National seminar on 


a report by Vijay K. Sharma

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A National Seminar on Arts and Culture for Indian Resurgence was organized by KALAIKODAM—Komala Vardan Institute of Art, New Delhi--as part of its Silver Jubilee Celebrations at the India International Centre, New Delhi on 1-3 August 2008. Dr. Bharat Gupt of Delhi University, who was invited to be the Director of the event, conceptualized the Seminar with the underlying premise that the Indian Arts, Literature and Culture have been the makers of Indian identity throughout the history of the subcontinent. 

Following the Indian tradition in the true sense of the term, the Seminar began with the Vedapatha and Mangalaacharan (invocation with recitation of the Vedic hymns) melodiously sung by Dr. Sarita P Yajurvedi of Delhi University. This was followed by Dr. Bharat Gupt’s outlining the aims and scope of the Seminar. He observed that support to Art was a social obligation that supposedly brought earthly well-being (shubham), aesthetic pleasure (rasaanubhuuti) and spiritual liberation (moksha). Art was also called a "sacrifice" which needed a little or no money (‘dhanaadi nirapeksha yajanam’). But what is often overlooked is,that Art was a major economic force. Enough proof of this is scattered all over the subcontinent in the great architectural and sculptural ruins of edifices. These were raised not in one glorious period of a few hundred years, as in Greece or Mesopotamia, but for more than two millennia. One might say that India produced as much architecture and sculpture as rest of the world together and invested in them not as an indulgence but as a noble aim (dharma-purushaartha).

In the past, Indian Arts, Literature and Culture have influenced not only Asia and the Mediterranean, but since the 19th century have made a mark on modern Euro American culture and contemporary Western disciplines such as comparative linguistics, theory of meaning, communication and performance, aesthetic notions, and styles in music and dance. Similarly, within the country, the role of the Indian Arts in the struggle for freedom from the British rule is well documented. After the Independence from the British, the contribution of Arts in showcasing India’s image in international circles is also well known. However, in the last two decades, Indian Arts, Literature and Culture seem to be losing their prime place and influence in the life of the country. The output of literature in Indian languages seems to have gone out of spotlight and exchanges between the plastic and performing art forms from different parts of the country seem to have given way to crass commercialism and entertainment. He pointed out that the aim of this seminar is to chalk out a theoretical framework and a practical plan to achieve the tangible aim of cultural resurgence in India through the Arts.

The inauguration and keynote address was given by Prof. Acharya Vachaspati
Upadhyaya, Vice-Chancellor,  Lal Bahadur Shastri Vidyapeeth. He emphasised that it was the duty of the present day artists and scholars to ensure that the younger generation acquired the traditional knowledge so that they could add further to it. The famous dancer Smt. Komala Vardan, the founder Director of Kalaikodam proposed a formal vote of thanks.

The first Plenary Session was marked by an inspiring lecture by Shri Kireet Joshi who pointed out that in India the 19th century renaissance was different from the European one as it was marked by using the great Indian cultural heritage as well as it looked forward to shaping of its future. Pointing to the ideas of Sri Aurobindo he said that the Indian renaissance is an on-going process and many things will change many of the present-day concepts of just about everything, especially in the realm of art. The session was chaired by Prof. G.C. Tripathi of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi.

The afternoon session concentrated on Restoring Arts in Education.  Ms.Shruti, musician, educationist, gave a power point presentation on the theme. Shri  Rajendran of the National School of Drama, New Delhi talked about producing Sanskrit plays in today’s time, giving examples of some of the new productions by the NSD, emphasizing the need to adept with the changing times. The session was chaired by Dr. Vijay K Sharma of Delhi University.

In the next session, Shri Prashant Bharadwaj made an interesting power point presentation and showed images of the performing folk arts of Himachal Pradesh and discussed how efforts are being made to save them. The session was chaired by Dr. Shashi Tiwari of Delhi University.

On the second day, after the Mangalaacharan by Dr. Sarita P Yajurvedi, Ms.Anisha Shekhar Mukherji, Visiting Faculty, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi, made a detailed presentation on the plight of the traditional crafts and their practitioners. Prof. Bhudev Sharma of the World Association of Vedic Studies (WAVES) explained how resurgence was already underway through self education. Prof Nagaswami of Tamil Arts Academy, Chennai, made a visual presentation focussing on the immense diversity in Hindu temple architecture and how in the name of renovation, the old artefacts are being replaced. He pleaded for a serious intervention to save the heritage. The session was chaired by Dr. Chandra Mohan of Delhi University.

In the afternoon, Dr. Sarita P Yajurvedi, in her mellifluous performance, demonstrated how the folk songs and the ritual music were transformed in the Classical in Hindustani ragas. She illustrated her performance-cum lecture with a variety of musical renderings from different parts of the country. Dr.Come Carpentier de Gourdon examined the merits and demerits of Globalization for the Indian Arts. Dr. Shashi Tiwari of Delhi University made a power point presentation on the ecological foundation of the Vedic thought. The session was chaired by Prof. Bhudev Sharma of the World Association for Vedic Studies.

On the third and final day, after the usual Manglaacharan by Sarita P Yajurvedi, the famous American dancer, Ms.Sharon Lowen examined the fate of teaching methodologies followed by music and dance, in particular, the in-house training by the gurus and wondered if the new  university or conservatory system could replace it fruitfully. Mr. Gautam Chakrabarti spoke on the reasons behind the Indian state pursuing a cultural schema for patronage mainly to project the image of India as a producer of timeless art. The session was chaired by Dr. Vijay K Sharma of Delhi University.

In another session, Dr. G.C. Tripathi of Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi gave a detailed account of the study of manuscripts in the modern times and how much useful work was still waiting to be done in order to enlarge our vision of the art theory. The session was chaired by Ms Shruti of Shruti Foundation, Gurgaon.

In the afternoon, Shri Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, the well-known journalist, showed a documentary film (earlier telecast on the Lok Sabha channel) which conveyed how the television media needs to be more responsible and improve itself ethically. Dr. Bharat Gupt gave a power point presentation on the major symbols of Indian art and literature emphasizing that there was a continuous and thoughtful growth along certain values. The session was chaired by Shri Pammi Singh of The Attic.

Each paper was followed by discussion by the predetermined eminent scholars and practitioners of various arts amonst the audience, such as Dr. Shashi Tiwari (Delhi University), Dr. Madhu Khanna (Jamia Millia Islamia), Dr. Vijay K Sharma (Delhi University), Ms. Anisha Shekhar Mukherji (School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi), Dr. Chandra Mohan (Delhi University), Shri Manohar Khushalani (Stage Buzz), Shri Pammi Singh (The Attic) and Dr. Come Carpentier de Gourdon.

The Seminar was well attended for all the three days. It ended with a formal and detailed vote of thanks by the Seminar Director, Dr. Bharat Gupt.

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