Swathi Thirunal Festival at Kalakshetra

Kalakshetra is celebrating Maharaja Swathi Thirunal’s (Swati Tirunal) Bicentennial anniversary from 18th to 20th November, 2013.

The dance drama “Ajamilopakhyanam” choreographed by Smt. Rukmini Devi Arundale will be presented on the 18th. The dance drama that debuted in 1980 [1, 2] and presented in other places in 1981 [3, 4] is probably a must see for those in Chennai.

Listen to a discourse on Ajamilopakhyanam in Malayalam by Swami Chidananda Puri here [5]

Ajamilophakyanam is a harikatha composition by Maharaja Swati Tirunal, consisting of 9 songs and 23 slokas, tells the story of Ajamila. The story goes like this. [6]

A Brahmin by name Ajmila [or Ajamila] belonging to kanyakubja [present day Kannauj] leading a religious life with his family, chances to meet a courtesan and falls a prey to her charms. He neglects his family and duties and lives with her spending all his wealth and raising more by gambling and stealing. He gets ten children by her in the last of whom, named Narayana, he develops a particular attachment. His life nears its end when he is eighty and Yama’s attendants rush in to take his soul to hell as he has been leading a unrighteous life. Afraid at their hideous appearance, he calls aloud his pet son. Suddenly rush in Vishnu’s attendants to take his soul to heaven as the name he uttered, though his son’s happens to the Lord’s also. A verbal dispute ensues between the two parties and finally Vishnu’s attendants win. Ajamila realizes his faults and is full of penitence and wishes to atone for his misdeeds. Vishnu’s attendants disappear giving him time and Yama’s attendants run to convey the matter to their master. Ajamila goes to river Ganga, purifies himself by prayer and contemplation, and when he is cleansed of his sins, Vishnu’s messengers come again. He throws his mortal coil in the river and his soul is taken to the abode of Vishnu in a divine car. Yama instructs his servants never to go to a devotee of Vishnu thereafter.

For dancers, in Chennai, the morning lectures are given by Prince Rama Varma, dance-scholars and historians, making it equally interesting as the dance performances on the 18th and 20th. See details of the festival below. (Image courtesy: Kalakshetra)


  1. S. Sarada, Kalakshetra-Rukmini Devi: Reminiscences, Kala Madir Trust 1985. Pg 208
  2. Kalakshetra Quarterly, Vol 8. Pg 115
  3. India Today, Vol 6 1981. Pg 127
  4. Indian Council for Public Relations, Vol 22-23 1981. Pag 76
  5. https://archive.org/details/AjamilOpakhyanam
  6. http://www.swathithirunal.in/otherworks/ajamilapakya.htm

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