AN AMALGAM OF THE EAST AND THE WEST

Chettinad art and architecture is distinct for its unique mix of European and Indian styles.

Tiled carpets

One can find many gems of Indian art and culture in Tamil Nadu's renowned Chettinad region. Known for its distinct style of architecture, Chettinad's temples and stately mansions testify to the prosperity and artistic traditions of the local Chettiar community.

The village of Athangudi, here specialises in the manufacture of handcrafted tiles. The Chettiars, who travelled overseas, for trade, in the 19th century, were inspired by European ideas of interior decoration and infused them in their homes. The Athangudi tiles are an expression of this unique blend of the east and the west.

Elaborate

Making these tiles is a time-consuming process. Each tile is made individually on a square sheet of glass. A metal stencil, with the desired motif, is placed on the glass. A slurry of cement and coloured oxides is poured into the spaces of the stencil and spread evenly. The workman, then removes the stencil and sprinkles a layer of dry sand on it after which he lays a thick layer of a wet mixture of cement, sand and small stone aggregates or jelly. The tile is dried in the sun before immersing it in water for several days. When the tile dries out, the glass sheet slips away. leaving behind a smooth, glistening tile with a colourful ornate design.

Athangudi tiles are usually in geometric or floral designs in earthy colours such as red. blue, green and ochre. When laid out, they look like an exotic tiled carpet.

Mosaics of Ravenna

The port city of Ravenna was the seat of ancient Italy's Byzantine Empire. An immortal legacy of that era is the city's collection of exquisite mosaics of early Christian art, said to be the best examples of Byzantine art outside of Istanbul. UNESCO has granted World Heritage status to eight early Christian monuments of Ravenna, each of which boasts of outstanding mosaics dating back to the fifth and sixth centuries. The mosaics in the Basilica of San Vitale, depict figures from the Old and New Testaments along with the reigning monarchs, archbishops and bishops of the time. Interiors with richly decorated motifs of angels, flora, and fauna, a great triumphal arch embellished with mosaic medallions depicting Jesus Christ and the 12 Apostles, are but some magnificent fixtures found here.

In the Basilica of Sant Apollinare Nuovo, Jesus is portrayed as a Byzantine emperor. The ornate panels describe his miracles and parables, as well as the Passion and Resurrection.

The Mausoleum of Galla Placidia has the best preserved mosaics in the area. The most famous of them is called Christ as the Good Shepherd. It shows the haloed figure of Christ draped in gold and purple tending to his flock.

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WHICH ARE THE POPULAR DANCE FORM AROUND THE WORLD?

From kathkali to salsa, a dance form is an expression of a country’s culture and heritage. Let’s take a look at some unique dance traditions from across the globe.

BALLET: Said to have originated during the 15th century's Italian Renaissance, it later developed into a concert dance form in Russia and France. Did you know that one ballet performance can take over 5,000 hours of practice, and that ballerinas are as strong as football players? The most widely recognised or most famous ballet is Tchaikovsky's The Nutcracker.

KABUKI: A classical form of dance-drama, it is one of Japan's important traditional arts. It is said to to have originated in the early Edo period, when founder Izumo no Okuni formed a female dance troupe that performed dances and light sketches in Kyoto. However, it developed into its present, all-male theatrical form after women were banned from performing in kabuki theatre in 1629. In 2005, UNESCO declared kabuki theatre as an intangible heritage.

THE FLAMENCO: An art-form based on southern Spain's various folkloric music traditions, in 2010, it was declared by UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. Palmas, or rhythmic hand-clapping, is an important aspect of the art-form, and is of two types - Palmas Abiertas and Palmas Sordas, which use different parts of the hand to produce different sounds.

KATHAKALI: A story-play genre of art which originated in Kerala, India, it stands out due to its elaborate, colourful make-up, costumes and face masks that the performers don. Its traditional themes include legends, spiritual ideas from the Hindu Puranas and epics, and folk stories. Several aspects and elements of the art-form are said to have been taken from ancient Hindu texts including Bharata Muni's Natya Shastra.

BALINESE DANCE: Extremely expressive and dynamic, it is an ancient dance tradition that is part of the religious and artistic expression among the Balinese people of Bali Island. It incorporates ancient Hindu traditions, combined with drama, that narrate stories through music and dance. Various types include the Ramayana Ballet, the Legong dance, the Barong Dance, among others.

TINIKUNG: A traditional Philippines dance, it is said to have originated in in Leyte, an island, during the Spanish colonial era. It derives its name from the tikling birds, whose speed and graceful movements the dance imitates. It imitates the birds' movements as they walk between grass stems, dodge bamboo traps set by farmers, and run over tree branches.

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WHAT ARE THE SPRING FESTIVAL OF INDIA?

Like a rainbow that glitters in a diversity of colours, the festivals in the month of April celebrated in various corners of our country, draw people from India and abroad, filling them with wonder and delight. The diversity of India enhances this country with a wide variety of cultures and customs with inestimable beauty and richness. They uplift everyone's hearts with pride and grandeur.

Tulip Festival (Kashmir)

No one can imagine the colours that can churn and please your senses with the aesthetic beauty of nature. The Tulip Festival is a unique festival hosted in the Kashmir Valley during spring. It will take place from 3 April to 30 April 2022, and this year, 62 varieties of tulips will be on display. People gather here to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of nature. The Dal Lake stands out when the beauty is at its peak.

Baisakhi (Punjab)

Baisakhi is the New Year of the Sikhs. Besides being a spring time harvest festival, the day commemorates the formation of the Khalsa Panth of warriors under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699. Every year it is celebrated on 13 April and after every 36 years, on 14 April. It is a time when farmers of northern India get enthusiastic to harvest the season's crop and energize themselves to sow the next season's crop. It is a festival to celebrate their hard work that is visible in the form of their golden crops.

Bihu (Assam)

Assam is blessed with rich soil for agriculture and surrounded by blue mountains and the mighty Brahmaputra river to maintain its freshness. The festival of Bihu gives a uniqueness to the Assamese people and marks it as an exceptional harvest festival of Assam. It is celebrated thrice during important junctures of the agrarian calendar. The first Bihu which is known as the Bohag Bihu or Rongali Bihu is celebrated for a period of seven days in the month of April. On this occasion, the farmers prepare their fields for cultivation, and the occasion is filled with feasting and dance.

Shad Suk Mynsiem (Meghalaya)

Meghalaya with the celebrates the onset of spring with the community's biggest festival, Shad Sukh Mynsiem, through which they offer their gratitude to the creator for all the blessings and bountiful harvests received. This festival offers them a stage to showcase their traditional dance and rituals which gives them a unique identity in the country. Visitors to the Shad Suk Mynsiem festival can also learn about how they keep alive old traditions and help indigenous beliefs and customs flourish in the modern century. This festival marks one of the best ways to see the beautiful and ancient heritage, beliefs and motifs of the community.

 

Aoling Festival (Nagaland)

This festival is celebrated by the famous Konyak tribe of Nagaland during which they seek blessings from the creator for their upcoming harvest. The colourful dresses, traditional dances, meat preparations, feasting and gathering are the main components of the festival.

Chithirai Festival (Tamil Nadu)

According to the Tamil calendar, Chithurai is the first month of the year and the starting of the financial year. During this 15-day festival, people from all over the world gather in Madurai temples with great enthusiasm and joy. It is believed that on this day Lord Vishnu comes to attend the marriage ceremony of his sister, goddess Meenakshi, to Lord Sundreshwar. The Chithirai festival involves a series of events that are not only pleasing to the eye but also represents traditions of southern India.

Kadammanitta Padayani (Kerala)

The annual temple festival of Kerala is held in the month of April, attracting tourists from all over the world with its theatrical processions rather than celebratory rituals. It is a traditional festival that transforms the idea of celebration. It showcases the art of southern India with an eclectic blend of music, dance, theatre, satire, facial masks, paintings, excitement and enjoyment. It is a ten day-long celebration devoted to the goddess Bhadrakali.

Mopin (Arunachal Pradesh)

This agricultural festival of Arunachal Pradesh, is a five-day-long festival ebrated by the Galo tribe. People smear rice powder on each other's faces and express their traditions through Popir, a slow and graceful dance by the women of the tribe all dressed in white. The focus of the festival is to turn back from evil spirits.

Sankat Mochan (Varanasi)

This is the annual classical music festival of Varanasi held at the Sankat Mochan Temple at Varanasi. Eminent classical musicians, singers and performers participate in this most exclusive worldwide cultural event. The reputed festival welcomes audiences from all over the world to experience classical music.

Naba Barsha (West Bengal)

It is marked as the first month in the Bengali calendar and celebrated on the 13th or 14th day of April according to the English calendar. Culturally rich people of Bengal indulge in rituals and traditions, decorating their houses with rangolis. The festival is marked by colourful processions, fairs, festive family get-togethers, and prayers to the Ganesha and the goddess Lakshmi for health and wealth in the year ahead.

Urs Festival (Ajmer)

Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti was a popular Sufi saint whose dargah is in Ajmer. He was the founder of Chisti Sufi and popularly known as Khwaja Gharib Nawaz. The Urs Festival is a six-day long festival during which devotees pay respect at the saint's grave by placing ceremonial chadars over it. Candles are lit, prayers are offered, and qawwalis are sung all night.

Kollam Pooram (Kerala)

Kollam Pooram is held every year in April in Kollam city of Kerala. The festival is widely popular and witnesses crowds from all over the world. A grand procession of elephants appears from different temples, the most famous among them being the Thamarakulam Sri Mahaganapathy Temple and the Puthiyakavu Bhagawathy Temple. Another attraction of the festival is the display of colourful umbrellas atop traditionally-adorned elephants, and the beats of drums known as 'melam'. The pooram ends with fireworks at night.

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WHICH IS THE FAMOUS FOLK DRAMA OF MAHARASHTRA?

A tamasha is a traditional theatre art form of Maharashtra, prevailing since the 18th century in most parts of rural Maharashtra. Tamasha was exclusively performed by boys and young men due to varied reasons. During the reign of kings, varied stories were narrated and enacted through the medium of music, dance, acting and dialogue delivery. Playing a key role in a tamasha is the vidushak or songadya (comedian). The comedian is also the coordinator, who narrates the entire story with jokes in between that indirectly portray the ills of society in a humorous manner.

The popular folk dance of Maharashtra known as lavani forms an integral part of a tamasha. While lavani is extremely popular in urban areas, the tamasha is still more prevalent in rural areas, wherein thousands are attracted to watch and be entertained with a night long performance. There are around 15,000 families who are practitioners of this art form, and include dancers, musicians, make-up artists and other technical staff involved in the organisation of a performance.

Significance of the tamasha and its evolution

Tamasha literally means 'dispeller of darkness' in Marathi. It can be traced to the 18th century when Peshwa spies picked up the art from Mughal military camps and made it their own. The traditional lavani, a forerunner of tamasha, was an amalgamation of kavya (poetry), sangeet (music) and abhinay (acting).

The current format includes a wholesome entertainment showcasing gan (musical and lyrical prayers to Lord Ganesh), gavlan (musical and lyrical tribute to Lord Krishna, Radha and his various milk gathering women, his love interests), rangabaji (songs and dances including lavani), batanavni (skits and banter between anchors) and vagnatya (a full-fledged play).

There are two types of tamashas, namely fadacha and sangeet bari. While fadacha gives more importance to light-hearted humour and acting, sangeet bari lays emphasis on music with a lot of dances as well.

Music

A four-piece orchestra consisting of an organ, dholki (percussion instrument), clarinet and halgi (small drum), support the singing, that does not emphasize melody but dramatization and follows the natya sangeet (drama music) that forms the hallmark of Marathi theatrical productions. A doyen among folk artists, Pathe Prabhu Rao Kulkarni has rearranged the music and lyrics with the objective of education through entertainment. Nevertheless popular Marathi and Hindi film songs have been adapted for mass appeal.

Costumes, make-up and performances

With the inclusion of women performers, tamasha has become quite popular, particularly, the lavani. The make-up used is quite ordinary but sometimes garish, too. Women are attired in the traditional nine-yard saree which is stitched in such a way, like a dhoti, to make it comfortable to dance and sometimes jump too, according to the story or scene depicted. The male dancers or actors, the drummer, the singer and the comedian used to move and dance along with the dancers but recently changes have been introduced pertaining to the style of presentation.

Social relevance of a tamasha

The tamasha is socially relevant because it is a well balanced performance - the songs and dances are there to entertain while the skits and plays are socially relevant. Tamashas cover a wide range of social issues and the speciality is that they do it in a dramatic manner, using humour, thus connecting with people instantly.

Tamasha performances are a combination of information, education and entertainment. Many a time they are a medium used as social correctives too. Many plays are based on Sangeet Bari, an award-winning book written by Bhushan Koregoankar.

Ganpat Rao Mane, owner of Loknatya Tamasha Mandal, Chinchini in Sangli district of Maharashtra, has penned socially-relevant tamasha plays like Maharashtra Chuktay Nahi (Maharashtra Won't Be Divided), a historical on the life of Sambhaji, Lagan Adhi Kum Kum Posle (Widowed Before Marriage), Dnyaeshwar Maji Mouli (Dnyaeshwar My Mother), Janma La Indira Punha (Indira Be Born Again), Ase Pudhari Thar Kara (Kill Such Corrupt Leaders), Hunda Rakt Mangat Ahe (Dowry Demands Blood), etc.

Eminent performers

Vithabai Narayangoankar is a veteran performer while both Satyabhamabai Pandarpurkar and Shabubai are Sangeeta Natak Akademi winners. Anil Vasudevan, despite being a Malayalee, is the choreographer and director of Bin Baicha Tamasha (Tamasha Without Women) group consisting of all male dancers who excel in the female disguise, and has already rendered thousands of performances winning wide acclaim and appreciation. Anil Vasudevan is a Bharata Natyam and folk dance exponent and dance teacher for over four decades.

Tamasha is widely performed by local or travelling theatre groups within the state of Maharashtra with great appeal to the local folks. Its themes have also become the subject of several Marathi films. Today, it has become an awareness weapon, which can challenge norms and often embraces rebellious issues for the common man.

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What is Kintsugi art in japan?

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of sealing cracks in broken pieces of pottery using gold powder and lacquer. A direct translation of the word means 'golden joinery'. By emphasising the cracks, the need to mend them and renew an object, the 400-year-old technique reflects the larger Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi that tells you to look for beauty in imperfections.

The art may date back to the late 15th century,  when Japanese shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa returned a broken Chinese tea bowl to China to have it repaired. The bowl was given back to him held together with unattractive metal staples. At the time, staples were the main method used to fix broken, yet valuable, vessels. Tiny holes were drilled on either side of the broken pieces and then metal staples were bent and used to hold them in place.

The result was practical, but not very attractive. Yoshimasa's experience may have triggered a quest by Japanese craftsmen to find a new type of repair that could make damaged items look new — or even better.

The craft became so beautiful and so revered that collectors developed an appetite for the mended pieces. Some people were accused of purposely breaking prized items just so they could be repaired with the golden art. Some say that an item repaired by kintsugi looks more beautiful than when it was whole. When a ceramic vessel undergoes this mending transformation, its once-smooth surface becomes covered with rivers of colored zigzags and patterns. Because the repairs are done with meticulous skill (and with precious metal), the mended fractures look immaculate and artistic.

Credit : The Hugger 

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