Preserve,Protect and Promote Traditional Hindu Art

published on October 5, 2008


Dr. Babu Suseelan


The Character of our society seems to have shifted rapidly. In so brief a time the intense idealism, art, literature, dance, music and social life have deteriorated into a preoccupation with consumerism, rock and roll and reality shows.  The counter culture has been absorbed by the larger society to appear in art, movies, theater, and life style.  Despite the fact that people do not seem to be quite as buttoned down as they were in the olden days, they are surprisingly silent in the face of the total assault upon them and their social-cultural institutions. The assault on our culture and traditional art has particular implications for the way in which we view our purposes.  We are not immune to the cautious times in which we live.

Obviously, our art, literature, poetry and theatre will reflect the political, social and technological climate; they are often good indicators of the extent to which how our social life is changing.  Yet if concerned citizens are protesting or if some enlightened people are speaking, then no one is listening. It is as if we were all waiting: But for what, or for whom?  The rapid and radical changes in our culture and hyper activity in our social life is causing a crisis in our spiritual tradition, art, literature and poetry.

As people hurry down the streets of an evening the worries of practical living so overwhelm them, they do not see or hear and become refreshed by the sound of traditional music or by the beauty of the sunset which is immediately before our eyes.

One of the most deadening influences upon our life arises out of the need to move on beyond aesthetically immediate to common-sense objects for the purpose of practical life. For the satisfaction of intellectual curiosity and the attainment of more manageable human knowledge, people are turning towards closed, rigid, and dualistic and conflict producing political dogmas. They tend to cause us to treat the ineffable beauty and the soul-sustaining freshness of our traditional art forms as meaningless.

The reintroduction of our traditional art, music, and theatre is to demonstrate that our traditional art, dance, and music are essentially applicable to the current turbulent society.  It is an attempt to reach back our philosophical beginnings, and it is attempting to design new conceptions that would be utilitarian in the modern scene. Unless we are protected by our traditional art, poetry, music and literature, our mind becomes over stimulated while spirit dies. The tragedy of the neglect of our traditional art is that we lose those riches of life which are available to everybody, rich and poor alike, immediately before our eyes, and ears. It is as if a man has part of the riches for which he is searching, present in his own yard and being so concerned about what is on the other side of its fence, goes off seeking in a far country.

Why revive traditional art, drama, dance and music?  For the modernists chasing western illusion, revival of our traditional art is a waste of time.  Time for traditional art has passed.  Self-examination, creativity and intellectual pursuits are not their priority. Imitating the decadence of the west, fusion music, reality shows and sound bites are their preoccupation. The yardstick these so called modernists use to judge our traditional art forms is not always rational but is reflective of their closed channel thinking.

Capitalist corporations are in art business for profit. They hire artists to work for producing commercial art which artists have no control. They perform tasks that others have designed for them and that deprive them of self-motivation, creativity, and self-esteem. Profit making corporations force traditional artists to adulterate our traditional culture and art. Classical music is infused with western instruments. Kathakali is performed with Christian stories. In short, our traditional musicians and artists find their performance alienating. Alienation means that a person feels estranged from their own spiritual roots and from their own emotions.

Vested interest groups, profit making corporations and the media are constantly trying constantly trying to convince that they need to alter, revise or change traditional art and music to satisfy western tourists. Food, clothing, and most visual and traditional arts are controlled by or made to create profits for corporations-not to fulfill human needs. Artists and musicians derive their identities of who they are from the spiritual-traditional culture, and since their culture is increasingly controlled by vested interest groups, people’s self images are shaped by these profit making corporations.

Adulteration of our literature and art and their business of embracing throw away culture should not constrain us from introducing and popularizing our sacred traditional art. It is time for us to reintroduce our folklore, traditional dance and classical music, and explore its multiple areas of philosophy. Further, it is an expression of our values and eternal wisdom. It is, in addition, an appreciation of an array of specialized skills and talents of our artists, dancers and musicians.

Our art forms and music are unique and it comprises all of science, art, philosophy, psychology, aesthetics and spiritual tradition.  Unlike contemporary art and dance, our traditional art forms are not a “do your own thing” practice, it is an activity supported by specialized philosophy, necessary theory and professional skill. It is a reflection of our wisdom.

Our traditional artists, musicians and dancers achieves the status of an artist by means of bringing into concrete vividness in the spectator’s imagination which he/she purports to convey with all the freshness of color, the vital movement of the emotions, and the sensitivity of feelings which an immediate experience of the subject matter. The artist or the dancer denotes the aesthetic component of reality, or reality in its aesthetic aspect. They use symbols and expressions and sound to designate different types of concepts.  Our artists operate with the aesthetic component of reality denoted by the concept of intuition and they convey analogically in terms of immediate experience able materials, the unobservable theoretic component of reality, which can only by the experienced artist. Thus our artists act as instruments metaphorically conveying our traditional poetry and aesthetic wisdom. They also continuously convey the freshness and the ineffable beauty and richness of our traditional stories.

We must protect our culture, traditional art, music and folklore. If we are to survive as Hindus, we must recognize that its protection is essential. We must develop a social-environmental-cultural consciousness that pervades all our decisions. Our existence depends on our preservation, protection and promotion of our traditional Hindu culture, literature, art and music.

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