Art And Divinity


Friends, every time I sit down to type my feelings, there is something that inspires me to do so. Just now heard  Sri Ram the sony tv Indian idol star, singing ‘Khwaja mere Khwaja’. Following that I also saw a you tube video of A.R.Rehman singing the same song and again Sri Ram assisting him and also singing one more quawali. Listening to this I was taken to the same platform or trans to which I go everyday while reading ‘Lalitha Sahasranama stotram’. That made me think and arose some questions in my mind—what is art? What is divinity? How are they related? What is religion? Why are we so intolerant as human beings towards other’s religion? What is it that made Sri Ram sing the song so beautifully, his talent alone?

As I sat hunting for the answers to all these questions, it took me back to my childhood days. I come from a telugu Brahmin origin, but this was never strictly imposed on me other than just being a stritct vegetarian. I grew up watching my mother do nitya puja at home and my father too took some time out to sit in the puja room. I grew up listening to ‘Bhagawad Gita’ and ‘Ram Charit Manas’. I also remember the times when we kids used to run out of the gathering while the Geetha was read, as we didn’t understand a word of it and would join the gathering when they were just going to sing a bhajan. I remember how I used to enjoy singing even when asked not to and finally my mother had to close my mouth tight so that I didn’t sing anymore. So far I have always complained that in my childhood I could never learn music or dance properly as we didn’t have enough opportunities in the place we lived and also my parents didn’t go out of the way to encourage my interests. But now when I think, even though my parents couldn’t contribute to my learning of the art, they contributed in a great way to my  learning of art with the most important ingredient, which is divinity, which is bhakti.

There can’t be any art without bhakti. If it is without bhakti, that art is incomplete. Such kind of art can just be to impress someone but not whole hearted. Even after taking all the pains to present a good show, without a heart filled with bhakti, alas, the artist cannot impress the audience to that great extent. Any art without bhakti is like a temple without the deity. People can just appreciate the outer structure or beauty, but not fold their hands or bow their head.

I’m married into a family of telugu Brahmins where again the religious customs or ‘’aacharam’’ how its called, were not given that great importance. But I’m happy and take pride in saying I’m married to a man who wears a jandhyam and does his pratah sandhya vandanam everyday without fail and  his heart is again filled with ‘Bhakti’. It is this bhakti of him that has brought him close to so many other like minded and brilliant artists and we both take pride in calling them our extended family. I shall always be grateful to the almighty for giving me this great a wealth which I shall cherish all my life.

Coming to religion, no religion preaches bad to the mankind, every religion preaches service to the humanity and help the fellow human being. As I said in my previous article, each one of us are taking our individual walks towards the almighty, only our paths are different. These different paths are the different religions.  I am sure no Khwaja or Maula would have given the message  of intolerance, but would have just insisted on their discipline. We as Hindus are more liberal as we have so many different disciplines in Hinduism itself, so saying yes to some other religion becomes more easy.

Even if we keep the word of religion or Hindu and Muslim aside, the sense or feel of divinity, devotion and dedication in a muslim would be the same as the feel in a hindu. This feel doesn’t need to be labeled, rather it cannot be labeled.  Some particular form of art may represent a particular religion. For example in bharatanatyam or kuchipudi we take songs in praise of hindu deities and do sancharis which have stories from hindu mythology, so we can’t separate them from Hinduism. But when we say dance—it’s a language which can preach any religion.  Similarly in Carnatic music we sing the keertanams of different composers on different  hindu deities, but music as such has no religion.

It is this feel of the divine in the heart of Sri Ram, that has made him sing this song so beautifully and which is taking him ahead in his career and not his talent alone.

I have always spoken about artists and their social responsibility. I think at this juncture it would be right to say, that if  all we artists come together, have the same divinity in all our hearts, be service oriented, follow the same religion which is art, irrespective to whether they go to a mandir or a masjid, can do wonders towards the society. We are all Indians, our land is great, our art and culture is great. We should feel proud to be Indians and contribute our share to its society. Our country can flourish only through unity and not through divide and rule. Lets do our share as artists.

Jai Hind