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    Saris, sangeet and Sanskrit

    Saris, sangeet and Sanskrit bind all of India into a special unity. Does it bind India , Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Nepal?

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    Our triple S matrix


    Saris, sangeet and Sanskrit bind all of India into a special unity


    SAEED NAQVI



    We were a little surprised, if not exactly disturbed, when our mother, at 87, returned from a pilgrimage last week looking different from what we had grown accustomed to all these years. She wore a matching salwar-kameez, her head covered with a dupatta, looking reverential and, to us, unreal.

    She understood our bewilderment, smiled and, with a wave of the hand, retired to her room. She re-emerged draped in the kind of handloom sari we have always seen her in. She had worn that salwar-kameez for greater mobility, she explained.

    There was very little sartorial variety in what women of her generation wore — large ghararsas with plenty of gather or saris. The appearance of the sari in Muslim homes in the area of Avadh almost coincided with the disappearance of purdah. In a sense, this latter evolution was a mark of enlightenment, gradual but never universal.

    The sari had come into vogue in our family a generation prior to my mother’s. I remember my grandmother and great aunts draped in saris. It is difficult to put a date on this evolution, but the first stirrings of change can probably be traced to the first decade of the 20th century.

    The sociology of changing fashions generally registers much later. We did not appreciate the full import of the sari having become an inextricable part of women’s wardrobe in the family. But whenever my wife presented my mother a sari from, say, Kerala, with that delicate, slim, golden border on an understated, off-white fabric, some of us became almost imperceptibly aware of the sari as an exquisite motif of India. Unity in diversity is a pale phrase to encompass the spectacular variety of the sari from state to state, district to district. At the Punjab border the continuity breaks somewhat, but that is a detail for another occasion.

    If the sari had placed us in the civilisational mainstream of Hindustan, so had another ‘‘S’’ which defined our cultural existence — sangeet, or music. This ‘‘S’’ broke the barrier beyond Punjab as well, what with strains of the Patiala gharana having travelled to the court in Kabul. Music was part of our lives in our village of Mustafabad (near Rae Bareli) from our infancy. It has always surprised me why the cultural life of a Muslim home is generally projected in terms of austerities.

    One of the great myths of our times is an image of a Muslim cultural monolith in India as well as globally. A Muslim from my part of the world who visited a Muslim home in Calicut or in Bangladesh would immediately understand my point. Our speech, food, dress are shaped by the region, state, environment we grow up in.

    Thus in our Avadh, Muslim home we became conversant with a comprehensive range of Hindustani ragas during the solemn observance of Moharram beginning next week. The Majlis, or the congregation assembled to remember the tragedy of Karbala, is first treated to Soz set to various morning, afternoon and evening ragas. A child, with the minimum of sensitivity, picks up elementary notes and talas, or rhythmic cycles, required for more serious musical exposure later on. The words of Soz are mostly in Avadhi, Brajbhasha, Bhojpuri.

    Provided with this base, it was not difficult to appreciate the full range of sangeet from Sohar, Kajri, Thumri, Dadra right up to Khayal and Dhrupad.

    Incredible as it may seem, but the women in the family, my grandmother, mother, sisters, had all familiarised themselves with names like Hirabai Barodekar and Kesarbai Kerkar through that great invention called the radio.

    A hundred Rabindra Sangeet schools flourish in Bangladesh. Alladiya Khan, Alauddin Khan and Abdul Karim Khan trained scores of musicians we are familiar with today. The genius of M.S. Subbulakshmi exposed us even to Tyagaraja, Sasri and Dixitar. Indeed, once you were exposed to Carnatic sangeet, even Purandardasa became accessible. Sangeet, in other words, placed us once again in the civilisational mainstream.

    The ‘‘sari’’ and ‘‘sangeet’’ are, therefore, the two S’s that bind us as a civilisational unit.

    There is a third ‘‘S’’ we have missed out on. I became aware of the missing ‘‘S’’ as a result of extended conversations long years ago with my friend, the late Abu Abraham, a wonderful cartoonist. One evening Abu lost his temper with me because I was being excessively critical of difficult Sanskrit being introduced into All India Radio news bulletins. ‘‘The more difficult it gets for you, the more intelligible do we find it in South India,’’ Abu said.

    Later, during my extended sojourn in the south as a journalist, I was able to confirm the profound truth in Abu’s statement. More than 60 per cent of Malyalam, Telugu and Kannada is Sanskrit. ‘‘But what about Tamil?’’ I asked Abu. He chuckled: ‘‘Yes there is a problem but both Karuna and Nidhi are Sanskrit words.’’

    The fact of the matter is that a large component of all Indian languages is Sanskrit.

    The general argument is that classical languages cannot be revived for contemporary usage. How then do we explain Hebrew as the language of modern Israel? I have never really heard a convincing argument why Sanskrit has not been used as the third ‘‘S’’ in our civilisational triangle.

    My mother was once toying with the idea of converting our Mustafabad house into a residential women’s college where Muslim women would study Sanskrit. Her point was that intellectual apartheid would grow unless we had access to each other’s classics. She was looking for encouragement she never got from quarters which would enable her to build such an institution.

    #2
    Saris, sangeet and Sanskrit bind all of India into a special unity. Does it bind India , Pakistan, Bangladesh, Srilanka and Nepal?

    Nope!

    Comment


      #3
      bechara!
      Din-e-Mullah fee sabeelillah fasad (Allama Iqbal)

      Comment


        #4
        Originally posted by mufakkar:



        Nope!
        Why. All these countries share same music, dress and languages are based on Sanskrit.

        Comment


          #5
          Why. All these countries share same music, dress and languages are based on Sanskrit.
          How many people in Pakistan wear saris, eat rice and listen to ragas?

          PS Languages spoken in Pakistan may certainly have sanskrit influences but they are not sanskrit based. Also, are you trying to tell me that Sinhala and Tamil are sanskrit based languages???

          Comment


            #6
            Originally posted by mufakkar:


            How many people in Pakistan wear saris, eat rice and listen to ragas?

            PS Languages spoken in Pakistan may certainly have sanskrit influences but they are not sanskrit based. Also, are you trying to tell me that Sinhala and Tamil are sanskrit based languages???

            Sinhala is a Indo-Aryan language similar to Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali from the Indo-Aryan family based from Sanskrit. Tamil though a Indian language is from the Dravidian family and not based on Sanskrit.

            I thought many Pakistani older women especially who moved from india during partition wear saris. All Pakistani classical music is based on Indian Raagas . There are many classical musicians and dancers whose music is based on Hindustani classical music.

            And Biryani, Pulav and other dishes all rice based right.

            Comment


              #7
              Sinhala is a Indo-Aryan language similar to Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati and Bengali from the Indo-Aryan family based from Sanskrit. Tamil though a Indian language is from the Dravidian family and not based on Sanskrit.

              I thought many Pakistani older women especially who moved from india during partition wear saris. All Pakistani classical music is based on Indian Raagas . There are many classical musicians and dancers whose music is based on Hindustani classical music.

              And Biryani, Pulav and other dishes all rice based right.
              Sinhala maybe from the Indo-Aryan family but it certainly isn't based on sanskrit, at least not anymore because of the intervening dravidian languages of South India. The Sinhala script certainly gives no clues to its Indo-Aryan origin.

              Once again, can you tell me as a percentage how many women in Pakistan wear Sari? What is Pakistani classical music? Pakistan has a lot of folk music and folk musicians: Ataullah, Khayal Mohammad, Alam Lohar, Reshman, Mai Bhaagi etc.
              In addition to that we also have musicians who sing classical Raagas but raagas for the most part certainly do not define our music. Finally Biryani and Pulao are rice based dishes but do you think that two rice based dishes make up the staple diet of the nation? Moreover Pulao and Biryani contain meat, similar to rice dishes in Arabia, Iran and Afghanistan, but still, would you say that the staple diet of Pakistani people is rice?

              Nowadays even more than pulao and biryani one can find Chicken corn soup stands and "Ching chi's" everywhere in Pak. "Chinese cooking" (something called Shashlik and Chow mein mostly) are common knowledge in every household. Every house has chinese vases or other items of decoration. (Utility stores used to sell those for peanuts a few years back) Would that make us Chinese?

              Comment


                #8
                Sari, sangeet, Sanskrit, and satti. That what India has. Am I wrong?

                The one thing is common in the whole world about women is" SHE IS BEING ABUSED".

                AND why not- everything God gave to men we abused it all the natural resourses, the planet itself, air, and now we are after space ... Good luck

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