Sunday, February 25, 2007

The language itself has fallen silent

The place of Sanskrit in India today is much like that of Latin in the West. It is part of the bedrock of our history and its words are the root words of our contemporary speech, but it has long ceased to play a role in the commerce of daily life and, like all dead languages, it has become the preserve of priests and schoolchildren. Many of the greatest works of Indian literature are written in Sanskrit, but apart from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, their influence upon us is muted because the language itself has fallen silent.
Now an ambitious new publishing project, the Clay Sanskrit Library, brings together leading Sanskrit translators and scholars of Indology from around the world to celebrate in translating the beauty and range of classical Sanskrit literature. Two dozen volumes of a projected 100 titles have been issued already. Published as smart green hardbacks that are small enough to fit into a jeans pocket, the volumes are meant to satisfy both the scholar and the lay reader. Each volume has a transliteration of the original Sanskrit text on the left-hand page and an English translation on the right, as also a helpful introduction and notes.
Alongside definitive translations of the great Indian epics—30 or so volumes will be devoted to the Mahabharata itself—Clay Sanskrit Library makes available to the English-speaking reader many other delights: The earthy verse of Bhartrhari, the pungent satire of Jayanta Bhatta and the roving narratives of Dandin, among others. All these writers belong properly not just to Indian literature, but to world literature. Sunday, February 25, 2007 This piece on the Clay Sanskrit Library project and on Kalidasa's play The Recognition of Shakuntala appeared yesterday in Mint. Chandrahas, 7:52 AM

Inventing their own book

How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read?” has become a best seller here, with translation rights snapped up across Europe and under negotiation in Britain and the United States. “I am surprised because I hadn’t imagined how guilty nonreaders feel,” Mr. Bayard, 52, said in an interview. “With this book, they can shake off their guilt without psychoanalysis, so it’s much cheaper.”
Mr. Bayard reassures them that there is no obligation to read, and confesses to lecturing students on books that he has either not read or has merely skimmed. And he recalls passionate exchanges with people who also have not read the book under discussion. He further cites writers like Montaigne, who could not remember what he read, and Paul Valéry, who found ways of praising authors whose books he had never opened. Mr. Bayard finds characters in novels by Graham Greene, David Lodge and others who cheerfully question the need to read at all. And he refuses to be intimidated by Proust or Joyce...
Students, he noted from experience, are skilled at opining about books they have not read, building on elements he may have provided in a lecture. This approach can also work in the more exposed arena of social gatherings: the book’s cover, reviews and other public reaction to it, gossip about the author and even the current conversation can all provide food for sounding informed.
One alternative, he said, is to try to change the subject. Another is to admit not knowing a particular book while suggesting knowledge of the so-called “collective library” into which the book fits. But Mr. Bayard’s most daring suggestion is that nonreaders should talk about themselves, using the pretext of the book without dwelling on its contents. In this way, he said, they are forced to tap their imagination and, in effect, invent their own book...
But he chose this device, he said, because he wanted to help people conquer their fear of culture by challenging the way that literature is presented to students and the public in France...“They see culture as a huge wall, as a terrifying specter of ‘knowledge,’ ” he went on. “But we intellectuals, who are avid readers, know there are many ways of reading a book. You can skim it, you can start and not finish it, you can look at the index. You learn to live with a book.” By ALAN RIDING The New York Times: February 24, 2007

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Dance needs to be portrayed in a spirit of total ecstasy

A Dancer's Quest for Prema or Divine Love
Padmaja Suresh The Times of India 20 Feb, 2007
The role of prema or devotional love is pivotal in divine dance forms such as Bharatanatyam. The combination of nritta or pure dance, abhinaya or pure expression and nritya or expressive dancing leads the dancer close to the infinite domain of the cosmic self. For this, dance needs to be portrayed in a spirit of total ecstasy, rising above the physical realm and parameters of the body. Natyopasana or devotional fervour in dance wherein the dance assumes worshipful nature, leads to natyabrahmn:
Realising the Universe within the individual self, a dancer uses her own personality comprising physical form and mental states as the primary vehicle in the first stage. She then acquires the personality of the various charac-ters represented as the secondary vehicle in the second stage and unwinds shackles of personal traits as the dance level evolves and deepens. Finally she gets elevated to the highest spiritual sphere, sringara or love. This is the first among rasas that are aesthetic flavours of dance and drama. Sringara considered as rasa raja as its portrayal alone has the scope to touch upon other bhavas too, taking its three basic delineations as vatsalya or motherly affection, rati or union of male and female principles and bhakti or self-surrender and devotion to the Almighty.
Sringara becomes delectable in any form and offers the easiest path to be one with the ethereal world: that's natya yoga. A dancer could be skilled and sincere too, but unless there is sublimation of ego, the dance cannot create rasanubhava, the impact of splendour. The dancer merges in the spirit of dance, surrenders to its magnificence and spontaneously expresses a divine energy, and transports the audience to similar experiences. Through inspiration and intuition, dance makes the audience feel divine energy. The dancer's quest is to negate egoistic tendencies by submitting herself as an instrument to experience divinity. It is said that true movement cannot lie. True joy can be experienced through devotional love. This cannot always be taught but can perhaps be imbibed from eminent gurus.
We can assess philosophical terms like advaita, vishishta advaita and dvaita in the context of dance. The concept of a dancer becoming one with the dance through natya yoga is holistic and advaitic, while the aesthetic representation and appreciation of manifestations of divinity incorporated in dance are examples of admitting to theosophies like vishishta advaita. Again, the bhakti-marg or pathway to God prescribed by saints is so suffused with infectious love, humble devotion and self-surrender, that dancing to their innumerable compositions has the potency to infuse spiritual well-being. Creating, adding form — from nirguna to saguna — and placing this divinity on the highest pedestal become tools for communication, a must for successful dramatic representation.
Advaitam, true shantam, resting in Monism can be the 'end'. Indeed where there cannot be any mundane expression but natya, in order to carry the dancer and spectators, it has to be thoroughly expressive and appear world-related. It is multidimensional, physically externalising through movement and emotions using eyes, parts of face, neck, limbs... and also all along internalising by correlating the mind. Witnessing all these ephemeral states is the 'mystical eye' that can make one see divine reality in dance. Hence, one can understand dance as life itself... as cosmic movement... as infinite cycle of creation, sustenance and destruction. Presented at the first international indology conference, Goa, Feb 7-10.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Phantom of the Opera, Cats & West Side story

Musicale program @ Auroville Went for a weekend to auroville, listened to musicale - Phantom of the Opera, Cats & West Side story. The choir sang really well, specialy liked the songs - Phantom of the opera & Macavity the mystery Cat. Posted by Tluanga at 1:09 PM Monday, February 12, 2007 Labels:

The rasikas passionately responded to our dance and communicated their appreciation in cheers and tears of joy

Arts & Fashion Sunday January 28, 2007 Star Publications (Malaysia) Bhd Dancing through India By RAMLI IBRAHIM Pictures by KARTHIK VENKATARAMAN
The Sutra Dance Theatre overcame long, tedious train journeys, rickety makeshift stages and even threats to win the hearts of Indian audiences across the sub-continent with their performances of the odissi and the bharatanatyam.
RIGHT after our Canada-Europe Tour (September/October 2006), we embarked on our “Circumambulatory” India Tour 2006 (Nov 19 – Dec 31)). It was an ambitious and gruelling six-week round India tour, mainly by train. Our first destination in India was New Delhi and a bus immediately took us to Jaipur. We began our marathon performance schedule the next day.

Performing the odissi for schoolchildren with the City Palace as a backdrop.After five back-to-back performances in Jaipur, we returned to Delhi and proceeded to Neemrana in Rajasthan for another series of performances. We then travelled by train to Mumbai, Bangalore, Belur, Coimbatore, Chennai, Pondicherry, Auroville and finally, Bhubaneswar. As the tour took its own momentum, we stopped counting the number of performances we had done. Six weeks later, the Sutra team found themselves once again in New Delhi for their return flight to Malaysia. We were ourselves amazed that we had literally circumambulated the Indian sub-continent by train and performed no fewer than 25 performances watched by at least 50,000 people!
We took two programmes, “Vision of Forever” (odissi) and “Divine Encounters” (bharatanatyam) and a new contemporary work “Kamala”. Ramli does sentry duty with the guards at the City Palace in Jaipur.
Now, tracing our performance route in retrospect, we are amazed at what we had achieved! We had danced in gloriously wonderful venues, from ancient fort palaces (Neemrana), major cultural centres (Jawarhalal Cultural Centre Jaipur, designed by famous India architect Charles Correa; the Kamani Auditorium; National Centre of Performing Arts, Mumbai), ancient temples (Belur, 12th century, Karnataka), ashrams (Isha Foundation, Pondicherry;) to constructed make-shift stages on esplanades and parks in front of huge crowds. We were greatly appreciated everywhere we went. The pattern was the same in each city. We arrived, danced and conquered! ...
There were performances at the Isha and Pondicherry Ashrams where the audiences’ reaction completely floored us – the rasikas passionately responded to our dance and communicated their appreciation in cheers and tears of joy. These are the highlights that will forever be etched in our memories.

Ramli and Sutra dancers peeking out of a shack that served as their dressing room as they wait to perform on a makeshift stage in a Pondicherry night market.But two performances were landmarks in establishing Sutra as a major Indian dance group in India.
The first was in New Delhi, organised by Aurodhan Gallery (Pondicherry). This performance managed to capture art connoisseurs and the crème de la crème of dance in India’s capital city. Lalit Verma, the director of Aurodhan Gallery brought Dr Karan Singh (member of the Raja Sabha and chairman of Council for Cultural Relations) and Parvan Varma (director of ICCR) to see us for the first time.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

In it is life new-born to live and move in the Time of Eternity

Re: 04: Now her Life Shared the Cosmic Load by RY Deshpande on Sat 10 Feb 2007 06:32 AM PST Profile Permanent Link
The sonnet is a perfect piece of poetry; it easily ranks as one of the best Amal has written. I am sure, Sri Aurobindo himself would have remarked: “Very fine indeed. This time you have got the sonnet movement very well.” The images are Amalian and daring; the sequencing of poetic thought is impeccable; phrases like “blind force of mortal doom”, “Parthenon’s pillars” massive and beautiful in exquisite proportion lifting up a whole civilisation to the blue of the sky, “brute hands” of Time breaking the leaden chains of authority, “this one death” coming as a master-stroke, all these and many more are amply artistic to make the “paradox of a death that is a breakthrough into a new life for humanity” sufficiently convincing. The phrase “divine Aurobindo died” is heart-shattering no doubt, unacceptable, unbearable to the tradition-bound and the feeble with his small soul of bhakti or worshipful timid devotion; but it has the inspirational magic of transforming the Gita’s “transience and unhappiness” into the enduring and the blissful, proclaiming forcefully of the triumph through willed death. To quote a phrase from Amal’s another poem we have here a “fire of mystic mind” ready to leap into the great Flame. In it is life new-born to live and move in the Time of Eternity.
And yet the sonnet looks to be too perfect to be occult-spiritually acceptable with the connotations it should carry; for, I wonder, if the “divine Aurobindo died” does plunge at all deep enough into the mystery of the deathless embracing death. It sounds too loud, trumpeting a triumph which should have come from the womb of the omniscient hush—to use a Savitri-phrase. Its “overhead”-ness is patently mental, though perhaps of a very high order; the absoluteness of the spiritual demanded for such a theme is not there. Contrast this with “This was the day when Satyavan must die.” Its foundation is luminous peace and its birth is in the creative transcendent, simple and bare in its beauty. We could look into it in more detail, at least from one or two points of view. RYD

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Chuvanistic tendencies to dismiss, demean or patronize the experience of "the other"

Re: Post Human Variations by Richard Carlson by Rich on Sun 04 Feb 2007 07:30 PM PST Profile Permanent Link
That we would tend to privilege ideas or poetics, which find inspiration in the experience of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother maybe natural for those of us who find an affinity with their teachings. However, while recognizing the difference in teaching between Integral Yoga and Other disciplines, I do not believe such recognition necessities a “Go Team” sensibility which excludes other experiences of inner praxis or narratives of other spiritual topography. Such exclusivist practices I have found become chuvanistic over time and inspire ideological tendencies to dismiss, demean or patronize the experience of "the other" . This is in fact contrary to my understanding (however slight) of integral spirituality.
My own concern is to open up the dialog to others besides the IY faithful. And if we are attempting inter-subjective dialog with those who may share our concerns but not our beliefs, there would be little proof we could demonstrate to champion our cause over theirs. Similarly I think it impossible to conclusively demonstrate that one form of (esp. spiritual) poetry is superior to any other. Now one can argue about style, meter, imagery, complexity or simplicity of expression and their utility for accomplishing the poetic intention, but the valorization of poetry, and especially the championing of its particular imaginative source is largely a matter of personal taste and/or cultural preference. rc 2:47 AM