january 2011 programmes 

 

 

monday 3rd january
6.00 pm Ancient Civilization Series at The National Archives
Vedic Civilization and its Spread’ by Dr. Nicholas Kazanas
 

wednesday 5th january
6.30 pm ‘A Tale of Coffee: From Islamic Wine to Christian Cappuccino’ an illustrated talk by Nayan Chanda 

saturday 8th  january
6.30 pm ‘sur sangam’   a Hindustani Vocal recital  by Amjad Ali Khan 

tuesday 11th january
6.30 pm ‘Multi-stories. Cross Cultural Encounters.’  an illustrated discussion by Professor Kalpana Sahni 
 

friday 14th january
6.00 pm "Salaat" – (prayer)
(74 mins, 2010) a film by Kaz Rahman  

tuesday 18th january
6.30 pm “Reading Here from There” a talk by Rick Simonson
 

wednesday 19th january 2011
6.00 pm “Innovation within Tradition in the Solo Item Repertoire of Kuchipudi” a lecture demonstration by Yamini Saripalli

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Ancient Civilizations 

This Series of 12 lectures on the ancient civilizations of the world will be held at the National Archives over a 12 month period in collaboration with National Archives and UNESCO. 

Eminent Indian and foreign scholars will cover aspects of ancient India and the Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Mesopotamian and other ancient cultures. 

In the last 20 years many developments have taken place in the study of ancient civilizations. DNA, carbon dating and linguistic as well as reinterpretation of existing evidence by a new generation of scholars have overturned our dearly held beliefs of Aryan invasions and/or immigrations and point to a much older, indigenous civilization than previously thought.  

The Vedic Tradition probably influenced Egypt and Mesopotamia, the spread of Buddhism influenced cultural developments in S.E Asia, Tibet, China and Japan. Vedic Sanskrit still influences the Indo European cultures all over the world.  

This series introduces the views of newer scholars in the field with thought provoking, sometimes revolutionary ideas on our common past.

 

 

monday 3rd january
6.00 pm Ancient Civilization Series at The National Archives
Vedic Civilization and its Spread’ by Dr. Nicholas Kazanas
 

 Civilization is usually thought of as a historical period of a people with increasing wealth and power and expanding influence, with large buildings, artefacts tools and weapons. But it is also an inner condition aiming at spiritual betterment with truth, justice, goodness. The ancient Vedic Tradition influenced many peoples and cultures at different periods from 3000 BCE to our own times both in the East and the West. Sanskrit, religion and philosophical ideas were the means whereby important changes were effected. The inner development or self improvement is already apparent in the Rgveda and becomes the backbone of the Vedic Tradition even to our own days through the study and application of principles of Yoga and Vedānta.  

It is probable that the Vedic Tradition influenced Egypt and Mesopotamia early in the 3rd millennium BCE, as also philosophical and religious teachings in the Near East in the first two centuries CE. Buddhism influenced cultural developments in South-East Asia and Tibet and further on in China and Japan. Philosophy and religion took along with them the study of Sanskrit which influenced the languages of those regions. The language and philosophy of the Veda influences also modern cultures all over the world today.  

Nicholas Kazanas was born in the greek island Chios in 1939. He studied English Literature at University College, Economics and Philosophy at the School of Economic Science and Sanskrit at the School of Oriental and African studies - all in London; also post-graduate at SOAS and at Deccan College in Pune. (India). 

He taught in London and Athens and since 1980 has been Director of Omilos Meleton Cultural Institute. (www.omilosmeleton.gr/en/default_en.asp) In Greece he has published treatises of social, economic and philosophical interest. He is on the Editorial Board of Adyar Library Bulettin (Chennai). He has also produced a three-year course of learning Sanskrit for Greeks.     

From 1997 he has turned towards the Vedic Tradition of India and its place in the wider Indo-European culture. This research comprises thorough examination of Indo-European cultures, comparing their philosophical ideas and values, their languages, mythological issues and religions. He has also translated the ten principal Upanishads from the original Sanskrit text into Greek. His latest publications are 'Indoaryan Origins and Other Vedic Issues'  and 'Economic Principles in the Vedic Tradition' .

  

wednesday 5th january
6.30 pm ‘A Tale of Coffee: From Islamic Wine to Christian Cappuccino’ an illustrated talk by Nayan Chanda
 

Like many other stimulants, coffee too is associated with religious practices. According to widely believed lore, Islamic teachers in either Ethiopia or Yemen discovered that a potion made from coffee beans helped to keep the faithful awake to pray more than the five times per day required by Islam. As the waft of coffee spread to Europe and beyond, the so-called Islamic wine underwent many transformations.

The globalization of coffee from the middle ages is a tale of love, deception, sultans, grand mufti’s, fatwas and wars. 

Medicinal benefits included a 1616 tract

“Tis extolled for drying up the Crudities of the Stomack, and for expelling Fumes out of the Head. Excellent Berry! which can cleanse the English-man's Stomak of Flegm, and expel Giddinesse out of his Head.” 

And its critics declared

“...the Excessive Use of that Newfangled, Abominable, Heathenish Liquor called COFFEE .. has.. Eunucht our Husbands, and Crippled our more kind Gallants, that they are become as Impotent, as Age.”

Coffeehouses became wildly popular not only because of the coffee but as the first secular spaces in mostly heavily religious societies. 

Nayan Chanda's illustrated lecture will trace the amazing history of a globalized beverage.  

Director of publications and editor of YaleGlobal Online, he is author of the internationally acclaimed Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers and Warriors Shaped Globalization (Yale University Press, 2007), which has been translated into seven languages. Before joining Yale University in 2001, Nayan was an editor and reporter for the Far Eastern Economic Review (Hong Kong) and editor of the Asian Wall Street Journal Weekly. He is the recipient of the Shorenstein Award for Journalism for 2005, presented jointly by Stanford and Harvard universities.

 

saturday 8th  january
6.30 pm ‘sur sangam’   a Hindustani Vocal recital  by Amjad Ali Khan
 

Swar (or Sur) is nothing more than the seven notes of the Indian musical scale, and is similar to the solfa of Western music.  These are shown in the table below. 

Indian Swar

Western Equivalent

Shadj

Sa

Do

Rishabh

Re

Re

Gandhara

Ga

Mi

Madhyam

Ma

Fa

Pancham

Pa

So

Dhaivat

Dha

La

Nishad

Ni

Ti

 At a deeper level Swara, the Sanskrit word for tonal center, forms the fundamental basis for the Indian path of music. It is a tone which can shine or resonate by itself and suggests a tunefulness that arises from within in the same way that natural awareness or a brilliant seed syllable radiates spontaneously without any support or control.  

This tunefulness never arises simply on the basis of technique. Underlying the technique there must be an internal ease which is neither too concentrated nor diffused. If it is too concentrated the swara tends to become too hard and if it is diffused, the swara loses its dynamic quality. This necessary understanding of swara is the reason why months and years are devoted to cultivating tunefulness through posture, breath control, and concentration.
 

‘Sangam’ refers to confluence (as in rivers) and in a spiritual sense to unification. This evenings ‘sur-sanagam’ therefore is the confluence or meeting of harmonious sounds by a talented singer.   

Amjad Ali Khan is the grandson of the renowned sarangi nawaz Padmashree Ustad Shakoor Khan Saheb and the son of Ustad Akhtar Nawaz Khan of Kirana gharana.  

Amjad is a disciple of his uncle Bandish Nawaz Ustad Mashqoor Ali Khan Saheb and Ustad Mubarak Ali Khan Saheb. He is a graded artiste of All India Radio and Doordarshan Delhi. He has received the scholarships from the Sahitya Kala  Parishad and the  Department of Culture. Amjad has participated in many prestigious concerts in India and abroad. 

 

tuesday 11th january
6.30 pm ‘Multi-stories. Cross Cultural Encounters.’  an illustrated discussion by Professor Kalpana Sahni 

Professor Kalpana Sahni’s  presentation, based on her new book will comment on how we continue to live in a fascinating world of cross-cultural interweaves. These myriads of interconnections stretching back in time engulf our daily lives, yet often we are either unaware, or overlook them due to our conditioning and ingrained notions.

She will explore the overlapping and intermingling of cultures as well as the immense cultural diversity on our planet. This exploration will inevitably question any notions of higher or lower cultures, and civilized or uncivilized peoples. Indeed she questions the very concept of superiority amongst peoples.  Each community, no matter where it is located on the globe, is unique and the differences are reflected in the multiple layers of culture, but no layer is more authentic than any other. 

A well known academic, Professor Kalpana Sahni is a scholar of remarkable diversity. Her extensive writings on Russian literature and culture as well as her Central Asian field work in the old mohallas of Samarkand, Bokhara, Turkestan and Dushanbe have given her a unique sensibility about interconnected cultures. She has been consulted by The Aga Khan Foundation and the Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative Programme. Dr. Sahni spent her early schooling years in Moscow where she returned to do her Doctorate, before joining the faculty of the Jawaharlal Nehru University in Delhi. Professor Sahni’s extensive publications include two books, A Mind in Ferment, Mikhail Bulgakov’s Prose and Crucifying the Orient, Russian Orientalism and the Colonization of Caucasus and Central Asia, as well as three edited books on literature.  

 

friday 14th january
6.00 pm "Salaat" – (prayer)
(74 mins, 2010) a film by Kaz Rahman
 

Cast: Hedi Hurban, Sara Rahman, Nasreen, Umran Yazici and Zainulvara Zaheer.
Premier: Pittsburgh September 17th, 2010.
 

The film depicts salaat - Islamic prayer – both literally and more abstractly. Shot in Hyderabad, India, and Ontario, Canada, the largely dialogueless film captures five Muslim women as they recite their daily prayers. In most instances, these women step away from their otherwise engaged days as each pauses for prescribed prayer. From one who ritually washes in a paradisiacal garden pool, to one shopping in a crowded city to another bundled against ice and snow, each takes time for God.

The film is contemplative but abstract, minimalist and meditative.The work of Kaz Rahman explores and coalesces the intersection between Islamic artistic expression, the natural elements and contemporary culture.

Rahman grew up in Ontario, Canada and studied Visual Arts at York University in Toronto (BFA), painting/photography at the University of Northumbria in Newcastle, England and later Media Arts at City College (CUNY) in New York City where he earned his MFA.  He has lived in Moscow, Russia (1998), Budapest, Hungary (1999) and Hyderabad, India (2004-08) and currently lives and works in Pittsburgh where he is faculty in Film/ Video at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

His 16mm film Dead Body won the ‘Special Jury Award’ at the 2002 Cityvisions festival in NYC and Rahman has received artist grants in both Visual Arts and Film and Video from the Ontario Arts Council and the Canada Council for the arts. His Recent solo exhibitions in photography and painting include 'Flood in the Sky' in Hyderabad, India (2005), ‘Deccani Ark’ in Bombay, India (2007) and ‘Salaat’ in Hyderabad, India (2008).
 


tuesday 18th january
6.30 pm “Reading Here from There” a talk by Rick Simonson 

Indian writing in English is best summed up by Salman Rushdie’s statement in his book "the ironic proposition that India's best writing since independence may have been done in the language of the departed imperialists is simply too much for some folks to bear". This created a lot of resentment among many writers and Amit Chaudhuri questions it by saying "Can it be true that Indian writing, that endlessly rich, complex and problematic entity, is to be represented by a handful of writers who write in English, who live in England or America and whom one might have met at a party?" 

Anyway there is an important genre of  fiction and nonfiction by Indian writers, wherever they live, writing in English, is discussed by Rick Simonson, a US bookseller who will talk about how writing from India and the South Asian diaspora is being circulated and read. He has worked at Seattle's Elliott Bay Book Company for over thirty years, is knowledgeable about the ways of the larger publishers in New York, as well as the many smaller independent presses that are part of the story. He founded and still directs Elliott Bay's internationally-recognized author reading series, which has presented over 500 authors annually for over twenty years. Most South Asian writers who have published and made their way about the US in recent years have read there: Vikram Seth, Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, Bapsi Sidhwa, Kiran Desai, Arvind Krishna Mehrotra, Gurcharan Das, Amitav Ghosh, Romila Thapar, Jhumpa Lahiri, Abraham Verghese, Michael Ondaatje, Tariq Ali, and many more. 

 

wednesday 19th january 2011
6.00 pm “Innovation within Tradition in the Solo Item Repertoire of Kuchipudi” a lecture demonstration by Yamini Saripalli  

accompanied by:  Guru Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar on vocal
                                 Sri B. Ganesh on mridangam 

     Kuchipudi, originating from the village of Kuchipudi in Andhra Pradesh, is originally a drama based dance tradition that has been passed down over hundreds of years. During the 20th century, Guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam has been a cornerstone in making revolutionary changes to the Kuchipudi dance style. These changes have included the emergence of the solo item repertoire within the style. This lecture demonstration will highlight the choreographic evolution of the solo item repertoire (in the Vempati style of Kuchipudi) in the 20th century until present showcasing new creativity within the structure set by the Natya Sastra.

    Some of the innovation that has taken place includes the following. In order to retain the essential dramatic element in Kuchipudi, solo items include a sanchari or dramatic episode in which the artiste portrays multiple characters and actual dialogue is not used. Moreover, certain rarely used hastas and charies, have aesthetically been placed into these items according to the mood and theme of the particular item. This has brought about innovation while staying within the guidelines of the Natya Sastra. In addition  the music used in Kuchipudi has also undergone evolution. Traditionally, only  Carnatic music ragas were used but today  music used in Kuchipudi has evolved to include many Hindustani ragas as well. Kuchipudi items now also include music from multiple Indian languages (other than Telugu and Sanskrit) and musical composers outside the traditional realm.

Dr. Yamini Saripalli, daughter of Drs. Kondala Rao and Girija Kumari Saripalli had her initial exposure to Kuchipudi dance through Smt. Sujatha Vinjamuri.

 Since 1995, Yamini has been training under Padmabhushan guru Dr. Vempati Chinna Satyam and his son, Sri Vempati Ravi Shankar at the Kuchipudi Art Academy, Chennai. Yamini has performed with Dr. Chinna Satyam's troupe in the United States as well as throughout India.

As a solo artist, Dr. Yamini Saripalli has performed at various prestigious venues such as the Kennedy Center, Washington D.C. ; Milapfest, Manchester, England ; Ravindra Bharathi, Hyderabad, India and a few sabhas in Chennai, India. Yamini helps to  propagate the rich, ancient art form of Kuchipudi through both performing and teaching.

Yamini has also studied Carnatic vocal music since 2001. Her gurus include Smt. Vidya Parthasarathy and Sri DK Nagarajan. Yamini currently trains under Sri Bhagavatula Seetharama Sarma, director of Kalapeetham, Chennai when residing in Chennai.

In addition to her dancing career, Yamini is an honors medical graduate from the University of Missouri- Kansas City and is a practicing dermatologist in the Washington D.C area.