Panchakanya Dances

The Panchakanya, five women from the epics of India, Ahalya, Tara, Mandodari from the Ramayana and Draupadi and Kunti from the Mahabharata, representing the five elements, are eulogized as pure and powerful in each one of the dance dramas from the mahari tradition as taught Ratna by Dungri Mahari and her adopted son, Guru Pankaj Charan Das. The epics, in these dances, are seen through the eyes of the women in intense, gripping drama, even as the dancer enacts multiple characters in each episode. Although deemed as fallen by mainstream patriarchal society, the mahari tradition underscores the virtue of these five women. The music for the Panchakanya dances was composed for Ratna by the late Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra.

As reported in The Telegraph, an Indian national daily newspaper, on Saturday, December 27, 2003, was a national seminar on the Pancha Kanya in Kolkata, Bengal, India, at the Eastern Zonal Cultural Centre's Bharateeyam Auditorium. In complement to the seminar the Panchakanya dances were performed by Ratna Roy who also presented a paper during the conference. According to the Panchkanya Seminar news; "Dr. Ratna Roy of Evergreen State College USA (the foremost living exponent of the 'Panchakanya' composition in the Mahari 'ang' of late Padma Sri Guru Pankaj Charan Das) [spoke] on how the Mahari devdasis find the lives of these five [kanyas] redemptive with particular reference to Tara and Mandodari."

For a detailed critical review of the seminar visit Panchkanya of Indian Epics.

For a fascinating study of the subject see the article Panchakanya Women of Substance by Pradip Bhattacharya.

Finally, any interested in a forum dedicated to discussion of the Panchakanya please click here.

To learn more details about the Panchakanya dances, and for links to pictures, visit the Mahari Repertoire page.


For other questions regarding the Panchakanyas contact Ratna Roy at:

e-mail: royr@evergreen.edu,
Telephone: (360) 867-6469
Fax (360) 867-6663