A Continuing Tradition
The cultural policy of the Government has three objectives -preserving the cultural heritage, inculcating art consciousness among the people and promoting high standards in the performing and creative arts. Eminent persons from the field of fine arts are nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament.
Lalit Kala Akademi
The Lalit Kala Akademi or the National Academy of Fine Arts promotes and propagates understanding of visual arts of India. Its activities include organizing national and international exhibitions of contemporary arts. It also brings out monographs on the works of Indian artists in Hindi and English and books on contemporary, traditional, folk and tribal arts written by eminent writers and critics.
The tradition of painting in India goes back to antiquity, as is evident from the murals of Ajanta, Ellora and other frescoes, the Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts, the Jain texts and the Deccan, Mughal and Kangra schools. A touch of modernity came with the Bengal renaissance while many contemporary painters have adopted the abstract and other modern styles. Some of the renowned contemporaries are M.F.Hussain, S.H.Raza, Bikash Bhattacharjee and Anjolie Ela Menon
Architecture and Sculpture
Religious motifs mainly inspired the trends in Indian architecture and sculpture. The temples, mosques, forts, palaces and other monuments testify to that. But after independence, modern architecture in buildings came to India in a big way with Chandigarh, designed by Corbusier, acting as a sort of beacon to the young aspirants in the field.
Sangeet Natak Akademi
The national academy of music, dance and drama (Sangeet Natak Akademi) has performed the role of sponsoring, research, dissemination, appreciation and patronage of the performing arts.
It gives awards to outstanding performers and provides assistance for theatre production and teaching and offers scholarships to students. It also arranges exchange of troupes.
The Indian mythology, legends and classical literature provide the themes of the Indian dance, both of the classical and folk variety. The classical dance is based on rigid rules and dance discipline.
Its forms include Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Kathak and Manipuri. Some of the well-known exponents of classical dance are Yamini Krishnamurthy, Shovna Narayan, Uma Sharma and Sonal Mansingh.
The National School of Drama
NSD has produced some outstanding theatre — and film —personalities of India. Its faculty has been served by some well-known names in the fields of direction, teaching and designing. It also has a Repertory Company of its own.
The theatre in India is perhaps as old as its music and dance. But the classical theatre in the country survives only in some cities. The tradition of folk theatre, on the other hand, is alive in nearly all the linguistic regions of the country. Habib Tanvir, Girish Karnad, M.K.Raina, are among the outstanding theatre personalities. In addition, there are a large number of puppet show practitioners.
The country leads the world in the output of feature films, with about 900 produced annually. They command an enormous domestic market and have become increasingly popular abroad. The major production centres are Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.Movies are the most popular medium of entertainment. Much of the commercial cinema revolves around social dramas and thrillers with many songs and dance sequences thrown in. From its beginning in the silent era of movies, the popular film industry of Mumbai (formerly Bombay),which is popularly known as Bollywood, has come a long way. In 2002,a Bollywood feature film, Lagaan, was nominated for an Oscar.
An art cinema, which takes a serious look at the Indian society, has also come to exist as parallel cinema. There has been widespread recognition of Indian artists and directors at film festivals in different parts of the world. India has been a regular participant in film festivals all over the world. Many Indian actors have won international acclaim; some have served on the jury of film festivals abroad. The late Satyajit Ray was awarded many prestigious international awards including the Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema.
Documentary and short film makers have also played an important role in spreading knowledge and awareness among sections, which are yet to get the benefits of modern education.
The two main classical schools of music in India are called Hindustani, popular in the northern, eastern and western parts of the country, and Carnatic, which has its roots in south India. The classical music tradition has survived through the practice of Guru (teacher) passing on his skills orally to the Shishya (disciple). This led to the existence of the system of Gharanas and Sampradayas in classical music.
Folk and tribal music has also thrived in India and, lately, it has been brought to the cities. Light music has also become very popular in urban centers.
Lata Mangeshkar, M.S.Subbulakshmi, Dr.M.Bala Murali Krishna; Ravi Shankar, Vilayat Khan, Bismillah Khan, Bhimsen Joshi, Jasraj, Amjad Ali Khan, Zakir Hussain; Jagjit Singh, Anoop Jalota; Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Nasiruddin Shah and E.Alkazi are among the well-known names in world of music, films and theatre.
India has a pulsating $3.33 billion music industry which is growing at the rate of 20 percent per annum. Nearly 70 percent of this turnover comes from film music, which has held complete sway over the popular music scene for decades. But in recent years ‘Indi pop ’ is emerging as its rival though it accounts for less than 20 percent share. The rest is divided between classical, semi-classical, ghazal and devotional segments. One of the best known ghazal singers is Jagjit Singh while Shubha Mudgal is a unique case of a classical singer who also as a huge following for her light songs. Many of the ‘Indi pop ’ stars like Daler Mehendi, Alisha Chinoy, are as popular today as film music singers of yester years like Mohammed Rafi, Mukesh, Talat Mehmood and Kishore Kumar.
From the Vedas and Upnishads to Ramayan and Gita, India has produced great works of literature, philosophy and religion. The tradition has continued in contemporary India. Nearly every major Indian language has a rich tradition of literature. Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize for his Work ‘Geetanjali ’. Many Indians writing in English have gained international acclaim. Raja Rao, R.K.Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, and in later years, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Shashi Tharoor…. the list is long. The prestigious Booker Prize of 1997 went to Arundhati Roy for her maiden novel “The God of Small Things ”.
Having won the Olympic gold medal eight times, hockey has long been considered India ’s national sports. Football, volleyball, basketball, badminton and a host of indigenous games like kabaddi and kho-kho are also very popular. But after India won the (one day) World Cup in 1983 and performed well in many other international one-day cricket tournaments, including Asia Cup, cricket has obviously become the nation ’s prime passion. In 2004,the Indian cricket team toured Pakistan. It was a historic tour not only because it marked the resumption of Indo-Pak bilateral cricket ties after nearly 15 years, but also because of the tremendous goodwill it generated among the people of the two nations.
The greatest Indian cricket star at the moment is Sachin Tendulkar, arguably the world ’s best batsman who was the first to amass 13,000 runs in One Day Internationals (ODIs) when he was playing the second ODI in Pakistan during the 2004 tour. He is also closing in on the world record of 34 Test centuries, which stands in the name of Sunil Gavaskar, one of the all-time great batsmen of the game.
Games like tennis, billiards and golf may not be as popular as some other games, but India has made a mark in these fields also. At individual level, Leander Paes has been a Wimbolden Junior Tennis champion and a bronze medal winner at the (1996) Olympic games. He and Mahesh Bhupathi have also been among the world ’s best doubles players. Geet Sethi has been a titleholder of both the World Amateur and Professional Billiards championships. Vishwanathan Anand became an international chess grandmaster when he was 17 and has been a dominant player for well over a decade. Indian golf players Arjun Chatwal, Jyoti Randhawa and Jeev Milkha Singh are among the top Asian gold players with Chatwal qualifying for the prestigious PGA tournament in the US. Anju George is the first Indian woman long jump athlete to win a bronze medal at a world meet. Indian women weightlifters like Kunjurani Devi and K.Malleswari have also brought laurels to the country. Anjali Pathak is among the world ’s top women shooters while among the men Abhinav Bindra is a new hope for India after Jaspal Rana.
Camel and elephant races are unique Indian sports. Equestrian sports and tent pegging have also acquired an Indian flavor. But one indigenous sport that has become an International tourist attraction is the snake-boat race in the backwaters of Kerala during the Onam festival.