Mahari Repertoire


Gita Govinda dances, Pallavis, and dances to Oriya songs are not listed on this page.

Mangalarpan: Taken from the Natya Shastra, "Mangalarpan" describes the entrance of a mahari, her invocation of the five deities, and ends with the sabha pranam.

Santakaram: Invocation to Lord Vishnu.

Thali Naca: An invocatory-meditative dance danced on a brass plate with two plates of candles on the dancer’s hands.

Nava Durga: The dancer/s invoke/s the Goddess Durga, who was the destroyer of Sumbha and Nisumbha, the complement of Kali, the killer of Raktabija, one who is sakti (energy), mother, maya (illusion), and peace. She is nine forms all in one, "Nava Durga," the Durga of the mountains, of the forest, and energy, the sun goddess, the goddess of power, victory, killer of Mahisa (ego personified), the great one, one of darkness. She is one who loves and one who fights. The dancer/s say/s, "I invoke you into my body."

Gativilas Pallavi: The ten gaits from the Abhinaya Darpanam of different animals and humans are elaborated in this 30 minute dance number: the swan, the peacock, the deer, the elephant, the horse, the frog, the lion, the serpent, the human, and the warrior.

Mahari Suchi Sringar: This song depicts a mahari or temple dancer getting dressed to perform in the temple. It ends with a "khanda pallavi" (pure dance) in triputa tala.

Madhurastaka: The 30 minute dance describes Krishna through the eyes of his mother, Yashoda, as "madhura" (sweet) in every way. The life of Krishna in all its facets is enacted in "Madhurastaka."

Panchakanya: Click on name of dance to see picture.


Part I: Description of Lord Shiva, whose body is the movement of the Universe and whose jewelry are the moon and stars, and whose right half is male and left half female.

Part II: Usha, the goddess of dawn, is rising and spreading her rays. The earth is now dressed in a new robe. In the purity of the morning, awaken oh people and slake your thirst. Discard your laziness, follow the path of dharma; the way of the world is hazardous. The five elements--earth, water, fire, air, and ether--represent the five virtuous women, Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara, and Mandodari. Our sins are absolved when we meditate on them.

Ahalya: (music composition: Hari Panda): "Ahalya" is the first of the Panchakanyas in Guru Pankaj Charan Das’ mahari repertoire.

Parts I & II: Prelude as described above.

Part III: Ahalya is described as beloved of the earth, a virtuous wife, beloved of Gautama, beautiful but perturbed. Following the description is a pure dance that characterizes Ahalya

Part IV: Beautiful as a flower with kissable lips, Ahalya is delightful. Her husband has gone to take his daily bath in the river. She anxiously waits for his return. She loves to serve him. Lord Indra, enamored of her, disguises himself as Gautama, her husband, and rapes her. Through divination, Gautama finds out about the relationship, and angered, he curses Ahalya into stone.

Part V: Many centuries have passed. Sage Visvamitra has arrived at the forest with the young princes, Rama and Laksmana. He takes them to the cottage where Ahalya resides, turned into stone. The sight of her disturbs Rama. Sage Visvamitra asks Rama to place his foot on Ahalya. Rama protests that he will have sinned if he places his foot on virtuous Ahalya. The sage informs him that it has been ordained that by touching her with his foot, he will release her from her curse. Rama releases Ahalya from her husband’s curse.

Part VI: Conclusion as described below.

Draupadi: "Draupadi" is the second of the Panchakanya dances from the repertoire of Guru Pankaj Charan Das.

Parts I & II: Prelude as described above.

Part III: Duhsasana pulls Draupadi into court by her hair. Description of the court: Draupadi, born of fire, daughter of Drupad, wife of the Pandavas, strong, and devotee of Krishna; Duryodhana; Dhritarashtra; Dronacharya; Bhisma; Shakuni; and Duhsasana.

Part IV:  The dice game between Shakuni and Yudhisthira: the Pandava Prince loses. Duryodhana mockingly asks Draupadi to sit on his left thigh and gives her over to his brother, Duhsasana, who jubilantly pulls at her sari (clothes) to disrobe and humiliate her.

Part V: Song: Draupadi begs Duhsasana to stop while she asks her five husbands whether they will protect her honor. TO YUDHISTHIRA: They are treating me as a prostitute. It is said, in this wide world, that you are King of righteousness. TO ARJUNA: Tearfully, Draupadi looks at the archer for help. "You are the son of Lord Indra, the jewel of the world. You are called the second Krishna. Help me." TO NAKULA: "Nakula, the handsome one with heavenly clothes--in this court Duhsasana is disrobing me; how can you bear to see me thus?" TO SAHADEVA: "You are the one who knows the past, present, and the future. With all this power, didn't you know before that I would be humiliated here?" TO BHIMA: "With a hero like you for a husband, I still have to bear this sorrow. Duhsasana pulled my hair; don't you feel any anger surging within you?"

Part VI: The virtuous woman, seeing her husbands silent, calls on the King of the Yadavas for help and sits down despondent.

Part VII: Draupadi's struggle against Duhsasana as the court watches.

Part VIII: Draupadi recounts how she came to be in this plight through the deceit of the Kauravas. She calls on Shiva, Brahman, Indra, Kubera, Varuna, and Sudhakara. Then she remembers how she became the wife of the Pandavas, through Arjuna's skill in hitting a target while all the heroes watched. Now, in the court of Hastinapur, Duhsasana has insulted her twice. Bereft of all, she surrenders herself totally and entrusts herself to Krishna. Krishna responds.

Part IX: Conclusion as described below.

Kunti: the third of the Panchakanya dances (music composition: Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra).

Parts I & II: Prelude as described above.

Part III: Beginning of Kunti: Pallavi: Young Kunti stops on her tracks as the great sage, Durvasah, appears on the scene. Kunti attends to his needs and is rewarded with a bead necklace (a rosary) that will enable her to invoke any god she wants. Happily she frolics around with her new toy when she sees the sun in the sky. Eager to try her newly-earned powers, she meditates on him. He appears. Surprised, Kunti is uncertain and coy, but she soon gives in to his love-making. Kunti gives birth to Karna. The young woman experiences her first real sorrow as she floats the baby away in a small boat.

Part IV: King Pandu is out hunting. He spots two deer mating and shoots them. The deer, Agnika Risi (sage) and his wife in guise, transform into their true selves. The sage curses the King--if he ever mates with a woman, he will be struck by lightning and killed.

Part V: Kunti gets dressed for her marriage with Pandu. Accidentally she breaks her mirror and shudders at the consequence. True to the saying, Kunti learns of her misfortune. She can never consummate her marriage with her husband. She is asked to beget heirs to the throne through meditation.

Part VI: A virgin mother, Kunti chants Yuddhisthira into existence. Following an interlude of hide-and-seek with her son, Kunti is pregnant with Bhima, the son of the wind. Then comes Arjuna, the son of Indra. Finally, she adopts the twins of Pandu's second wife and drowns herself in the duties of a mother of five. Young Kunti has now matured into old motherhood and traveled through legend and history as one of the great virtuous women.

Part VII: Conclusion as described below.

Tara: Tara is the fourth of the Panchakanya dances (music composition: Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra).

Parts I & II: Prelude as described above.

Part III: Introduction of Lord Rama (the antagonist), his brother Lakshmana, and his wife Sita. Worshipped by Hanumana, the monkey-god, Rama is the son of King Dasaratha, of royal descent, dark complexioned, and calm in bearing.

Part IV: Introduction of the protagonist, Tara, the wife of the ferocious and invincible monkey-king, Vali: she is fiery and motherly.

Part V: Lord Rama tells Sugriva, the brother of Vali, that he will help him in his fight against his royal brother. However, when Rama tries to shoot his arrow, he realizes that both the monkey brothers look alike and he cannot tell the difference. Sugriva, hurt badly, complains to Rama, who explains his predicament and gives Sugriva a garland (lei) to identify him. Now Rama is able to kill Vali from behind a clump of trees.

Part VI: Widowed Tara accuses Rama of deception and cowardice. Rama explains to her that Vali was a womanizer and needed to be killed. Tara is not convinced. First, the battle was unfair. Second, whatever be the reason for Rama's slaying Vali, the monkey-King was not tried and convicted. There was no justice. And finally, Rama had no right to relegate Tara to the realm of abject widowhood. She recalls his past slayings, including that of a woman, Taraka, and accuses him of injustice. To appease her, Rama proposes that she marry Sugriva and thus erase the stigma of widowhood. Tara does not accede until her own terms are met.

Part VII: Tara's marriage with Sugriva.

Part VIII: Conclusion as described below.

Mandodari: The fifth of Padmashri Guru Pankaj Charan Das’ Panchakanya dances (music composition: Pandit Bhubaneswar Mishra).

Parts I & II: Prelude as described above.

Part III: Introduction of the snake, the frog, and the hermit. The story is then retold through music. The snake poisons the milk of the hermit as the frog watches. Realizing the consequences, the frog jumps into the bowl of milk and dies instantaneously. The hermit, on his return, sees the frog in the milk and curses it for its gluttony. The curse reverses a former curse, and the frog turns into the beautiful maiden, Mandodari.

Part IV: Description of Mandodari: Pure, fair, slender and sharp, with voice like that of a vina (somber and majestic), with the gait of a white swan, flashing and restless eyes, she is the desire of all men.

Part V: Description of Ravana, the antagonist of the Ramayana. Victorious, accomplished, with a visage like Shiva’s, destroyer of all enemies, the Indra (King of the heavens) of Lanka, Ravana is invincible, the conqueror of the three worlds.

Part VI: The beautiful one, daughter of Mayadatta, like a heavenly nymph, became the wife of the conqueror of the three worlds, revered by the asuras, Ravana.

Part VII: The introduction of Rama, the protagonist of the Ramayana. As a young man, at the svayamvara (choice of groom) of Sita, he lifted the bow of Lord Shiva and broke it while stringing it. As the hero who succeeded, he won the hand of beautiful Sita. Sita was then abducted by Ravana. Mandodari is aghast. She sees her future in the inevitable war that will destroy her husband and sons. Because of his pride, Lanka will be in ruins. She pleads with Ravana to return Sita to Rama.

Part VIII: Ravana says that he knows Lanka will be destroyed. But he pleads with his beloved not to stop him since it has been ordained in the scriptures that the only way he can attain salvation is by being killed by the Brahma arrow of Vishnu, and Lord Rama is the incarnation of Vishnu.

Part IX: The war.

Part X: In celebration of his victory, Rama places Bibhisana, Ravana’s brother, on the throne of Lanka and blesses Mandodari as his bride and queen, virtuous in spite of her second marriage.

Part XI: Conclusion as described below.


Remember the virtues of the five great women, Ahalya, Draupadi, Kunti, Tara, and Mandodari (fallen women according to patriarchal society), and you also will be redeemed.


For questions regarding the Mahari tradition contact Ratna Roy at:

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