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Sunday, February 6, 2011

They came, they danced, they enthralled – a musical performance

They came, they danced, they enthralled – a musical performance

They were Actors and Dancers from 20 Districts of Sri Lanka


by City Dweller

The Centre for Performing Arts surpassed themselves last Sunday, heralding a new year brimming already with promise and harmony. Their dance performance was at the Elphinstone Theatre, Maradana, Colombo. 20 CP Arts Centres in 18 districts brought together young people from alls ethnic groups and religions in a kaleidoscope of music and dance. Their moves depicted the dance forms of a pristine, sensual, rich cultural heritage of our country. Their costumes were well designed and sewn from materials which must have cost a fair amount of money. We were invited to watch the story of Dharma Asoka, a man who sent Buddhism to Sri Lanka through his son and daughter, Mahinda and Sangamitta. The story has an inspiring message to us all; men, women and children.

The CP Arts’ interpretation and construal of this story gave a ray of hope, in the current context which we are living in, and that is the emerging nation of Sri Lanka, rising from its war torn past.

Would all leaders from every walk of life and from every stage of their employment, care to sponsor this magnificent production so that many more citizens of Sri Lanka can attend? Why not begin with the Theatres of the Bishops College and Lionel Wendt?

Once the audiences of Colombo have been captured, Principals of Schools Island wide will follow opening the gates of their auditoriums to welcome the youth of the Elphinstone Theatre yesterday.

Yesterday was one performance but this truly great story can run for at least three days at any Theatre. It portrays a supreme work of art. It certainly can be a major agent of change. Isn’t that what we are all talking about and wishing for?

The story was chosen by The Centre for Performing Arts to promote the 63rd Anniversary of the death of the Mahatma. The Chief Guest was a simple, holy man from Malta, the Apostolic Nuncio, Joseph Spiteri. The Centre for Performing Arts collaborated and associated with the Mahatma Gandhi Centre Colombo to put on this show.

The story of the ballet

The story illustrated through movement to music was of Asoka, the Indian Emperor of the Maura Dynasty.

His empire stretched from present-day Pakistan, Afghanistan, the Himalayas and southern parts of Iran in the west, to the present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of Assam in the east, and as far south as northern Kerala and Andhra. His reign was from 269 B.C. to 232 BC.

After he became the King, Asoka launched brutal assaults to expand his empire, which lasted for around eight years. Around this time, his Buddhist Queen, Devi, gave birth to Prince Mahinda and Princess Sanghamita.

The battle of Kalinga (now Orissa) became a turning point in the life of ‘Asoka the Great’. The exact reason for the battle is not known. However, it is believed that one of Asoka’s brothers took refuge at Kalinga. This enraged Asoka, who launched a terrifying assault on the Province. The whole Province was plundered and destroyed, and thousands of people were killed.

After the battle of Kalinga, King Asoka went on a tour of the city and saw only burnt houses and scattered corpses. This was the first time it struck him what devastation he had had a hand in. It shattered his senses that he had started an evil path of wars and battles. It is said that even after he had returned to Patliputra, he was haunted by the scenes he saw in Kalinga. His Queen, Devi, was a Buddhist; she left him after seeing the brutality at Kalinga.

It was during this time that he embraced Buddhism under the Brahmin Buddhist sages, Radhaswami and Manjushri. He adopted Buddhism, and began propagating its principles throughout the world. In fact, he can be credited with making the first serious attempt to develop a Buddhist policy.

His notion of the Dharma included among others:

- peaceful co-existence,

- religious tolerance,

- impartial justice,

- obedience to parents,

- respect for teachers,

- social welfare for all and

- generosity and benevolence towards all living beings.

His principles were engraved on rocks and pillars. He promoted the concept of vegetarianism. The caste system ceased to exist in his eyes and he treated all his subjects as equals.

At the same time, each and every person was given the right to freedom, tolerance, and equality. It was a spiritually based political system of good governance.

This outstanding performance of dancing skills and directing has to be seen by more people. Who will stretch out their hand and give the youth of from so many cultures, religions and districts of our country, another chance to perform. Wherever the performance is staged, seats will sell out long before the stage lights are switched on.

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