Thursday, September 21, 2006

Psychic poetry

Thursday, September 14, 2006 ART AND POETRY: Art and poetry can be the media though they are not adequate. But one who attains the supermind does not sit down to write philosophy about it. That is just like using poetry to teach grammar, so as to take all poetry out of it. Even when supermind finds expression it would carry its meaning only to the man who knows; as the Veda puts it, " Words of the seer which reveal their mystery only to the seer". One can`t express the whole supramental truth, but something of it can come through.
There are different types of poetry. That is to say, poetry there may be and yet the the psychic element in it may not be strong. Vedic poetry is on the plane of intuitional vision. There is rhythm, force and other elements of poetry in it, but the psychic element is not so prominent. It is from a plane much higher than the mental. It has got its own depth - but psychic poetry differs from it in its depth and feeling. (After Sri Aurobindo ; Evening Talks : - 3rd edition -1982) posted by Phani Basu at 6:47 AM

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Building blocks of my mind, my heroes

It was in 1994 at Trivandrum, the capital city of my state, that a cultural organization named Soorya celebrated the hundredth year of the birth of cinema. In the city’s biggest theatre rented, they screened world classic films for fifteen consecutive days. Each day, exactly at 7.58 A.M., Soorya’s logo would appear on the screen. At about 12 P.M., the screening would end. Thus, fifteen days. Seven films each day. A total of one hundred and five films.
These fifteen days, almost literally, I lived in the theatre. I ate and slept in the too short intervals, inside the theatre. Went to my lodge after 12in the night and returned before 8 next morning, to take my seat. Thus, I saw all the one hundred and five classics. But that of course didn’t change my life. It had already been changed. Even two years before that event, cinema had mesmerized and captivated me. A perpetual seizure. I wandered along the length and breadth of kerala for years, seeing classics screened by various film societies.
It was the same with literature. I just shut in my room and read for months and months and chewed up pages. Thus I read all of Doestoyevsky. All of Victor Hugo. All of Kazantzakis. Amos Oz. Carpentier. Kafka. Mann. Kawabata. Amado. Rulfo. Marquiz. Fuentis. Llosa. Bulgakov. Anand. Cortazar…And visited art galleries. Sat in meditation before opened pages of books of painting. Caravaggio. Velazquez. Dali. Brughel. El-Greco. Munch. Chirico. Rousseau. Manet. Renoir…It was the most fruitful years of mine…I found myself reflecting in the mirrors of art. And I loved being myself. Those years formed me…and what I try here is to make a list of films, books and other art forms that for the rest of my life energized me and decided my destiny.
My Most Favorite Films: Sacrifice, Ivan’s Childhood, Stalker (Tarkovsky), Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, Silence (Bergman), Red Desert (Michelangelo Antonioni), The Passion Of Joan of Arc (Carl Dreyer), Colour of Pomegranates, Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Sergei Pandjanov), Journey Through The body, In the name of the son, Diapason (Jorge Polaco) The Sleeping Man (Kohei Oguri) Aguirre, the wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo (Herzog), The Hungarian Rhapsody, Silence and Cry (Miklos Jansco), Theorem (Pasolini), Nazarin, The discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Bunuel), The Tree of life (Farhad Mehranfir), Gabbeh (Mohsen Makmalbaf), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Robert Wiene), Spring, summer, fall, winter…and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk)
If I have to choose just ten from the above, I will choose: Sacrifice, Stalker, Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Journey Through The body, The Sleeping Man, Theorem, Aguirre, the wrath of God & Red Desert.
If I have to choose just seven from the above, I will choose: Sacrifice, Stalker, Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, Aguirre, the wrath of God, Journey Through The body & The Sleeping Man.
If I have to choose just five from the above, I will choose: Sacrifice, Stalker, Seventh Seal, Cries and Whispers, & The Sleeping Man.
If I have to choose just three from the above, I will choose: Sacrifice, Stalker, & Seventh Seal.
If I have to choose just one from the above, I will choose: Sacrifice
The strangest film from the above series: In the name of the son by Jorge Polaco.
My Most Favorite dialogue from a film: “I will remember this moment. This silence. This dusk. This pot full of wild strawberries. This milk. Your faces in twilight. Sleeping Michael. Jof with the tambourine. I will remember all we have discussed. And I will keep this memory like this bowl filled to the brim with milk. That would be a good sign-it’s enough for me”
(Antonious Bloc, the Knight in the film Seventh Seal, says this to Mia and Jones, the gypsy performers. Sitting on a meadow, the knight is relishing the wild strawberries and the bowl of milk presented to him by Mia and Jones. He says the above, holding the bowl of milk in his hand. Then he departs with his chessboard for his final play with Death.)
The film that made me burst into tears: Cries and Whispers.
The most curious films I have seen: Luna Papa (Baktiar Khudojnazron-Austria), & Bird people in china. (Takashi Miike)
The most poignant film I have seen: Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray)
My Most Favorite Short Film: Ithaca (Phylis Katrapani-The film is based on the poem by Kawafy, with the same title. I remember, after seeing the film, having met Phylis and congratulated her, more than 10 years ago when she came to a film festival at Cochin, Kerala. After some years, I also met her mother, Gonul Donmez. If they, or somebody personally know any of them see this blog, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment.)
My Most Favorite Documentary: Glass (Bert Hanstra.)
My Most Favorite Novels: One Hundred years of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez), Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance (Robert Pirzig), White Hotel (D.M.Thomas), On Heroes and Tombs (Ernesto Sabato), Aarogyaniketanam (Tharashankar Banerjy), Terra Nostra (Carlos Fuentes) The house of sleeping Beauties (Kawabata) Magic Mountain (Thomas Mann), Brothers Karamazov (Dostoyevsky), Govardhante Yaathrakal (Anand), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Milan Kundera.), Les Miserable, The Hunchback of Notre Dam (Victor Hugo),
If I have to choose just five from the above, I will choose: One Hundred years of Solitude, Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance, Terra Nostra, White Hotel & On Heroes and Tombs.
If I have to choose just three from the above, I will choose: One Hundred years of Solitude, White Hotel & Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance.
If I have to choose just two from the above, I will choose: One Hundred years of Solitude & Zen and the Art of Motor Cycle Maintenance.
If I have to choose just one from the above, I will choose: One Hundred years of Solitude.
My Most Favorite short stories: The third Bank of the river (Juao Guimares Rosa), The Cinnamon Shops (Bruno Schulz), The Fall of the House of Usher (Edgar Alan Poe.)
The following stories are from my language, Malayalam: Chithrasalabhangalude Kappal, Athbutha Samasya (The ship of butterflies, The wondrous Riddle by Thomas Joseph), Aarkkariyaam? (Who Knows? By Paul Zacharia), Pakshiyude Manam (Scent of the bird by Madhavikkutty), Panthrandam Manikkoor (The Twelfth hour by V.P.Sivakumar), Naalamathe Aani ( The fourth Nail-by Anand),My Most Favorite Single Poem: Sunstone ( Octavio Paz)My Most Favorite Poetry series: Duino Elegies (Rilke)
My Most Favorite Lengthy Poem: Odyssey a Modern Sequel (Kazantzakis)My Most Favorite Autobiography: Report to Greco (Kazantzakis)
Other Books I love the Most: All Books by Osho Rajneesh, Tao of Physics (Fritzjof Kapra), Freedom from the Known (Jidhu Krishnamoorthy), Jnaneshwary (A descriptive commentary on Bhagavat Gita written by Sage Jnaneshwar of the 16th century.) The Sleepwalkers (A detailed historical sketch of man’s changing vision of the universe, lives of cosmologists from Babylonians to Newton, by Arthur Koestler), Memories, Dreams, Reflections (Autobiography of Carl Jung), The Story of San Michele (Autobiography of Axel Munthe), The Occult (A detailed study of the arcane knowledge; cabbalists and others, by Colin Wilson ) The Land that Never Was (Early explorations into the Arctic, by Vasily Passetsky), The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail (About the secret continuation of the lineage of Christ up to the modern era, detailing the mysteries shrouding Knights Templar and other secret organizations, by Mike Beigent & Richard Leigh),) Admiral of the Ocean Sea (About the life and Times of Christopher Columbus, by Samuel Eliot Morison ), Einstein; The life and Times (Ronald W.Clark), The signs of the gods, Chariot of the gods, In search of ancient Gods (Eric Von Daniken.)
My Most Favorite Geographical Explorer: Thor Heyerdahl.My Most Favorite Painters: Dali, Chirico, Velazquez, El-greco & Rousseau.My Most Favorite Fashion Photographer: Patric Demarchelier.
My Most Favorite Landscape art: Running Fence (Christo).
My Most Favorite Subjects Other Than Art: Science, Semitic literature and History, Ancient history, Upanishads, Cosmology, Psychology & Anthropology. (As it could be well imagined, I have a deep knowledge in none.)
My Heroes: Bergman, Tarkovsky, Dali, Marquez, & Einstein.
My Torch Light Upon Life and Its Eternal Philosophic Enigmas: Osho Rajneesh.
posted by a j muhammed shafeer @ 11:59 PM 0 comments Friday, September 01, 2006

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A critical study of Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri

Savitri: A Spiritual Epic
Bareilly: Prakash Book Depot, 1984, pages 164.
(A critical study of Sri Aurobindo’s epic Savitri). R.K.SINGH
A short collection of poems, all untitled, but read like part of a long poem, with a variety of themes and structure. Berhampur: Poetry Time Publications, 1988

Friday, September 08, 2006

Tabla bols

Dhe-te-Dha-a-n-Dha-a-n-Dha. Ab aaye sam par. Hi. I'm saattvic. That's my name. My complete name. No surname. But more on that later. Maybe in another post. As of now, let me tell you a little about 'Dhe-te-Dha-a-n-Dha-a-n-Dha'. They're tabla bols. I play the tabla. Have been doing so for 11 years. I love it. Some others love it too, but that's ok. Dhe-te-Dha-a-n-Dha-a-n-Dha is a piece we use to arive at the 'sam' (pronounced sum). Is this confusing you? ok.
There are three types of people. Those who know indian classical music. Those who don't care. And those who do care but don't know. Hope you're the third type. Let me start over.Hindustani classical music (there is another indian classical form - carnatic. but if i say indian classical, take it to mean hindustani classical) is primarily for soloists. Sometimes you get duets. But usually just one artist. Most times this artist is either a vocalist or an instrumentalist (sometimes he is a percussionist, ie he plays the tabla or the pakhawaj or some other percussion instrument, but more on that later). A tabla player always accompanies vocalists and instrumentalists. His basic function is to keep the beat. Most times a tanpura plays in the background to provide the base note. Vocalists are also accompanied by a harmonium or sarangi for support.
A vocalist or instrumentalist plays with notes. These notes are represented by symbols. Westerners will be familiar with 'do, re, me, fa, so, la, ti'. Indians have this as 'sa, re, ga, ma, pa, dha, ni'. They're the same notes, they just have different symbols. 'do' and 'sa' are the same note. so are 'me' and 'ga'. Funnily enough, the second note is 're' in both styles of notation.It follows that most of what a vocalist or instrumentalist plays can be captured on paper as a string of notes. The idea of the musician coming up with something first and then it being captured on paper is the exact opposite of the western tradition.
There a composer composes everything and an orchestra plays it. Here, most music is based on improvisation. The musician comes up with the piece based usually on a raag and within the raag, a bandish. A raag is a collection of notes. Raag Bhopali is 'sa-re-ga-pa-dha-sa, sa-dha-pa-ga-re-sa'. The ascent is called the aaroh and the descent is called the avaroh. A bandish is a composition within the raag, usually lasting one or two beat cycles (more on beat cycles later). This bandish then forms the base for all the improvisations. Well, I'll go into the details of a classical music performance in some other post.
The accompanying percussion instrument in hindustani classical is usually the tabla or pakhawaj, depending on the style of the main musician. His job is to maintain the beat cycle and improvise in tandem with the main artist within that beat cycle. A beat cycle is of utmost importance to hindustani music. All bandishes are set to a cycle of beats. The most common is a cycle of 16 beats called teentaal. This cycle repeats itself, and so all work in that piece has to adhere to the 16 beat cycle. The first beat in a cycle is called the sam. Most bandishes have a distinct point of emphasis and a definite sense of marking a partition between cycles at the sam. Most improvisations finish at the sam, or lead into the bandish, which provides emphasis at the sam.
Now, just like the doings of vocalists and instrumentalists can be captured in writing through various combinations of sa, re, ga, etc., percussion can, too, be caught on paper. What we do is, verbally imitate the each sound produced be the percussion instrument (as there is no scope for notes) and use that verbal imitation as the symbok for that sound. For example, if I stroke the outer rim of the tabla with my index finger, keeping the tip of the ring finger on the tabla for support while keeping all other fingers off, the resultant sound sounds like 'ta'. If at the same time, I stroke the baiyaa (the tabla is composed of two drums - one called the tabla and the other the baiyaa. the baiyaa basically provides the bass while most of the work is done on the tabla), the resultant sound sounds like 'dha'. So, most of what a tabla player does can be recorded on paper too.
Now back to Dhe-te-Dha-a-n-Dha-a-n-Dha. Now, this is a string of sounds produced by the tabla. This particular string is a small piece used at the end of a beat cycle to arrive at the sam. So, that was one bit of me - my tabla. Expect some musically inclined posts in the future. posted by Saattvic at 3:46 PM 1 comments Just a bit of me

Fakir Mohan Senapati

Chandrahas Choudhury: That’s just because I read quite widely, and think everyone should as well - unsystematic reading is one of life’s great delights. Also, in India, there’s not a great deal of attention given by the newspapers to books from around the world - most newspapers only have one page for books in a week. I find I have a great deal to say but nowhere to say it, so that I put all that onto my weblog.
I now have a great deal more traffic from the US and the UK than I used to, so I feel that in some small way I help to bring writers from around the world to the attention of Indian readers, and Indian writers to the attention of readers from around the world. (This may only be in my imagination, but even illusions are vital motivating forces for work.
In fact, blogging itself is based upon the illusion that one will one day become rich and famous out of doing work for free, mostly for people who have nothing better to do than sit around surfing the Web). Fakir Mohan Senapati, for example, or Bibhutibhushan Bandhopadhyay - these are Indian writers whose work is easily the equal of anything in world literature. And Etgar Keret, or Osip Mandelstam - why shouldn’t more Indian readers be reminded of their work? Chandrahas, 1:14 PM email this to a friend permalink (2) comments

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Mahabharata in 3 minutes

Maggi Lidchi-Grassi's three novels, presented below, form a trilogy, imaginatively retelling the familiar story of the Mahabharata from a particular dramatic perspective. She uses the person of Arjuna and his inner development as the lens through which to view and understand the compelling personalities of this epic, the events leading to the battle of Kurukshetra, the great story of that fight to cleanse the earth of adharma and the effects of the struggle on its main protagonists, and their adventures that follow after the end of the war. Arjuna's story is the crucible through which the reader comes to understand how we are moulded into our own divinity.
The Battle of Kurukshetra
- Maggi Lidchi-Grassi Publisher: Writers Workshop, CalcuttaBinding: Hard CoverPages: 394Price: Rs 500
The first volume in the author's trilogy version of the Mahabharata, this novel is a subjective interpretation and retelling of the events leading to the great battle of Kurukshetra, the dramatic and psychological centrepiece of India's monumental epic. Using first person narratives, the story is told in turns by Ashwatthama and Arjuna, who come to stand on opposite sides of the battlefield, but whose interwoven lives and shared history bring an intense existential focus to the lines of war drawn up by the dictates of dharma. The book is a study of their characters and how they affect and are affected by the flow of events in the Mahabharata.

The Legs of the Tortoise
- Maggi Lidchi-Grassi Publisher: Writers Workshop, CalcuttaBinding: Hard CoverPages: 392Price: Rs 600
This second volume in the Mahabharata trilogy resumes the story from the moment of Arjuna's anguish prior to the start of the battle of Kurukshetra and follows his evolution during the course of the epic battle, to Indraprastha after the war, and through the Ashwamedha campaign. The sentiments and conflicts of the main protagonists as developed in the novel are based on encounters, incidents and speeches from Veda-Vyasa's Mahabharata, but the author's treatment of the story has been greatly influenced by the writings of Sri Aurobindo from Essays on the Gita, The Secret of the Vedas, and Hymns to the Mystic Fire.

The Great Golden Sacrifice of the Mahabharata
- Maggi Lidchi-Grassi ISBN: 81-7595-864-2Publisher: Writers Workshop, CalcuttaBinding: Hard CoverPages: 300Price: Rs 700
In this third volume of her trilogy, as in the previous two, it is through Arjuna's experiences that the author develops the central themes of her interpretation of the Mahabharata: surrender and sacrifice. Arjuna the great warrior, the beloved friend of Krishna, the favoured disciple of Drona, the best-loved of Draupadi, Arjuna the epic hero is revealed also to the reader as Arjuna the man. We follow him through all the events of this final part of the story as he comes at last to understand Krishna's teaching and becomes a hero of the highest order: a man who finally knows his true self and fulfills his spiritual destiny. SABDA SRI AUROBINDO ASHRAM PONDICHERRY 605 002 INDIA

The many faces of Chau

The tribal belt where the tribals and other common people perform Chau dances is distributed into three adjoining states, Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, after the dissolution of the princely states in 1950. The three forms of Chau are named after the district or village where they are performed, i.e. the Purulia Chau of Bengal, the Seraikella Chau of Bihar and the Mayurbhanj Chau of Orissa. Surprisingly the earlier writers have exercised considerably to understand the origin of the word Chau and to ascertain its classical origin as also they have tried to establish the origin of the word Chau from Sanskrit root word ''Chaya'', while others have tried to justify its martial base and the derivation of the word by suggesting that the word Chau is derived from the local dialect meaning an army camp.
However, they have overlooked the outcries of the performers or the drummers during performance. Particularly in Purulia, the singer drummer often rushes to the new characters "by shouting "cho... cho...cho..." with excitement, before they enter into the arena. By doing this he infuses the same enthusiasm in the dancer. During the course of the performance also such excitement and outburst of joy are expressed by the singers and other members of orchestra. Similarly this author heard the same utterances by the hunters who assemble at a particular hill top during the annual hunting expeditions on the full moon day in the month of May. While chasing the game exclaim they exclaim "cho... cho...cho..." (A broader pronunciation of Chau), in order to fright the animals or invoke the spirit of animal for easier gain of the game. Most likely it is this word associated with the natives' earliest hunting occupation that is now associated with their dances to express joy and excitement...
A generic name usually points to the root character of the class it denotes. The character, even after any degree of evolvement, remains an integral part of the class either overtly or as an underlying base. And if various styles of dances known as chhau are analyzed, it is found that they all have martial strains. The word 'chhau', now obsolete, means to attack stealthily. The basic steps and gaits of Seraikelaa and Mayurbhanj styles of chhau not only are practiced holding a sword and a shield, the rudimentary dance are known as ruk-maar-naaclia (meaning the dance of attack and defense) in Mayurbhanj and phari-khandaa-khela (meaning the play with the sword and shield) in Seraikelaa. In Asanapaat, a village in Orissa one can find a dance called paaikaali, that is unmistakably the mother of chhau because the leg extensions are exactly like that of chhau and they perform a kind of attack and defense dance almost like ruk-maar-naacha. The musical instruments used in paaikaali are exactly the same as those of chhau.
In Orissa the soldiers were being called paaika-s. Therefore, chhau in its origin was unmistakably a weapon-dance or a war dance. Even the use of masks in Seraikelaa Chhau and Purulia Chhau, and in their less evolved folk versions, does not disprove the assumption, but rather strengthens it. Otto Bihalji-merin in his Mask of the World writes, "A mask dance is often preliminary for war. The dancers portray in pantomime the actions they plan, sneaking up to the enemy, javelin throwing, close combat and finally victory. This serves as a magic spell, as physical exercise, as spiritual preparation, and at the same time as conquest of fear through the anticipation of victory. The helmets of classical antiquity were also masks of fear and magical protection. Greek helmets had fixed visors with eyeholes. During the bloody gladiatorial combats in the Roman arenas the swordsman (hoplomachus) confronted with the net man (retiarius) wore a helmet a wire-netting visor to protect his face."
Chhau then in its formative period in a primitive culture was not only a war dance but also a ritual meant for spiritual preparation, and at the same time as the conquest of conquest of fear, through the anticipation of victory. May be because of this, the religious associations and rituals connected with the three styles of evolved chhau have so many similarities. Another very significant similarity among the three styles is that the dances as well as the rituals connected with them culminates in a festival on the last day of the lunar month of Chaitra, corresponding to April 12th. The deities worshipped in the religious rituals are Shiva and Shakti. This leads us to believe that the tantric cult has greatly influenced chhau during its formative period. NIC Purulia District Centre