The Kalakshetra controversy
e-mail announcement from Prakriti Foundation on April 30, 2007
Dear Friends,
At Prakriti Foundation we value our friends and collaborators deeply. Amongst these is the wonderful institution Kalakshetra with the new found dynamism injected since Leela Samson has come on board. Recent efforts to malign her had come to our notice and we got clarifications from her. This mail is being sent to our regular mailing list of friends and supporters with a serious and sincere view that it will clarify for them the situation. We urge you in turn to tell your friends. At Prakriti Foundation we whole heartedly support the work of Leela Samson, as an individual artiste of the highest international caliber and professionalism and doubly her role in rejuvenating Kalakshetra foundation. This circular is an affirmation of this.

V.R.Devika and Ranvir Shah.

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Dear Devika,
Never in my wildest dreams would I throw a Vinayakar out from here or anywhere. Perhaps no one will believe it, but Ganesha is my ishta devata and he is probably smiling while I am being tested. There is malice in this and other allegations. I would request all those who even doubt I could do it, to come and see for themselves what the truth is.

As you well know, Kalakshetra never had idols that were worshipped. A lamp was all that was lit in every place we worshipped, according to Theosophical principles and the highest philosophical principles upheld by our elders. However, one of the wardens, now retired, collected on her own and without the instruction from the management, and much after Athai and Sankara Menon's time, 4 Ganeshas and had them placed outside the dining hall on a pathway, through which all stores and workers pass. It was a place without sanctity. Students were forced to contribute towards pujas and vastrams for the images. All this had to be stopped. It would not have been encouraged nor allowed in Athai's time. We decided instead, to put each of the Ganeshas, one in each of the hostel blocks, on a pedestal where the students would look after the images. Everyone appreciated this move. It was well done and each one was welcomed by the students of those blocks. The place vacated was to be used as a place where parents can meet their wards, as it was suitably public.

I appreciate your concern and thank you for your support to me and to the institute. What more can I ask for at this stage? I only ask whether moving a Ganesha from a path where dogs and children desecrate it to a designated spot in the precincts of each hostel block amounts to 'throwing it out' as has been alleged? And if any of us move an idol in our own house, do we have any right to question that person or family's choice?

I have no attachment fortunately to this or any other job I have done and would be happy to abdicate if found guilty of these charges. However, it does not take away from the frightening prospect of fundamentalism and its hold upon this or other institutions in India and of our beautiful art forms. Kalakshetra was fundamentally universal and the only truth we were instructed to seek was beauty.

I realise that all this emanates from our 'own' people. It happened with Athai and with Sir and with Rajaram Sir and will happen with anybody else who sits in this chair. It is a curse upon the institute. Others wish Kalakshetra well, but not our own people. I know who they are for I have the sound advice of Sankara Menon Sir. We know what Athai and he, were harassed by till the very end.

What can I say? Who am I? I can easily be dispensed with. Has anyone, who has had this lies spread across the globe thought of what it does to their beloved Kalakshetra that they are so concerned about? Were they concerned when nothing was happening here?

Sorry to burden you with all this. I know you care and feel you might understand the forces that I am dealing with here. They are manifold to say the least!

Regards, Leela

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Dear Leelaji,

I got this mail. I am very worried that all the good things you are doing may be marred by this. I had seen in the live TV coverage of Sri Sri Ravishankar's programme, many Kalakshetra dancers and staff dancing. But this mail says you had refused permission for them to participate. Please be politically correct just to ward off these lies. I am sorry I am telling you all this but I am genuinely concerned for Kalakshetra that you should not be confronted with this when you are doing such good work.
best wishes,
Devika

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Subject: KURUKSHETRA

ANTI-HINDU ACTIVITIES AT KALAKSHETRA

The new director, Leela Samson, took charge about one and a half years ago at Kalakshetra Foundation which has a tradition of more than 50 years. She has destroyed the values for which this institution stands and is still continuing the destruction in a subtle way.

The new director is extremely hateful of the Hindu tradition of idol worship. She has told the students and teachers in the morning assembly that idol worship is nothing but superstition and it should be discouraged in Kalakshetra. Her visceral hatred of Hinduism is not known to most people outside the institution.

She refused to send students to the inauguration ceremony of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Seminar on "Health and Happiness held from 5th-8th Dec. 2006 at Anna University. The reason given by her is indeed shocking - "The festival is on Hinduism. So you need not go there". Ravi Shankar Ji had expressed his anguish.

The following are the changes that have been brought about by Leela Samson after taking charge as the director of Kalakshetra :

1. Most of the Vinayaka idols for which regular poojas were being conducted by the students have been removed, especially the idols in front of the theatre and hostel. After a lot of criticism she has replaced the Vinayaka idol in front of the theatre but the idol which was in front of the hostel has not been replaced.

2. Leela Samson ordered all prayers in the institution to be stopped. But the students are continuing with the prayers in spite of the possibility of disciplinary action and even expulsion.

3. The clothes that were adorning the idols have been removed.

4. A movie club has been started that has completely spoilt the Gurukulam atmosphere of this traditional institution. Her friends from New Delhi use the theatre and the funds allocated for teaching Bharatnatyam to run this movie club.

5. Teachers hand-picked by her are teaching Geetha-Govindam in a very vulgar manner sowing the seeds of hatred for Hinduism in the impressionable young minds of the students.

6. She is now planning to demolish the temple structure of the Kalakshetra Auditorium with the excuse of modernising it. This is going to be done in April 2007.

7. The logo of Kalakshetra Foundation designed by Rukmini Arundale has been changed without consulting any of the committee members or the Government.

8. She seems to be in a hurry to completely finish off the funds of the Foundation on a movie that she is taking. This is being opposed by everyone in the institution as huge amounts are being spent unofficially on this project.

9. The certificate that was designed by Rukmini Arundale with Narthana Vinayakar and the emblem of Shiva on it has been changed and the present certificate is plain without any symbols. Copies of the old and new certificates are enclosed. These changes have been made without taking permission from the Board of Directors of the institution.

10. Earlier there were restrictions on the meeting of boys and girls within the boys' and girls' hostels. Now all these restrictions have been removed thus encouraging the meeting of boys and girls in any hostel room at any time of the day and night.

Members of the performing arts world outside Kalakshetra Foundation and members of the Hindu community are requested to initiate action immediately to stop the planned destruction of a glorious institution teaching and nurturing the ancient traditions of Sanathana Dharma.