“I Have No Religion,” Kerala Bharatnatyam Dancer on ‘Non-Hindu’ Ban

By Sonal Nain, 29 Mar 2022

Mansiya VP, a prominent Bharatanatyam dancer, is barred from performing at a temple in Kerala’s Thrissur district for being a ‘non-Hindu.’ The temple authorities said that only Hindus are permitted to perform inside the temple complex due to tradition and temple guidelines. Koodalmanikyam, located at Irinjalakuda in Thrissur, was the third temple that denied her dance venue on account of being a non-Hindu. 

Mansiya is a PhD research scholar in Bharatnatyam who was born and raised a Muslim but now doesn’t believe in any institutionalised religion and has embraced dance as the epicentre of her life, “I don’t have any religion, Bharatnatyam and classical dances are my religion and my first love.”

She had previously faced a boycott from conventional Islamic communities due to her status as a classical dance performer artist. She speaks to Mojo Story about her struggles, “I’ve been studying Bharatanatyam, Kuchipudi and Kathakali since I was three years old. I got into Bharatnatyam because of my mother, who is only a fourth-grade educated woman. She watched classical dances on television and approached a dance teacher to have me and my sister practise classical dance.”

As she began to embrace classical dance, orthodox members of the Muslim community shunned her family, “Islam community denied my family to study or practise classical dances saying, it is a Hindu dance.”

She added that when she was in the seventh standard, her mother was a cancer patient and when she died they denied her mother’s funeral, “She was denied to be buried with Islamic rituals just because she introduced my sister and me to Classical dance.” After this incident, she lost her faith in all religions and decided that she won’t do any religious rituals thereon, “My beliefs are only incorporated in creative forms.”

In her Facebook post, Mansiya said her dance programme was slated to be held at the temple premises. “One of the temple office-bearers informed me that I cannot perform at the temple as I am a non-Hindu. All stages are allotted based on religion, not considering whether you are a good dancer or not,” she said.

She revealed her anguish at being refused a performance at a festival in Thrissur, saying, “I wondered if artists have any religion.” However, she stated that she wants to fight for future generations and wishes to develop secular platforms for people from all religions who want to perform a classical dance.