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India keeps the changeless Truth

India keeps the changeless Truth

Author: Louba Schild
Publication: Organiser
Date: August 4, 2002
Vijnana Kala Vedi, the cultural centre, created in 1977 by Smt Louba Schild, a French artist living in Kerala since 1968 has been introducing Indian arts to foreigners. The different art forms such as Kathakali, Mohiniattom, Bharatanatyam, Mudras, Classical music, Percussion instruments, Kalaripayattu, Wood carving, Mural painting. Rangoli, Ayurveda, Hatha Yoga, etc can be explored at this centre. Situated on the banks of river Pampa in Aranmula, declared as a heritage village of India by Indian National Trust of Art and Culture (INTACH), the centre welcomes any serious student of Indian arts without any distinction of sex, country and profession. Aranmula is world famous for its mirrors, "Aranmula Kannadi", unique for its alloy and its ancient method of manufacturing and polishing techniques. The five-century-old Parthasarathi temple adds to the beauty of the place.

Excerpts from an exclusive interview, of Smt Louba Schild with Pradeep Krishnan:

Q. What prompted you to come to India and study its Arts and Culture?
A. I came to India to meet my spiritual Guru. After I got answers to all my questions and entered a real spiritual life, I 'tasted' the fruits around: the arts and customs and life of the people of Kerala. They all seemed to be based or to point to the highest principles found in the spiritual teachings of the great sages of India. So I did not come to learn the arts first, but they captivated me, as they, seem to blend so extraordinarily with the spiritual background.

Q. What is unique about 'Kathakali'? How is it different from other theatre art forms of India?
A. Kathakali has the 'theatrical aspect more developed. It seems to require a deep commitment from parts of both the actor and the spectator to reach a level where the mind dissolves and great happiness is experienced. In any art form it is possible, but Kathakali is blessed with many elements which contribute to bring about such an experience: The music, the ragas, the percussion, the costumes and the mythology with its intricate and deep meaning, just like all the instruments to create a symphony.

Q. To learn Kathakali one needs patience and perseverance. Do you think-the fast and easy going modern youth would accept Kathakali? How far is it popular even in Kerala?
A. The new generation is not so much attracted to it. Perhaps a new theatre is yet to come. The problems of this time are different. But it takes 'genius' to come up with the art of the time.

Q. It is often commented that the presentation of plays in the urban cities and the suburbs has degraded its serenity. Traditionally, these arts thrived at the temples. How do you view this?
A. I think that it is high time to stop those loudspeakers, whether they are in cities, suburbs or villages. They spoil the culture, the car drums and bore those who are not interested. Why can the musicians learn to sing without, but at least, if, as the High Court recently ordered, there could only be some sound boxes inside the premises. Of course, even without any electronics the Chenda is very loud. The art of the "trance" is no more in fashion, and the ears change slowly their ranges of acceptance of sounds. Perhaps, for foreigners, it might be unbearable.

Q. In every Indian art there is a body-mind-soul link. To practise these arts, the life style has to be different. Can the Westerners easily adopt this?
A. Oh yes! Those who are ready for it are eager to do it. But sometimes the Indians do not show the example and the foreigners are confused about which is the correct standard: Traditional way of life with a sound moral background? Or neo-classical style where the outer form, the customs are sometimes a little carelessly transformed? Or a complete change in the way to consider arts and life, being modem and free creators?

Q. How far Indian art forms are popular in Western societies? Can the Western audience be able to appreciate its value fully?
A. It must have been a small part of the art lovers who could appreciate Indian arts, the large public being so manipulated by fashion, etc. But those who appreciated did it fully: They preferred when the performance of Kathakali was scheduled for the whole night. Many young artists became attracted, fascinated by it and decided to come to Kerala to study Kathakali or Bharatanatyam in Chennai.

Q. Life in India is unique rich and varied culture and traditions- do you think it is degrading?
A. Yes, it seems. Not because the customs or traditions are forgotten. But because people do not care for them any more. People often find fault with some organisation: The Government, the Dewasom Board, the municipality, etc. What about the people themselves? Where is their faith, their enthusiasm, their love for others and their country? Man has a tendency to always accuse somebody else. The Western culture is polluting. Why did they (the people), allow it? I do think that Indian people must look inside and refresh the aim of their life!

Q. Everybody is now appreciating Indian Culture, Arts, Crafts, way of life, etc. But is it not such way a glorious culture the product of a society, which allowed such diversity to flourish?
A. It is not because India allowed the diversity that she is great, but because she kept the unity behind, in spite of the diversity.

Q. Even in art forms there is now a tendency to imitate the West. Are we not loosing our best by aping the West?
A. Aping is indeed not good. But the greatness of India is precisely, to be able to absorb, transform or co-habitate with other religions, races, etc without loosing her identity because she has been (must continue to) keeping her spiritual background beyond changes, beyond time and space: The changeless truth.

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