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UTPALA...a thousand petals ...a thousand lives - Programme Note
A contemporary dance-theatre performance by ANITA RATNAM & ADT
75 mins, 2003

Prologue: Space is sanctified through aroma, movements and meditative sounds.


The River Nile flows silent and full through the deserts of Egypt. Like a beautiful woman with full hips and rounded breasts filled with milk, the Nile is like a mother who nurtures her people. She is majestic and regal, she is a deep blue. A great civilization flourished on her banks. Like a lotus stalk, the Nile meanders for many miles of sandy landscapes, bearing witness to many lives and finally blooms at the ocean, unfurling her petals into the oneness of the vast sea.

Drums roll and the terrible tragedy of brother against brother is watched in horror by Queen ISIS. Her husband, King Osiris is slaughtered, his body hacked into 14 pieces and scattered in various directions. Egypt, the land of the blue lotus, is plunged into grief and famine. The lotus withers. A determined ISIS, queen of magic and wisdom, patiently gathers all the parts and wraps them in linen (the first instance of mummification). Through her magic powers she turns herself into a giant bird and invokes special 'mantras' to resurrect the spirit of her dead husband. ISIS is impregnated and secretly gives birth to her son Horus, the future ruler of Egypt. ISIS sanctifies her son with the waters of the Nile and lets him float on a lotus leaf. A son is born, the sun rises, the blue lotus blooms again. The river flows.


Water is witness to early morning rituals of music, dance, martial arts and yoga. The ancient Indian tradition of learning besides and within the waters is first explored. Then, the actual space is sanctified in preparation for the arrival of Goddess LAKSHMI who rises from the churning waters of the milky ocean. As the goddesses of wealth, opulence and wellness contemplates, she offers her salutations to Vishnu, the lotus-eyed lord, whose chest she adorns.

In her avatar as Queen Rukmini, she recognizes that she has her husband's affection but not his passion. His ardour remains for only one woman - Radha. With quiet dignity Rukmini, offers a lotus floating in the waters to Krishna as a memory of the beloved he has left behind on the banks of the Yamuna river. The river flows...


KWAN-YIN, the female Avalokiteswara, is the goddess of compassion and mercy. Dressed in white, she guards the lotus pond where the souls reside waiting to enter the gates of heaven. She is watchful and wakeful. She dances in the moonlight and sees the misery and sorrow of many lives in the sleeping souls. Life itself is harsh and cruel to many and souls arrive at her pond battered by destiny, fate and the individual karmas. To these tired souls, now embalmed inside the white petals, KWAN YIN shares her healing message of peace and calm and slowly sends them on their way. The river still flows...