01 March, 2021

A Touch Of Eros

The transformation of the Devadasi’s Sadir with its ­nationalisation deprived it of the sensual and the erotic

Inni Singh
A Touch Of Eros

As performers, practitioners and teachers of Bharat­anatyam, it is crucial for us to understand the hist­o­rical and socio-political context of the dance form. Bharatanatyam’s history is not unco­m­plicated as it is often made out to be—as if it were an ancient, unbroken and pure tradition untouched by colonialism and post-colonial nationalism. In fact, what it was before the onset of colonialism, in the hands of the original masters, the devadasis, and what it eventually became as it passed through a socio-political prism—the evolving idea of a newly independent India—are arguably two very different dance forms. Sure, they shadow and echo one another, but they are distinct in terms of their relationships with the body and sexuality, their narrative content, the spaces in which they are performed and the very dancers who practise, perform and teach them.

Nehru, within the rubric of ‘unity in ­diversity’, sought to appreciate and ­acknowledge regional, religious and sub-cultural identities, but he also...

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