Leelavati

"Presented with the precision of a scientist and creativity of an artiste."  - Madhu Dandavate, ex- Railway and Finance Minister, Govt. of India. 

"Fantastic! The chess scene was wonderful" - Hema Malini


Based on the 12th century mathematical treatise of the famous astronomer Bhaskaracharya.

Inspiration

When India hosted the International Mathematics Olympiad in 1995, we were requested to present a Shloka from Leelavati in dance form. Our presentation was then immensely appreciated. That experience inspired us to conceive a full-length ballet.

The Ballet

The text of Leelavati runs into 261 shlokas. We have chosen only eleven, apart from the invocatory and the concluding ones. These Shlokas give problems in arithmetic, algebra and geometry; the use of fractions and square roots; equations with one known; Pythagoras' Theorem and properties of triangles.

The order of selection does not follow that of the text. A story is woven around Bhaskaracharya, the father and Leelavati, the daughter by imagining a day in the life of Leelavati. The ballet opens with Bhaskaracharya invoking Lord Ganesh.

  • Leelavati sets out at dawn to collet flowers for her puja. Her father joins her. They spot a herd of elephants, a swarm of bees, a flock of swans. Bhaskaracharya poses questions on these. 
  • From a pond she collects lotuses. They reach the temple and Bhaskaracharya questions her on the number of flowers offered to the different Deities as also on the "permutations" of the hands of Shiva and Vishnu.
  • He sees a beautiful peacock perched on a pillar and his agile brain throws up a geometrical sum.
  • On the way back home Leelavati sees a well, expresses a desire to drink water. Her father obliges and immediately asks her to answer a problem on the water contained in the well.
As they are reaching home, a women bedecked in jewellery crosses them. Leelavati is confronted with a problem on the variety of jewels adorned by the woman.
  • They reach home and start the play of an unfinished game of chess. While at it, Bhaskaracharya realises that he is losing - to distract her he poses a riddle on the shadow of a pawn formed by an oil lamp.
  • Leelavati has no stomach now for any riddles. She pushes away the chess things and goes to sleep.
  • Dreams of a lover; thinks of the swans, their love play; remember the bees - male bee attracted by the scent of a flower humming and the female bee humming in unison. Imagines herself heavily bejewelled as the woman she has seen earlier. While in her lover's arms, her necklace breaks, Scattering the pearls all over. Suddenly, she hears her father's voice booming - with a question on the number of pearls; wakes up with a start. No one to be seen around. Laughs to herself - it was a dream after all.

The ballet ends with a shloka in praise of Leelavati (the daughter and the book).

Concept, Visualisation, Choreography and Direction: Jhelum Paranjape
Assistants: Mitali Kamat, Gowree Jogalekar
Creative Consultant: Vasant Bapat
Adviser: Jayant Narlikar
Music: Anand Modak
Lights and Sound: Arun Madkaikar
Script: Ajit Kelkar
Costumes: Suhita Thatte, Aruna Joglekar, Nandkishore Dahale
Artistes: 20 dancers, 5 backstage
Duration: 80 minutes

Watch: Leelavati Video Clip
 

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