Participants at the workshop.
Who am I, where am I, why am I here — these are the questions that Naveen Vasudevan attempts to trigger in diverse groups of people across the country in a playful manner. The effort is to help an individual introspect, reflect, respond and through this journey, give a gift to oneself. ‘Mahabharata Within’ is a workshop designed as a simple but deep process involving art, theatre, yoga and process work, and according to 36-year-old Vasudevan, who has been conducting these workshops for over five years now, ‘Mahabharata Within’ is intended to be a stepping stone for a whole gamut of deeper explorations.
Over the last 15 years, Vasudevan, a mechanical engineer by profession, has been engaged with the question: What does it mean to live responsibly and meaningfully in today’s times? The journey, which is constantly evolving, has been richly rewarding. He is also a co-founder of Ritambhara, a community of seekers who share a common concern for the current ecological, sociocultural and political state of the world. Associated with the ‘Social Entrepreneurship Association’ in Auroville, Vasudevan’s interests include evolutionary leadership, integral psychology and process work.
“More than seven years ago, my mentor began a programme called Mahabharata Immersion, which introduced us to the inner dimensions of the Mahabharata, and thus started a process of inquiry, exploration and a journey towards personal development. From this programme emerged ‘Mahabharata Within’, workshops which are an effort at creating a community of practice, keen on a self-reflective engagement with the Mahabharata and move towards personal growth and evolution,” explains Vasudevan, in Chandigarh to conduct the workshop.
Participants at the workshop.
Offered at two levels, as part of the process, participants learn about the importance of a self-reflective engagement and explore who the Pandavas within us are and how these archetypes play out in our everyday lives. During the second level, participants, through body movement, art, dialogues, role play, delve deeper into the Pandava archetypes and explore some basic functional and dysfunctional expressions of these propensities.
“Get introduced to the Draupadi and Kaurava archetypes and also see how the Mahabharata is primarily a text of yoga. Most importantly, it is hoped that processes like these would kindle the curiosity of participants to delve deeper into their own psyches and understanding themselves, their contexts and dilemmas better. Openness to new learning and perspectives, along with a keenness to look within and be self-reflective are the only prerequisites needed,” adds Vasudevan, who brings in the elements of theatre and storytelling using the text of the Mahabharata.
The Mahabharata, reflects Vasudevan, is the longest epic in the world and is a vast repository of psychological types, human contexts and dilemmas that could aid anybody in a self-reflective exploration of their inner worlds. Perhaps this is why it’s said: “Whatever is here might be found elsewhere, but whatever is not here is nowhere else.”
A participant at the workshop.
Through the workshops, adds Vasudevan, participants play the five Pandavas and discover the one they connect to, as they explore themselves through the epic, the characters they embody, reflect on their personalities, answer many questions that emerge from this process and embark on a journey towards a higher potential and psychological growth. The reading of the text, the act of playing different characters, reflecting on each, sharing the interpretations and in the process, understanding society, relationships, culture, intricacies of the mind and finally discussing personal experiences, says Vasudevan, often leads to deeper clarity of the self, which can be used for connecting to the society as a whole.
A character that completely absorbs Vasudevan is Draupadi, whom he describes as a powerful woman who, “made men out of the boys. She is the axis, she wakes up first and the Draupadi within us sends us on a journey of higher potential. The symbolism of the story is empowering and speaks to the human condition, offering psychological growth and introducing many to their inner worlds, a humane experience,” sums up Vasudevan, who is travelling with the workshops in a diverse set of community and institutional spaces.