Author:Sandeep Balakrishna

With the kind of excesses of material opulence that the golden era of Krishnadevaraya offered to people inhabiting it—with lavish homes, variety of clothing, expansive gardens, and expensive perfumes, it is only natural that this array of sensual opulence also reflected itself in the enjoyment of that other timeless ingredient: pleasures of the amorous kind.

Art scholars say that the two seemingly different modes of dance known as ‘maarga’ and ‘deshi’ are essentially the same. ‘Maarga’ is the realization of dance and ‘deshi’ is its application in practice. A well defined art, with a set of rules governing it is ‘shaastriya’, i.e., subscribed to a shaastra. (‘Shaastriya’ can be roughly translated as ‘classical’). It belongs to the heritage that was founded by Bharata and his predecessors such as Shilaali and Krshaashva.

While discussing the talent of Balamurali, we have to speak in the context of his contemporaries. The examination of the value of something (or someone) is always carried out with regards to the ecosystem of which it is a part. Value examination cannot take place in a vacuum. And even then, all such evaluations are subjective. Thus it would be foolish on our part to compare Balamuralikrishna with poets like Kalidasa or Kumaravyasa. We can compare him with people like Tyagaraja, Muthuswami Dikshitar, Shyama Shastry, Svati Tirunal, etc.

If Krishnadevaraya enjoyed a whole range of exalted honorifics like Sahitya Sangita Samarangana Sarvabhouma, Mooru Rayara Ganda, Hindu Samrajya Suratrana, Kannada Rajya Ramaa Ramana, and Andhra Bhoja, it was because he had earned them literally by his blood and sweat—not for him were tears. He was endowed with manliness in the truest sense of the word and thereby inspired it throughout his kingdom. He equally earned material wealth on an unprecedented scale and shared his munificence through his jaw-dropping generosity.

We had an overview of Bharata Muni’s Naatyashaastra in the previous article. We picked only one shloka from the 6000 that Bharata has written and analyzed its meaning. We have seen that just like all other art forms, dance too is governed by techniques as laid down by the shaastra. We also discussed the advantage of relying on shaastra and on classical heritage.

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About a week ago, Dr. M. Balamuralikrishna passed away.

When we think about his talent and scholarship, cogitate about his achievements and personality, we feel that a legendary saga has passed by. Beyond the specialties and eccentricities of his personality, what attracted the world by the force of its brilliance was his art.

We shall have a look at Indian dance from the perspective of shaastra and heritage (sampradaaya).

Indian dance, just like other art forms and knowledge systems of India, is idealized. It mainly shows us how things ought to be and not how they currently are or how they appear to be. In other words, it helps us look at nature from the perspective of culture. Bharata Muni speaks of this at the beginning of the Naatyashaastra (1.107 to 1.123)

Shaastra is inevitable for the learning of any art form. However, it is also true that it is almost impossible to ‘teach’ an art. Any learning that can develop only through experience cannot be ‘taught’ using external means.  This can be better appreciated when seen from the perspective of Vedanta and Brahmaanubhava (the experience of the Brahman – the non-dual entity, Bliss in essence).

ಈಚೆಗಷ್ಟೇ ನಮ್ಮನ್ನಗಲಿದ ಬಾಲಮುರಳೀಕೃಷ್ಣ ಅವರ ಪ್ರತಿಭೆ ಮತ್ತು ಪಾಂಡಿತ್ಯಗಳನ್ನು ನೆನೆದಾಗ, ಮತ್ತು ಅವರ ಸಾಧನೆ ಮತ್ತು ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವಗಳನ್ನು ಗಮನಿಸಿದಾಗ, ಊಹಿಸಲಾಗದ ಒಂದು ದಂತಕಥೆಯೇ ನಮ್ಮ ಮುಂದೆ ಸರಿದುಹೋದಂತೆ ಭಾಸವಾಗುತ್ತದೆ. ಅವರ ವ್ಯಕ್ತಿತ್ವ ಎಷ್ಟು ವಿಲಕ್ಷಣವೋ ವಿಶಿಷ್ಟವೋ ಆಕರ್ಷಕವೋ ಅದಕ್ಕಿಂತಲೂ ತುಂಬ ಮಿಗಿಲಾದದ್ದು, ಲೋಕಾಕರ್ಷಕವಾದದ್ದು ಮತ್ತು ಚಿಂತನೆಗೆ ಅರ್ಹವಾದಂಥದ್ದು ಅವರ ಕಲೆ. ಒಂದು ಮಾತಿನಲ್ಲಿ ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ, ಸಂಗೀತವನ್ನು ಸರ್ವಜನಪ್ರಿಯವಾಗಿ, ಸರ್ವಜನಮನೋಭಿರಾಮವಾಗಿ ಮಾಡಿದವರು ಬಾಲಮುರಳಿ ಎಂದರೆ ಅತಿಶಯವಲ್ಲ. ಮತ್ತೂ ಮುಂದುವರೆದು ಹೇಳುವುದಾದರೆ, ಕರ್ನಾಟಕಸಂಗೀತಕ್ಕೆ ಎಲ್ಲರೂ ಕಿವಿಯೊಗ್ಗಿ ಆನಂದಿಸುವಂತೆ ಮಾಡಿದ ಕೆಲವೇ ಮಹನೀಯರಲ್ಲಿ ಅವರ ಹೆಸರು ಪ್ರಥಮಪಂಕ್ತಿಯಲ್ಲಿರುವುದೆಂಬುದರಲ್ಲಿ ಯಾವ ಸಂದೇಹವೂ ಇಲ್ಲ.