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Teejan Bai brings Chattisgarh's tunes to Mumbai

Since its inception in 1944, for almost 58 years, Damu Jhaveri (Founder) served as the General Secretary of Indian National Theatre (INT). Under his aegis, INT became one of the foremost platforms for the theatre revolution in the country, post-Independence. Till date, Jhaveri, who also fought for the country’s independence, is revered for his contribution towards Indian theatre, through his association with INT. In memory of his contribution, Jhaveri’s wife Malati Jhaveri has organised a performance by Teejan Bai, a Padma Bhushan award-winning folk artiste from Chattisgarh.


Teejan Bai uses a tambura as an accompaniment to her song and dance narration of the tales of the Pandava princes. File Pic

Art and the epic
Teejan Bai is the most known for and is the face of Pandavani, a folk art form from Chattisgarh which narrates the tales of the Pandava princes from the epic text of the Mahabharata through song, dance and accompanied musicians. “Every year, I try and have a Folk art performance in memory of Damu, and this performance by Teejan Bai is apt to cherish his memory,” says 91-year-old Malatiben, as she is lovingly known, a Gamdevi resident. “Teejan Bai, was ostracised at the age of 12 from her family because she refused to accept her husband. 


Late Damu Jhaveri

A revolutionary that she is, she started performing the Pandavani, which was till then a male-dominated art. To add to it, I thought it would be fitting that she perform the Draupadi Swayamvara (a chapter from the Mahabharata where princess Draupadi, picks her husband), which is an example of the treatment of women in the society,” informs Malatiben. An important aspect of the Swayamvara scene is when the mother of Pandavas, unknowingly asks her five sons to share Draupadi as their wife.

As a Pandavani performer, Teejan Bai knows all the verses of Mahabharata by heart and mixes abhinaya (acting), nritya (dance) and sangeet (music) in her performances. She is also known for performing in the Kapalik style (a standing performance) rather than the Vedamati style (the sitting style), which is typically how the women would recite the Pandavani in their homes.

While she plays the tambura (a stringed instrument), she is accompanied by musicians on harmonium, tabla, dholak, manjira and the Indian banjo. Teejan Bai, who also has several international performances to her credit dons multiple hats and is also an officer at Bhilai Steel Plant inspite of being
uneducated.

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