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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Art and culture: Icons to inspire new generation

Actually, Majuli’s manuscript paintings describe Vedic scriptural stories like Lord Krishna’s pastimes. It offers a pictorial presentation of colourful heritage in manuscript writing styles - Gargayan script, Kaithall, and Bamunia. The GI tag not only protects these crafts but also shines a global spotlight on Majuli’s artistic prowess. Manuscript painting is practiced on the barks of Aquilaria malaccensis, locally known as ‘Sashi’ (agarwood tree). A long-lasting indigenous impermeable ink and colours extracted from natural ingredients are used to paint on the bark.

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By: Amar Krishna Paul

School final examination period is getting over soon. Having completed the examination, students will get at least 30 days of vacation. To utilise this vacation, the State Art and Culture Department and Union Ministry of Culture may organise cultural events to popularise the ethnic heritage among the students.

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These students will be the future of the nation. They should know their rich heritage and unique cultural identity. Leading cultural legends may impart special training on the rich traditions.  In other words, the students may take wise lessons from the cultural icons to practice their very own heritage. The award-winning celebrities may inspire the young students to practice and preserve the rich culture including traditional music, song and dance of the Northeast.

It’s a moment of joy. Majuli in Upper Assam has secured the prestigious Geographical Indication (GI) tag, acknowledging its traditional arts of mask-making and manuscript paintings recently.

The GI tag, bestowed by the Centre, recognises the rich cultural heritage and historical importance in connection with these traditional folk crafts. NABARD’s Assam Regional Office, which has been facilitating the GI registration of unique products, stated that the GI tags are recognition of the rich cultural tapestry of Assam, with the two products representing its heritage.

Actually, Majuli’s manuscript paintings describe Vedic scriptural stories like Lord Krishna’s pastimes. It offers a pictorial presentation of colourful heritage in manuscript writing styles – Gargayan script, Kaithall, and Bamunia. The GI tag not only protects these crafts but also shines a global spotlight on Majuli’s artistic prowess. Manuscript painting is practiced on the barks of Aquilaria malaccensis, locally known as ‘Sashi’ (agarwood tree). A long-lasting indigenous impermeable ink and colours extracted from natural ingredients are used to paint on the bark.

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Accordingly, the mask making of Majuli is an age-old art form in the island, dating back to the 16th century. It is one of the most famous traditional crafts still practiced in Majuli, the world’s largest inhabited river island. It has been an integral part of the ‘Sattriya’ culture of Assam. It is largely practised in the Satras, Vaishnavite monasteries or centres of learning, and individual craftsmen residing in the villages of Majuli. Both the art forms grew in medieval Assam under the guidance of ‘Sarvagunakar’ Srimanta Sankardeva.

If a person gets due recognition from competent authority for specific work in the form of award, honour during lifetime then it may be counted as the highest reward for him or her. Influers and leading personalities are being awarded or honoured along with all states of India by different organisations serving at the national and State level from time to time.

On March 6, 2024 President Droupadi Murmu presented Sangeet Natak Akademi Fellowships and Awards for the year 2022 and 2023 to leading personalities of India in music, dance, drama, art, etc. in New Delhi.

She said that art is not just for the sake of art. It also has a social purpose. According to her, there are many such examples in history, when artists used their art for social welfare. Artists have been contributing to the awakening of society through their creations. Indian art is the best example of India’s soft-power.

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She opined, “Today mental issues like stress and depression are increasing. There are several reasons for this. One of the reasons could be focusing more on material happiness rather than spirituality. Connection with art makes us creative. Art provides a way to discover truth and gives meaning to life.”

It fact, the President conferred Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards (Akademi Puraskar) for the years 2022 and 2023 to 91 eminent artists (two joint award) in the field of performing arts in the special investiture ceremony held on March 6, 2024 at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi. Out of 94 artists selected for Akademi Awards, three (3) artists could not attend the award ceremony due to ailing health. The Akademi Awards have been conferred since 1952. These honours not only symbolize the highest standard of excellence and achievement, but also recognize sustained individual work and contribution. The honour of Akademi Fellow carries a purse money of Rs. 3, 00, 000 (Rupees three lakhs) while the Akademi Award carries a purse money of Rs. 1,00,000 (Rupees one lakh), besides a Tamrapatra and Angavastram.

The first citizen of the country gave away fellowships and awards to a few artists and drama personalities from Northeast India. They include – Dulal Roy (Guwahati, Fellowship Award), Gobinda Saikia (Sattriya), Karuna Borah (Other Major Traditions of Dance and Dance Theatre- Ankiya Bhaona), Helen Giri (Folk & traditional Music 2023, Meghalaya), S. Noyonshakhi Devi (Manipuri), Gunakar Dev Goswami (Direction), Olen Megu Damin (Folk &Traditional Music & Dance, Arunachal Pradesh), Tarawati Bori (Folk /Traditional, Music, Assam), Chingtham Ranjeet Khuman (Thang Ta, Manipur), Lakshahira Das (Overall contribution in performing arts, Assam), Latasana Devi (Manipuri dance),  Bhaben Borbayan (Sattriya), Urmika Maibam (Manipuri), Dimpee Baishya (Sattriya), Chow Saratham Namehoom (Folk Music, Arunachal Pradesh), Binita Devi (Puppetry, Assam), Moirangthem Kendra Singh (Nata Sankirtan, Manipur), Pukhrambam Reepa Devi (Manipuri), Mukunda Saikia (Sattriya), and so on.

A citation about Assam’s noted drama personality Dulal Roy asserts: “Born on April 1, 1943 in Guwahati, Assam, Dulal Roy is an alumni of the National School of Drama, New Delhi and the Film & Television Institute of India. Dulal Roy, has left a mark on the theatrical landscape with his profound and thought-provoking works.  With a career spanning several decades, he has crafted plays that resonate with audiences across generations. Dulal Roy’s plays delve deep into the complexities of human emotions and societal issues, offering poignant reflections on life and its myriad facets. His narratives are rich with compelling characters, intricate plots, and powerful dialogues that captivate audiences and leave a lasting impact.

As an actor, director and playwright, Dulal Roy has shown his strong competence in many languages. Dulal Roy has served as the Project Director of Sattriya Kendra, Guwahati and In-charge of Sangeet Natak Akademi’s North East Centre, Guwahati. He has also served as a member of many prestigious committees. Dulal Roy has received numerous awards and honours like the Sangeet Natak Akademi Award, Chamanlal Memorial Award, Natasurjya Phani Sharma Award, and Natya Bhaskar Samman. Dulal Roy is elected Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi for his contributions to Indian theatre.”

The way forward

The Sangeet Natak Akademi under the National Akademi of Music, Dance and Drama, New Delhi,   has been carrying out the work for preservation and promotion of performing arts in different parts of the country and strengthening and protecting our intangible cultural heritage. The Central Government should increase the budgetary allocations for boosting the rich and colourful heritage of the Northeastern States.

Of late, the Arunachal Pradesh Government has erected a statue of legendary music composer and singer Bharat Ratna Bhupen Hazarika at Bolung village in Lower Dibang Valley. The ten feet bronze statue, sculpted by Biren Singh of Guwahati, was erected in the village in 2017.  Hazarika also produced the first Arunachalee content based film in Hindi ‘Mera Maa Mera Dharam’ in 1976 and shot his Assamese film ‘Rashmi Rekha’ in 1971-72 in Arunachal Pradesh, the ‘Land of Dawn-lit Mountains’.

Conclusion

To sum it up, India is inching ahead keeping an equal pace with other countries of the world in bagging a wide range of awards and honours. This is a good trend. In a word, the concerned agencies and government departments must keep a regular tab on the yeoman’s services of the noted people of all states to honour them with awards from time to time. The upcoming generation will definitely learn many wise lessons from leading legends in art and culture. With the help of new media platforms, the tech-savvy new generation will also be motivated by them to carry forward the rich heritage of NE at the international arena soon. (The author is a Guwahati-based writer and analyst on Current Affairs. He can be reached at   amarkrishnaghy@gmail.com.)

 

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