All glories to Sri Guru and Sri Gauranga
The London children performed a play for the pleasure of His Divine Grace Srila Bhakti Sundar Govinda Dev-Goswami Maharaj on Saturday evening at the Upton Community Centre near the Green Street Math. Over 100 devotees and guests filled the bright space to witness the hard work and creative efforts of all the participants, led by Srila Lekha Devi Dasi.
With colorful costumes, convincing makeup and clearly delivered lines, the children told the story of King Chitraketu who had many wives but no children. After doing many austerities, he was granted one son, but his other wives became jealous and poisoned the baby, which relieved the king of his material attachment and enlightened him as to the true purpose in life. Later he was cursed by Parvati for interrupting an intimate moment between her and her husband, Lord Shiva.
Although there were some unplanned silences when the actors forgot their lines, Ishvari Devi Dasi said she was relieved that the production didn't fall apart. Asha Purna Devi Dasi said the audience laughed at points when comedy wasn't intended, but in the end, everyone was charmed by the earnest and cheerful spirit of the performance.
After the play, Srila Gurudev said, "We cannot conceive of the demigods, but you all have played a character and very happily told this Srimad-Bhagavatam story. I am astonished that from 10,000 miles you are acting this drama here, supremely honoring the devotee of Lord Krishna. It is a very high drama, and I am very happy to see that."
Srilekha Devi Dasi said, "Srila Gurudev is happy and that was the whole purpose. I told the kids, 'Just do it from your heart to please Srila Gurudev.'"
The children spent many hours rehearsing. This play was their longest-running production, lasting a full forty-five minutes. Hari Ballabha Devi Dasi said her daughters, Janavi Devi Dasi (8 years old) and Kalindi Devi Dasi (5 years old), who both acted as King Chitraketu's wives, chanted their lines over and over, even while in the bathtub.
Most of the young actors seemed pleased and exhilarated with their performance. "It was good because I got to speak three times," Janavi Devi Dasi said. Vira Chandra Das (11 years old) played King Chitraketu, portraying his character with all due seriousness. "You have to admit, I was the best," he pronounced with a grin.
Many devotees gave valuable assistance behind the scenes: Ratnavali Devi Dasi face painted the children, Damayanti Devi Dasi and Jaya Shree Devi Dasi played significant roles in coaching the actors and organizing the rehearsals, Rasamayi Pandita Devi Dasi styled the hair of the girls, Varshana Devi Dasi and Nimai Das fashioned cardboard into a tall fire-shaped panel for the set, and Damayanti Devi Dasi (U.S.) and Balarama Das taught the sword-bearing actors how to fence for the battlefield scene. Others, including the parents, also helped prepare the actors and decorate the stage area.
A brief yet enlivening lecture delivered by Sripad Siddhanti Maharaj followed the play, as well as kirtan led by Dayanidhi Prabhu. Afterwards, all honored a simple feast of khichuri, potato subji, puris, tomato chutney and halava, cooked and served by the combined efforts of Amrta Lila Prabhu, Sachidevi Dasi, Lavanya Mayi Devi Dasi, Tunga Vidya Devi Dasi and Krishna Kishor Prabhu.
Article and photos: Vrndavanesvari dasi, London, 27 July 2003
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