Author: Shruti Mahadevan, Bengaluru
‘Kalayoga: The heart of Indian Art’ was a summer school I attended in the month of July 2016. It was jointly organized by Chinmaya International Foundation (CIF) and Karnataka Samskrit University and was designed to be a two week immersive course that introduced participants to the very depth of Indian arts forms and how these art forms are rooted in Sanskrit poetry and philosophy.
The course was held in the beautiful Adi Shankara Nilayam, in Veliyanad, Ernakulam. This lush green ashram was the perfect venue for the course as it provided the ideal environment for collaboration and creativity. From the very first day that I arrived, I was engulfed in a place of tranquillity and peace. The hospitality provided to us made me feel like I was part of the Chinmaya Family, not just a student who has come for a course. This made the course even more special for all us.
The participants of this course came from varied backgrounds, places and age groups. I feel that in my student life, I have never had the benefit of being exposed to such a diverse group. The youngest student was just starting her first year degree in Karnataka Samskrit University and the oldest was the curator of India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. We had students from backgrounds like Architecture, Computer Science and Business Studies to name a few. We also had students pursuing their PhD in various subjects. Thus as a participant, I felt we benefitted greatly from the various discussions we had as a part of the course.
‘Kalayoga’: this experience cannot be described in a single review. For me, it was a life-changing experience that exposed me to the philosophical basis of Indian Art. As a Classical dancer, with nearly 15 years of experience, this workshop changed my whole world view of art and its relationship with philosophy and Sanskrit. The course was anchored by a great faculty, led by Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh and Dr. Shrinivasa Varkhedi. The other faculty consisted of great stalwarts in the field of dance, music, art and sculpture; these included Nirupama and Rajendra, Dr. Ramaa Bharadwaj, Sri. Arjun Bharadwaj. Dr. R. Shankar, to name a few. These great gurus helped us dive into the world of Indian Art, Aesthetics, poetry and philosophy, with ease and enthusiasm. There warm teaching style, both inside and outside of the classroom, helped us all overcome our inhibitions and we developed a close bond with all of the faculty and participants.
The day began with classes on spoken Sanskrit and Yoga, which provided us with relaxation and exposure to spoken Sanskrit. We had all of our meals in the warm dining room, where we were provided with yummy traditional south Indian food; the meal always began with the recitation of a Shloka from the Bhagvad Gita, which created an air of gratitude and warmth. Dr. Ganesh’s lectures were the highlight of the day and they exposed us to a whole new world of thinking regarding Indian Art. I was highly impressed by the complexity and the majesty of the Sanskrit language. I had underestimated the depth of expression and mathematical logic of this language. Dr. Shankar’s lectures ensured that we went back with a completely new understanding of Sanskrit as a language. During the course of the two weeks, we learnt about Indian Aesthetics, the Rasa theory and the meaning of Rasa in Art; we are also exposed to the theory of Dhwani, Riti and Guna, Alankara and Vakrata. We learnt about the classification of arts in ancient India and the meaning of Aucitya in Art. We had sessions on the Natyshastra as well, which were very enriching for me. Apart from this we has sessions on Sanskrit literature, in which we were exposed to the various Sanskrit Classics’ through readings by Dr. Shankar. We were also introduced to the epic, literary and theatrical narratives in Sanskrit. Overall, we were given a taste into various kinds of Indian art and their relationship with philosophy and Sanskrit.
Apart from the theoretical sessions, we also had lecture demonstrations in Dance and Music. Nirupama and Rajendra introduced us the grammar and body language of the Natyashastra, through their lecture demonstration and their mesmerizing performance in the evening. Dr. Ramaa Bharadwaj gave us a lecture demonstration on the thought process adopted in choreographing dance pieces. She also gave us a beautiful performance on the story of Sudhama, which left the audience in tears. We had the privilege of a melodious vocal concert by Smt. Aishwarya and Dr. Satyavathy. We also had a breath-taking performance by theatre troupe from Shringeri, which presented a Sanskrit drama and Sanskrit based Mono-acts. Participants also gave various performances in the evening time, which helped us develop a closer bond with one another. As a participant, I too presented a short classical dance performance, which was highly appreciated by the faculty and the participants alike. We also had a field trip, where we got to visit ‘Kalamandalam’, the premier institute for ancient Indian Dance forms. This was an enjoyable experience as it exposed us to the Gurukula style teaching of Indian Dance forms
To conclude, I would like to say that this two week summer school changed my whole perspective as a dancer and a future academician. It helped me to appreciate Sanskrit poetry in a new light and has motivated me to learn Sanskrit in the future. It also provided me an opening into academics in Art, (especially dance) and has inspired me to remain a life-long learner and researcher in the field of Indian Art and Aesthetics. I thank CIF and Karnataka Samskrit University and the faculty of Kalayoga, for making this an unforgettable experience for all of us.