Ipoh, June 4 : A Bharatanatyam recital was performed at the Taman Budaya public auditorium in Malaysia on the condition that prayers to Lord Nataraja would not be carried out on stage as is the common practice at the start of the performance.
At the beginning of every Bharatanatyam performance, artistes of this famous South Indian classical dance pay obeisance on stage to a statue of Lord Nataraja, the king of dance.
This common practice is also carried out to invoke the deity's blessings so that the dancers perform well without any obstacle.
However, on Monday night, a group of Bharatanatyam dancers performed before a full gallery without the customary on-stage pooja (prayer) to Lord Nataraja.
This was because the owner of the venue, the state Unity, Culture, Arts and Heritage Department, permitted the dance on condition that they did not install a statue or portrait of the deity and offer their prayers on stage.
For the record, this is not the first time that dancers from the three Bharatanatyam schools of Nrityakalanjali, Natyakalamandir and Anandanarthana Choodamani in the state had performed at the venue.
In the past, the dancers were allowed to offer their prayers on stage, said P. Sasikumar, who acted as the spokesman for the three dance schools.
"This time we were not allowed because the department imposed this condition. This is ridiculous. The pooja is an integral part of the performance and has been practised for hundreds of years," he said.
In defence, the department said the organisers were informed beforehand of the conditions and chose to go ahead with the performance, the NST Online reported.
The department's public relations officer, Shaliza Azlin, said the organisers had agreed that the prayers would be performed backstage to respect the sensitivities of the audience, who also comprised Chinese and Malays.