Ayyankali's struggle for Dalits comes to life for the first time in Mohiniyattam

Noted Mohiniyattam dancer Soumya Sukumaran and team perform 'Panchami' on Ayyankali Day. Photo: Special Arrangement

Kozhikode: Not so long ago, it was sweet revenge for social reformist Ayyankali to bring the Dalit girl Panchami to the Ooruttambalam school at Maranalloor village and make her sit alongside so-called upper caste students.

Even though the act provoked the 'upper caste' to set the school ablaze at the time, the incident paved the way for a revolution in the community.

Now, for noted Mohiniyattam dancer Soumya Sukumaran, to create a Mohiniyattam presentation of the same name 'Panchami' on Ayyankali Day is sweet revenge too: a sort of political statement against the religious discrimination of the authority of Koodal Manikyam Kshetram, Irinjalakuda, that reportedly cancelled her dance programme citing she is a non-Hindu.

From that perceived insult, she has returned with a dance creation on social reformist Ayyankali's fight against religious/caste discrimination.

The dance performance named after the 'heroine' of the revolutionary incident, 'Panchami', was staged for the first time at Bharat Bhavan at Thiruvananthapuram on Ayyankali Day (August 24).

Noted Mohiniyattam dancer Soumya Sukumaran and team perform 'Panchami' on Ayyankali Day. Photo: Special Arrangement

It's the first time Ayyankali's life came to life on stage in Kerala's classical dance. It mainly depicts three noted struggles of Ayyankali, which were revolutionary transformations in Kerala history.

The classical dance conceptualised by Soumya has been choreographed by noted classical dancer Kalamandalam Kavitha Krishnakumar. Panchami, Villuvanty struggle and the 'Maaru Marakkal Samaram' (agitation of Dalit/indigenous women for the right to cover their upper bodies) are the three stories depicted in the dance form. 'Villuvanty struggle' was against serving rice porridge to the labourers in tiny furrows dug on the land and giving the lowest possible wages.

In 'Panchami', Soumya appears as Panchami, Kalamandalam Athira Prakash portrays Ayyankali, Sindu Unnikrishnan enacts the school headmaster and Arya S Nair plays the Janmi or landlord. Four additional dancers appear alongside on stage as supporting cast.

Kalamandalam Ganeshan provides the lyrical form of the storyline to the music composed by Thrissur Krishna Kumar. Bharat Bhavan and Kalanjali Foundation of Soumya have jointly presented the inaugural performance.

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