There is a lot of experimentation going on in the field of art nowadays. With the anniversary of the Nirbhaya tragedy approaching, a number of artists have jumped onto the band wagon of bringing out artistic works to throw light on the horror of the incident. It is very good that social issues are being increasingly highlighted in creative works of art.

In the classical arts, the original aim was to take people to realms which are very subtle, inspiring, abstract and most importantly, mystical. One important byproduct is that sensitivity is immediately awakened, resulting in a  humane approach  and intense empathy  for those in pain. Hence in addition to direct messages, the indirect mode used by the classical arts could add a powerful dimension to the message. Just as a mathematician involved with abstract mathematics would leave the simpler arithmetic and algebra to be taught by others, classical artists could spend their valuable time climbing up the pyramid into finer aspects of what is called ‘the alpha zone’.

Another tendency of some classical musicians and dancers today is to pretend to have entered into ‘the alpha zone’, when in fact they are pandering to the populist religious instincts of the audience by basing their presentations on popular themes. I was once told that ‘great art conceals more than it reveals’. Once something abstract is made direct, it slides down the pyramid. It is very difficult to climb up, but very easy to climb down.

It is not for nothing that theoretical mathematicians and physicists are placed at a much higher level than their applied counterparts. The Higg’s boson was postulated almost half a century before it was experimentally verified by scientists at CERN. Popularity will always be there for those who are able to present something easily understandable, like the ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ hoarding which poses the quiz question: ‘Why is it that a round pizza is put into a square box?’. It takes great effort and courage to take people up the pyramid and some, maybe, into ‘the alpha zone’ provided one has been there oneself. All our forms of yog including our classical arts (naad yog) are methods of achieving this wonderful goal and diluting them would be lowering their immense possibilities.   It is not to say that experimentation should not be conducted in the classical domain, but that it should be of a level which should help take the artist and if possible the audience into that special zone mentioned, and this has been done by some of our very great artists, most of whom are now no more. Their primary aim was not to please the audience or even to give them a message, but was to reach indescribable inner heights themselves, which in turn raised the consciousness of the audience. Everything else was a byproduct, including social messages. According to the sufi mystic Hazrat Inayat Khan sahib the aim is to go beyond just being creative. ‘Art no longer remains just art but becomes a direct expression of the soul’. Some classical music concerts nowadays resemble bhajan mandalis and many classical dance performances are issue based. While the importance of bhajan mandalis and social issues cannot be discounted, the unique place of our classical arts in touching our innermost core should not be lost.

Ustad Aminuddin Dagar would say, “Bahut mehnat karke bhi kayi janam lene padte hain vahan pahunchne ke liye”


- Dr. Kiran Seth