Chakravyuh-Revival of a Traditional Cultural Festival
THE PANDAVA LEGEND:
'Pandava Lila' better known as 'CHAKRAVYUH', is enacted in a few villages of Uttarakhand after Diwali. Some of the villagers come to be possessed by the various characters from the Mahabharata who inadvertently begin enacting their roles (impromptu). Chakravyuh, is a well known episode of the Mahabharat, wherein Abhimanyu, the son of Arjun is treacherously killed by the seven Kauravas in a circular battle-formation. The episode evokes primordial tragic pathos among the audience - loss of a beloved son to the parents; perhaps in the manner of the Dionysian theatre of ancient Greece.
THE FUTURE OF THE PANDAVANI SHAILI IN UTTARAKHAND:
While year after year enactment of the story of Dashrath's eldest son helped implant the Ramlila tradition in the Indian minds, Pandavlila gradually lost its lure. Of the many traditions which had once been integral to the lives of the Uttarakhandis living in the hills but which gradually faded out are the age old traditions that trace their origin to the Mahabharata.
Chakravyuh once marked the glory of the dramatic tradition in Uttarakhand. But unfortunately this great tradition had withered away in the face 'modernity', and today efforts at its revival have taken on the dimensions of the larger question of the regeneration from within, of the entire cultural scenario of Uttarakhand. The history of the decline of the Pandvani Shaili is one of the chapters in the history of the Devbhumi which none of us can read with any sense of pride. "Chakravyuh today needs to be revived almost from its foundations", says Dr D R Purohit, who has been working in the area of folk theatre of Garhwal for years and has collected several scripts or variants of this ancient art form. Says R K Singh, Gen. Secretary of REACH: "It is surely a great piece of good fortune that Chakravyuh escaped total damage. The performance at Gandhari indeed was a historic event which can be taken up as a starting point to reconstruct our great heritage."
According to Dr A Dharmora who coordinated the show at Gandhari: "Many people including well-wishers, supporters, experts, villagers and even religious heads such as Mahant Shivanandaji of Koteshwar Mahadev , Rudraprayag, got together to achieve the successful staging of Chakravyuh at Gandhari. And such a success depends not merely on finance, but also on voices, feeling and most importantly on the combination of brains, imagination, and endless capacity for taking infinite trouble. I am happy we have made an excellent beginning with the help of a team that works with a sense of determination and service to community."
Explains Dr D R Purohit: "While working on the folk theatre of Garhwal, I had collected many scripts relating to Pandavlila, but the script of Chakravyuh impressed me most of all. I had for long nourished a dream of giving it a better shape, not in the sense of westernizing it, but presenting it in the pure folk format which it might have had in the beginning. This implies a revival and rejuvenation. We hope to work systematically towards this goal."
Chakravyuh once marked the glory of the dramatic tradition in Uttarakhand .....
efforts at its revival have taken on the dimensions of the larger question of the regeneration from within, of the entire cultural scenario of Uttarakhand.
EFFORT BY REACH:
REACH has tried to restore the traditional form of Chakravyuh as the extant form had assimilated several corruptions from Nautanki, Parsi Theatre and Bollywood. To this end, expert theatre artists and script writers from different villages were invited to draw the performance design of the play and prepare the performance script. Dr Purohit's research conducted over the past fifteen years was used to collect folk elements from different variants of the play. Folk tunes suitable to the mood of the episode were also culled from different traditions. Few major changes were made to remove the corruption that had crept into the script: (a) the language of the dialogues was changed from Hindi to its original Garhwali form, and a performance script in the traditional format was evolved. (b) the Parsi and Nautanki gestures that had crept in were changed to Pahari gestures (c) theatre movements were framed into Pandav dance form and choreography (d) the traditional costumes and props were redesigned (e) music, which is an important component of any theatrical performance was orchestrated in the traditional style, using traditional baadis and players of Dhol-Damau and other folk instruments, and (f) one of the most important interventions was the development of local leadership that can in future undertake such ventures of in-situ revitalization of folk culture.
The impact of the new design was immediately felt at the performance. Pandava oracles standing in the crowd identified themselves with the gestures and songs in Pahari and they were instantly possessed by the respective Pandav characters.
The audience seemed so overwhelmed by the new design that they said that Chakravyuh had come closer to their hearts and minds. The number of audience increased manifold. As against the general crowd of about 2000, this Chakravyuh performance was attended by about 15,000 people from various villages of Garhwal. There were some foreign tourists travelling in Garhwal, who came out of curiosity. Such traditional festivals have immense potential to attract tourists, a conjunction as an encounter of the tradition and the modern with advantage to both. Cultural Tourism in Himalayas apart from the more traditional Adventure Tourism hold much promise.
Later the organizers received requests from neighbouring villages for support to revive this festival in their village too. The performance at Gandhari has indeed generated widespread interest all over Uttarakhand, and its impact is reaching out of the valley in which it was restricted. This effort towards revitalization and constructive intervention it is hoped will restore the lost glory of the Pandav tradition and related performances of episodes from the Mahabharat like Kamalvyuh. Such efforts are bound to encourage folk artistes to present the traditional form of the Pandvani Shaili in the villages. The performance of 'Chakravyuh' has been made possible with the efforts of Dr. D.R.Purohit, Shri Suresh Kala, and Arvind Darmoda. In rediscovering the traditional format of Chakravyuh Krishnanad Nautiyal and Sarveshwar Prasad Kandpal provided valuable inputs. Prem Mohan Dhobal helped in designing traditional costumes for the performance. The villagers of Gandhari, and especially Brij Mohan Butola, Gajpal Singh Butola, Bir Bhadra Singh Butola and Yashwant Singh Butola provided local leadership.
The staging of Chakravyuh at Gandhari did achieve its share of publicity. Time is now ripe to put this endeavour in its true perspective.