Indian dancers barred from invocation ritual in Malaysia

June 4th, 2008 - 3:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, June 4 (IANS) Authorities in Malaysia’s Perak state barred dancers of an Indian dance school from performing the invocation ritual for Nataraja before a performance, a media report said Wednesday. The directors of the Indian classical dance school were upset as they were not allowed by the new state director of the unity, culture, arts and heritage ministry (Kekkwa) office at Ipoh, Perak’s capital, to conduct the ceremony before their annual performance this year in Taman Budaya city, The Star newspaper said.

State Kekkwa director Ramli Salleh, however, said they had asked the organisers not to conduct the ceremony, as there was concern over the smoke and smell from the prayer items lingering in the enclosed auditorium.

“We told them to just do the dance and they even agreed. Moreover, Kekkwa had never allowed them (to conduct the ceremony) in previous years,” he was quoted as saying in the newspaper.

Nritya Kalanjali dance school director P. Sasikumar, who runs the school with his instructor wife T. Sudha, said it was customary among the community to honour Nataraja, the Lord of Dancers, before every Indian classical dance.

“It is a simple ritual where we put a statue of Nataraja and an oil lamp on stage, and offer flowers and prayers before the performance,” he said after the event here Monday night.

He said that his and two other schools - Natya Kalamandir and Ananda Narthana Choodamani - had always offered prayers before a statue of Nataraja when performing at Taman Budaya in 2000, 2002 and 2006.

The three-hour performance, conducted with two other classical dance schools, kicked off at 8 p.m. without the ceremony or any speech from guest-of-honour Perak assembly speaker V. Sivakumar.

Sivakumar later told reporters that the directive suggested a kind of “intolerance” against the practices of other cultures, the newspaper said.

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