Bharatamuni — an Asian link PADMA SUBRAHMANYAM

Bharatamuni — an Asian link


PROJECT The dream is to create an Asian cultural corridor for artistes and philosophers.

Pallava style of architecture Shrines for Patanjali and Thirumoolar Museum of Asian Performing Arts

FROM NATYA SASTRA: Padma Subrahmanyam capturing the karana poses. About 75 years ago, when E. Krishna Iyer, then secretary of the Music Academy re-christened `Sadir’ as Bharatanatyam, a resolution is said to have been passed to popularise this term. It was a period that saw the height of controversy regarding the validity of dance in temples.

Associating sage Bharata’s name with Sadir created an aura of antiquity, authenticity, aesthetic philosophy and above all, a socio-sanction for the art. But the fact is that all Indian dance disciplines are Bharatanatyam for the simple reason that they are daughters of that one common mother namely Bharata’s Natya Sastra.
Four decades ago, when I was in the initial stage of my research on the Karana sculptures of Natya Sastra, I wrote that there could be no two opinion about basing and developing Bharatanatyam according to the codes given by Bharata. Only during the course of my research, I found that Natya Sastra was the link for all the theatrical and dance forms of India.

Reflection of other styles

Though I never learnt any other discipline except Bharatanatyam, my dance based on the reconstruction of Karanas of Natya Sastra reflected shadows of other regional styles, which I had not even seen earlier to be influenced. The landmass of Eurasia is referred to as Jambudwipa in Natya Sastra. This Sastra is said to belong to the entire world, more so to Jambudwipa and especially Bharatavarsha. From ancient puranic geography, we understand that Bharatavarsha means South-East Asia and Bharatakanda is the Indian sub-continent. With this geographic link, one perceives the civilisation unity of the whole region.

My efforts to bridge the gap between theory and practice of Indian dance has given me a profound sense of participation in the history of our heritage. Only at the end of the reconstruction of the Karana movements, through a correlated study of relevant sculptures and literature, I was able to realise that I have spent about four decades in authentically retrieving the `Marga’ technique which gave the common codes in the Natya art of India and Asia. `Marga’ is the path laid down by Bharatamuni and Desi is the respective regional version. In this sense, all the present Natya disciplines of Asia including that of Tamil Nadu can be termed Desi.

To understand the Marga-Desi link is to understand the wonderful civilisation unity of Asia. The eye opener for this realisation came from the Sage of Kanchi, who commanded me to design a new set of 108 Karana figures of Siva and Parvati for the Uttara (Northern) Chidambaram Nataraja temple in Maharashtra. When I took the first set of the line drawings for his approval, he suggested that I should visit Indonesia. The visit materialised only after the consecration of this temple and in fact only after Mahaswami’s Mahasamadhi.

Sculpture of Siva and Bharata Muni. The ninth century Karana sculptures of Central Java are older than the oldest series available in Tamil Nadu. The miracle is that they all tallied with my reconstruction of the movements and showed similarities with my design for the temple at Satara in Maharashtra. This link is captured in detail by an Italian scholar Dr. Alessandra in her book “Prambanan” published from Thailand.

In Thailand, Bharata is called “Phrot Rshi” and “Khru Muni” i.e., Bharata Rishi and Guru Muni. His mask is worshipped in every theatre along with those of the Hindu trinity. It has been a dream of mine for over a decade to build a temple for Bharatamuni as part of a research centre on Asian performing arts.

The “Bharatamuni Foundation for Asian Culture,” a trust has been formed and the Government of Tamil Nadu has given five acres of land near Mahabalipuram.

Some coincidences about this site are worth mentioning:

A sketch of the proposed temple. (1) It happens to be near a seventh century inscription mentioning Bharatamuni’s name.

(2) A figure of Bharatamuni has been identified at Dharmaraja Ratha in Mahabalipuram.

The Bharatamuni Foundation for Asian Culture will in general reflect the characteristics of Pallava architecture with the world renowned Muthiah Sthapathi as the temple architect and sculptor. It will house the following — a shrine for Bharatamuni with sub-shrines for the Hindu trinity with their consorts and those of Ganesa, Muruga, Patanjali (the Adi Guru for Yoga) and Thirumoolar (the Tamil Saint who transmitted the cosmic dance of Siva through his Thirumandiram).

The circumambulatory of the temple will house the Bharatamuni Museum of Asian Performing Arts; the auditorium will be named after the Kashmiri commentator Abhinavagupta; there will be the Ilango Adigal Conference Hall, Kanchi Mahaswami Library and other structures named after ancient authorities from other parts of Asia like Zeami of Japan. The dream is to create an Asian cultural corridor for artistes and philosophers to interact and help human harmony. To turn this profound dream into reality, may I invoke the affinity of the entire community with this project, to revitalise Asian civilisation unity.

* * *Padma week

`Padmavin Bharatarpanam’ (Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam Week), will be organised at Sadguru Gnanananda Hall (Narada Gana Sabha) ,TTK Road, daily 6.30 p.m., January 29 to February 4.

The event is a joint effort of Bharat Kalachar and Nrithyodaya to collect funds for the Bharata Muni temple.

The schedule runs like this: Monday, January 29 – `Bharatiya Sangamam’; Tuesday, January 30 – Krishnaaya Tubhyam Namaha; Wednesday, January 31 – Ramaya Tubhyam Namaha; Thursday, February 1 – Bhagavad Gita; Friday, February 2 – Jaya Jaya Sankara; Saturday, February 3 – Paripadal Mudhal Bharati Varai (Chennai Premiere); Sunday, February 4, Meenakshi Kalyanam (dance-drama with 50 artistes).

Daily tickets only: Rs. 1,000, Rs. 500, Rs. 250, Rs. 100. For ticket details, contact: Narada Gana Sabha: 2499 3201/2499 0850;

Bharat Kalachar: 2817 3596/2834 1164.


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