Paryapti, Vijayalakshmi’s most recent choreographic work is inspired by the regional ethos and the musical tradition of Bengal. In this eclectic production, Mohiniyattam finds a perfect expression for its quintessential femininity in the celebration of Durga, the embodiment of feminine and creative energy, and the patron deity of Bengal. This feminine thread binds the cultures of Kerala and Bengal and is exemplified by the intrinsic grace of Mohiniyattam in Paryapti.
Paryapti celebrates the inherent divinity in all forms of creation and at all levels of society by exploring the culture, evolvement and status of courtesans in India. Courtesans have been extolled by poets in Indian literature as being accomplished in all the 64 art forms, epitomized in Indian mythology by Parvati, Shiva’s consort. Over the ages, these courtesans played a significant role in the evolution and preservation of the rich traditions of Indian music and dance. However, at the turn of the 20th century, the courtesans had to bear social stigma and condemnation from society due to the displaced morality and orthodoxy that took root in India.
According to Bengali folk legend, these marginalized women, shunned by society and treated as outcasts, pleaded with Shiva for compassion. Shiva bestowed his grace upon the courtesans and proclaimed that when Parvati’s home coming is celebrated on Earth as Durga, her clay image would be complete only if the idol included soil from their house. To this day, soil from a sex worker’s house is a traditional requisite for the consecration of Durga’s idol and is a ritual marked by great piety. This ceremony redefines the sacred, underlining its inclusiveness, and is symbolic of these ostracized women’s desire for ‘Paryapti’ or fulfillment.
“Vijayalakshmi made a brilliant opening with Paryapti (fulfillment) in Mohiniyattam, making two points emphatically: first, the folk legends of Bengal recognise the rights of Vaishyas (sex-workers), the marginalised women, to allow the earth from their doorsteps to use for worship of the mighty goddess Durga; and second, purely musically, the Edekka of Kerala and the Dhaak of Bengal can combine most wonderfully to produce ethereal sound-patterns.”