Reporting Christian inculturation of sacred Hindu dance forms Bharat Natyam and Kaththak
Classical Dance in Classical Hindu Dharma
Classical Hinduism is the pre-1800s’ Sanatan Hindu Dharma with all its Darshans but without colonial zeitgeist and Semiticisation or Abrahamisation to look acceptable to Westerners and Middle-Eastern religion followers. Classical Sanatan Hindu Dharma believes Indian dances have roots in Dharma, and orthodox Hindus frown at their commercialisation in films. Let us see the beliefs of the typical Hindu who would not want his / her own Dharmic tenets mixed with entertainment (leave alone eaten away by missionary inculturation):
- Music and art are unattainable without the blessings of Saraswati and Ganesh, and require single-minded hard work (sadhana) under the tutelage of a dedicated Guru towards all of whom the student requires samarpan bhaav.
- For Shaivas and Advaitavadis, Shiva’s tandav is the original form of dance, immortalized in Kaththak, where Kaththak emanated from Shiva Himself. A Kaththak, Bharat Natyam or any other style’s dancer offers his / her own dance as an offering to Shiva, as a mode of Pooja Anjali, called a Natyanjali; indeed, Shiva is the Supreme and among many things, also the God of dance (presiding deity at Chidambaram, Tamil Nadu), as also the God of knowledge (Dakshinamurti). MahaDevi Parvati dances not the masculine Tandav, but the ultra-feminine Lasya; Lasya and Tandava complement each other. The city of Chidambaram hosts numerous dance festivals, many in open air, just like the meaning of the name Chid Ambar (Ambar=Sky). And even out of Tamil Nadu, dance festivals are held to commemorate Dharmic festivals: in Krishna’s month Margasheersha (Margazhi in Tamil), in Shivaraatri (month of Magh), etc. in temple precincts and other social venues.
- For Vaishnavs and Vishishtadvaitvadis / Dwaitavadis, Krishna is Supreme. Krishna and the Gopis themselves danced in the gardens of Gokul and Vrundavan and led to the evolution of divine dance; Krishna, the originator of everything, is also the originator of dance, and the source of all love on the planet. The Rasa and Leela of Krishna in Vrundavan are commemorated in all dance styles, with special emphasis on eastern styles like Odissi, Assamese Sattriya Nritya, Bengali Gaudiya Nritya and Manipuri, though Vaishnav themes are also noted everywhere in Mohiniattam, Kaththak and Bharat Natyam.
- Talking of Bharat Natyam, Bharat Muni’s Natya Sastra / Shaastra is the treatise that is the basis of Bharat Natyam.
- Devadasis kept this tradition and the tradition of Carnatic classical music alive. Hindus have been derided for having Devadasis (the same chastising world accepts nuns in the Catholic Chucrh).
- An entire unbroken and still-alive resurgent tradition within Hinduism: Not just the Puranas themselves, but additional compositions by medieval and later poets like by Jayadev of Odisha, by Purandardasa, and by others like the much later Kerala Varma King Swathi Thirunal, are all used in recitals of classical dance, indicating a continuous tradition. Rabindranath Tagore himself contributed in keeping forms like Manipuri alive in his Shanti Niketan. The sadhana of a singer like M. S. Subbalakshmi is in this unbroken tradition. Dance forms like Sattriya Nritya of Assam, Gaudiya Nritya of Bengal have also struggled against odds. The glamour of better known forms like Odissi, Bharat Natyam, Katthak is also preceded by efforts begin their resurgence. Fighting against weathering influences of Christian and Islamic colonialism that pained the Indian psyche, followed by the flippant filmi culture that followed under an apathetic Secularist regime, the dance forms remain, indicating that they are still alive!
- Bharat Natyam concerts or recitals of any other classical dance form are begun with an obeisance paid to Shiva, Krishna / Vishnu, Ganapati or Mahadevi, or any other ishta, in an invocatory piece, even when the main theme of the recital is a sarvasadharan katha or a story of a lover and beloved, a mother and a child, and not a subject based on the Puranas. EVERYTHING is offered to the Gods and Goddesses. A Deep is lighted. Very often a dance recital is kept to initiate a conference on a broader socio-dharmic subject. Thus the culture that practises Bharat Natyam / other classical dance forms, is deeply ingrained in Hindu beliefs. The copyrights and intellectual property rights on this belong to total Hindu society and have an indelible unalienable Hindu label.
- The mudras used in Bharat Natyam bear affinity with other Hindu disciplines: Yoga mudras, mudras seen in Buddhist sculpture old and new, Mudra therapy and Marmashastra, Tantra / Agama usage, etc show osmosis with Bharat Natyam, which itself shows a give-and-take with other dance forms. Yet, each Vidyaa or shailee (style) has its own identity as well.
- Creativity had already ushered in a great era in classical dance forms of India today without any Christianisation: Bharat Natyam, Kaththak, Odissi and Mohiniattam are performed simultaneosuly by four different artistes together on stage, with all four having a common theme. Or, Marathi Vaishnav Abhangas are used in Odissi and Bharat Natyam; Kaththak is used in Bengali Durga Pooja Mandaps! North Indian girls study Tamil Nadu based Bharat Natyam, Malayali girls study Andhra-based Kuchhipudi, Marathi girls study Odisha-based Odissi… After all, all these dance forms reiterate that they are implicit in their Hinduness and they depict unit in diversity.
It is clear that Bharat Natyam is no small part of total Hindu culture. Bharat Natyam is practised, offered to the Gods and Goddesses, and has developed further and got enriched with raashtreeya manthan, without any need of Christian interpolation.
Quotes the inimitable Hindu intellectual and activist of Chennai, Radha Rajan: “The objective of classicism is to elevate the Hindu mind to God through bhakti.” (http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1683:synergy-of-kalakshetra-prakriti-foundation-and-romilla-thapar&catid=55:plainspeak&Itemid=71)
Dr. Koenraad Elst famously wrote, “Hindus have a tremendous capacity for self-delusion”. This prevents Hindus from recognizing that there has been a copyright theft, leave alone take action. (But, of course, there are also those Hindus who realize the violation of Hindu intellectual property but still do not take action.)
Hindus have allowed predation of their cultural copyrights under their very own gullible noses, by their own enemies due to their confused liberal upbringing which diluted away all aspects of self-identity. What else could explain Hindu indifference and nonchalance as daylight robbery by Abrahamic and Communistt or Capitalist forces of Hindu vidyaas and prathaas is everywhere, whether it is Yoga, tribal medicinal lore, Ayurveda, Bharat Natyam, the wealth of indigenous seeds and animal breeds of Indian origin, knowledge of sustainable natural farming methods, Sanskrit shastra, or anything else? The affliction of Secularism seeks to counter any resistance by Hindu uprightness. One by one, inculturation is everywhere, an insidious disease. The process of Christianisation of Bharat Natyam was but one more step in the ongoing conversion of Tamil Nadu in particular and Southern Hindusthan /peninsular Hinduism in general.
So – to use language which is originally literary and later applied to tenets in medicine – anything which afflicts growth, hampers well-being and even threatens existence is a disease. It may be infectious, cancerous or degenerative but it is a disease. Hindu society has some diseases after centuries of invasions and colonisation… Untouchability was a disease from within – mostly treated; Jihad is a direct disease from outside; but conversion by inculturation is also a disease with tendencies similar to viral infections and malignancy. Before we study the pathogenesis (development and spread) of this disease called ‘inculturation’, we have to pin down the aetiology (cause) of the disease. Both the aetiology and pathogenesis of Hindus are multifaceted and need plentiful elaboration; their diagnosis can lead to remedial action. For now, it can suffice to say – aetiology involves deculturation; pathogenesis involves inculturation. Inculturation is initiated by an outside force, but conquers the body (the Hindu corpus) from inside.
DECULTURATION PRECEDES OR ACCOMPANIES INCULTURATION:
Before we proceed with inculturation, a brief word on deculturation…
Deculturation is your drop of identity and guard. Propaganda compels you to feel ashamed of yourself. Thus neutralized and washed off of self-identity, the deculturated victim is then highly susceptible to being invaded afterwards – what we call inculturation.
Colonised education, Westernisation, etc. orchestrated deculturation of Hindus in several subtle ways over centuries; the zeitgeist affected even the leaders of our swaraajya and aadhyaatmik movements, from Raja Ram Mohan Roy to Swami Dayanand, from Ramkrishna Paramhansa to Paramhansa Yogananda, and from Gopal Krishna Gokhale to Gandhi and even Savarkar. All of these leaders have shown, admixed in their Hinduism, fascination for at least one of the following: for Soviet ideas and socialism, for the Western-taught but hitherto unproven Aryan Invasion theory, for Christ or Islam, for monotheism and prophetism, for Abrahamic-Quranic-Biblical thought frameworks, for Western atheism and misapplied secularism, industrial progress as the means of national progress, etc… or wariness about untouchability and moorti pooja.
It is in this cultural milieu that movements like Theosophy were born. Sanatan Hindu Dharma became a religion from Dharma, Hindu monism was interpreted as monotheism. In the context of classical art, it was sought to extract the artistic grammar of an art form, and then employing it for Christian proselytism.
The most noted case of deculturation of a Hindu Vidyaa was deHinduisation within the Chennai campus of Hindu classical dance, Kalakshetra. Founded as a centre for preserving classical Indian (read: ‘Hindu’) dance forms like Bharat Natyam, by the late Theosophist Rukmini Devi Arundale, the Kalakshetra campus was studded with Nartika Ganesh moortis. Her own later successor and disciple, Leela Samson, removed the Ganesh moortis, and did many more painful things to the Hindu sense of sanctity, as the Director of Kalakshetra. Leela Samson was Judeo-Christian. But the artifice for later deculturation was first laid by Rukmini Devi Arundale’s own pursuit of Theosophy, another movement of colonial zeitgeist which marched out of classical Hinduism, in the words of Radha Rajan ji: “Rukmini Devi married the theosophist George Arundale much before she re-discovered Bharatanatyam for India…
Theosophy like the Arya Samaj, semiticised Hindu religion…. adherents should give up worship of the murti, give up rituals. Abstraction is … is also the most susceptible to perversion and subversion. Leela Samson who took over Kalakshetra claims she is a Jew. The complete de-Hinduising of Kalakshetra has been achieved.
Rukmini Devi may have rediscovered bharatanatyam for us but she also introduced elements of theosophy into her school Kalakshetra… theosophist roots all suffer from the same malaise – the abstraction and eventual erasing of Hinduness in their thinking, in the institutions they create, in their writings and in their speech.
They are not anti-Hindu in the beginning; they are merely the abstract expression of Theosophy … But they eventually become anti-Hindu because they partner the explicitly anti-Hindus and non-Hindus, and despise those who are angered by the gradual de-hinduisation of their understanding and interpretation of Hindu arts, literature and texts.
It is this perversion which has given rise to ‘Yoga is not Hindu’, ‘Meditation is not Hindu’, ‘Om is not Hindu’, ‘Ayurveda is not Hindu’ and now ‘Bharatanatyam is not swaroopa Hindu but aroopa Hindu’. It is also the beginning of ‘Deepavali is secular’, ‘Navaratri is secular’, ‘Pongal is secular’ and other idiocies. They all want the Hindu frills without the Hindu content, the Hindu fruit without the Hindu tree.
Leela Samson when she stated that she only removed the ‘swarupa’ symbols of Hinduism from Kalakshetra in the true spirit of Rukmini Devi’s theosophist spirit, was only stating a fact. The abstraction and diminishing of worship of Hindu murtis began in Rukmini Devi’s mind. ” http://www.vigilonline.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1683:synergy-of-kalakshetra-prakriti-foundation-and-romilla-thapar&catid=55:plainspeak&Itemid=71
Deculturation is worth a separate blog, but let us return to inculturation.
THE REAL PROJECT: CHRISTIANITY’S COMMISSION: WORLD CONVERSION
In any case, the Christian project of inculturating a host non-Abrahamic culture is hardly meant to end at co-opting Hula or Bharat Natyam. The Christian project, ‘God’s Commission’, is to convert the whole world. So Hindus have everything to lose, Bharat Natyam being one of the very iconic identities of Hindu Dharma.
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.…
CHRISTIANISING BHARAT NATYAM: THE CASE OF FATHER FRANCIS BARBOZA
The biggest and most virulent Christian inculturator of Bharat Natyam: Francis Barboza:
In this blog, we shall present a clever and highly controversial case of inculturation – Father Francis Barboza (of a Manglorean Catholic background, who also studied in Baroda University).
To use the words of noted contemporary author Kalavai Venkat (who wrote the explosive “What every Hindu must know about Christianity”): Christianity is a memetic virus. Why a virus? Because a virus replaces the DNA and RNA of a host cell and replicates itself at the cost of the host. So does Christianity.
Hindus have to first study the primary literature of a personality to understand the roots of the manouveur executed. http://www.drbarboza.com/about.htm
Quoting Barboza’s own website…
Barboza states: “Many institutions and individuals have tried to depict Christian themes borrowing and making use of one or more dance-styles for this purpose… The primary purpose and aim of these attempts … is for the proclamation of the Gospel preaching, adaption, adoption inculturation etc. Some use phrased like presenting the Gospel Dance, others proudly talk about promoting the use of indigenous artforms for the proclamation of the Gospel… Margamkali, Parisumuttukali, Natakams etc. were developed in the Christian Community to understand, experience and comprehend the Christian message. But the present trend tends to be utilitatiran, using art-forms for delivering Christ’s message. That kind language speaks of an exploitative use of art and art-forms. In the light of comprehending, understanding and realising Christ’s message in the Indian at-forms, especially Indian dance. It is only then that one can give or share that God experience with others. Here the communication goes more deeper than just imparting Christ’s teaching on a superficial level which is done in most cases in contrast to the dance practices of the Ancient and Medieval period. … I have adopted a scientific approach in depicting Christian Themes in Bharata Natyam. New Deva Hastas and Postures for the Bible personalities have been invented on the basis of Christian Theology and a study made on the different dance-treatises. Without comprising with technique, I have strived to make dance an experience, truly Indian and Christian, at the same time stressing the aspect of understanding, comprehending and experiencing the Christ message rather than delivering it.” http://www.drbarboza.com/dictionary.htm
Bharat Natyam has some very specific hand gestures and stances / moves of depicting Shiva, Sheshashaayi Vishnu, Simha of Durga, Soorya, Raama, Kaarttikeya, Muralidhara Krishna, Saraswati, Ganesha, etc., which a trained dancer can execute with ease and which a regular attendant of Bharat Natyam concerts can grasp in any recital. The Christian in Barboza could not bear the absence of Christian abhivyakti in Bharat Natyam; for Bharat Natyam had nothing to do with Abrahamic and Biblical settings. So the underlying grammar of Bharat Natyam was manipulated by Francis Barboza for outright Christian concepts. He used the peculiarities of Bharat Natyam grammar to create new Christian ‘mudra’s. Barboza was ordained as a priest in 1977. In 1983 he received an award from the Indian government´s University Grants Commission to do research on “Christianity and dance forms with particular reference to southern styles.”
Indeed, Barboza applied his mind very deeply for this inculturation, trying to seek out typically Christian dances from Southern India as well as from outside India. Having done this ‘research’, Francis Barboza then proceeded to invent numerous mudras or hand gestures drawing on the style of Bharat Natyam, to convey impeccably Christian concepts. These include inventing gestures for ‘God the father’, ‘the Holy Spirit’, ‘the Son of God’, ‘the Crucifixion of Christ’, ‘the Risen Christ’, Mary, Madonna, the Cross, the Church, etc. But they are totally Christian, not to be fooled by the Hindu externalities of the costume, make up, gandham, etc.
After doing his Ph.D., Barboza proceeded to popularize the innovations to bring them into public perception and then make Christianised Bharat Natyam part of the scene of Bharat Natyam worldwide (he gave Christian Bharat Natyam recitals both across India and in the US), cloaked as a novel fashion and creativity of a dedicated aspirant; indeed he presented his plagiarism as a non-Hindu’s respect for Indian culture! These shows have been criticized, but he has gone ahead.
But he did not stop doing regular Bharat Natyam shows on Hindu concepts either, keeping himself in touch with the world of Hindu Bharat Natyam dancers and Gurus. Within the limited world of male Bharat Natyam dancers, he being a male gave him special clout.
Like any other exponent of Bharat Natyam, he has his coaching classes (under the banner Satyaaradhana, another Sanskritised name) and regular shows, many of which seem to be for South Indian diaspora. (Some South Indian Hindus who are otherwise extremely cultured, temple-going and practising Hindus, still show remarkable calm acceptance of inculturation by Christianity, conversion and the crypto-Christian identity of converts as a normal part of the overall South Indian cultural and demographic scenario.)
Once Barboza can have more and more students who pass out under him, and once he reaches a critical threshold of experience and clout, he will await being incorporated into some forum on Bharat Natyam, where he can deHinduise Bharat Natyam a bit further, ‘officially’; doubtless, he will win supporters from both the leftist lobby and the other Hindu Bharat Natyam exponents willing to fashionably prostitute their art to a predatory Christianity. And the moment there is a clash, the Secularist media will chastise the orthodox Hindu for his ‘intolerance’, invoking the famed tolerance of Hindus to shout down any resistance. After all, wasn’t this model followed by Leela Samson too: from being gingerly accepted despite her non-Hindu background, as a student, into Kalakshetra by Rukmini Devi Arundale to, eventually, becoming Director of the very same institution, with a little help from UPA?
Barboza’s Student, Mridula Karthikeyan:
The key to any move is getting adept supporters as a succession policy. Mridula Karthikeyan, in her own website, showcases herself as Barboza’s disciple; her discipleship seems to be US-based, as is the academy of Barboza. It is not evident whether Mridula is Hindu or Christian, as she has a Hindu-sounding name, the Hindu style and costume all over her make up and hair do, bindi et al. But her own website which has Nataraja also has a small but not-to-be-missed Cross at the top left corner, above the Nataraja. Every page of her website has this Cross at the top left corner.
Could Mridula be – using the words of Rajiv Malhotra – an ideological sepoy of a Christian agenda (like the Hindu students of Sheldon Pollock)? Or, could she simply be a non-scrupulous ambitious dancer who has no compunctions of being a willing part of deHinduisation of her own ancestral country’s art form as a step to greater fame? Or, is she one of those Hindus who are so enamoured of non-Hindus robustly practicing Hindu Bharat Natyam and also getting acclaim in Western circles, that Mridula’s parents actually preferred sending their own daughter to learn under Barboza and then also use the cross atop her website? Or, are Mridula’s parents crypto-Christians themselves?
The presence of a Mridula Karthikeyan tutored by a Francis Barboza implies, Christian Bharat Natyam threatens to begin a Guru-Shishya Parampara. The algorithm can grow and poison the pristine world of bhakti and natya-based anjali to Mahadeva and Krishna with having to necessarily have Christian mudras taught alongside the Hindu mudras for ‘completeness’.
Raul D’Souza: Another shishya of Barboza:
Agreeably, male dancers of classical art, be it Odissi, Bharat Natyam or Kaththak – get labeled as effeminate and therefore, stigmatised. That is an error of perception in society. Hindus believe in Ardha-Nari-Nata-Eeshwara, so we accept the man to have Stri Tattva and a woman to have purusha-tattva. An article on rediff on the expression of male dancer identity issues and male rights activism, however, gives away one more Chrisdtian name as a shishya of Barboza: Bharat Natyam exponent Raul D’Souza. ‘Interestingly’, the article is written by a Christian, an Archana Masih. Masih is a typical surname of an Indian Christian. Says the article: “A trained Bharatanatyam dancer, Raul D’Souza started with solo shows on Christian themes and branched into performances depicting the roles of Krishna and Vishnu, amongst others.”
The author of this blog is himself a men’s rights activist, an admirer of male dancers like Pavitra Bhat and Deepak Majumdar among others and also interested in learning dance, and is hence aware of the issue facing male dancers. But this article cleverly cloaks the inculturation of Bharat Natyam within the issue of male rights activism.
While inculturation into Hinduism by Christian priests has been exposed by Sitaa Ram Goel in “Catholic Ashrams: Sanyasins or swindlers”, the particular strategy of inculturation of dance has been discussed in a chapter dedicated to this overall subject of inculturation in the book Breaking India (by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan) and can be availed of in this link: http://christianizingbharatanatyam.blogspot.in/2011/09/christian-denigration-of-indian.html
This blog seeks to continue the alert and highlight the widespread danger.
Opposition to Barboza from within the Church:
Micheal Prabhu, a Roman Catholic, has opposed the uptake of Hindu motifs and eventually, Hindu culture itself, by Francis Barboza. Prabhu claims, Barboza himself is getting largely Hinduised, rather than benefitting Christianity. Michael Prabhu shows the alarm at losing a member of his own flock of sheep.
Some Biblical reasons Christian Bharat Natyam is opposed by the Church:
- The Israelites worshipped the Golden Calf at the bottom of Mount Sinai while Moses received the Ten Commandments. But when Moses descended Sinai, he unleashed a civil war on the worshippers of the Golden calf idol, killing them away in the first Abrahamic- genocide of idol worshippers. So central is this message that even the editions of Christian and Islamic Abrahamism have only sharpened this hatred for idols, and thereby idol-worshipping creeds. So, depicting idols goes against the commandments.
- Exodus 20:3-5… Quoted from the King James Bible version
20:5 Thou shalt not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,
20:6 but showing loving kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
- Salome: A Jewish girl Salome danced and asked for the head of St. John the Baptist as reward to Herod. It was done, and thence, a woman dancing was not considered appropriate in Christian liturgy.
Cautions a book dealing with Christian uptake of Hindu motifs, rites and art forms:
“To most Hindus, Bharat Natyam is not yet redeemed from its Hindu connotations. Indians may be able to rid the BharatNatyam of its spiritual and overt Hindu motifs. But we are not there yet. At this time, it is not advisable to bring Bharatnatyam, including Christianised forms, into the Church or Church functions.” A Biblical approach to Indian traditions and beliefs – Dr. Joshua Raj; Armour Publishing Pvt Ltd, Singapore, 2008, Page 139
Our rejoinder to Christian criticism of Barboza and other inculturator Christian dancers of Hindu art forms:
The Hindu contention is the reverse of Christian concern shown above: syncretism is a typical ploy to draw Hindus into Abrahamism. A few disapproving fastidious Christians will cheer up the process of Christian Bharat Natyam later, based on traction shown by Hindus and results in soul harvests.
In any case, incultuuration as a valid strategy for world Christianisation is approved by the second Vatican Council.
Some other Bharat Natyam dancers involved in inculturation of Bharat Natyam…
While a google search throws up names after names indicating a shameless trend of inculturation by Christians and acceptance by Hindu Gurus, some more names are presented here:
Christu Dance Centre CDC: “Bharatanatyam dancer Divya Vasanth strings together traditionalmudras that depict the rolling waters of a sea, the act of gently splitting an object into two, and the installation of high walls — she is conveying the Bibilical account of Moses parting the Red Sea… Divya is a key member of a group that employs the gamut of Bharatanatyam movements to illustrate Bibilical narratives. Carnatic music and songs — also dedicated to this goal — accompany these performances…
CDC traces its origin to a project for the students of Women’s Christian College (WCC), started way back in 1984. Anjala Richard, a Tamil professor and head of the department of languages at WCC, authored an initiative called Narseithikkalai Koodam (NK), which presented Bibilical dance dramas and worship songs through Bharatanatyam and Carnatic music. As a descendant of Vedanayagam Sastriar, the court poet of King Serfoji, Anjala had inherited a rich tradition of classical music and dance, which she put into this project.” http://www.thehindu.com/features/friday-review/dance/bharatanatyam-and-bibilical-narratives/article2853649.ece
So, here, the first generation of inculturation began with the Guru Vedanayagam Sastriar, the ancestor of Anjala; the second generation was Anjala Richard, a Christian convert and biological descendent of a Guru who was an acclaimed courtier of a Thanjavur Court; the third generation is Divya Vasanth; and the fourth generation – non-biological but hence more dangerous – is the students – the little girls – shown in the webpage’s picture. Here, none of the girls show even the Bindi.
KalamandalamSangeetha Prasad is the founder director of Rhythmscapes Dance Academy Kuwait & India. She is an exponent of Bharat Natyam, Kuchhipudi and Mohiniattam. Watch her choreography on a Christian theme in a Kuwait NRI Christian forum, to a devotional song on Jesus.
Christian inculturation in Bharat Natyam in Karnataka:
Christian Kaththak: Rina Singha
Kaththak is a dance form of Northern India. But there is an acclaimed dancer of Kaththak, Rina Singha, a Christian hailing from Kolkata, who has done numerous Christian themes in Kaththak. Thus inculturation has also afflicted Kaththak, a dance form that is already reeling from centuries of insidious Islamic influence, from being denigrated as a ‘nautch’ form, from filmi flippancy, waiting for the original devotional Kaththak to still shine forth, with both Hindu costume and bhakti.Hailing from a Christian family in Calcutta, Rina Singha won a Government of India competition for choosing a winning candidate meant for reviving and promoting classical arts, in 1957; the initiative granted promising young artists state scholarships to train under the great masters. Rina Singha chose to study Kaththak under the noted Kaththak Guru Shambhu Maharaj ji. She moved to Toronto, Canada in 1965, taught Kaththak at York University, founded her own Kaththak dance organization, participated in dance festivals and in 2008, started ‘Kathak Mahotsav Canada’ and made friends with Jewish dancer Grossman.
Rina began inculturation of Kaththak with ‘works’ such as Genesis, Yeshu Katha – four women telling the story of Jesus (1991), full length Biblical works like ‘The Seekers: from the Garden of Eden’ and ‘The Walls of Jericho’. Rina was ‘recognized’ internationally in the field of Christian dance with awards like the Internationally Juried Award for Excellence in Performing Arts for her Biblical dances.
She calls her inculturation practices a metaphor for ‘creating meaningful Kathak works that extend beyond boundaries of space and time by becoming relevant to a new era, while maintaining the integrity of the dance form and remaining connected to its roots and the soil which first nurtured it.’
“The whole point of this (Toronto) festival is to demonstrate the adaptability and relevance of Kathak styles, from its temple origins to the present; the whole spectrum. Kathak is so vast in scope, so open-ended. The framework is not limiting. Our subject matter is life itself.”
She makes no bones about her Christian faith taking precedence over Hindu roots of Kaththak when she says “I am a Christian and I was brought up on Bible stories. These stories were more meaningful to me than the usual stories of Kathak repertoire, which I could relate to in terms of their human emotions, but not necessarily in terms of their spirituality.”
Yet she used the grammar of Kaththak when she was quoted to have ‘stuck by rules’ and chosing appropriate laya (speed/tempo) and tala (rhythm).
Any ‘adaptability’, ‘open-endedness’, ‘no limiting framework’, ‘vastness in scope’, ‘relevance’, ‘works which extend beyond time and space’, ‘relevant to the present era yet connected to roots and original soil’, can be called language to cleverly conceal inculturation. Being open-ended and adaptable is misused for presenting a subject that can befool a gullible Hindu, of whom there are plenty of.
ANALYSIS AND SOLUTIONS SUGGESTED:
The Dronacharya attitude of Hindu dance Gurus:
Dronacharya was said to be abjectly poor and yet well-endowed with knowledge. When he was hired by Bheeshma Pitaamaha to tutor the 105 Kaurava-Pandava cousins, he was indeed a good teacher. Yet, over the course of so many years spent with his 105-strong princely studenthood, he allowed even a Duryodhana to become adept at Gada Yudhha. He did not try to counter the ku-sanskaaras of Shakuni with stronger ethics or su-sanskaaras. He did not stop his shishya Duryodhana from demeaning the chastity of his sister-in-law Draupadi, and Dushshaasan from trying to derobe her. He also looked the other way when his own son, whom he loved so much, was in the crony company of Duryodhana. He finally chose patronage over ethics when he dethumbed Ekalavya and he fought on the side of the Kauravas.
Hindus in general and many Hindu Gurus in particular have never investigated the faith and intent of students who come from Western countries when they make them adept at their Hindu Vidyaas. . It may not even be a financial reason as Dronacharya cited in the Mahabharata, for remaining on the side of the Kauravas. It was a case of being flattered to have a white-skinned or even an Indian non-Hindu as a disciple who also performed well; but was the Vidyaa left in safe deserving custody? Wasn’t the student’s agenda uncovered in the course of the teaching years? Didn’t the past experience of other Gurus who had erred quicken the conscience of other Gurus approached by Christian students? Here, it is not a question of character; the author of this article does not talk about the aptitude and character of any Christian who recites a Bharat Natyam performance. It is the deeper mischief of Christianity that wires the brain of a Christian student of Bharat Natyam, to be on the look-out for appropriating the art form and then manipulating it for application in proselytisation.
A Rukmini Devi took in a Leela Samson. A Shambhu Maharaj took up a Rina Singha.
The countering of this Abrahamic offensive is therefore dependent on that constituency of Hindus which is the connoisseur of Dharmic art, or the practitioner of Dharmic art, and a temple goer community, which is also politically upright and mentally uncolonised. Decolonisation of one’s mind is a conscious process of delearning what the current educational systems (with their colonial legacy and American destination) and media teach us, and reconnecting with one’s roots through swaadhyaay and abhyaasa. This involves going back to the pre-1800s, or to classical Hinduism, but without reaccepting back the accretions of Hindu society that were formed over centuries of war imposed by Islam and Christianity, and shed by our own reform movements – a very delicate balance. It is tantamount to weeding away vestigial superstition, casteism and sectarianism; being full of the scientific spirit and modernity; but wholesome reuptake of shastra study, moorti pooja, Mandir activities and experiential sadhana.
The process of decolonisation and re-classic-isation of Hindu Sanatan Dharma is multi-faceted. Full success requires all arms to move in sync.
But the process of countering the Christian inculturation of Bharat Natyam or Kaththak can indeed proceed without political will, by mere coming together of patrons. Most patrons of classical Hindu dances are well educated Hindus who are gadget savvy. They can take up the cause with internet lobbying, peaceful protests, writing letters to the editors of newspapers, campaigning on social media, speaking out as aware audiences in actual shows for generating awareness and by participating in debate.
And yes, parents have to enroll their own kids into classical dance classes only under Gurus not enamoured by or nonchalant about Christian predation of a Hindu classical dance form. There is so much scope for national churning. A Marathi abhang by Sant Tukaram can be presented in the Malyali MohiniAttam style; there can be Hindi songs for Tamil Bharat Natyam, Gujarati songs for Odissi and yes, Sanskrit songs for everything. The hitherto untapped corpus of Bengali Gaudiya Nritya can also be invoked. There can be songs of Savarkar presented in dance. Why do we need Christian themes for experimenting and creative freedom?
Our government bodies need to be pulled up for granting scholarships and recognition to such blatant copyright robbery. Rina Singha won a government scholarship which she put to use to inculturate Kaththak. Barboza won the Presidential Award in 1986 for his “innovative presentation of the Mystery of Redemption in dance language” from the Indian government, as quoted in the ucanews.com website. Did not the Censor Board and Sangeet Kala Academy as well as the Kalakshetra get handed over to the professional deculturator Leela Samson once?
Only when the humanities also gain back their own due importance in Hindu society currently engrossed in just commerce and science / technology as academic or professional pursuits, Hindus can snatch back the control of the way their country is run, from the Marxists and other anti-Hindus. For the correctly inclined, this massive project can be even a public / scholarly career.
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