For India Currents: on dance

For India Currents: on dance

2024-07-03T16:02:37+05:30Food and Faith|

Journeys Of Faith Premieres At Livermore’s Shiva Vishnu Temple

Cultural activity is an integral part of religion and along with rituals, said Chitra Mani, cultural chair, Shiva Vishnu temple.
A Bharatanatyam dancer oerforms onstage
Nirupama Vaidhyanathan performing at the premiere of Journeys of Faith. February 2024. (image courtesy:Divya Ramachandran)

A celebration in dance

‘Journeys of Faith’ a dance theater production by Sankalpa Dance Foundation led by Artistic director Nirupama Vaidhyanathan and senior students transformed the book ‘Food and Faith’ by author Shoba Narayan into a dance theater production with narrative storytelling, music, and dance. Most fittingly, this program that celebrated sacred offerings in Indian temples held its premiere at a temple in the Bay area – the Shiva Vishnu temple in Livermore on February 24th, 2024.

A Bharatanatyam dancer oerforms onstage
Nirupama Vaidhyanathan performing at the premiere of Journeys of Faith. February 2024. (image courtesy:Divya Ramachandran)

The program began with the Ganesha temple at Kottarakara, and traveled to Udupi, Palani, and to the north to Kashi and Puri. In each segment, the presentation linked the culinary legends with the performing arts traditions to give a holistic view of the sacred space that was being celebrated. To describe the traditions of feasting and fasting associated with Hinduism, two thillanas were chosen- a vigorous fast-paced thillana to demonstrate the exuberance associated with feasting and a slow thillana to demonstrate abstinence from food while fasting. The finale was a percussive rhythmic piece that demonstrated the workings of a temple kitchen that prepares thousands of meals in a single day.

Three Bharatanatyam dancers performing onstage
Nirupama Vaidyanathan with two of her senior dancers in a scene from Journeys of Faith February 2024. (image courtesy:Divya Ramachandran)

An ensemble production

The Sankalpa dance troupe
The Sankalpa dance troupe February 2024. (image courtesy:Divya Ramachandran)

Artistic Director Nirupama Vaidhyanathan was joined onstage by her senior students – Mallika Malleswaran, Uma Lakshminarayan, Abirami Murugappan, Priyanka Chary, Shruthi Somasundaram, Haritha Rajasekar, Pooja Prasanthi, and Shreya Viswanathan. Talented Chennai-based musicians Swamimalai Suresh, Shakthivel Muruganandam, N. Sikhamani, and Sashidar were instrumental in creating a soulful digital audio recording for the program.


Author Shoba Narayan traveled from India to attend the premiere and shared valuable insights with the audience. After watching the program, Shoba Narayan said, “When Nirupama approached me saying that she wanted to adapt the book to the stage, I did not know what to expect. The result was soul satisfying. Her vision for the book and the performance was subtle and all-encompassing at the same time. She specifically used aspects of the book that lent themselves to theater, and the ensemble production she created mesmerized the audience. We had a packed house and received a lot of compliments about the adaptation.”

A spiritual connection

The Livermore temple graciously offered special prasadam to all audience members after the program in the lobby. Chitra Mani, cultural chair, Shiva Vishnu temple at Livermore said, “Cultural activity is an integral part of religion and along with rituals,  prasadam (sacred food) is offered to God and then to devotees. The book, ‘Food and Faith’ describes the significance of various kinds of prasadam from different temples in India . I felt that this was an apt program for the temple to exhibit religion through culture. Nirupama and I were able to work together to bring this program alive within the temple premises, which was a blessing.”

Two women in saris raise their arms in a dance pose
Author Shobha Narayan and choreographer Nirupama Vaidhyanathan at the premiere of Journeys of Faith. February 2024. (image courtesy:Divya Ramachandran) 

Praba Iyer, a trained chef who has previously fostered team building through cooking for tech companies, was in the audience and remarked, “I had read the book ‘Food and Faith,’ where the author had traveled through different shrines in India sampling the blessed culinary offerings. Being a chef and having read the book, I was quite intrigued and curious to see what Nirupama’s dance interpretation would conjure. The dance began with Nirupama’s narration and graceful choreography book in hand. It progressed into an ingenious interpretation with snippets of scenes from various temple sites. The dancers were a treat to watch and it was a rejuvenating sensory experience.”

Praba Iyer put it best when she said that the program was, “ an exploration of the connection between spirituality and religion through food.”

Musicians and dancers onstage after a Bharatanatyam performance
The Sankalpa Dance Troup onstage. February 2024. (image courtesy:Divya Ramachandran)

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About the Author:

Shoba Narayan is an author, journalist and columnist. Besides writing, she is interested in nature, wine, gadgets and Sanskrit. Her lifelong mission is to get fit without exercising and lose weight without dieting.

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