The Tribune - Spectrum


Sunday, December 8, 2002

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Ancient dance for the Divine now delights mortals
Randeep Wadehra

by Ashish Mohan Khokar, Rupa & Co., New Delhi. Pages: 80. Rs 395.

BharatnatyamDANCE is a multi-layered activity – physical, emotional, intellectual, cultural and spiritual. The rhythmic body movements express different feelings ranging from ecstasy and agony to anger and romance. The various mudras articulate different rasas. The variety, ranging from the simple folk dance to the more sophisticated classical forms, points to the profound evolution that has taken place in our socio-cultural milieu. In its purest form dance transports the dancer and the spectator to an ethereal world where the Self merges with the Supreme Being – a spiritual experience reserved for people with heightened sensibility.

The platforms for some of our famous dance forms have undergone a metamorphosis that began with temples, royal courts and kothas and has reached the more popular stage today – transcending the domain of the elitist to enter the world of the egalitarian – without compromising on the artistic essence. Bharatnatyam is the classic example of a dance form that has become not only "pan-Indian but also as widespread as the burgeoning Indian diaspora". Khokar compares the dance with Time – a performance without end or beginning.

One of the oldest dance forms, Bharatnatyam is more than two thousand years old. It was performed in temples in veneration to the Gods in ancient India. Accompanied by the mathematically perfect Carnatic music, it is as precise. Its earliest exponents were Devadasis. This book chronicles famous personalities who pioneered, practised and promoted Bharatnatyam. You will find brief biographies of such prima donnas as Indrani Rehman, Yamini Krishnamurthy, Vyjayanthimala, and Padmini etc.


Khokar points out that this dance form has three major attributes – nritta (grammar or technique), nritya (expressional, emotive quotient) and natya (element or structure). One can only agree with the author when he asserts that over a period of two centuries it has evolved from a highly codified style to one affording the maximum freedom to innovate. The journey of the dance from the shrine to the proscenium has been accomplished without losing the original content. It indeed is a "sparkling example of creative evolution in terms of material, music, costume etc. Bharatnatyam today ranks as a major cultural symbol of India".

This book, containing illustrations of the nav-rasas and their practitioners, celebrates the "heritage, the histrionics, the pioneers, prodigals and prima donnas" of Bharatnatyam – which is synonymous with ‘Bharat’ – India – that dances to the eternal sounds of the universe.

Environmental Challenges of the 21st Century
by Arvind Kumar. A.P.H., New Delhi. Pages xii+673. Rs 1795.

Environmental Challenges of the 21st CenturyEnvironment is the new millennium’s hottest issue. Water, air and earth are getting polluted at a life-threatening rate. Worse, the nature’s pollution-controllers in the form of the eco-system, viz., forests, water bodies and the dependent plants and animals, are fast disappearing – perhaps forever. The rise in human population and the increasing affluence have put immense strain on the environment. In fact the natural systems and the human societies are evolving in a manner that does not augur well for life on the planet. If natural systems have tried to keep human population in check through floods, famines, disease and natural disasters, the human societies in turn have wiped out countless species and habitats.

The use of hydrocarbons, greenhouse gases and other toxic pollutants is increasing at an alarming rate. Urbanisation is leading to deforestation, endangering bio-diversity. Although the problem is global in nature the author has kept the Indian context in focus. He points out that India has a long history of conserving its natural heritage. Since our ancient lifestyle was eco-friendly it would be wrong to treat local communities as "problems" while attempting to preserve and nurture biodiversity. He advocates "spectrum approach" wherein even the lowest of life forms like insects, mites, fungi etc are included in the process of environmental sustentation.

Chapters on polyhouse, probiotics, DDT’s adverse affects, vermicomposting potential of earthworms etc evoke interest.

Believe Me! God is Your Trainer
by D.K. Bhawsar. Dolphin Books, New Delhi. Pages 340. Rs 270.

Believe Me! God is Your TrainerRight from the times when scriptures were composed till date a huge corpus of didactic literature has been amassed. How one should conduct oneself while playing variegated roles in a society, the effects of one’s actions on others as well as on one’s own self, have been elucidated with suitable examples. Here is another attempt.

Jimmy Durante says in this book that Namaste is a mantra for building trust with strangers. He then goes on to explain its meaning and usefulness as a tool of social interaction. And he has a some sage advice, "be nice to people on your way up because you meet them on your way down". Then there is a chapter on personal management that highlights the significance of emotion. Bhawsar feels that emotions are essential for one’s material as well as spiritual progress.

After enumerating emotions like anger, love, hate etc the author points out that emotional intelligence is the skill to perceive, explain, understand and effectively apply the "power and acumen of emotional energy, information and influence." Subsequent to mulling over such hypotheses you can go through chapters relating to the management of anger, hate, faith, happiness and stress.