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LORD GANESHA (article first published : 2006-03-30)

Lord Ganesha, one of the greatest Gods of Hindu mythology, the venerated deity represented as an elephant-headed God, is known by millions of Hindus around the world as the Supreme Remover of Obstacles. This much-revered story is being presented as an original dance-drama in Lord Ganesha currently running in the Playhouse Drama.

The production aims to shed light on some of the mysteries surrounding Lord Ganesha’s conception, unusual features, morals and, most of all, his immense wisdom.

The story revolves around the Great Lord Shiva and his wife Parvathie who desperately wishes for a child. They are blessed with a boy, Lord Ganesha, and a younger good-looking brother, Lord Muruga, a warrior.

Parvathie forms the child out of her own flesh and, being unaware of the child, the father doesn't know him when they meet in the forest. Lord Shiva senses an adversary but Lord Ganesha bravely stands his ground (beautifully portrayed). The father wins the subsequent battle and cuts off the head of his child. Lord Shiva is devastated when he learns the identity of his opponent from his wife. He then goes off in search of another living creature to replace the head of his son and bring him back to life. He finds a baby elephant and that is how Lord Ganesh obtains his elephant's head.

The story now jumps to Lord Ganesha's encounter with the Evil Demon, Gajamugan. They have a confrontation. Lord Ganesha wins the fight but mercifully doesn't kill him and instead turns him into a rat. Lord Ganesha became a very popular deity, loved by all, and was a great intellectual. He wrote the Mahabharata (one of the Hindu scriptures). This is why, in all the pictures of Lord Ganesha, he has only one and a half tusks as he used the missing half for his writing when his ink ran out, and he is always accompanied by a rat. He is also worshipped as the God of Wisdom.

The story is narrated by the Swami, Devan Moonsamy, who also wrote the play. He has a well balanced delivery and stage presence, never intruding on the dance. The dancers are superb, finger movements all having a meaning and the ladies perform them superbly. The cast are also adept at their mime which forms an integral part of the drama and their movements are faultless, explaining the action with no necessity for dialogue.

Nhlanhla Zwane is Lord Shiva and Seema Lala acts as the adult Lord Ganesha. Unfortunately there were no programmes so no names can be attached to the remaining multi-cultural cast of eleven singers, dancers and actors in this lavish dance-drama - a disservice to the excellent ensemble (The Tribhangi Dance Theatre) - although they are introduced by name in the curtain call. A programme would have been a very nice addition to the show - especially as I collect and value them.

The beautiful costumes are a blaze of colour and do the production great credit. The set depicts a palace of Eastern design very well and a few circular scenic painted backdrops and drapery are used with excellent effect as are minimal props.

The production, billed as "one of the greatest stories ever told", has been brought to Durban by Mannie Moonsamy of M & L (Mannie & Lilly) Productions of Johannesburg. Choreography is by Jayesperi Moopen who deserves full credit, as does the Lighting Designer.

The author, rightly, emphasises that one doesn't have to be Hindu to appreciate this dance-drama extravaganza designed to have broad appeal, especially to those with an appreciation of talent and dance or an interest in spiritual mythology and deity.

Lord Ganesha runs in the Playhouse Drama from March 28 to April 9. Booking is through Computicket and the tickets are R85 (concessions for students and senior citizens). – Maurice Kort




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