Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Rationale Behind Classical Arts

“It is a freedom within discipline, which is a beautiful concept”- Amjad Ali Khan (on classical art forms).

As many of us know, the crowd interested in “Classical Indian Arts” has been dwindling in the recent past. The rate has in fact accelerated recently owing to rapid globalisation and commercialisation of music and art. A certain section of connoisseurs believe that our heritage and classical art needs to be preserved out of devotion and a tinge of patriotism. Others question the relevance of Indian Classical Art forms and the rationale behind the hue and cry of “extinction” of classical arts. Such debates necessitate a deeper analysis of the very roots and purpose of art, classical or otherwise.

Before we speak about “classical arts”, let us try to understand the meaning of the concept of “classical”. The connotation of “classical” could refer to the “the most artistically developed stage of an art form” or a “scholarly and philosophical approach to art”. Such connotations sometimes discouraged people to even try this genre involuntarily. This article tries making a case for our heritage, to tell the reader about its uniqueness and beauty. To tell the lay man as to why it deserves an audience.

Prehistoric man began communicating with his fellow humans through wall paintings, vague sounds and gestures in the very primitive stages of his existence. As his physical needs were met through the advent of civilisation, he invented language to satisfy his desire to communicate with the world. As his intellect grew, he discovered many worlds within the world he lived. He found out that a whole new world existed within himself. He saw the need to communicate with his inner self. That was accomplished first through thoughts, philosophy and reasoning. He needed a medium to express himself, and that he achieved through myriad mediums. He found out various patterns of sound and started to enjoy the rhythm. He discovered various postures and movements of his body and called it dance. Slowly and steadily he found out that music, dance and art were innate abilities of the human spirit, and derived immense joy from such endeavours. His emotions, aspirations and values started to show up in his works of art. The birth of the creative spirit and its survival against all odds is a truly inspiring phenomenon in the annals of human history.

Indian Classical Art is one of the finest and oldest products of this noble endeavour of the human spirit. It not only fostered devotion to the almighty, but also emphasised on the intricate human emotions in its structure. The concept of “navarasa” or the nine emotions of humans has never been considered as a cornerstone of any other tradition/genre of art. Such modernity in thought had been a salient feature of the “Natyashastra”. This disproves that notion that classical music is entirely devotional or archaic. The magic of raaga and taala (melody and rhythm) has never been elegantly achieved as in Hindustani or Carnatic music. Any journey in the vast universe of India’s Classical Tradition has the potential to take an individual to greater heights of philosophical consciousness and a deeper appreciation of the world around. The idealism and the grandeur portrayed in this genre might be considered as out of place and out of time. Idealism if not achieved in a real world must be portrayed and experienced in some other place, i.e. idealism needs a place in our society. It survives as an idea through art. Indian classical arts attempt to show the audience the possibilities beyond the realm of banal day-to-day activities.

“The classical artist tries to capture the “Intangible” through his medium of art,” explained Ms.Malavika Sarukkai during her Bharatanatyam performance a SPICMACAY National Convention 2012 at NITK.  It’s hard to explain the rich culture and heritage embedded in our art forms. The immense joy one experiences when one can fully contemplate the spirit of classical arts is unmatched. It is high time we re-look into our notions about our heritage. We should not allow our culture to become an unclaimed and neglected treasure.  Every Indian must make an attempt to understand and appreciate our vibrant tradition in art, music and dance. 

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