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Vistas of Bharat : Indian Culture

Vistas of Bharat: Celebrating Kathak, North India’s Only Classical Dance

In today’s chapter of ‘Vistas of Bharat’, we enlighten you on the exuberant and reverent classical dance form of India, Kathak.

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Vistas of Bharat Kathak

Adorned with interactive theatrics and exuberance of the Kathak performers, Kathak is the most popular classical dance form of India and the only one prevalent in north India. Incorporating the word ‘Katha’ (story) in its name, it emerged as an art form for narrating stories from great mythologies. Kathak performers were mostly found in the north Indian courts.

Kathak bloomed during the Bhakti movement by the nomadic ‘kathakars’. The dance mainly narrated the stories of Hindu Lord Krishna. This type of dance is known as ‘nritya’ or expressive dance. On the other hand, pure dance is known as ‘nritta’. Feet synchronizing with the rhythm of tabla, splendid hand movements, interactive expressions along with sarangi and manjira running the cycle of the tunes of ‘Dhrupad’ music are put together in performing a splendid Kathak performance. Hindu culture has maintained the practice of dance as a form of worship and thus the performance is started with an invocation or ‘vandana’ followed by ‘nritta’ or ‘nritya’.

The costumes vary with the gharana but most commonly the female dancers drape a saree around waist, wear choli to cover the chest and add to the magnificence with an odhni. The male dancers wear a dhoti and often leave the upper body bare. Historical traces of Kathak date its origin by around 400 BCE, likely in Banaras. With the augmentation of the popularity of Kathak, it migrated to other cities like Jaipur and Lucknow. This resulted in formation of different ‘Gharanas’ (etiquettes). Although they had a common origin, each gharana maintained the idiosyncrasy. The Lucknow and Banaras gharana focuses on the narrative expressions and hand movements while the Jaipur gharana on footwork.

The evolution of Kathak during the Mughal Era added the element of ‘eroticism’ to the form. In the colonial times of British Raj, it fell under the criticism of ‘anti-dance movement’ along with the other dance forms. Serious accusations like equating dance with prostitution surfaced. Nevertheless, after independence, Kathak reemerged vivaciously in Indian culture. It is a combined skill of expertise and excellence flowing through the current of culture and demands a bow in its respect. Dance forms, as Kathak, are an eminent part of our cultural heritage. Their preservation, in the times when such cultures are on the verge of getting buried in the pages of history, is our duty.

Therefore, here we present you some contemporary Kathak Performers, sprinkling the beauty of this classical dance form in all of its authenticity and reverence!

Vande Matarm Eshani Sathe

Eshani Sathe’s Kathak Performances opens a window to how her heart and soul are connected to this art form so intricately. The myriad of Kathak performances by her creates a serene and peaceful atmosphere for the viewers. Similarly, in this performance, she delivers respect to India on its 75th Independence through Kathak. Eshani performs a humble and soulful Kathak dance, which captures India’s diversity and love. Her dance easily reaches out to the viewers’ hearts.

Credits: YouTube Eshani Sathe

Garaj Garaj – Shivangi Dake

Shivangi’s YouTube channel featuring a multitude of her kathak performances will leave you stunned. She has imbued Kathak in every festival celebration of India, be it Holi or Diwali, and in other aspects of our daily life. The ‘Garaj Garaj’ Kathak performance is one example of this. Shivangi summons the tranquility and vigour of rainfall through Kathak. Self-choreographed by Shivangi, adorned in a blue sari, she leaves the viewers mesmerised by her rain like movements. Through this, she also sprinkles the relationship she has with the Kathak art form, as she uses it to convey an aspect of nature.

Credits: YouTube Shivangi Dake

Draupadi SankalpDamini Bisht

The episode of Draupadi’s sexual assault by the brothers of Kauravas in the male dominated sabha is one of the most prominent scenes from Mahabharata. Damini, with her eloquence, dexterity and great rhythm, narrates the entire episode with the art of Kathak. She doesn’t play one or two roles, but simultaneously, multiple roles, and in that midst, fluently narrates the whole scene without uttering one word. That is on Damini and her deep understanding of the with this reverent classical dance form of India.

Credits: YouTube Damini Bisht

Shesh PhanaShruthi Gupta

Through Shruthi, a Kathak performer and choreographer, we experience yet another proficient Kathak performance, this time narrating an excerpt from Ramayana. Shruthi brings to life the complex characters, Lord Ram, Ravana and Ravana’s wife Mandodri. Excelling in grit and expressions, she paints angst, agony, love and revenge through her performance. 

Credits: YouTube Shruthi Gupta


Shiva … Rudrashtakam Composition – Mohit Shridhar

Mohit Shridhar, an expressive and exquisite Kathak performer, delivers a passionate kathak performance on Rudrashtakam composition. Rudrashtakam composition is a devotional Sanskrit composition on Lord Shiva. Mohit’s powerful yet elegant Kathak movements light up the stage! His strong presence is felt as we watch Mohit devotedly lose himself in reveries of Kathak.

Credits: YouTube Mohit Shridhar
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Vistas of Bharat : Indian Culture

Amrit Mahotsav: India’s Freedom Struggle Is A Palette Of All Colours

Happy 75th Independence Day! This Amrit Mahotsav, lets look back at the inspiring freedom struggle and India’s growth story.

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Amrit Mahotsav

Today, on Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav, India celebrates its 75th Independence day! 75 years before, on this same day, the land of diversity won against the brutal colonial rule of the Britishers. The land which was occupied by the British raj was finally relieved of its barbarity. For almost 200 years, India struggled for freedom. The west tried to shackle the country and drain it off not only its precious resources but also the will of the people. The journey which lasted for two centuries was dark and smothered with the blood of millions, but soon found the shining end of the tunnel, which was only possible through the tight gripped hands clasped with each other, which refused to break and give up. 

The Struggle For India’s Independence Is Inspirational

“Sarfarosh Ki Tamanna Ab Humaare Dil Mein Hai

Ramprasad Bismil 

In 200 years of war, famine, revolution, struggle, and injustice, the Indians rebelled back in different ways, with different mights. Men, women, children, nobody was spared of the British raj, and the exploitative rules and regulations. In the midst of muffled cries and deafening silences, the people marched on, protested, and resisted. In the mixed air of the revolution also arose poetry, drama, writing, journalism, sloganeering, and shayaris, not only as weapons of tools but also as rays of hope and promises in the hearts of the people. 

The relentless persistence of the freedom fighters is inspiring. The unwavering grit and determination which fuelled them are the foundational pillars of the country. They weren’t just fighting off the white rule but also building a vision of India they wanted to see–one which was devoid of poverty, hunger, communalism and inhumanity. 

The social reformers and revolutionists, while also contributing to the nationalist movements, were also actively working towards education, clean drinking water, abolishment of taboo activities like sati, child marriage and caste discrimination. We all should be proud of their devoted and unparalleled love for their country and its citizens. The freedom fighters of India remain our ideals and ancestors to look up to.

Credits: YouTube (BYJU’S)

India’s Growth Throughout The Years

Most of the manifestations of an India that our freedom fighters dreamed of has been achieved, and some are still in the progress. The India we live in today is quite different from the one during independence. In science, technology, education and infrastructure, the country has seen tremendous growth, and more building blocks are being added to it. The mangalyaan mission is one of those historic events in post-independence India which proves the country’s growth and abilities.

The country has excelled in art and culture. It has produced commendable movies and given birth to exceptional actors like Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra who’ve carried the reins of the country outside in the west. Poets like Gulzar, and singers like A.R. Rahman have won the Academy Awards. The classical and folk dances of India are deeply revered and admired for their grace and rhythm.

The history of this soil is deeply enriched with a love mixed of uncountable backgrounds and beliefs, and yet, only together can it continue to spread its wings even further. Wishing every Indian, Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav.

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The Role of Musicians, Painters, Dancers During India’s Freedom Struggle

Presenting painters, dancers, and musicians and their unique productions as weapons during India’s freedom struggle

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Amrit Mahotsav

We’ve grown up learning that it was the revolts, the marches and protests which were an integral part of the India’s freedom struggle. However, a large amount of resistance and revolution began with the creative productions of music, dance, and paintings. Art has been a powerful tool of dissent and revolution. Many musicians, painters and dancers used their art to vocalize colonial India and its struggles, injustices and despairs.

We bring many of these hidden and unknown artists of colonial India and their patriotic art, which spoke loudly of the patriotic and nationalist sentiments, uniting everyone.

Singing The Country’s Blues: Musicians of Colonial India

During the 19th century, Indians wanted to identify the symbols of cultural identity in the face of a rising culture consciousness. This is where ‘Hindustani Music’ ventured in. Musician Vishnu Digambar Paluskar along with V.N. Bhatkhande founded the Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya in 1901, which was the turning point in the modern era of Hindustani Classical music. Atul Prasad Sen was a Bengali musician and a composer who contributed immensely to the field of Bengali music. He took part in the work of ‘Harijan Uddhav’ promoted by Gandhi. His patriotic pieces, ‘hao dharmete dhir, hao karmete bir’ (be a hero of religion, be a hero of action), and ‘utha go bharat laksmi’ (Wake up, India), are worth mentioning. Dwijendra Lal Roy, another musician and a poet, envisioned a new India which was strong in values, culture, and economy. He wrote songs along with the same ideas, which harnessed the patriotic spirit of Bengal. Rajanikanta Sen was another musician who contributed to Bengali music. During the partition of Bengal, when the Bengali leaders boycotted British goods and products and only buy/sell the clothes manufactured by Indians, he penned the following lines: “My brothers, please accept the coarse clothing offered by your mother. As this is all your poor mother(nation) can afford.” The song became popular across the state of Bengal and boosted the Swadeshi movement.

Kavi Pradip is most famously known for his patriotic song, ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logo.’ Another of his most loved patriotic songs was, ‘Ek Naya Sansar Basalen,’ which was also included in the 1941 movie, ‘Naya Sansar.’ The song became the ringing calls for an independent India. Dilip Kumar’s soulful rendition of Vande Mataram with Bharat Ratna M.S. Subbulakshmi in the 1930s captivated the masses and freedom fighters alike. Some of his other compositions include Bharat Amar Bharat Amar, Amar Moloyo Batashe and Banga Amar Janani Amar, which were important inspirational pieces of India’s freedom struggle.

The Canvas and The Sculptors of India’s Freedom Struggle

Ramkinkar Baij, often when he used to return home, drew paintings of the freedom fighters he saw there. Devi Prasad Roy Choudhary was an Indian sculptor from Bengal, remembered for his sculptures inspired by the Indian freedom struggle. He has frozen and immortalised some of the core moments of Indian history. At the Shahid Samarak (Martyrs Memorial) in Patna, one can find Roy Chowdhury’s sculpture of the students who lost their life during the Indian freedom struggle. The ‘Gyarah Murti’ in Delhi is a tribute to Gandhi and his ideals of nonviolence. 

Prodosh Das Gupta formed the Calcutta Group which believed in an art that was universal in character and free from older values. The authenticity of Indian culture and Indian philosophy deeply inspired him, and along with the Calcutta group, he incorporated this very fabric of India into his sculptors and other artistic creations. Gopal Ghose, under the leadership of Prodosh Gupta, also created art, inspired and rooted in Indian aesthetics and philosophy. During the 1940s, the artist transformed his style of art a little and produced sketches of the infamous man-made famine of 1943 in Bengal. 

Nirode Mazumdar led the modernist art movement during the 1940s. He created a series of paintings inspired by the widespread famine, one of which was titled ‘Anath’ (1944), which depicted homeless and starving children. Paritosh Sen found his creative energies inspired by recollections of a past world and the attempts to comprehend the present. Apart from paintings, his caricatures reflected strong underlying socio-political shades. Somnath Hore was a sculptor and printmaker, born in 1921. The subject of his art was dominated by the sufferings of the man. He extensively covered the horrific consequences of the 1943 famine, World War II, and the Japanese bombings on Bengal. The weeping mothers, starved children, dead animals, isolated village streets, etc., were spotlighted in his socially realistic paintings of pre-partition India. Chittaprosod Bhattacharya’s best work was his visual reportages on the Bengal famine in 1943–1944. He documented the British imposed famine through sketches, texts and linocuts. This Revolutionary popular art was a means to mobilise the masses. 

Asit Kumar Haldar was the grandnephew of Rabindranath Tagore. He belonged to the first generation of painters and sculptors from the Neo-Bengal School of Art. He brought the rich cultural heritage of India into his paintings. Haldar painted a whole series of 32 paintings based on the Buddha. A collection of episodes from Indian history on thirty canvases, illustrations of Omar Khayyam’s verses, interpretations of the stories in the Mahabharata, etc. all became a subject of his paintings. 

Benode Behari Mukherjee‘s popular creation was the mural called Mediaeval Saints, which he made on the walls of Hindi Bhavana in Shantiniketan around the eve of India’s Independence from colonial rule. The mural charted the history of medieval India through the lives of Tulsi Das, Kabir and others, and emphasized on their humane teachings. N.S. Bendre covered landscapes and figurative paintings but along with that also explored multiple ways of combining cubist, expressionist, and abstract genres from Western Modernism into his own work which stemmed from Indian formalism. One of his paintings of the Quit India Movement maidan captured the intensity of the freedom struggle and the unity of India.

Sunayani Devi was unfairly removed from the history of Indian painters. She was the younger sister of Abanindranath Tagore and Gaganendranath Tagore. She was a self-taught artist, often found spying on her brothers and tutored herself by watching them. Her subject of art surrounded women at their toilet, dolls, players, actors and themes from the mythic Radha-Krishna cycle. She was an important member of the Swadeshi movement art who brought Indian painting styles like Mughal miniatures and ancient Jain paintings into the limelight. 

Mukul Dey is the pioneer of Drypoint Etching. He travelled around in the West to study art and printmaking techniques. Upon returning to India, Dey had a bulk of new western techniques at his hand. With this knowledge, Dey modernised Indian art and its rich artistic heritage in favour of the rising Swadeshi movement in the country. He dedicated his life to the artistic revival of Indian art. Kalipada Ghoshal was also one of the Swedish painters. He was the last successor of Abanindranath Tagore. As a well-regarded student of the Indian Society of Oriental Art, Kalipada Ghosh produced some of the finest and intricate paintings of his time. Some of his prominent artworks are Shakuntala, Persian night, Hara Parvati, Budha and Rahul, Series on Krishna, Series on Buddha etc.

The Swadeshi painters rejected the western art forms, and by reviving the mythological and pre-colonial tales of India through art, they aimed at decolonizing India from the grasp of the British Raj.

Dancing The Rhythm For a Free India

Dancer Yog Sunder’s self-effacing dance productions made him very popular. During the pre-independence period, Yog was a regular participant in the nationalist movements. He produced and directed many well reputed dance productions. Collaborating and partnering with other dancers and actresses, he started the Indian Progressive Ballet Group in Calcutta in 1947. The Group had everyone in awe with the production of their well reputed programmes. Prominent among them are Birth of Freedom, Freedom Festival, Mahabharata, Voice from Beyond, Dances of India, Rhythms of India, Kiratarjun, Chandalika, Call of the Country, Rhythms and Melody, Ramlila, The Lore of India, etc.

Y.G. Srimati was not only a dancer, but along with that, a musician and a painter. She was born in the year 1926, and from a young age, she had started her classical training in music, dance and paintings. Post 1847, Srimati was invited to a number of independence rallies where she sang devotional songs. She had also sung bhajans next to Gandhi at many of his rallies. This she did in different languages to highlight the cultural and patriotic unity amongst the citizens of India, a value that Mahatma Gandhi deeply preached. Her paintings are a result of the influence of the heated independence struggle. She had explored major themes surrounding Indian religious epic literature and rural culture as a conscious expression of nationalist sentiments. Her paintings were also displayed at the MET.

Art and its expressions played a huge role in pushing the patriotic sentiments during India’s freedom struggle. The pre-independent Indian painters, musicians, and dancers added more density to the movement, and were equal participants in the fight against the colonial rule.

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Vistas of Bharat : Indian Culture

The Unsung Heroes Of India’s Independence Movement

The celebration of India’s 75th independence is incomplete without remembering the unsung heroes and their unaccounted contribution

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Freedom Fight

India is celebrating Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav to celebrate its 75 years of Independence and growth. There were freedom fighters from every nook and corner of the country who fought the colonial forces with their every breath. Lives were taken and lives were given for the freedom of this land. History has recorded this valiant two decade long fight for independence. However, not every name and every life could be written down. India’s freedom struggle is incomplete without remembering every person who led and participated for India’s swaraj and freedom. Through the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the government has tried to bring the names of the unsung heroes into view, so they could be celebrated for their patriotism, courage and determination. Here’s a small list of the lesser known freedom fighters, in other words, our unsung heroes, and their contribution to India’s independence. 

The Power of Journalists

Mohammad Ali was a journalist. He launched his famous weekly The Comrade, in English, which gained quick circulation and influence. The Comrade criticised the plight of Muslims globally and in India at the hands of the British. Vishnushastri Krushnashastri Chiplunkar was another unsung hero, a Marathi writer. He was the editor of many periodicals, out of which the most influential was Nibandhmala. Keeping Marathi literature in the loop, he produced and wrote several writings which were politically loud to address various social injustices. Freedom fighter T. Prakasham was born in 1872, in the Guntur district of present-day Andhra Pradesh. He released a newspaper titled, ‘Swarajya’ in three languages- English, Tamil and Telugu. The newspaper was his platform to express his ground level politics. Hasrat Mohani’s name has primarily stayed out of India’s freedom fighters consciousness, even though he fought with his whole demeanour and heart. He coined one of the most popular revolutionary slogans, ‘Inqilab Zindabad!’ Bhagat Singh and his comrades spread the use of this slogan. He started a literary-politic journal named, ‘Urdu-i Mualla. Maghfoor Ahmad Ajazi was a young political activist who left his studies to participate in national movements. He formed the All-India Jamhur Muslim League to counter Jinnah’s All-India Muslim League, as he was strongly opposed against the two-nation proposal. Sir Subbier Subramania Iyer was an Indian lawyer, jurist and journalist who, along with Annie Besant, founded the Home Rule Movement. He also started a press called the ‘National Press’ and issued a weekly journal called the ‘Hindu.’ Subramania is the founder and the first editor of the Hindu newspaper. Most of his written works and journals focused on social and educational reforms. Kasturi Ranga Iyenagar too contributed towards ‘The Hindu’, because he was a staunch believer in free speech. He became its editor in 1905. He guided the newspaper, and under his watch, the newspaper became a powerful tool for the national cause. Iyenagar didn’t have any previous experience of being a journalist, and yet, he did a perfect job! Sisir Kumar Ghosh is a well known Bengali journalist and an avid freedom fighter. He, along with Motilal Ghosh, founded the one of the oldest newspapers of India, the Amrita Bazar Patrika, a Bengali language newspaper, which developed into an English format in cities of Calcutta, Allahabad, etc. Vladimir Lenin described it as “The best nationalist paper in India”. The newspaper got instant popularity because it covered real and raw coverage of the injustices of the British Raj. K. Ramakrishna Pillai was a nationalist writer and journalist. He was the editor of ‘Swadeshabhimani,’ (The Patriot). The newspaper became an unstoppable tool against the British raj and led to a massive social transformation. The paper attacked the Diwan of Travancore (present day Kerala) of ‘corruption and immorality’ and criticised the age-old customs and malpractices. He appealed to the people to unite and demand self-government. All of this led to the confiscation of Swadeshabhimani and his exile from Kerala in 1910.

Finding Strength and Voice in Literature

Bharatendu Harishchandra was an Indian poet, writer and a playwright. His words were best known for their commentary on the British raj. His story Andher Nagari (A city of darkness) had the lines, “Andher Nagari, Chaupat Raja, taka ser bhaaji, take ser khaja”, (A dark city, a failing king, a penny for sweets and a penny for onion rings). These lines were an allegory and pointed out a city falling into darkness due to the lack of sound administration, a direct condemnation of The British Raj and its destructive ignorant rules. Fakir Mohan Senapati, along with a writer, was also a social reformer. One of his prominent novels highlighting the Indian freedom Struggle is the ‘Chhaman Atha Guntha’ (Six Bighas of the Land). It is the first Indian novel to deal with the exploitation of landless peasants by a feudal Lord in British India. Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay was a Bengali novelist and a short story writer. His writings vividly portrayed the social struggles and tragedy prevailing in Bengal, more specifically in Bengali villages. His 1926 novel, Pather Dabi, is about a secret society named Pather Dabi, whose goal is to free India from British rule. Tarasankar Bandyopadhyay was a dedicated freedom fighter. He dropped out of his college to join the non-cooperation movement. His writing skills allowed him to express his rage more coherently and to a large audience. The themes of his writings revolved around communal riots, war, famine, economic inequalities, the independence movement, social conditions, etc. Known by his pen name, Parshad, Shyamlal Gupta etched his name onto the land of India with his song, Azadi Ki Raah Par, (sung by Sarojini Naidu). Azadi Ki Raah Par is the flag song of India and is sung every year when India’s flag is hoisted at the Independence and Republic Day celebrations.

Makhanlal Chaturvedi was one of the lesser known freedom fighters. Chaturvedi didn’t hesitate to write against the hypocrisy of the colonial masters and spread the ideas and values for an exploitation-free, happy and peaceful India. Few of his stories like ‘Him Kirtini’, ‘Him Tarangini’, ‘Kaisa Chhand Banaa Deti hei’, ‘Amar Rashtra’ and ‘Pushp ki Abhilaasa’ empathised with the life of a common man and his struggles at the hands of the Britishers. Subhadra Kumari Chauhan was recognised as the first woman satyagrahi of the country. She penned the most recited poems of Hindi literature—Jhansi Ki Rani. (“Khoob ladi mardaani voh toh Jhansi wali Rani thi.”) Moreover, her poems voiced the poor plight of the Indian women and the evils of the caste system. Ramesh Chandra Jha is the pride of Bihar. At a young age, he became well acquainted with the freedom struggle. He organised a student protest at school, which gave him a tag of ‘criminal minded boy.’ He was suspended for organising it. As a poet, novelist, and a journalist, Ramesh Chandra covered stories of both people’s struggles, along with their dreams and hopes. Some of his published patriotic works are ‘Bharat Desh Humara,’ ‘Jai Bharat Jai Gandhi, Jai Bolo Hindustan Ki,’ ‘Jawaan Jagte Raho,’ ‘Chalo-Dilli’ and ‘Priyamvada.’

Radhanath Ray is hailed as the Father of Odia Modernism. Initially, he wrote in both Bengali and Odia. However, later, he shifted to Odia completely. One of his notable songs during the heated nationalist movement was the song “Sarbesang No Janani,” which was filled with patriotic sentiments. Radhanath Ray sparked an impetus for the Odia language in the face of Bengali language which was being actively advocated by the Britishers. Bhai Vir Singh is the father of modern Punjabi Literature who brought the Sikh history to the front lines. For his pioneering work for the Sikh community, he was granted the title of ‘Bhai,’ and the ‘creator’ of Modern Punjabi literature. During the ongoing freedom struggle, Bhai Vir Singh brought the stories and struggles of the Sikh Village folk to light. He wrote poems on freedom and patriotism. Shabbir Hassan Khan Josh Mahilabadi was one of the lesser known freedom fighters, an unsung hero. Some of his poems were ‘In the name of the sons of the East India Company,’ ‘Revolt,’ ‘The Broken Walls of the Jail’, ‘Dreams of Defeated Prisoner’ etc. which attacked Britishers and their atrocities. Garimella Satyanarayana was another unsung hero who used his words to mobilize the people of Andhra to take part in the freedom struggle of India. One of his most famous songs was, “Maakodi Tella Doratanam” (We don’t need this White rule).” Influenced by Gandhi, like many others, K.S. Venkatramani too used literature to portray his ideals. He wrote two important novels–Murugan, The Tiller (1927) and Kundan, The Patriot (1934). In Murugan, Venkatramani recognizes the sacrifices of village people in their struggle for freedom. Whereas the novel Kundan dealt with the economic impact of Gandhism. Subramanya Bharati wrote songs on nationalism and freedom, which inspired and fuelled the Tamil youth to go against the Britishers. Govardhanram Tripathi was an Indian Gujarati language novelist. One of his most celebrated works is his novel, ‘Saraswatichandra’ which he wrote between 1887 and 1901, in four volumes. The novel gives a vivid sight of the effects on the state of Gujarat as the British rose and practised their selfish rules on the people. Kazi Nazrul Islam had initially trained in the military to fight off the colonisers. However, later he settled into literary work. His works sharply and unapologetically criticised the wrongs of the British Raj. His criticism labelled him as a ‘rebel poet’, which also got him jailed.

These freedom fighters were the unsung heroes, the lesser known revolutionaries, writers and journalists who haven’t been spotlighted in the history of the freedom struggle despite their unparalleled contribution and dedication to their country. The British Raj eventually crumpled by each and every force extended by the people of the country. While celebrating the Azadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, the 75th year of independence, make sure to utter the names of the unsung heroes as well!

To read more about them, visit Vistas of Bharat!

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Vistas of Bharat : Indian Culture

The Ones Who Led The Way: Freedom Fighters Of India

Ahead of India’s 75th Independence, here’s remembering our freedom fighters stood at the front lines valiantly.

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Independence Day

The struggle for India’s independence was a two decades long fight. The colonial powers had gripped the land ruthlessly and strongly. Unity was India’s strongest force against the Britishers. Even though it didn’t succeed at the first trials, it eventually was the only tool which could drive the British raj out of the country. An important role who played in uniting and mobilising the crowd against the parasites were the leaders of this struggle. They took the lead, fiercely and courageously.

Leaders express an unwavering grit and determination, which makes the team members hopeful and gives them strength. It isn’t to be believed that leaders do not fear or do not break. They do, but they know how to stay collected and move ahead, regardless. This is what our the leaders of the freedom struggle also did. They organised, mobilised, and agitated relentlessly against the colonial forces. The fire inside them sparked the same in a hundred others. India is about to celebrate its 75th year of Independence, and in this light, let’s celebrate the vigour of these valiant freedom fighters of India who gave direction to the freedom struggle in multiple different ways.

Leading The Way With Literature And Words

Rabindranath Tagore was a valuable force of inspiration during the freedom struggle of India. Through his songs and poetries, he mobilised strong crowds against the colonial forces. Some of his self-composed songs, like ‘Ekla Chalo Re’ and ‘Bharat Bhagya Vidhata,’ sparked unity and nationalism amidst the freedom fighters. Similarly, Muhammad Iqbal produced the patriotic song, ‘Saare Jaha Se Acha,’ which was released in 1904, and since then it has been sung amongst children to instill in them respect for their land.

‘Vande Mataram,’ comes to mind instantly as we think about Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay. However, many of his accomplished works also include, ‘Devi Chaudharani,’ a novel whose protagonist was a leader and a female. She inspired women to take up the cause of independence. His other novel, Anandamath, also featured a strong woman character. Amongst other writers were Mulk Raj Anand and Raja Rao. Mulk Raj Anand used literature to spread and advocate Gandhian ideologies. Most of his works critiqued the social realities of the British in India. Raja Rao’s ‘Kanthapura,’ narrates the rise of the Gandhian National Movement in a small village in South India. The villagers organise passive resistance against the Britishers, cementing Gandhi’s leadership in the struggle. 

Raja Ram Mohan Roy was one of the social reformist freedom fighters of India. His social reformations purified many of the evils lurking in Indian society. He introduced the concept of modernization to fight both the evils of superstitions in India and the social evils of the Britishers. He campaigned strongly against the caste system, untouchability, and child marriage and advocated for women’s literacy.

It goes without saying that Munshi Premchand’s short stories reflected unapologetic, patriotic fervours. Most of his written works creatively revolved around the themes of non-cooperation, civil disobedience, swadeshi, hindu-muslim unity, satyagraha and the eradication of untouchability. He tried to present these stories from the perspectives of the oppressed and marginalised.

Sarojini Naidu was a poet and a politician. Famously regarded as the ‘Nightingale of India,’ she wrote a number of lyrical poems around themes of children, nature, patriotic sentiments and love and death. Included in this list is also Maithili Sharan Gupt. He is the pioneer of writing poetries in ‘khadhi boli’ (plain dialect). Many of his composed songs have been crowned as ‘the national song.’ It is believed that he was even given the status of the national poet by Mahatma Gandhi.

Ashfaqullah Khan and Ram Prasad Bismil were passionate revolutionaries who wanted to free the country of colonial rule as soon as possible. Ram Prasad wrote compelling patriotic poetries in Hindi and Urdu under three different pen names: Bismil, Ram, Agyat. Ashfaqullah too wrote poems in Urdu under two pen names, Hasrat and Warsi. It is believed that the Britishers were forced to keep Bismil and Ashfaq in cells far away from each other because they’d sing “Sarfaroshi ki tamanna ab hamare dil mein hai, dekhna hai zor kitna baazu-e-katil mein hai” and hearing each other’s voices they’d laugh triumphantly in the face of the Britishers.

Veer Savarkar was the pioneer of hindutva ideologue, to promote the idea of Hinduism as a political and cultural identity against the fight with the Britishers. These ideas were presented in his written pamphlet, “Hindutva: Who is a Hindu?” He also wrote “First War of Independence ” in which he described the 1857 revolt as the first Indian ‘uprising’ against British rule. Working on similar thoughts was Madan Mohan Malaviya, who founded the Banaras Hindu University. This university was a movement towards Indian culture when people believed that only the adoption of western values could provide them a better life. BHU aimed at reviving the Bharatiya culture along with providing the best modern education to its students. One of Malaviya’s other greatest achievements was the introduction of Devanagari in the British-Indian courts.

Bal Gangadhar Tilak’s words, “Swaraj is my birthright, and I shall have it” still resonate with us as it did with the Freedom Fighters then. Gangadhar fiercely fought against the unfairness the Indian students were subjected to at school and in education as compared to their British peers. This belief of his is vividly present in his magnum opus, “Secret of the Bhagavadgita.” Sri Aurobindo’s lines, “there are some who fear to use the word ‘freedom’ but I have always used the word because it has been the Mantra of my life to aspire towards the freedom of my nation” scared the Britishers since it was the first time someone was using the word ‘Independence,’ instead of ‘Swaraj.’ Rabindranath Tagore even painted Sri Aurobindo “Messiah of Indian Culture and Civilisation.”

Harivansh Rai Bacchan is the greatest Hindi poets of the country. During the freedom struggle of India, he, along with Mahadevi Verma, Suryakath Nirala, started the tradition of ‘Kavi Manch’. Kavi Manch was a way to motivate and mobilise people to participate in the protests. Poets from all over the country would recite their patriotic poems to infuse nationalism in the gathered crowd. Ramdhari Singh Dinkar was born in the midst of this heated nationalist movement unfurling in India. The freedom struggle of his country became the source of his penned words. One of his poems, “Sinhasan Khali Karo ki Janta Aati Hai” is a call for the youths of India to participate for the independence of their country.

The Palette Of Colours Splashed Against The Colonial Forces

Abanindranath Tagore contributed extensively to the freedom struggle of India. He established the Bengal school of art to counter the English influence on Indian artists. Most righteously called the Father of Modern India art, he gave a strong impetus to the artists of India to reclaim Indian art and its culture, thereby reclaiming a patriotic stance in art and culture which was otherwise being undermined by the western art.

Jamini Roy reclaimed Indian art and worked to bring the traditional and folk art of India into light. He ditched his western training of the arts to go back to his Indian roots. Amidst this wave of Modern Art was also an important woman, Amrita Shergill, who spotlighted the women’s experiences and sufferings during the colonial India of the 1930s through her canvas and paintbrush. Her paintings gave voice to their sadness, loneliness, and hopelessness. K.C.S. Paniker gave rise to the Madras Art Movement. As the administrative head of the Madras School of Arts and Crafts, he gave much needed attention, freedom and ambience to all aspiring artists, so that they grow and flourish. Inspired by Jamini Roy, Paniker too, found the inspiration for his art in his regional confines. 

These were the freedom fighters who helped to sow a strong, unbreakable and deep love and patriotic fervour for the country, insisting on people to protect their land and their culture. India’s independence was a collective dream, and collectively it was won. However, the freedom fighters we discussed helped to lay down the paths on which many followed.

 To read more about our freedom fighters, visit Vistas of Bharat!

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Vistas of Bharat : Indian Culture

Vistas of Bharat: A Salvation Through The Odissi Dance

From the realm of spirituality and antiquity, Odissi dance form connectsthe abstract and the material and synchronises the divine and humane.

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Odissi

Sculpted in the archaeologically important religious sites related to Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism of Odisha, Odissi, finds its roots in the ancient Hindu text of Natya Shastra. Archeological survey dates its origin in around 2nd century B.C. owing to the sculptures analogous to it in the caves of Udayagiri and Khandagiri near Bhubaneswar. It is a dance-drama genre that narrates a mythical story with a spiritual message, parable or philosophical verses from ancient Hindu texts and pertinently originated as a temple dance. It was originally performed by female dancers called Maharis when they were appointed in the royal courts, a troupe of boys called Gotipuas took their place in the temples. The destruction of temples during the Mughal era, thus, resulted in the decline of the art form. 17th century did witness some deration owing to comparatively lenient rulers, however, the anti-dance movement during colonial rule saw its further degradation. Post-colonial revival in the nationalistic fervour is mainly accredited to Odiya poet Kavichandra Kalicharan Pattanayak and the dance form owes its name to him as well. Perfecting the synchronisation of hand gestures, footwork, facial expressions and most importantly, the torso movement, an emotive and sensuous performance of Odissi is formed.

The body movements revolve around two main positions, called Chowk (masculine gesture) and Tribhanga (feminine gesture). The repertoire opens with Manglacharan, offering to mother earth followed by Pushpanjali (flower offering), invocation, Nritta (pure rhythmic dance; Batu), Nritya (enactment using codified gestures of dance), Natyam (play performance which is usually a group performance) and ends with Moksha (characterised by quick movements to symbolise salvation of soul). An Odissi music plays accompanied with instruments like Mardala, harmonium, flute, sitar, violin and cymbals in the background.

The dancer is dressed in a silk saree which is pleated and is adorned with prints of traditional regional designs. Ornamented with traditional silver jewellery and hairdo, representing a temple spire, a performer, is beautified for a beautiful show.

With the themes of love, verses with euphemistic metaphors of sexual union and embellished with Shringara rasa in Odissi, performance is a blatant celebration of human fallibility. It is an audacious celebration of intimacy. In the modern era, focused at breaking archaic structures blinded by philistinism, Odissi proves to be a dance form breaking stereotypes and reflecting on the treasure trove of lessons embedded in culture.

Sharmila Mukherjee

Sharmila Mukherjee is an Odissi dancer, choreographer and the founder and artistic director of Sanjali Centre for Odissi Dance in Banglore. The centre was established in 2004. After completing her studies, and graduation, Sharmila Mukherjee followed her passion for Odissi. Sharmila Mukherjee had shown extreme talent and reverence for the art form at a very early age. When she was 16, she performed the main role of Chandalika in Tagore’s dance drama “Chandalika”. Her grace, poise and stage presence caught the eyes of the critics.

Credits: YouTube (Sharmila Mukerjee)

Laavanya Ghosh

Laavanya Ghosh is a prolific dancer from Kolkata, who moved to Bhubaneswar to fulfil her aspirations for Odissi. Laavanya Ghosh’s mother wished for her to pursue classical dances, and today she is a beautiful performer, who has crossed many of the barriers which society threw at her. Through Odissi, Laavanya Ghosh has incorporated the three Ds in her life: Dedication, Determination, and Discipline. She worships Odissi, and stands as a great artist to look up to!

Credits: YouTube (Laavanya Ghosh)

Sujata Mohapatra

Sujata Mohapatra is an Odissi dancer and teacher. She was born in 1968, and in 1987 travelled to Odisha to continue her training in Odissi. Sujata Mohapatra started dancing Odissi classical with Sahu’s dance troupe in programs across Odisha. She continued to evolve her dance form, and is known as one of the foremost soloist Odissi dancers of her generation. She has also done research work in the arts of Odissi. Sujata Mohapatra is also the principal of  ‘Srjan’ (Odissi Nrityabasa), a prime Odissi Dance Institution founded by MGuru Kelucharan Mohapatra. She has a number of accolades to her name like Central Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, 2017, Nritya Choodamani from Krishna Gana Sabha, etc. 

Credits: YouTube (Habitat World)

Mahina Khanum 

Mahina Khanum is an Odissi dancer and teacher based in Paris, France. IFor the past 10 years Mahina has been working towards bringing Odissi under the global spotlight. In 2020, during the pandemic, Mahina Khanum through Odissi dance, promoted Covid-19 safety protocols. She is also artistic director of @Lezartsmedia which is currently working for the promotion of Indian culture.

Credits: YouTube (Mahina Khanum)
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