• undertheraintreefestival

"Under The Raintree fest edition 2 is a hit!"

Performance by STEM Dance Kampni underlined the theme of feminine power.

In a festival that celebrated gender equality, femininity & feminism, there were seamless segues: from a hopeful 16 year old declaring “God is a woman” to a powerhouse of women leaders sharing their insights, from south India’s first woman taxi driver talking about living with grit and determination to bold assertions through dance, music, theatre, literature, and art of a woman’s ownership of herself and her space.

Under The Raintree women’s cultural festival is the first of its kind in the country to be curated entirely by women, and it offers the stage only to women, while all genders can attend. Its purpose is to use culture as a change agent and work towards changing societal mindsets and empower women. After a successful first edition on Nov 17-19, 2017, the second edition held on Nov 2 & 3, 2019 at the Bangalore International Centre, set the bar higher for organisers and participants.

Nicole Girard, Consul General of Canada for South India delivers the keynote address on 'empowering women' at Under The Raintree women's cultural festival on Nov 2, 2019

The Festival provided the stage for 42 events across 7 stages, featuring the voices of writers, poets, musicians, dancers, actors, artists, filmmakers and scientists. Over 2500 people, including 150 children, attended various programmes during the 2-day event, proof that the festival programming was effective. This festival of women and by women, was open to all. The interesting fact was that 40 percent of the audience was male. As Festival Director Sandhya Mendonca said, "Gender equality benefits everybody and makes the world a better place".

"Culture is a powerful change agent. We hope the discussions and performances at the festival will spark thought and action," Sandhya Mendonca, Founder & Festival Director, Under The Raintree women's cultural festival.

The 2019 edition is significant as the Festival was a Registered Partner of the United Nations for SDG, with a voluntary commitment to further the message of SDG Goal 5 to achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls. The cultural festival also included: Women in Leadership,Women in STEM and Wellness.

'Women Empowering Women’

The theme of this edition of the festival was 'Women Empowering Women’.

Dr.Shalini Rajneesh, IAS, Principal Secretary, Dept of Planning, Programme Monitoring & Statistics, Government of Karnataka, speaking about SDG Goal 5

A galaxy of women leaders shared leadership insights, including Ambassador Latha Reddy, IAS, Revathy Ashok, CEO, B.PAC, Geetha Panda, Head EXP, Novartis, Nina Nair, Senior Vice President & HRD Head (India & Americas).

Dr. Srikala Raghavan, Cell Biologist & Associate Professor, InStem

and Dr. Shannon Olsson, Chemical Ecologist & Associate Professor, NICE-NCBS engaged audiences during a special 'science cafe' sequence.

Selvi, who drives her taxi with self assurance, and the subject of Canadian documentary, 'Driving with Selvi'

In various other sessions, there were dance, music, theatre, literature, and art. About 150+ artists from across the country participated in the festival including leading dancers such as Madhu Nataraj, the Natya STEM Dance Kampni, Dr. Anupama Kylash from Hyderabad, and musicians across genres such as Chandanabala Kalyan, Manasi Prasad, Siri, Shalini Mohan, Sumana Chandrasekhar, Padma Priya & Priya Andrew.

Dr.Anupama Kylash and Madhu Nataraj entranced the audience during the 'Kinetographie' headline dance performance

Metronome Station, a brand new all woman band, debuted at the Under The Raintree women's festival

An auspicious start to the festival

The Festival attendees had the privilege of getting to know pioneering feminist writer Volga who was engaged in conversation by poet Mamta Sagar. Stepping Stones and Zubaan presented three solo theatrical performances by Shabari Rao, Anuradha HR and Padmalatha Ravi. A panel on 'Journalism & Culture in contentious times' with Kalpana Sharma, CG Manjula, Rohini Mohan, Sharda Ugra, and Ammu Joseph and a 'Femme Fearless’ literary panel with Priya Alika Elias, Nisha Susan, Arathi HN, and Prathibha Nandakumar, were highly appreciated.

'How to be Whole & Well' the panel on wellness saw active participation by the audience during the discussion with Kalpana Rao, Seethalakshmi S and Pragya Bhagat, as well as 'Thus She Spake' presented by the All Ladies League. The art gallery displayed edgy art by talented local artists Shan Re, Girija Murali, Romicon Revola and Silvana Mendes, Brazil, Rania Atef, Egypt, Guerrilla Girls, USA and Pooja Dhingra from New Delhi.

Apart from the main acts, there were standup comedy, open mic, art intervention by Artflute and the Project Eve Real Women fashion walk featuring women of various ages and size. There were a special cultural showcase for kids with over a hundred school kids watching performances by child artistes of Natya and SaPa academies.

A Mallakhamba (ar performance by young girls from Hubballi district was a special attraction. On both days, there was a dedicated children’s area with activities such as puppet making, storytelling and other interactive sessions.

Creative Contests

In the months of September and October, we conducted several contests for girls, women and transgenders in dance, music and in creative writing in Kannada, Hindi & English. These contests encouraged participants to express themselves and the winners were given an opportunity to perform at the festival, apart from receiving prizes and certificates.


In order to mentor the youth, the Festival had aligned with the Garden City University. Students from Media and Management Studies were volunteers at the Festival, and this provided them an opportunity to interact with senior writers, artistes and leaders. As part of their assignment, Media students also interviewed all the participants and made excellent films before and during the festival. Some of the students also performed at the festival.

Prathibha Prahlad, eminent dancer and Padma Shri awardee, spoke on 'celebrating the feminine through the arts', in the valedictory address.


The programmes were very well received by the audience which apart from students and others from a cross - section of society, also included leading figures from the world of culture, business, education and more. To name a few: Dana Kursh, Israel Consul, SG Vasudev, eminent artist, Suma Sudhindra, noted veena player, Illeana Citaristi, renowned Italian dancer, Jayachandran, renowned choreographer, Poornima Gururaja, noted dancer, Jija Hari Singh, IPS (retd), Abhijit Sengupta IAS (retd), Poile Sengupta, eminent writer, D Ashok, leadership coach and corporate consultant, Vidya Jois, educationalist, amongst others.

Dana Kursh at a stall displaying handicrafts by a women's self help group (SHG)
The All Ladies League was an active community and outreach partner of the festival, enthusiastically led by Suchitra Kaul Misra

Here’s what some of the attendees and participants have to say:

  • “Heartiest congrats for the spectacular event and memorable experience’, Suchitra Kaul Misra, Chairperson, All Ladies League, Karnataka

  • “Fabulous line up, Congratulations!!” Jija Hari Singh, IPS (retd)

  • “You’re doing very inspiring things and we look forward to collaborating more,” Bindu Subramanian, musician, Subramaniam Academy of Performing Arts(SaPa)

  • “We enjoyed performing to a highly energetic audience and the reaction received from them took us over the moon,” SaPa children’s team of musicians

  • “Thanks for this amazing initiative and for giving me an opportunity to be a part of this event. Grateful for the uplifting and energizing experience and my memorable takeaways from the time I spent there”, Rajeshwari

  • “Thank you so much for the platform. I had a great time researching and singing too”, Chandanabala, musician

Chandanabala Kalyan's special musical feature was hugely popular.

  • “Thank you for this fabulous opportunity, prompt management and warm hospitality. It was indeed a lifetime experience. Generous appreciation from the non-native city is of great value for a young budding artist like me,” Manasi Jog, dancer (Pune)

  • “It truly felt like a celebration of women coming together and creating an inviting space for everyone too. Much gratitude for creating the space. And more power to you for bringing together a happy change”, Padmaja Nagarur

  • “What a weekend it was. I can not explain in words how I felt at the festival, but here's a few that come to mind: safe, loved, nurtured, inspired, and encouraged. I am grateful for the people I got to meet, the creative excellence I got to experience, and the planning that panned out in the smallest of details. Most of all, I am grateful to you for birthing this movement of feminine energy. Much love.”, Pragya Bhagat (New Delhi)

  • “What a stimulating and invigorating weekend it has been! The panel discussions, the dance choreography challenge winners' performances, music concerts, art exhibitions, the beautiful illustrations by Girija Hariharan, the real women's fashion show were all examples of how women can lift each other up and create a powerful network to speak out without the fear of constant scrutiny. Thank you for curating such an empowering festival,” Roopa Murthy, dancer, STEM Dance Kampni

  • “It was really an amazing showcase of talent from women from all spheres: science , art, literature, dance, music , theatre and leadership. The conversations were deep and meaningful,” Revathy Ashok, CEO, B.PAC. There were stalls with books, clothes, jewellery and more, adding to the festive spirit.

The credit for the success of this Festival goes to the participants, audience, sponsors and partners. Our grateful thanks to all of you and we invite you to keep the faith for our upcoming programmes.

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Click here for media reports of the Festival.

Click here for the official aftermovie of the festival!

Click here for the aftermovie made by students of Media Studies of Garden City University.