Transitions and transformations are a recognized part of art traditions. Through the Guru-Shishys method, our dances have been oral traditions depending on direct instruction and demonstration, passed on from one generation to the next, their practice down the ages adapting to local, social and chural environment. We also know that historical convulsions and political interventions have staggered and interfered with the continuity of art practices quite often. This being so, to what extent do art forms, which go back to distant history, reflect in their current practice what is mentioned in the old texts and Shastras?
Contrary to general perception, Shastras, or textual material of manuals and treatises, were far from being utopian or in the nature of commandments. They are largely expositions based on what was practiced at that point of time. Different points of view in different texts on the same topic reflect a scholarly openness in introspecting on aspects without rigidity. The fact that many art traditions having their roots in the past, are still surviving, show their adaptability - though what at one time may have been faithful reflections of Shastric formulae, have changed adapting to moving time in different ways. More than technique, it is the nature of the aesthetic experience as enunciated in the Shastras that defines the basis of the Indian art identity.
During the classical dance revival of the nineteen-thirties and thereafter, when the attempt at recovering one's lost identity led to the move towards studying the old texts, it almost became a way of seeking legitimacy by linking every dance tradition to the Natya Shastra. Since Bharata's work is such a compendium of phenomenal knowledge with a unified vision of not just the body as an instrument of art, but on several art disciplines, all dance forms can find some aspects falling in line with what the Natya Shastra mentions. But here again Bharata, in mentioning that Kohala in a further work would cover what he had not, clearly shows his consciousness of the inevitability of change (Kohala is referred to by 8th century Damodara Gupta as kurilava or with expertise in both scholarship and practice, though not much of his writings have been recovered).
**Contents and Sample Pages**
North Indian Music (277)
Original Texts (59)
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