Devadasi- An Adaptation of La Bayadere - August 10

Kalalaya Indian Performing Arts


Devadasi is loosly based on La Bayadere, a classical ballet that was originally staged in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1877 by the French choreographer Marius Petipa. The story takes place in ancient India when a number of large and small kingdoms stretched across the length and breadth of the country. Along with the kings, the priests of the local temples wielded much power as they dominated regional institutions and political developments. 


Devadasis were young women who were dedicated to the worship and service of the village deity. In addition to taking care of the temple and performing rituals, these young women also learned and practiced classical Indian artistic traditions such as Bharatanatyam. Although their social status has deteriorated in modern times, devadasis were treated with respect and held in high regard between the 6th and 13th centuries.  






Scene 1

The story begins as the sun rises in the deep south of ancient India. The devadasis rehearse their dance in the early hours of the morning while the warriors who reside near the temple practice their drills. A chance meeting of Nallika, one of the devadasis, and the warrior Sanu takes place. While Nallika is clearly charmed by Sanu, she is also conflicted as she remembers her undying devotion and commitment to god. 


Later in the day, a yagnya, or fire sacrifice is officiated by the head priest of the temple. The priests, sanyaasis (or ascetics), and the devadasis all participate in the ritual. As the ceremony winds down, the head priest makes unwelcome advances at Nallika. Nallika is taken aback and explains to the priest that her love and devotion is reserved only for god. The priest is persistent and is upset by the rejection. 


Scene 2

The warrior Sanu is confused and a bit distressed by Nallika's mixed signals. Having been subjected to the priest's inappropriate behavior, Nallika seeks solace in Sanu. Sanu and Nallika enjoy an intimate moment by the lake and confirm their commitment to each other. The head priest witnesses their exchange and is overcome with grief. Unable to accept Nallika's relationship with Sanu, the head priest resolves to convince the King to use his influence to subdue Sanu. 




Scene 1

The King launches a royal procession on his chariot to survey his territory. The King and his entourage are caught by surprise when they encounter a tiger. Sanu, who happens to be hunting in the area, defends the King and his court and fights the tiger which eventually succumbs to Sanu's valor. 


Page 5 of 14