Yagna was the first full-length production of the Daksha Sheth Dance Company, created initially for the 1992 Vivarta Festival in London, which was established as a platform to showcase contemporary Indian performing arts. Yagna was conceived as a dance-theatre spectacle on the theme of water and fire, created for a mixed troupe of actors, dancers and musicians. The original English script was based on Wendy O'Flaherty's translation of the Rig Veda, (subsequently reworked in Hindi and Malayalam), with live music for male chorus and percussion that drew upon the ancient tradition of vedic chanting.
In Vedic philosophy, fire represents the upward force, water the downward force; together they form a circle, a potent symbol of the cycle of life. This production broadly mirrored the structure of the vedic fire sacrifice or Yagna and was in three sections.
1. The Elements of the Sacrifice : This section explores three basic elements of ritual, namely ritual space, ritual speech and ritual action. The production commences with the demarcation and purification of ritual space as a preparatory act of empowerment, followed by the invocation to the four directions and to sacred speech.
2. Invocation of the Gods : In this section three of the major Vedic Gods are invoked. Varuna, the highest of the Vedic Gods, is the guardian of cosmic order and the overseer of moral action. Ushas, the Goddess of Dawn, drives the heavenly chariot of Surya, the Sun God, who represents the celestial fire and is celebrated as the source of light and life. Indra, the most popular of the Vedic Gods, was the Lord of Thunder and Warfare. He epitomized the ideal of the Aryan warrior, wild, intoxicated with Soma juice, boasting of his prowess and eager to join battle with the enemy.
3. Ahuti (or the Oblation) : Agni, the God of Fire, and Child of the Waters, is, of all the Vedic Gods, the one most accessible to man. Agni is the principle god of the fire sacrifice, who, by carrying the oblation up to the celestial realms, acts as a link between Man and the Gods, between earth and sky. Symbolically, by offering various substances into the fire, the sacrificer is offering himself as the sacrifice. Through this symbolic entering into death comes rebirth and liberation. If the Yagna is successful, and the offerings made into the sacred fire are accepted by the gods, then it must rain. Rain is the benediction and blessings of the gods to man, and completes the cycle of the Yagna
Concept: Daksha Sheth and Devissaro
Choreography: Daksha Sheth
Original Music, Set and Light Design, and Direction: Devissaro