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© 2008 Alessandra Lopez y Royo This paper is about research carried out from 2004 to 2006 which focuses on the interface between Indian classical dance of today, in particular the form known as odissi, from Eastern India, and Indian temples, in particular the Hirapur temple, dedicated to the 64 yoginis1 . I will discuss the documentary film conceived and scripted by me about the odissi dance of guru Surendranath Jena2, and will focus in some detail on the relationship that one of his compositions, Sakti Rupa Yogini, composed by Guru Surendranath Jena in the 1970s, has with the Hirapur temple. The documentary film on DVD is accompanied by short films of the dance performances discussed in the documentary, without any explanation or commentary. One of these is a film of a performance of the Sakti Rupa Yogini at Hirapur in 2005. I will begin with a couple of caveats. One can watch/engage with a documentary film about dance in several ways, considering for example in some depth the technical aspects of film making, and more broadly, the issues relating to documentation and recording of dance performance on film. There is much that could be said in this context: this film is in the much criticised “expository” mode and this raises questions about the reflexivity engendered (or not engendered) in the viewer through the mode chosen and the sense it may give of privileging the word over the image. The “expository” documentary model was, in this instance, a pragmatic choice: partly inexperience, partly financial constraints, made it the only viable option – incidentally, I had planned for a series of interviews to be part of
see http://www.art-and-archaeology.com/india/hirapur/cyt06.html for photographs of the site
There is also a website which complements this film with additional footage, interviews, and articles. The website can be accessed at http://humanitieslab.stanford.edu/51/Home. Currently, the film can be downloaded from the AHDS wbsite http://ahds.ac.uk/performingarts/collections/index.htm (for PC users only)
the way I would want my audiences to watch this film is by noting its specific exploration of the relationship of dance. and this immediately puts an explicit distance between viewers and subject. where several of the dance performances were filmed. though very important. the Sanskrit and Oriya names that continuously crop up. through the film. but by a SOAS undergraduate student with an adequate voice. such issues relating to documentation practices. able to pronounce. it is NOT a film about such practices: it is a film about the odissi of Guru Surendranath Jena. that the voice over should be provided by a male voice. if only at an unconscious level. however. because I did not want the connection between odissi and femininity to be suggested. odissi. it seems to “circumvent the subjective experience of interiority” (MacDougall 1998. as Rajyashree’s experience was primarily as a dance-video maker. however. and archaeology. in this case. Rajyashree Ramamurthy. What I wish to foreground. 3 I was very fortunate to work with a very talented film maker. in the words of MacDougall. after some training. 2 .the film. thus reinforcing a stereotype. Thus. 102). I also wanted a young British voice. But as said. here represented by the Hirapur site and the site of Konarak. 4 The voice over is not provided by a professional actor. I am most grateful to the AHRC Research Centre for Crosscultural Music and Dance Performance for taking over this project as producer to allow for its completion and to the British Academy for funding it. Thus in this documentary the chosen mode is not particularly adventurous: there is a story conveyed through a voice over4 by a narrator. are not the focus of my paper. We had a very limited budget and this put many constraints on the project. is the use we make today of archaeological sites and of dance performance in our project of re-imagining history and reimagining the past. because the documentary was made in UK. by the use of a female voice. but eventually these could only be uploaded on the accompanying website3. My second caveat is that although the film refers to religious practices and to the cult of the yoginis in particular. documentary making was new to both of us. Having resorted to the expository model. whose services I could not afford. rather than in India. I was keen.
I had a specific interest in odissi which I first encountered in the early 1980s through a performance by a student of Guru Surendranath Jena. attached to the temple of Lord Jagannath at Puri until as late as the early 1950s. so to speak. as part of that project. in the South and the North India. The Research Centre for Cross-cultural Music and Dance Performance. jointly convened by Dr Andree Grau at Roehampton and Dr Janet O’Shea. A large team of researchers was involved in this South Asian dance project which focused primarily on dance forms like bharatanatyam and kathak5. 3 .The making of the film In 2002 Roehampton. and it incorporated different performance streams. and one about South Asian dance and postcolonial identity construction. Odissi is one of the recognised classical dances of contemporary India and is said to have originated from the ritualistic and age old dance and singing practices of the maharis (temple dancers). 5 These are classical dances originating . at the time based at UniS. focused on exploring the dance and music performance of Asia and Africa. So. which I convened. respectively. I decided to investigate odissi in the twenty first century and spent the whole summer of 2003 in Orissa. I was involved in two of these projects. Turning odissi into a classical dance form was not a unique phenomenon. 2007. There are different forms of odissi. seen as antagonistic to the very principles of classicism invoked for odissi as a form. of which odissi was only a chapter. such as the softness and femininity of the dance. For Kathak see Chakraborty 2008. For a discussion of bharatanatyam see my own article Lopez y Royo 2004 and the excellent book by O’Shea. one about Indonesian dance and music heritage. in Orissa. with a life span of five years. The history of odissi is complex. to a great extent. it was part of a broader process of classicization and concomitant modernization of Indian dance. As I wrote elsewhere (Lopez y Royo 2007a and Lopez y Royo 2007b). The dance really evolved from the 1940s theatre performances of Cuttack. The Centre. had a portfolio of several research projects. some of which are regarded as ‘transgressive’ – by which I mean transgressive of its reconstituted canon and. This film has a link with the latter project. the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and the University of Surrey (UniS) came together to form a research centre funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).
I had been very struck by how Guru Jena’s odissi related to Konarak and to Hirapur in particular. Then the idea came to me to record his work. To witness that performance was quite an extraordinary experience. As said earlier. the way which unfortunately continues to be fully endorsed by several funding bodies – what Caroline Rye. and the sixty-four yogini temple at Hirapur. which led to the making the film. both of which seem to have sustained his choreographic output. to perform there the dance piece inspired by the site. I asked Guru Jena’s eldest daughter. While I was doing field research in Orissa in 2003 this point was reiterated by the odissi dance establishment. In Guru Jena’s odissi we have a different notion and understanding of femininity. What exactly did I want to document? what did I mean by documenting? I decided that my documentation was going to be a narrative. a temple complex which is now an archaeological park.and thus it has an important role to play in my narrative – but it is the Hirapur connection that I interpret as being of particular significance. Pratibha. so I decided to take a closer look and went to New Delhi where Guru Jena still lived6. I was intrigued by the way he had re-imagined odissi and recreated it out of his engagement with the Sun Temple at Konarak. fallacy.One of such transgressive forms is the odissi reimagined by Guru Surendranath Jena. The relationship with Konarak helps to situate Guru Jena’s dance making within the contemporary Indian classical dance discourse . I had no experience of film making whatsoever and in a very naïve way I thought of documentation as taking a camera and videoing everything. I am relating this story to mark the process I went through and the kind of reflections I engaged in. which is being put across through his choreography. earlier involved with PARIP (Practice as Reasearch in Performance) describes as the ‘documentation trap’(Rye 2005). the Sakti Rupa Yogini. It is at this point that the shift in my thinking occurred. or as I would say. my story of Guru Jena’s reconstruction of odissi. which opened up a new understanding of the relationship between dance in India 6 Guru Surendranath Jena passed away on 8th October 2007 4 . I decided to do further research into this style of odissi and was able to do so in 2004 through a British Academy grant which allowed me to stay in Delhi for some weeks to observe Guru Jena’s way of teaching and participate in classes with his daughter Pratibha. I obtained a further British Academy grant in 2005 so that I could document Guru Jena’s work using a digital video-camera.
directly opposite the entrance and larger than the others. in his worship. the ubiquitous and quintessentially Oriya god . a man who regarded himself as a devotee of Devi . Thus I will here elucidate a series of points /issues raised only very succinctly in the film. breathing life into the imagery of the powerful yoginis.236. What we see in the film shows how through the choreography the site is animated.443). Elinor Gadon describes Mahamaya at Hirapur as follows: “One image. as an artist and as a worshipper. 137) gives the date for Hirapur as circa 900 CE. is ten armed. nor does the film aim to discuss how people used to worship there in the 9th or 11th century.and Indian temples.reconnected with this ancient temple in his performance work and reconnected with the yoginis from his own contemporary location. following Vidya Dehejia (1986). enshrined in niche 31. (b) Mahamaya . Huntington 1999. going beyond stereotypical notions of a dance made up of beautiful sculpturesque poses. providing additional references. information and comments which will further contextualise the documentary. (a) Date of the site . in other words to make an authoritative intervention in the contemporary religio-philosophical discourse about this site and its significance in the study of Tantric practices. he would disregard Jagannath. As the presiding deity. reactivating the defunct practices of worship of their ancient cults. The purpose of this film is to see how an Oriya artist of today. Other dates have been put forward by other writers and it has been suggested that the temple may be as late as 11th c. There is unfortunately no consensus on this issue.and by this I am not saying that . About Hirapur This paper is to be seen as a way to expand upon the voice over commentary. Yoganidra of the god Visnu – I stress this connection with Visnu because of the strong Vaisnava strand in Orissan culture. (Michell 1988. Let us not forget that the main purpose of this film is not “to establish the truth about Hirapur”.David Gordon White (2003. and suggests it was built by a ruler of the Bhanja dynasty. Kali was identified 5 . Iconographically this image conforms to the description of Mahamaya in the fourteenth-century Kalika Purana.She is the Mother of the Universe. she stands on a full-blown lotus.
52). who. Sarala Das names the sixty-four yoginis. shown as killing the buffalo demon with her trident. another temple is at Ranipur Jharial. which was the basis for the Sakti Rupa Yogini choreography. Narayani has a temple near Chilika Lake : the presiding deity of this temple. tradition and archaeological remains. and Vaisnavism. it was also a centre of Saktism of India as attested from literature. Archaeologist Prabhas Kumar Singh writes: “Although Purusottama Kshetra (Puri) came to be recognised as a great centre of Vaishnavism.. Sarala Das describes her as a Vaisnava deity. though she is Bhairavi and destroyer of the demon Mahisa (Mukherjee 1981. the power of cosmic delusion emanating from the god Vishnu…[she] is still in worship by the locals as their gramadevi..The film commentary refers to the conflation of Vaisnavism. (d) Vaisnavism and Saktism . In the cult of this goddess. in Madhya Pradesh). traditionally seven or eight ) . She is the only Yogini at Hirapur to have an altar in front of her in which there is a spout for the run-off of the sacrificial blood offering” (Gadon 2002. Sarala Das is usually seen as a Sakta but we need to bear in mind that he wrote in the 15th century. are not seen at Hirapur (Dehejia 1986. particularly during the reign of Imperial Gangas. (c) Sarala Das – Author of the Oriya language Candi Purana. particularly at Jhankad. is a Mahisamardini Durga. very evident in the cult of Jagannath. when Oriya Saktism was already being overlayered by the cult of Jagannath. Saktism and Buddhism. In the tantric lore. Among the yoginis listed by Das there are local names.g. In the Candi Purana. Lord Jagannath is considered to be a Bhairava and Vimala is worshipped as Mahadevi… In the early medieval period 6 . the goddess Narayani and Durga are the same: he addresses Durga as Devi Narayani and the sanguivorous yoginis are her emanations. he was a devotee of goddess Sarala.with the maya principle.g. says Dehejia. 3). with independent temples e. These local goddesses are to this day worshipped in their own right. Hirapur represents a much older yogini cult than what attested in the Candi of Sarala Das. there is a conflation of Vaisnavism and Saktism. near Jabalpur. who does not seem to be aware of this or other yogini temples in Orissa and neighbouring regions. never mentioned in his text (e. they relentlessly fight against demons. having a constant need to drink blood and eat flesh. including among them the Matrkas (The Mothers. near Madhya Pradesh and a third one at Bheraghat.92).
com/india/hirapur/cyt09.In the film the sentence “yoginis have individual names and identities. Saivism and Vaisnavism entered into the fold of Jagannath.html I would also like to flag up. as part of an oral tradition.99) It is significant that at Hirapur there is a Krisna panel. that some writers have noted a considerable Orissan contribution to Vaisnava Tantra ( Singh Deo 2000. Certainly. (e) Sakti pithas – Mythologically these pithas are connected with the panIndian story of Daksa yajna (The sacrifice by Daksa of his daughter Sati) but there are localisations of the place-names traditionally associated with the body parts of the goddess ( Pasayat 2003. The platform or sakti pitha at Hirapur is now regarded as a sakti pitha. clearly not coeval with it.11) and goes on to give a list of different kinds of yoginis from adept in yoga to yakshis. It is in worship. (f) yoginis . A later sculptural representation in the Bhogamandapa of the Jagannath temple depicts the figure of Siva. they are goddesses in their own right and consorts of gods” can be heard. A photograph can be seen at the following weblink http://www. 53). mentioned by several sources. Mahisamardini Durga and Jagannath in one panel… Saktism in Orissa began with the cult of Stambhesvari and was ultimately synthesised in the assimilative character of the Jagannath Cult.12). is the Narayani temple near Chilika. in this context.art-and-archaeology. Yoginis in Orissa. to 7 . a fluid identity. and more broadly in India. Dehejia makes the point that the word yogini “allows a number of different interpretations. not far from the yogini temple. though strictly speaking Hirapur is a yogini pitha. Here the script conflates a number of concepts relating to the yoginis and does not necessarily refer specifically to the Hirapur yoginis. can be understood to have. Guru Surendranath Jena regarded it as a sakti pitha and we need to note this. whose details of worship will continue to elude us. An important sakti pitha in Orissa.Saktism. each being entirely at variance with the next and yet quite correct in its own context” (1986. in many ways.” (Singh 2005.
unhesitatingly. In more recent writings. something that Dehejia does not dwell upon. As mentioned. a tantric division7. 204) comments that the Hirapur yoginis seem to be standing over heads with smiling faces and he interprets this as being a reference to the corpse or skull practice.14). although she relates the circular shape to a cakra9. he considers the possibility that these yoginis may be dakhinis associated with Buddhism.23). but they are not from that book . as well as a circle. yoginis are referred to as the attendant deities of the 7 It should be noted here that the passage quoted in the documentary is not from Vidya Dehejia’s book Yogini Cult and Temples (1986). can also be a square or rectangle. she does not allow for any identification of the Hirapur yoginis with the Matrkas. been provided by Davidson (2003) who disputes the connection made by Dehejia with the Kaula sex rites. it has been noted that the shape of the Hirapur structure is representative of the linga-yoni union (Mishra 2000. sees the Hirapur yogini as associated with Kaula Marga. 8 see White 2003. Dehejia feels that the yoginis’ association with Devi was a much later development. Dehejia. in connection with the ‘flight’ of the yoginis8. but she notes however that in descriptions of Bhairava. 42 10 This. when it became necessary to incorporate the yogini cult into the Brahmanical system (1986. however. more recently. This is an unfortunate mistake I did not manage to correct before the voice over was recorded. as the iconography of Hirapur bears no evidence of such rites. in more than one Kaula tantra. It is definitely her words that are being quoted. 31) But in religious texts. in which she describes the work she did in the book. 42 8 . Bhairava is seen at the centre of a cakra of yoginis surrounded by a mandala10 of Matrkas (Dehejia 1986. with the same properties as a cakra Dehejia 1986. Gadon (2002) also understands Hirapur as connected with the Kaula-Kapalikas. White (2003. Instead. An important contribution to a reassessment of Hirapur has. Yogini are described as being able to fly and this power seems to be associated with the consumption of flesh 9 A cakra is a “circular formation intended for specialized tantric rituals” Dehejia 1986. April 2000. 204-212 for more details.patron goddesses of the Kaulas or Kaula Marga. but from an interview she gave about herself in the Tribune .
the images currently in the niches of the central pavilion could be replicas.This is a point raised in the voiceover which unfortunately does not sound as it was intended . Varahi. The reconstructed small central pavilion has altogether eight niches. rather than originals.toshalisands. Also. In saying this I am not declining to accept responsibility for what was recorded but I would like to point out that if I had had more time the script would have been finessed. as is usual for such images in Orissa. as noted. so there is a conflation of yoginis with Matrkas. Some travel guides from the Department of Tourism. mention that there were only sixty yoginis at the site and the remaining four of the prescribed number sixty -four. Dehejia reports that there would have been a central Siva . 12 see for example the Puri Destination Guides of the Department of Tourism .com/puri/guides/puridestination-guide/ 9 . Orissa now filed at the Toshali Sands website. They are ithyphallic. The other four niches currently have images of Bhairavas. but could no longer be seen12. The eight Matrkas are known as Brahmani. (g) The central mandapa . Aindri. Mahesvari. We also know that in Orissa the cult of the Asta Matrka (Eight Mothers) was widespread and in full swing by the 11th c. Camunda and Mahalaksmi.11 The point in question is the idea that there would have been only female figures on the reconstructed mandapa with just one central Bhairava. currently missing. including Siva Ekapada. Three of these have additional unidentified yoginis (only sixty are in the niches along the circular wall). whether all the sixty yoginis along the circular wall are in their originally intended place will remain impossible to ascertain. which would have been on the mandapa with the other three is. In view of the number of thefts that seem to have taken place at the site. The sixty-first yogini. Vaisnavi. thus implicitly admitting to the presence of Matrkas. as we do not have any textual reference to help us in identifying the Hirapur cakra. Once the recording was done there was no chance of changing anything. would perhaps have been housed in the mandapa. one is missing. but this was 11 I can only blame the timing of the voiceover: we had the studio available only at a particular time and the script still needed some tweaking. I have described the female figures in the voiceover as female versions of the main gods. Kaumari.Great Goddess. http://www. rather than naming the Matrkas in order to make the explanation more accessible.
creating a fluid ritual arena. The central shrine’s reconstruction is perceived to be odd: the combination of four Bhairavas does not appear in similar yogini temples. It seems to me that this is the kind of tantrism one still sees in Orissa today. although she definitely mentions the existence of this main Siva image which has vanished.The documentary explains the choreography of this piece and additional information on the choreographic process is given in an interview with Guru Surendranath Jena which can be accessed at http://humanitieslab. Conclusion My narrative in the film begins by historicising odissi. where usually only one central Bhairava is found. 366)? The dance performance which took place at Hirapur was not an established ritual nor a locally 10 . on balance. But it would seem. interview 2.95). to quote Meister “ to web individuals and communities into a complicated and inconsistent social fabric through time” (Meister 2000. but soon turns into a reflection on temples and dance performance. Only further research will allow us to determine whether the central mandapa would have housed Matrkas and whether it was a later addition. merged with bhakti.71) The choreography of the piece is in two parts. 24). McDaniel has talked about “folk tantrism” which emphasises ritual practice. The first half invokes the yoginis as named by Sarala Das.102). but with reference to the iconography found at Hirapur. their function being. (h) The choreography of Sakti Rupa Yogini . the second half refers to village practices of worship which can be reconnected with older tantric rituals.stanford.apparently stolen soon after the discovery of the temple in 1953 (Dehejia 1986. that the recent reconstruction attempts to marry more ancient beliefs with more contemporary sensibilities. Temples in India have been and continue to be instruments for the performance of ritual. Dehejia is uncertain about the arrangement at Hirapur but refrains from probing further (1986. as a primarily oral tradition. Yet they are studied principally as “indicators of royal generosity” but what of the communities around them (Ray 2004. and this is what Guru Jena seems to be describing (Mc Daniel 2004. direct experience and pragmatic results. paying attention to its reconstitution.edu/51/76.
are not officially in worship and in the case of Hirapur there are now plans to transform it into a major tourist attraction. with the local villagers and their contemporary re-appropriation of the temple as a site for worship. It should be noted that there are now regular tours to Hirapur by the adherents of the transnational feminist spirituality oriented Goddess movement e.hindu. aesthetic and emotional engagement with the archaeological site. 1). Gadon herself and Roxanne Kamayani Gupta. a dancer and academic from the US.htm 11 . The project of re-imagining from the perspective of today enriches our lives by suggesting alternative ways of conceptualizing the place of art and life in society and the relationship between them. though apparently the shrine was used at night for tantric practices – but this was a rumour.g.com/2007/02/16/stories/2007021604830200. it resonated. The current reclamation of Hirapur by the villagers for their daily puja is apparently a new phenomenon: Gadon maintains that Hirapur was not in worship back in the 1990s. nevertheless. have taken groups of women to Hirapur since the year 200013. Such sites. never corroborated (Gadon 2002. rendered still and turned into an artefact in the present.htm see http://www.net/~rgupta/deviyatra/main. So my film is about the kind of connection between sites and dance performance and the contemporary project of re-imagination of the past. I am envisaging the use of choreography and performance as an interpretive tool. What comes out of this film is the idea that choreographed movement seems to be vital to imagine the mobile forces that were at work at archaeological sites such as Hirapur.enter. it should be noted. avoiding the projection of the past as an immobile moment. conducive to an intellectual. as reported by The Hindu in February 200714: a new road will be built and a ‘heritage gate’ will be placed at the entrance of the village and there will be landscaping of the temple site. 13 14 see http://fp.recognized performative tradition. Guru Surendranath Jena. informed by the syncretic vision of the choreographer. Taking dance to Hirapur has showed that opening sites up to performers might be yet a further way to contextualise humanity: far from suggesting re-enactments.
Janet (2007) At home in the world. pp. Alessandra (2004) “Bharat Natya” . 1-5 Huntington. Kathak dance . A tantric tradition Delhi: National Museum Gadon. Prithiwiraj (2000) “Shiva and his consorts. pp.soas. Vidya (1986) Yogini Cult and temples.13-18 Mukherjee.uk/academics/centres/southasianstudies/keywords/ _____________________ (2007a) ReConstructing and RePresenting dance: exploring the dance/archaeology conjunction Stanford Metamedia Collaboratory. Prabhat (1981) History of medieval Vaishnavism in Orissa New Delhi: Asian Educational Services O’Shea. George (1988) The Hindu temple Chicago: Chicago University Press Mishra. Michael (2000) Ethnography and Personhood: Notes from the field New Delhi: Rawat Publications Michell. SOAS. Middletown. Keywords in South Asian Studies. women and modernity in India. June. http://www. The Yoginis of Hirapur” Manushi. June (2004) Offering Flowers. Popular goddess worship in West Bengal Oxford University Press (US) Meister . Connecticut: Wesleyan University Press 12 . UCLA. Oxford: Berg Davidson. Susan (1999) The art of ancient India Whetherhill (1st edn 1985) Lopez y Royo. Elinor (2002) “ Probing the mysteries of the Hirapur temple” ReVision. http://humanitieslab. Pallabi (2008) Bells of change. 155-182 MacDougall. David (1998) Transcultural Cinema Princeton.References Chakravorty.ac. 118. New Jersey: Princeton University Press McDaniel. Kyriakidis ed. Bharata Natyam on the global stage. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology.edu/117/Home ________________________ (2007b) “The reinvention of odissi classical dance as a temple ritual” in The Archaeology of Ritual E. Ronald (2004) Indian esoteric Buddhsim . 22. feeding skills. A social history of tantric Buddhism New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Dehejia.stanford.
99-102 Singh Deo.1-4. July. 23rd April 2005 http://humanitieslab. Caroline (2005) “Video writing: the documentation trap or the role of documentation in the practice as research debate” Paper presented at the Workshop on Media and Performance. Himanshu Prabha (2004) “The archaeology of sacred space. Chitrasen (2003) Glimpses of tribal and folk culture New Delhi:Anmol Publications PVT Rye.Prasayat. Orissa Historical Research Journal. pp. David Gordon (2003) The kiss of the yogini Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 13 .XLV.Vol. Jitamitra Prasad (2000) 'Contribution of Kalahandi district to Vaishnav Tantra in Orissa'.P. Introduction” in H. SOAS. No.edu/ArchaeologyPerformance/36 Ray.53.stanford. 2000. White. Prabas Kumar (2005) “Shaktism in Purusottama Kshetra” Orissan Review . Ray and C. p. Sinopoli eds Archaeology as history in early South Asia New Delhi: Indian council for Historical Research Singh.
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