armed conflict. Citing the staging of Abhijñana Sakuntalam as an instance, he praised the contribution India was making in the rejuvenation of the social and cultural life of the Northern Province.

Mahakavi Kalidasa was a renowned classical Sanskrit writer and is widely regarded as the greatest poet and dramatist in Sanskrit. The period during which he flourished has not been established with precision, but it was probably during the Gupta period (4th-6th century C.E.). His plays and poetry are primarily based on Hindu mythology and philosophy.

Kalidasa wrote three plays besides a number of “mahakavyas” or epic poems. Among his plays, Abhijñana Sakuntalam is regarded as a masterpiece, the other two being Malvikagnimitram (i.e. Malvika and Agnimitra) and Vikramorvasiyam (i.e. Vikrama and Urvasi). Abhijñana Sakuntalam was one of the first works of Indian literature that became known to Europe and has been translated into English and many other European languages. Besides, Abhijñana Sakuntalam has over the centuries been translated into many South Asian languages, including Tamil, Sinhala and Hindi, and is well known in Sri Lanka among both the Tamils and the Sinhalese.

Last year, the Aru Sri Art Theatre had produced Abhijñana Sakuntalam as a musical dance drama in Sinhala for the Indian Council for Cultural Relations and it was staged in Colombo in September 2009 to a full audience at the Kularathne Hall at Ananda College. Following its success and the excellent media reviews it received, Abhijñana Sakuntalam was produced as a musical dance drama once again, this time in Tamil, by the Aru Sri Art Theatre under the able direction of Kalasuri Arunthathy Sri Ranganathan, a senior broadcaster, a reputed musician, composer and choreographer who needs no introduction to the cultural scene in Sri Lanka. The choreography has been done primarily in Bharatnatyam style, with flavours from Kathakali, Kathak, Oddisi, Kuchchipudi and Kalari. Also, the merging of Carnatic music and different Indian classical dance styles is unique.

The people of Jaffna turned out in large numbers to witness the performance and the High Commission and Indian Council for Cultural Relations are greatly moved and encouraged by the overwhelming response and would work to organize cultural activities on a regular basis in the Northern Province.

The High Commission and the Indian Council for Cultural Relations thanked the Hon’ble Governor of the Northern Province, Maj. Gen. G.A. Chandrasiri and his team for their support in organizing the performance.