Sarpagati is a powerful dance-theatre work that has become a landmark in contemporary Indian dance. Inspired by the significance of snake worship in Indian culture, Sarpagati draws upon rituals, myth and symbolism associated with the snake. In popular belief the snake is associated with wealth, fertility and power. In tantric symbolism, the snake represents the primal creative energy or Kundalini which lies dormant in the base of the spine, which, when aroused, ascends and activates the chakras of the subtle body. "The Way of the Serpent", specifically refers to the manifestation of this energy within the context of the lower three chakras, symbolized as the elements of Earth, Water and Fire. These in turn relate to three fundamental drives which form the basis of survival; the drive to accumulate, to procreate, and to dominate.
Sarpagati is in five sections: Kundalini, Earth, Water, Fire and Garuda.
KUNDALINI Beneath the towering canopy of the Banyan tree, an old woman offers tumeric powder to the Sarpalingam. Vishnu, in the myth of creation, reclines on Ananta, the snake that represents timelessness. What stirs? Where? The old woman transforms into Kundalini, the awakened serpent energy.
EARTH The Earth element, depicted in tantra by a yellow square of the first chakra, metaphysically represents spacial extension - the realm of two dimensions (length and breadth) and four directions. On an individual level, the earth element represents the basic drive for a secure material base for life. The territorial instinct of humans and animals is a manifestation of the drives associated with the first chakra. It is also seen in the utilization of creative energy for material acquisition, which covers the spectrum from providing the basic physical requisites of life (food, clothing, shelter), to the accumulation of vast wealth and possessions.
WATER The element of Water, depicted by the white crescent of the second chakra, represents both balance and flow. It symbolizes a dynamic equilibrium, the fluid balancing of opposites. On an individual level it encompasses sensuality and the drive of organisms to perpetuate through procreation. Metaphysically, it represents the act of creation itself, in which the world is created out of the coming together of opposite forces. A potent symbol of the union of opposites is the Sarpalingam, in which the snake, representing active female energy, coils around and activates the dormant male principle, represented by the lingam.
FIRE The element of Fire, associated with the third chakra, is represented by a red triangle. Fire symbolizes both intensity and power. The drive to conquer and the passion to excel, are both manifestations of the transformation of creative energy in the third chakra. Fire also symbolizes the burning ghat and death, a psychic trap-door between this world and next, between the material and the spiritual world.
GARUDA From the death of the lower self, the serpent is transformed into the golden bird, and with the birth of compassion, the path of the higher chakras commences.
Concept: Daksha Sheth and Devissaro
Choreography: Daksha Sheth
Music, Set and Light Design, Direction: Devissaro