A Retelling, 2018
Video projection, 7 mins
Photograph on canvas, 6ft x 2ft
Following up on two previous projects – one relating to the Karaga festival derived from the Mahabharata, the other related to Ramlila based on the Ramayana – I began thinking about the oral and literary history of retelling myths. In my new work, ‘A Retelling’, I have experimented on creating a crossover between the two yugas (eras) of the two epic poems by examining gender fluidity and transformation. It is a well-known fact that there is no single version of a myth, and as a culture, we have been telling our myths in different ways for centuries. Each telling is inflected by time and place, by caste and religion, and by politics and ideology.
The Karaga carrier, a man, who bears the mother goddess in the symbolic form of a “Kalasha” decorated as a “Shikara” on the head is transformed into a woman and becomes Draupadi from the Mahabharata who is believed to come down from heaven to earth to stay for three days with the Thigala community. During the Ramlila, which is a theatrical production depicting the story of Lord Rama from the Ramayana, a young boy of Brahmin caste portrays Sita as it is an age-old belief that women or girls aren’t worthy enough to be on stage playing a main character.
Both Draupadi and Sita are mythically born from the primordial elements of Earth and Fire and in this work, the same man performs both characters.