It is being predicted that by 2020, India will become a force to reckon with. All efforts are on by the government and the public to make it to the top economically, technologically, scientifically and in every other way one can think of in the tangible domain. We might achieve this in the next 13 years, but the way things are progressing, India may not remain India any more. In our rush towards the top, the best of experimentation bequeathed to us by our ancestors could get lost or could mutate keeping its outward appearance but losing its soul. Smt Kishori Amonkar has commented that once a handful of older musicians pass away, there will be no one singing Indian classical music in the manner in which it should be sung. Kuttiyattam, one of the world’s oldest art forms, declared ‘as a masterpiece of the oral and intangible heritage of humanity’ by UNESCO is on the verge of extinction with very few practitioners. Still fewer in number are those who have learnt all the highly sophisticated techniques developed in this form and have simultaneously understood its deep philosophical tenets. The rudra veena, which stands for an entire tradition of music, has only two major exponents today and the dhrupad style of singing is modifying itself to survive in this increasingly market driven world. Even the manner in which our classical musicians, both Hindustani and Carnatic, are staging their concerts is catering to the changing circumstances: making their presentations more pleasing and entertaining rather than elevating. Attempts at retaining the spiritual element in the music or dance are usually brought down to such a direct plane that they resemble the sermonizing of many of our modern gurus whose discourses tend to reach out easily to the lowest denominator, thereby making them slaves, rather than giving them a liberating experience. The greatest of our rishis, munis and sufi saints have shown the broad way for others to follow, always encouraging them to try and fi nd their own individual path. Today, greatness is defi ned by the number of people who have been drawn into following exactly the same path as professed by the guru. Our ancestors have handed over to us a philosophy subtle, inspiring, abstract and mystical. There is no short cut to achieve the understanding and experience of this. Many easy routes are being propounded today but their benefi ts, though immediate, are shortlived. Just as India today is giving importance to information technology due to which we are emerging as the information technology hub of the world, we must give equal, if not greater importance to the propagation of the ancient wisdom passed on to us through centuries of experimentation. This way we can contribute to the world, dimensions of inner growth which are unsurpassed, but which are gradually either getting lost or are mutating to cater to the market forces and thereby losing their raison d’être. The highways, the metros, the worldclass airports, the malls and the multiplexes are all welcome but not at the cost of losing this great heritage. Civilizations such as the Greek, the Roman and the Aztec now exist only in museums. Japan, after its mad rush towards industrialization, suddenly realized the loss of its three great art forms Noh, Kabuki and Bunraku and set up national academies for their revival. But a replanted forest is never the same. It takes centuries to build the biodiversity and undergrowth. Let us not make the same mistake.
–Dr. Kiran Seth