Losing my religion?
A design play in Bandra will encompass theatre and dance performed to 15 hymns dearest to Mahatma Gandhi, as it traverses the roots of the leader's multi-religious ideology
As much a visual treat as a play, Lead Kindly Light, takes up a seemingly simple yet crucial aspect of Mahatma Gandhi's life — his prayer meetings, which encapsulated his idea of bringing all faiths together for a political cause in his time. Comprising hymns from every religion possible, these meetings were like his balm to soothe the turbulent time the country was going through, director Omkar Bhatkar opines, adding, "Many didn't believe in his ideas. But listening to these hymns first thing in the morning calmed him."
And so, at the performance tonight, you get to watch theatre, kathak and mohiniyattam performances set to traditional or contemporary renditions of 15 of Gandhi's favourite bhajans and hymns, including Kabir's Moko kahan dhunde re bande. "We've taken excerpts from his speeches and those of Rajmohan Gandhi's where he reminisces about his grandfather and his idea of people from different faith coming together," says Bhatkar. "We are tracing the journey of his life through religious pluralism and his conclusion after reading the scriptures," he adds.
Lead Kindly Light features theatre, kathak and mohiniyattam
An incident that sparked this thought was when Gandhi was aboard a close-to-sinking ship from Bombay to South Africa, where he saw people praying in different languages to different Gods. "It also goes back to his childhood, where his father would read the Ramayana and his mother was a Vaishnava devotee. They had Jain monks visiting them, as did his father's Muslim and Parsi friends. He would listen to these adults conversing about their faiths," Bhatkar informs. But the turning point was when he realised he hadn't read the Bhagavad Gita and decided to read all the possible scriptures in the world to gain a better understanding of life.
"Eventually, his conclusion was that God is truth, and that the truth remains the same in every religion, which is just a form to reach closer to it," shares Bhatkar, pointing out that we need to take a leaf out of Gandhi's book today. "All hymns irrespective of religion talk about finding the truth within yourself. And in the age we live, it's important that our education system and [by extension], socialisation becomes multicultural as what leads to violence is the creation of the 'other'. The 'othering' wouldn't happen if we are truly multireligious — something he realised during the Partition as that followed the notion of the creation of the other," Bhatkar concludes.
ON October 1, 11.30 am to 1 pm AT St Andrew's Conference Hall, St Dominic Road, Bandra West. CALL 8928847859
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