22nd Ramayan - an annual exposure to the great epic  
by Makarand Bidwai, New York  
e-mail: m_bidwai@cosmicacademy.net 
August 2, 2003 

Performed by mostly American artists and students of the East West School of Dance, Ramayan, a musical dance drama enactment included nine different scenes.  It was a feast in the open air amphitheater at the Ananda Ashram – Yoga Society of New York, a feast to the eyes, the ears, and the spirit of many a soul who drove here, some for the first time.  Located in the picturesque valley on the foothills of Catskills mountain range there is perhaps no better site for Panchavati, the abode in banishment of Sita, Ram, and Laxman in the Dandak Aaranya (Dandak Forest). 

Ravaan chopping off 
Jatayu's wings while 
Sita watches helplessly
Hanuman ready on a rescue mission to find 
abducted Sita at the 
Ananda Ashram in Monroe, New York
Ram was performed by David Pittenger, a veteran Ramayan actor of five years now and a professional ballet dancer.  The respectable, pious, devoted, and obedient Ram was brought to life, once again on stage by an ascetic, austere David.  Sita was performed by Mayura Casuba, a graduate of Rangapravesh (Kathak Dance School).  Laxman was performed by Siddartha (adopted name), a student who was recently trained at the East West School of Dance.  The most notable, pivotal, and energetic role was that of Shri Hanuman, performed by Hanuman (earlier Joe Pauline).  Joe Pauline is full of energy and enthusiasm, perhaps an embodiment of Shri Hanuman from the Ram Yug. He was called upon to perform the role of Hanuman since he was always active and did lot of karma yoga at the Ananda Ashram several years ago. He has done the role with great aplomb and unparalleled grace, always improvising to make it surrealist. Hence, Joe Pauline was given and he has adopted the spiritual name of Shri Hanuman, and lives up to it in his superhuman hard work, behind the stage, as much as his presence is captivating on the stage.  

The great Golden Deer that has supposedly started the epic battle between Ram and the ten-headed Raavan was none other than agile Alexander Lyle, another professional ballet dancer.  He was very jerky, jumpy, and enchanting, alluring to Sita as was the divine need of the hour. 

On the evil side, Shurpanaka, the wicked sister of Raavan was performed both, as a beautiful maiden, and in her original demoness form by the versatile Serena Soffer, a professional ballet trainer and choreographer.  Finally, the angry Raavan was aptly enacted by Steve Hirsch, with his heavy thumping of the wooden deck of the amphitheater, he gave the audience a crash tour of the Golden Lanka, his kingdom with his cruel power ill-begotten from Shiva’s boon.  The air was full of fear, and anxiety, and culminated in the setting ablaze of the Golden Lanka, rescue of the kidnapped Sita, coronation of Ram, to a loud applause from the two hundred strong audience, just before midnight past Saturday. 

The cast had assembled from the Tristate area under the direction of Pandit Satyanarayana Charka, a cultural ambassador from India who has founded the East West School of Dance under inspiration from the late Shri Brahmananda Saraswati, himself the founder of Ananda Ashram, in Monroe, New York.  

To learn more, please call (845) – 783 - 7514.  

Hailing from Baroda (Gujarat, India), Makarand Bidwai has spent most of the past ten years in the US, promoting Astronomy, and other sciences and math subjects.  
He contributes occasionally to The Times Of India and India Abroad (and a few other regional newspapers) on current topics or Astronomy related events.