Wednesday, May 18, 2005

The greatness of Indian Art

One of the greatest gifts given by God to India, is our art and culture. The study and practice of Indian art, be it painting or poetry writing, architecture or sculpture, dance or music, has always tended to be a 'journey within', to find the existence of the 'Inner Spiritual Being'.

Indian dance and music, specially classical dance and music, is very highly spiritual in nature. Hence the famous adage, "Westen music moves the body, whereas Indian music moves the soul". It is said that when the sAdhak (seeker) becomes totally involved and engrossed in his sAdhana (practice), he loses himself and his identity and merges with the One Soul. He realizes the God within and, at that moment, becomes one with the Divine. This is the true meaning of Advaita - God and man becoming one. It is said that such a sAdhak, with the help of his sAdhana alone, can actually gain liberation or mukti. This is evident while studying the works of great composers like Saint ThyAgarAja, PurandaradAsa and so on. They had so immersed themselves in their mission - DivyanAmasmaranam (the chanting of the Divine Name) through music, that they had attained Godhood in their lifetimes. They were great missionaries and showed the way to spirituality for generations to come.

As far as dance is concerned, it too shows the path towards the Divine Being. The very first sloka (hymn) that one is taught in dance is :

"Angikam bhuvanam yasya vAchikam sarva vAngmayam
AhAryam chandra tArAdi tam namah sAtvikam sivam"

This talks of the four aspects of abhinaya (expression), namely Angika (gestures), vAchika (speech), AhArya (ornaments) and sAtvika (the inherent goodness or divinity) and relates it to the God of Dance, Nataraja. The dancer who surrenders to the Lord, actually experiences the Bliss of the Cosmic Dancer. She forgets herself and there, the dancer and the dance become one. This transcends space, time, physical and geographical borders and also translates into the audience acutally feeling the joy and the bliss the dancer feels and though they might not realize exactly what was different in that performance, they'll know they had been touched deep within.

Regarding abhinaya (purely expressive) items such as Padams, the accent is very heavily on the spiritual. No matter how mundane the theme might seem, the underlying effort is to portray the yearning of the JeevAtmA (the individual soul) for the ParamAtmA (the Universal Soul). Here, the love-lorn nAyikA is the jEvAtmA, while the hero (whether a lover or king or God), is the paramAtmA. All the shades of the nAyikA's emotions tend towards reaching that One God. Love expressed through any form of Bhakti (devotion), be it Madhura, Shringara, VAtsalya or any other, is eventually the artist's spiritual journey into the depths of her own heart and finding God

Great dancing legends such as Balasaraswati, had moved the audiences so deeply with her rendering of 'KrishnA nee begane bAro', that they had actually felt the baby Krishna's presence, the one that she had actually 'seen' with her on stage at that particular moment. It is said that in certain 'RAmanAtakams', the character enacting Devi Sita is never actually touched (not even by error) by the one enacting the role of the demon king, Ravana, for fear of being burnt by her. The artist so gets into the character, that the power purity of Sita comes into her and she becomes one with the deity Herself. It is said that Lord Shiva had been so moved by NandanAr's song, that He made the stone Nandi move aside, in order to grant darshan to the then untouchable saint composer.

Stories like these and many others bear testimony to the close link between art and spirituality in our land. Both these aspects have to go hand-in-hand in a person's quest to realize Godhood.


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