The Chinmaya International Foundation in collaboration with the Chinmaya Vishwavidyaapeeth organised a ten day International Residential Summer School titled – “Vyāsa-Vālmīki-Kālidāsa – Realising the Spirit of Indian Culture through their Creations”, supported by a grant from the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (ICPR). The workshop was hosted at the Adi Sankara Nilayam, Kerala from 17th to 26th June 2017 and drew over 51 participants mainly from India and few from overseas. The workshop was conceptualised by Academic Director Shatavadhani Dr. R Ganesh, with Swami Advayananda, Acharya, CIF, Shri Arjun Bharadwaj the academic co-ordinator, and programme executive Dr. Arundhati Sundar.

Summer School 2016, Kalāyoga – The Heart of Indian Art, directed by Dr. R. Ganesh (also supported by ICPR) dealt with the basics of aesthetics, showing how Indian philosophy and classical arts blend into each other. This year, creations of Vyāsa, Vālmīki, Kālidāsa elaborated on the theme by using practical examples from literature.

Besides the Academic Director Dr. R Ganesh, the workshop had two full time resource faculty: Shashi Kiran B N; and the academic co-ordinator, Arjun Bharadwaj. The speakers spoke at length about the philosophy behind the epic tradition. They showed the widespread influence of the epics as expressed in later Sanskrit literature and in different regional languages reaching the entirety of population touching every aspect of culture.

Dr. Ganesh’s sessions started with the purpose of Indian philosophy and classical arts: the realization of Ānanda, Joy. While the Ānanda that is derived from the pursuit of philosophy is an eternal one, the joy from pursuing the arts, although ephemeral gives us a glimpse of the former. Rasānanda therefore serves as an empirical proof for the existence of Brahmānanda and gives us confidence that the latter is something that can be actualized in our lives. Vyāsa, Vālmīki and Kālidāsa are not merely poets, but are seer-poets, they are ṛṣis. Vyāsa, the philosopher, earned his name as he reorganized the Vedas, which form the bedrock of Indian culture and philosophy. He was the author of the Bhagavad-gītā, an integral part of his epic. His creative genius made him integrate his philosophical background with a keen observation of human emotions to give birth to his magnum opus, the Mahābhārata. The Rāmāyaṇa too has several passages that touch upon Vedānta. Kālidāsa has eulogized the trimurti – Brahma, Viṣṇu and Śiva as manifestations of sat-cit-ānanda, the para-brahman. It is thus seen that philosophy and poetry in India go hand-in-hand and are not divorced like in the West. Dr. Ganesh dealt with the relevance of these masters not just historically but in contemporary life.

Although Guṇāḍhya’s work, the Bṛhatkathā is lost today, his tradition has remained in the Indian cultural spirit like the lost river Sarasvatī, whose presence is felt in spirit at the confluence of two rivers, as a third, hidden river. Pañcatantra, Hitopadeśa, Jātaka tales, and other works are reflections of Guṇāḍhya’s work. Vālmīki, Vyāsa, and Guṇāḍhya are like the three great rivers – Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati; and Kālidāsa is the boatman who, with his creative genius, helps navigate through their works and explore their depths.

Shri Shashi Kiran’s sessions dealt with the characters and the sub-plots of Rāmāyaṇa and the poetic beauty of the epic. He also talked about Raghuvaṃśa, the magnum-opus of Kālidāsa, that interploates the stories of the ancestors and successors of Rāma. He also drew parallels from the works of later Sanskrit poets such as Bhavabhūti, Fiṅnāga and Bhoja who have written on the theme of Rāmāyaṇa.

Shri Arjun Bharadwaj spoke on the Kumārasambhavam of Kālidāsa, another epic poem. The Kumārasambhavam, unlike other Sanskirt epics, is the tale of one hero, Śiva and Pārvatī. It is the sublime story of Pārvatī’s journey from the material to the spiritual. Arjun also spoke on the cantos of Raghuvaṃśa that deal with the story of Rāma and discussed how Kālidāsa creatively differs from Vālmīki, although retaining the spirit of the seer-poet.

Wide ranging discussions dealt with the intricacies of Dharma, its portrayal in the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the unbroken transmission of the epic culture, and essentiality of appreciation of these masters to appreciate Indian ethos.

The lecture sessions were supported by five guest faculty who provided the connection and reflection of the philosophy and kāvya in practice of the arts. The guest faculty included Smt. Ramaa Bharadvaj, Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj, the duo Smt. Nirupama and Shri Rajendra, and Smt. Anupama Hoskere.

Smt. Ramaa Bharadvaj, in her presentation showed the art of employing stories from the Pañcatantra to bring philosophy and culture to the modern generation with the “Holy Allegory” exploring Mitra (friendship). She also chose the theme of friendship for her solo presentation ‘Mitra’, based on the Bhāgavata Mahāpurāna.

Dr. Nagavalli Nagaraj demonstrated the influence the poets Vyāsa, Vālmīki and Kālidāsa have had on Indian classical music and also took up a few film songs for shows their applicability in modern times too.

Smt. Nirupama Rajendra showed us how the epic themes can be applied using modern technology without losing on classicality. In her solo presentation in the Bharatanrityam style, she enacted instances from the Kumārasambhavam and the Bhāgavatam. Along with Sri. Rajendra TD, she presented episodes from the Rāmāyaṇa and Raghuvamśa. Sri. Rajendra provided the input on all of the technicalities and presentation of the āhārya, costume and external aspects as well as the musical inputs.

Smt. Anupama Hoskere presented the tradition of puppet theatre in India and its influence on the world. She, with her team, presented the Fourth Act of Kālidāsa’s Abhijñānaśākuntalam through puppets, with a premier show created and crafted especially for this workshop. With Dr. Ganesh providing the lyrics, advise on the music, and voice for the Kālidāsa’s poetry, the śānta rasa could be created even through puppetry.

Shri Arjun Bharadwaj presented the influence the seer poets Vyāsa and Vālmīki have had on classical sculpture in the greater sphere if Indian cultural influence– ranging from Vietnam and Cambodia in the East to Sri Lanka and Indonesia in the South and Khandahar in the West. He explained through imagery how the cultural memory of these countries have captured the epics and are in practise even today. Paintings that embody similar themes were also presented. Sri Arun Raman, a contemporary classical painter demonstrated his paintings on the themes of Rāmāyaṇa and the Bhagavad-gītā.

Smt. Pramodini Rao and Sri. Swapnil Chaphekar, faculty, Chinmaya Vishwavidyaapeeth, presented compositions based on the works of Vyāsa and Vālmīki in Hindustani music.

Deriving inspiration from Kālidāsa’s Ṛtusamhāra, Arjun Bharadwaj and Hari Ravikumar playing only the instrumental music created the emotional mood of the six seasons.

The summer school included performances by the participants, who, through their medium of dance, music, painting and visual arts showed the application of the epic themes. A day trip to a Hill Palace near Tripunithura helped the participants peep into the cultural history of Kerala.

Each day of the summer school started with Kāvya-samskṛtam sessions that helped participants appreciate the nuances of Sanskrit poetry through Subhāshitas, Kṛṣṇākarṇāmṛtam and the works of Kālidāsa. This effort had the effect of while dispelling some of the apprehension that are currently prevalent regarding Sanskrit.

While the inaugural session was chaired by Prof. KT Madhavan, Director International School of Sankara Studies, SSUS, Kalady, the opening address was delivered by Prof B Mahadevan, VC of Chinmaya Vishwavidyaapeeth, and addressed by the Gurest of Honour, Prof. Sreekala Nair, Dean, Faculty of Social sciences & HOD, Philosophy, a Member Indian Council of Philosophical Research, Dr. R. Ganesh, and CIF Acharya, Swami Sharadananda. The valedictory function had Sri Soorya Krishnamoorthy, the founder of Soorya Cultural Festivals, as the chief guest and ended with words of inspiration by Dr. R. Ganesh.

For more details on summer school 2017click here

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