Today has been a strange day. Was invited in the afternoon to Kalakshetra to give a talk on the Kapali temple festival. Was given cash remuneration at the end of it. Driving back via the temple it occurred to me that the money belonged to Kapali as I had merely spoken of His event. So made a vague resolve to contribute the money at some date.
Reaching home was asked by wife if I had ‘x’ amount which was the same as what I received from Kalakshetra. Handed it over and then asked what was it meant for. Transpires that she is contributing to something at the temple and this was the amount due!!!!!! Strange are the ways of God.
In the evening went with about 50 Kalakshetra students to see the Bhikshatana procession. Shiva as Chandrashekara would have gone riding a horse all around the four mada streets last night, well after the arupathu moovar festival. He loses his signet ring and when he returns to the temple finds it locked. Parvati does not let him in suspecting him of having gone to the house of another. So on the 9th day of the festival, Shiva, shorn of all wealth sets out as a beggar – Bhikshatana. The women of the town are so enamoured of his good looks that they rush to give him alms. This makes Parvati insecure. She rushes out to him. Dressed as Mohini, she performs a spirited dance to entice him. Shiva relents and the two go back to the temple to be united in wedlock on the 10th day.
The Bhiskhatana icon at the Kapaliswara temple is a thing of beauty. I have a vague memory of it being brought out as it is, without any decoration, when I was a child. Nowadays they decorate it richly, rather belying the impression of a divine mendicant. The ochre robes (silk at that) is the only indication of asceticism.
Also see – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IaT7hUyZVOM
The star of the show is however Parvati and her dance and so I captured this on video. The movements demand exemplary fitness and stamina on the part of the bearers. They jump, sway, lurch and swing. It is simply amazing. In the days of yore, this was the procession in which Devadasis of Mylapore such as Doraikannu and her daughter the famed Mylapore Gowri would dance. Could not help reflecting that the Kalakshetra students were walking on the very road where Gowri once danced…