THE RITUAL UNIVERSE OF HINDUISM
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© Bharat Gupt 2008
In the fifties, modernity came to be concretized in India as print culture managed space in which the symbolic and imaginative were replaced by functional reality. Although there had been many attacks on hypocrisy in Hindu rituals, a century earlier, by Dayanand Saraswati, Vivekanand, Phule, Sri Aurobindo and many other enlightened souls of modern India, the essential efficacy of a ritual was not denied by these reformers. It is important to note in the context of rituality that Dayanand Saraswati in spite of his virulent attack on moorti worship, reinvented and revived the Vedic yajna ritual and made it accessible in a very simple form to the traditionally uninitiated but a self chosen arya-samaajee worshiper. Vivekanand also advocated for the clean traditions of saguna worship. But a great change of attitude towards the very value of ritual set in after Independence. In the state-manipulated intellectual climate that prevailed during Nehru’s rule, reality and truth came to be defined in realistic Newtonian terms of European physical sciences. Rationality was reduced to a scientific positivism which was hyped as ‘scientific temperament’ and was privileged as a curative for the earlier ‘non scientific Hindu vision’ of the universe. What is worse, this fascination for ‘scientific temperament’ did not take into account the post-classical developments in physics and their implications on philosophy. Not only were some of the most rigorous traditions of native reasoning disregarded, even the latest views of modern science were blatantly ignored. As a result, modernity in India, to this day remains a 19th century construct weighed down by notions that Nehru imbibed in his days in Eaton and Cambridge ossified in his adulthood into a Fabian atheism that he foisted upon the Indian educational system being the first Prime-Minister.
Bharat Gupt Associate Professor, CVS, Delhi University. Founder member and Trustee International Forum for India's Heritage. Born in 1946 in Moradabad, a small town in the Uttar Pradesh province of India of mixed Hindu-Muslim population, best known for its engraved art on brassware and a little less for Hindustani music and Urdu poetry. Parents moved in early fifties to Delhi, the new capital of modernity and political intrigue, where I went to school and college and studied English, Hindi, Sanskrit and philosophy, but spent every summer in the district town. Spent a year in the US at the end of Counter-Cultural days and took a Master's degree from Toronto. I learnt to play the sitar and surbahar under the eminent musician Uma Shankar Mishra and studied musicology , yoga sutras and classics under Acarya Brihaspati and Swami Kripalvananda. Trained both in modern European and traditional Indian educational systems, I have worked in classical studies, theatre, music, culture and media studies and researched as Senior Onassis Fellow in Greece on revival of ancient Greek theatre. As a classicist I came to realise that ancient Greek drama and culture as a whole, was given an unduly empirical color by the modern West. Looking at things from my own location I saw that Greek theatre was closer to ancient Indian theatre as an ethical and religious act or hieropraxis. Instead of being seen as Western and Eastern, Greek and Indian theatres should be seen rooted in the Indo-European cultural beliefs, myths and idolatory and the aesthetics of emotional arousal. I have lectured on theatre and music at various Universities in India, North America and Greece. I am on visiting faculty at the National School of Drama, Delhi and the Bhartendu Academy for Dramatic Arts , Lucknow.