[kj] OT: The real Fire Dances?

madani07 at fuse.net madani07 at fuse.net
Thu Mar 31 13:51:30 EST 2005

In an extremely rare and unique tradition, women in tiny Mukhrai village in northern India, believed to be the hometown Radha, consort of the mythical God-king Krishna, celebrated on Monday (March 28) her birthday by dancing with a massive pyramid of burning lamps on top of their head.

The legend recreates the joy and frenzy of Radha's birth, believed to be in the month of March, signifying the advent of spring and villagers every year appoint a day after Holi, the festival of colours, for the celebrations.

According to legend, Radha's maternal grandmother, overjoyed with the beautiful girl's birth, ran out of the house with the "charkula" or a chariot wheel, after which the dance is named, on her head to make the announcement and danced madly for hours.

The tradition has since struck and each year the entire village begins the preparations from dawn itself, when one or sometimes two of the village women chosen for the dance are dressed in bridal finery and the men prepare the pyramid.

"This is the birthplace of queen Radha. When Radha was born, her maternal grandmother was so overjoyed that she picked up an extremely heavy chariot wheel and starting dancing much to everyone's amazement at her suddenalmost divine powers. Since then a tradition has been set and we recreate it every year," said Madan Lal Sharma, a village elder. 

The dance itself is anything but easy as the circular pyramid weighs over 55 kilograms and how the frail and tiny village women manage to carry the weight and dance for hours, has puzzled tourists and locals.

The women, who train from childhood, say they get divine power while dancing, which makes them forget the massive weight. 

The tradition is carried on as a family heirloom with mothers passing it on to their daughters and daughter-in-laws.

"My daughter-in-law will take this tradition forward. I am teaching it to some of the other village women as well," said Jamuna Devi, a fire dancer.

Radha, in Hindu mythology, is the consort of Lord Krishna, one of most revered Hindu deities who enumerated the Bhagwad Gita, the treatise of Hindu philosophy.

Tales of their love are depicted abound in India's architecture and paintings and their relationship is often interpreted as the quest for union with the divine.

This kind of love, though banned in conservative India where matrimony is the only accepted form of union between a man and a woman, is of the highest form of devotion for many followers. 

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