Gandhari (Dance Drama) : A synopsis of the play


O. Jiten Singh : Director & Choreographer of 'Gandhari' '
O. Jiten Singh : Director & Choreographer of 'Gandhari'

O. Jiten Singh, an eminent artiste of Manipur, was born on 1st February, 1970 at Leimapokpam Awang Leikai, Nambol, Manipur. He has completed Post Diploma from Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal. He has perfomed in over 30 dance dramas of the Academy.

He is an accredited 'B' grade artiste with Doordarshan. This is his first ever dance drama as a Director & Choreographer. He has also directed many Manipuri video films and Shumang Leela.

Choreographer's Note

'The Mahabharata' of Vyas is a great epic of Hindu life and culture. The main story is the rivalry between the cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas, which leads ultimately to the battle of Kurukshetra. Many scholars say that "nothing less than Truth and Right, Satya and Dharma, form the theme of the great Epic".

The message of the Mahabharata, therefore is: Truth always triumphs.

It telIs, in essence, the honesty of the five Pandavas and the misdeeds of the sons of Dhritarashtra. The character of the strong-willed Gandhari in the epic inspite of the ill-doings of her sons is simply inimitable.

Faithful to her husband, showing profound love for her children, she demands the adoration of the readers at alI cost. She always stands for dharma which is a rare virtue in her. Even Lord Krishna vowed to her honesty and chastity. The present dance -drama is inspired by the character of this profound lady of the Mahabharata.

 A scene from Gandhari (Dance Drama)
A scene from Gandhari (Dance Drama) :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam


The character of Gandhari is unique in the course of the story of the great epic, The Mahabharata. She is beautiful, graceful, strong-willed, a loving mother and a wife. Fate denies her share of happiness in the great epic. She is firmly committed to the life of her husband and has remained always faithful to him.

Bhishma proposed to her father Subala for her marriage with Dhritarashtra and the lavish ceremonies were conducted in Hastinapur under Bhishma's supervision. When Gandhari beared that Dhritarashtra was blind, she took a long multi-folded piece of cloth and out of respect and love for her husband, bandaged her eyes with it.

The bandage was never removed as long as she lived. She had obtained the favour of Shiva to have a hundred sons. But the ways of her sons, under the command of Duryodhana, her eldest son, was never appeased her. She was always for Truth and Dharma.

When Duryodhana approached her to seek blessings before his march for the battle of Kurukshetra, her only words are : Let Truth triumps. Her motherly feeling, was never betrayed her, however. When her sons fell one after another at the battle field of Kurukshetra, she blamed Krishna and cursed him. Krishna accepted her curse humbly. The dance-drama is inspired by the pround character of this lady, Gandhari.


Females in the garb of Durga dance vigorously. Males dressed as soldiers display the battle of Kurukshetra in spear dance.

First Scene

Sanjaya, who is endowed with special powers by Vyas, reports the course of events of the battle of Kurukshetra to the blind King Dhritarashtra and his wife Gandhari. When the news of the fall of Bhishma, the Supreme Commander of the Kaurava forces was told, they were sad. Then there was a fight between Duryodhana and Bhima. When the news was reported, Gandhari recal led the events of her Iife graduaIly.

Second Scene There was jubilation when the news of Gandhari coming to Hastinapur as a Queen was spread. Songs and dances welcomed her. When Gandhari found that her husband was blind from birth, she immediately tight her two eyes also displaying her faithfulness to her husband.

Third Scene

A son was born to Queen Gandhari. Everybody in Hastinapur celebrated it. But a series of omen followed. The cry of the donkey, the thunderbolt, the earthquake, followed in quick succession. A voice echoed through the sky thundering to destroy the child. But the mother's heart refused to accept the omen and embraced the child fondly promising to protect the prestige of the family.

 A scene from Gandhari (Dance Drama)
A scene from Gandhari (Dance Drama) :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Fourth Scene

When the Pandavas were defeated in the game of dice by Kauravas, Duryodhana asked his younger brother Dushasana to drag Draupadi into the Sabha. When she is dragged into the Sabha, Dushasana tried to disrope her. The news shocked Gandhari.

Fifth Scene

Before marching for battle, Duryodhana came to seek blessings from Gandhari. For the first time, she opened her eyes to see the face of her son and blessed him with the words "Let victory be for the truth." Duryodhana left the place hurriedly.

Sixth Scene

Sanjaya continued narrating the battle of Kurukshetra to Dhritarashtra and Gandhari. Sanjaya said that in the battle of clubs between Duryodhana and Bhima, the former's knee broken by using false move by Bhima at the instigation of Krishna. The news agonised Gandhari.

Seventh Scene

It was the last scene. The battle of Kurukshetra was over. With the death of his hundred sons, Dhritarashtra lost all hope. Gandhari too was speechless. The earth is empty. Everywhere death. Everywhere suffering. Gandhari said to Krishna:

"Why did you allow this, Krishna?
Krishna, you could have stopped the war.
curse you, Krishna !
As you have destroyed Kauravas Let your Yadavas be destroyed!

Krishna accepted the curse, humbly.

 A scene from Gandhari (Dance Drama)
A scene from Gandhari (Dance Drama) :: Pix - Lamdamba Oinam

Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy

The First Prime Minister of Free India, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on his maiden Wsit to Manipur In 1952 witnessed Raas leela at the Royal Palace on the invitation of His Highness Maharaja Bodhachandra Singh. Pandit Nehru was so moved by the spactacle of the Raas that he took the Initiative of founding an institution of Manipuri Dance in Imphal.

Thus was born the Manipur Dance College. Established on April 1 in 1954 at the Jabupara Theatre Hall in Imphal, the College was later renamed as Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy on June 8,1964 after the demise of Pandit Nehru to honour his contribution to the founding of the Academy.

In the Academy's initial stage of growh, Guru Meisnam Amubi Singh and Guru Hoabam Atomba Singh pioneered the movement to build up the Institution. It was their tireless effort and the enduring support of the other Gurus in those early days that saw the flourishing of the Academy into a reputed institution of Manipuri Dance.

Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA) has been a constituent unit of Sangeet Natak Aademi, New Delhi since 1957, and is designated as the national institution for training in Manipuri traditions of dance and music. It offers several inter linked courses totaling a period of nine years up to the post Diploma level.

The institution has on its staff gurus of eminence and a Repertory with a large repertoire of dance dramas. The management of the Academy is vested in the Executive Board of the Sangeet Natak Akademi, New Delhi, which is assisted by an Advisory Committee headed by the Governor of Manipur. Prof. H. Tombi Singh is the Vice-Chairman and Shri L. Upendro Sharma is the Director of the Academy.

The Repertory

The Production Unit of the Academy was started In 1975, and is now known as the JNMDA Reportory. It has presented traditional Manipuri dance and music programmes in prestigious festivals within the country and abroad for over the last fifty years. The Repertory has produced forty dance-dramas to date.

The directors and choreographers assoicated with the Repertory include the Guru Rajkumar Priyogopalsana, Guru Thiyam Tarunkumar, S. Tondon Devi, Guru Thingbaijam Babu Singh, Th. Chaotombi Singh, Km. Suryamukhi Devi, W. Lokendrajit Singh, N. Amusana Devi, Km. Th. Ibemubi Devi and S. Noyonshakhl Devi among others.

Among the successful productions of the Repertory are
o Kobui Keioiba (1976, dir. Rajkumar Priyogopalsana), based on a folk story related to the degradation of the human spirit,
o Nongdol Leima (1977-78, dir. Thiyam Tarurkumar), based on a folk tale;
o Geeta Govinda (1980, dir Smt. Tondon Devi), based on the Sanskrit classic;
o Shree Chaiteina Mahaprabhu (1983, dir. Rajkumar Priyogopalsana);
o Keibul Lamjao (1984- 85, dir. Thokchom Chaotombi Singh), an appeal for protection of the endangered Sangai deer of Manipur;
o Wainu Park (199798, dir. W. Lokendrajlt), ‘the flight of the cranes';
o Bidal Abhlishap (2010-11, dir. N. Amusana Devi), based on Rabindranath Tagore’s poem depicting a conflict between divine duty and earthly love.

Kelbul Lamjao was made into a feature film titled Sangai, which won several awards in the 12th Wildlife Film Festival held in London in 1989.

See a photo gallery here

* This synopsis obtained while watching the show that premiered at Jawaharlal Nehu Manipur Dance Academy, Imphal on 12th July 2019
This article was posted on July 23 2019.

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