Empowerment gets an 'enlightened' touch!

Empowerment gets an 'enlightened' touch!

The path to righteousness couldn’t have been merrier. In a society marred by numerous ills, Delhiites received Lord Buddha’s preaching with a welcoming and undying applause.

Amidst the captivating chants of ‘Buddham Sharnam Gacchami’, and some skilled Bharatanatyam moves, Ganesha Natalaya recounted an episode from Gautam Buddha’s progressive life. Named ‘Yashodhara’ – after Buddha’s wife – the dance drama was primarily based on the concept of women empowerment that has become an inseparable virtue of Indian society.

The show depicted Yashodhara’s journey from materialism towards enlightenment, like her husband’s. What started with a beautiful dance sequence, turned into a sorrowful atmosphere following King Shuddhodhana’s distress over his son Buddha (Prince Siddhartha as he was initially called) not returning to the palace. This then turned into a flashback sequence of Gautam Buddha and Queen Yashodhara’s years of togetherness. The King is reminiscing the happier times with his son. Scared of a soothsayer’s prophecy for Siddhartha – that one day the prince would renounce the world – the King kept the young prince occupied in all material pleasures and palace luxuries. He was married to a named princess Yashodhara and they had a son named Rahul.

But soon Siddhartha’s curiosity of learning more about the outside world took him out of the palace where he comes across the harsh realities of the world. The life changing sight of a diseased old man, a corpse and an ascetic makes him acknowledge the unavoidable truths of life. Determined to lead a life free from any worldly pleasures, Prince Siddhartha quietly leaves his wife and a day old son behind in the Kapilavastu palace, in order to start his journey towards salvation and enlightenment.

Totally devastated, Yashodhara is overcome by immense grief at her husband’s departure. Soon Siddhartha attains enlightenment under a Bodhi tree at Gaya and becomes Gautam Buddha. Knowing this, Yashodhara follows her husband by discarding all royal grandeur and dressing up as an ascetic herself.

The drama then came to the present day scenario when the King is overjoyed to learn about his son’s arrival in the kingdom and calls for him to come to the palace. But Yashodhara demands that her husband come meet her and their son at the same palace chamber where he had left them years ago. The meeting moment is overwhelming for her and she totally surrenders herself to Buddha’s presence. Rahul too becomes his father’s disciple. Yashodhara discards all worldly pleasures, and decides to follow the eight-fold path of righteousness laid by Buddha.

“We all know the story of Gautam Buddha. But to see it from Yashodhara’s perspective was different. She was a self-empowered woman. Although she had a choice of leading a material life after her husband left, she courageously propagated inside the palace what her husband was promoting in the world outside. This is relevant even today; empowerment comes from within, no one can give that to you,” said P Umashankar, Retd IAS and former Secretary, Ministry of Power, who was the Guest of Honour at the event.

The performance was directed and conceived by Padma Bhushan awardee Dr Saroja Vaidyanathan. Talking about the theme of women empowerment, she explains, “Yashodhara is a woman who stood for her rights. Today’s society, particularly women, know their rights. If women are respected for their feelings (as Buddha respected Yashodhara’s and came to meet her), they are bound to feel honoured and hence surrender in love and gratitude.”

Comments (+)