Pandavani, literally means stories of Pandavas, the legendary brothers in Mahabharat, and involves enacting and singing with instrumental accompaniment an ektara or a tambura in one hand and sometimes a kartal in another. Interestingly, as the performance progresses, the tambura becomes her only prop during her performances, sometimes she uses it to personify a gada, mace of Arjun, or at times his bow or chariot, while others it becomes the hair of queen Draupadi, allowing her to play various character with effective ease and candour. Her acclaimed performances are of, Draupadi cheerharan, Dushasana Vadh and Mahabharat Yudh, between Bhishma and Arjun.
1988 Padma Shri
1995 Sangeet Natak Akademi Award
2003 Hon. D. Litt, Bilaspur University
2003 Padma Bhushan
Narrator, character — Teejan Bai plays all
Rarely do all aspects of performing arts fall in line to weave a magical spell. But here yesterday at the auditorium of Government College for Men, Sector 11, pleasure flowed in plenty, after taking a cue from the inimitable folk artiste of Madhya Pradesh Teejan Bai, who had the audience eating out her hands, as always.
This Pandavani exponent from Chhattisgarh has always rejoiced in art. That is why, as a 13 year old, she dared male domination to learn the nuances of Pandavani, a form of dramatic recitation of tales from the Mahabharata. Until she set her foot on the scene, Pandavani was a male preserve. But today she commands the art form as if she were the one to engender it. Not only has she given a new vigour to Pandavani, she has also enriched it with a world of fresh interpretation which comes to her from years of promising performances.
The city today witnessed the Pandavani in form yet again, courtesy SPICMACAY and The Tribune Trust which sponsored the folk artiste’s performance under Virasat series. The last time Padma Shree Teejan Bai had come to Chandigarh was for a performance in the Rock Garden. Today the place of action was GCM-11, which resonated with war cries from the Mahabharata, the tale which Teejan Bai lives day and night. To counter the hostile audience in young boys, the smart performer picked up the gory Mahabharata episode of Dushasana Vadh. As she said, “When the audience is noisy, I must enact something strong to counter the noise, lest their energy overshadows mine.”
After invoking the blessings of the God in the first line of her performance ‘Bol dev bindaban Bihari lal ki jai’, Teejan Bai initiated her story telling journey. With a forceful narrative coupled with traditional and sometimes contemporary interpretation of the Mahabharata, she embarked upon one absorbing episode and then another, virtually leading the audience through the battleground of Kurukshetra. And as the accompanists Vishram Singh, Safim Das, Kewal Prasad and Narottam matched her vigour with an equal zeal and involvement, Teejan Bai got busy weaving a rich tapestry of events from the epic tale. In the process, she impersonated a host of roles: essentially that of a narrator and various characters, from Bhim and Draupadi to Shiva and Parvati.
Carrying the weight of the epic on her shoulders, Teejan danced, enacted, swung, mocked, argued and finally underlined the worth of the episode she was presenting. It was thus a virtual one-woman Mahabharata, being presented on the stage in the form of dramatic interpretation. All along, the folk artiste performed, she struck a melody with her iktara, the instrument she grew up learning music with. She told us, “I could never adjust my sur with that of my accompanists. They were doing the tuning all the time, while I sang tales from the Mahabharata, which I learnt from my nana.”
As the performance matured, the audience could help living the war that Mahabharata was. Through her powerful portrayal of characters and her forceful narration, Teejan Bai naturally engineered transformations. And even before the viewer realised, he had lives the entire Epic in one hour of Teejan Bai’s performance. In the truest tradition of a Chhattisgarhi performer, she helped the audience understand the narration — sometimes through energetic gestures, sometimes through mime or body-language.
Out of the two types of Pandwani style: Vedamati and Kapalik, Teejan specialises in the latter. In the Vedamati style, the narrator sits on the floor crossing his feet and makes a plain statement of facts as they happened. In the Kapalik style the story-teller enacts the story through action and expressions. Teejan Bai studied this art from her grandfather and supplemented it with her own interpretation and observations. Interestingly, at that time, Pandvani was the sole monopoly of the male story-tellers. Teejan Bai was the first woman to break that monopoly and succeed in a field dominated by males. She has no wonder empowered many others in the process.
HOW IT AFFECTED ME
Through this session I am able to collect more information about the great iconic figure as Chanchal Mam and our principal sir gave beautiful and inspirational speech to us talking about sacrifice , their lifestyle which inspire me and make me more aware about the iconic figure i.e Veer Sarvakar , Rabindra Nath Tagore , Teejan Bai .