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Ashrutam – The Unheard Voice

Ashrutam is an Indian classical dance production, choreographed and directed by Surabhi Bharadwaj. She an accomplished Bharatanatyam dancer and an official dance ambassador for the Indian Council for Cultural Relations. The 90-minute performance recognizes and honors the contribution of Devadasis to Indian Performing Arts. Devadasi represents a matriarchal community of women who not only cultivated Performing Arts through the generations but were also progressive women who broke societal stereotypes several centuries ago.

With its soulful music, innovative design, and exquisite choreography, Ashrutam will take the audience on a journey to ancient India, to an era where music and dance was the way of life. Through a combination of dance and storytelling, a group of accomplished artists will share an interpretation of the Devadasis’ response to social allegations, their transition from prosperity to destitution, and most importantly, honor their legacy and recognize their contributions to the performing arts.

Who are Devadasis?

Historically, Devadasis were the practitioners of performing arts in ancient India. Devoting themselves to the deity of the temple,  they served in daily ceremonies through music and dance offerings. The Devadasis were also a matriarchal community of progressive women who challenged the norms of a patriarchal society. However, due to changing socio-political conditions, Devadasis lost their support and faced backlash because of their unconventional lifestyle. Ultimately, the Devadasi system was criminalized in 1947 through the Madras Devadasi Act, depriving them of their basic rights, livelihoods, and effectively making the Devadasis outcasts. To this day, the term “Devadasi” carries a negative connotation, and their existence is denied by many in Indian society. 

An important thing that goes unnoticed is their contributions to performing arts. The Devadasis experimented with their art embracing cultures around them through generations. Their art was free, expressive, and bold. It was collaborative and spontaneous, ‘enacting memory’ as Davesh Soneji calls it in his book Unfinished Gestures.

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