Life of Gautama Buddha
in Devasthanakala
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Shiva in
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Gitagovinda in Devasthanakala
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Mahabharat in Devasthanakala Paper cutting art Durga in Devasthanakala Paper cutting art Krishna in
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Ragamala in
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Paper cutting demonstrations by Prabal Pramanik

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Portfolio on Devasthanakala Paper cutting art


Ragas, musical modes that can connect
the physical world with the astral world

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In this article I will not expand upon the general information about "Ragas" and "Raginis". That information is available in all the generalized text books on classical Indian music.
I will present some details on the metaphysical aspects of certain modes of classical Indian music. That metaphysical aspect goes far beyond the presentation of the musical mode in the material world.
Those who have never heard of the "astral world" or do not believe in the existence of the "astral world" just because the material science in its crude generalized manner fail to comprehend the depth and magnitude of the ‘astral world", will not understand my article.
Yet, people with open mind seeking to reach out beyond the crude materialistic bondages will find my article interesting and illuminating.
All musical presentations, vocal and instrumental, are based on "Dhwani" or vibrations. Vibrations in appreciable rhythmic form, conveying messages in emotional entity are musical presentations.
The mental state and the aptitude of the person presenting the music influence the depth of the presentations.
Music presented in the generalized manner for entertainment and for material benefits and music created as means of spiritual discipline or "Sadhana" are in two different categories.
Yet, at times the dividing line between the two categories can narrow down or even disappear when the musician looses himself or herself in the flow of the rhythm and the emotional entity.
This feature of "loosing" one self in the flow of rhythm and the emotional entity may be experienced by the listener who appreciates the music too.
This factor of loosing oneself in the flow of musical mode is the main aspect of the spiritual "sadhana" that uses music as a medium.
Millenniums ago many people seeking spiritual upliftment in Indian subcontinent observed that music influenced the spiritual journey in a positive manner for sensitive souls.
They also followed certain tunes or set rhythmic presentations to open the doors to another world in the spiritual domain. Spiritual discipline at a certain stage opens up another world, unlocking deeper secrets of existence. This is the astral world, where the duality of life exists on a different time and space frame. Conscious powers, that play in that "area of spiritual existence" influence this material world too, though the time space frames are different. Forces of nature, find conscious manifestations in that world that is not bound by the limitations of the material world. These forces of nature can be invoked by certain vibrations and certain rhythms can produce those vibrations.
Tradition accepts that "Shiva" the "Yoacharya", who revealed many aspects of Yoga and reached a divine status of multiple dimensions, was the first "person" to formulate these specific vibrations that can invoke many of the conscious powers of Nature from the astral world.
These specific vibrations in musical mode are called "Ragas" and "Raginis". Ragas have male attributes and the Raginis have female attributes, so through these musical modes, both male and female aspects of these forces from the astral world can be invoked.
By producing these vibrations in a manner to use the "Mahavau" or the basic air stuff in human body to concentrate the mental powers of the person creating these vibrations for certain specific action, concerning these forces of Nature from the astral world, a bridge between the apparent and the hidden world is created.
Since these powers are conscious, the ancient scholars classified these powers and conferred an abstract personification with specific qualities on each of them.
The musical mode or the "Raga" or the "Ragini" to invoke the Divine powers become "Mantras" or incantations of spiritual strength when an adept person uses that mode in musical presentation.
Who is an adept person? What is the difference between a musician singing or playing a raga based tune and a "sadhaka" or a person in spiritual discipline who may use the same raga to invoke conscious powers from the "astral" world?
Are all musical modes termed Raga and Ragini have the power to invoke conscious powers from the dominion of the hidden?
These questions I will discuss a little later. Let me clarify some points before that.
The Ragamala group in which Ragas and Raginis both exist, is divided into primary Ragas or primary musical modes and secondary Ragas or secondary musical modes.
The secondary ones have their place in the area of music while the primary Ragas are more important as means of spiritual discipline in addition to their great importance in the world of Shastriya Sangreet or Classical Indian Music.
Presumably the primary musical modes were formulated before the secondary ones and the breath control system as related to Yogic action is more effective in the Primary Ragas. This breath control is of great importance as proper breath control stimulates the "Mahavau". When vocal music is a part of spiritual discipline the presentation of the musical mode becomes a form of "Pranayama" that takes the mind to another level.
Still, the secondary musical modes in classical Indian music have certain connections to the astral world too.
For the sake of performance instrumentalists and vocalists present Ragas and Raginis at any time that suits their function.
Yet, the time factor is important when singing a Raga or playing a Raga based tune on an instrument. This factor of time is important only when one uses Raga as a way of Sadhana or spiritual discipline. In the ancient times, when classical Indian music was presented with a direct aim of reaching out to the astral world to unlock the door to the dominions of the hidden, timing of the presentation of the musical mode was carefully observed.
In modern times the values have become more materialistic, so money and social prestige have become the main aim of the performers in general.
So the importance of classical Indian musical modes as "Sadhan marg" or way of spiritual discipline have diminished greatly.
Most musicians in the ancient times were more inclined to perform with a "Nishkam" attitude, a mental stage when the artist performs not for any material gain, but for the pure joy of performing the piece of music as a form of art.
Sadhana, or spiritual discipline requires a state of mind that sets aside the thoughts of crude material gain.
Material gain includes money, material wealth, sex and thoughts of social mileage. By breaking through the barrier of social and animal compulsions, the soul of the performer becomes physically conscious of the sphere of consciousness in an actual manner and is able to connect his or her own consciousness with a much greater all pervading universal consciousness. At that special moment, the conscious power of Nature, that you may term as Divine soul or a very special spirit susceptible to that particular tune of the Raga or the Ragini responds by creating a special specified mood or by causing the specified action.
When an "adept" person performs a Raga instrumentally or vocally at the proper time the specified action takes place. It is a time when the vibrations form an active "Mantra" and are not just musical tunes.
To initiate the power that changes vibrations to "Mantras", for the mind of the performer require the proper setup and purity. By the word purity I mean that the mind of the performer should be free from all thoughts other than the point towards which he or she should be concentrating through music.
It is a point of "loosing one self" in the flow of the tune and if this phenomenon of "loosing one self" occurs when a Raga is being presented by the musician in true form, the doors of the hidden worlds open up to allow the activation of the specific raga.
As examples I can say that Raga Megha has the power to invoke rain and Raga Deepaka has the power to light fire.
Ragas and Raginis may have particular colour themes too and this colour may be seen not only by the musician but also by the listener who allows his or her soul to flow along the tune of the Raga that is being presented.
For this the listener should have proper orientation and mental attitude too.
The musician who does not have this attitude of a "sadhaka" or "sadhika’ play the Raga tunes for general pleasure, entertainment and material gains without being able to use the musical mode to unravel greater mysteries of Eternity.
Consciousness, either in formless abstract or based on a concrete form is essentially the same. Just as the consciousness apparently based on a concrete form have the sensitivity and the powers of thinking, feeling and willing in various stages, the consciousness in abstract and formless presence has the same powers and abilities as far as those faculties are concerned.
So many people have tried to personify the abstract consciousness attempting to render a human face to a super human power.
The same phenomenon has taken place when Ragas and Raginis are concerned.
Personification of certain abstract forces of Nature give those abstract yet conscious powers "Human faces", that may not directly signify the conscious forces, but create the atmosphere to indicate those forces. These indications are often symbolical.
The "rupa" or the image resulting from such "symbolic personification" to create the atmosphere produced by the Raga or the Ragini can be presented in visual appreciable forms.
This makes it possible to make pictures of these musical modes in various visual forms. The paintings on "Ragamala" especially on small formats were quite popular in 18th and 19th centuries. Such paintings are seen in different schools of miniature paintings in Rajasthan and in Pahari Schools of paintings of northern India.
I think I may be the first artist to depict "Ragamala" subjects in Devasthanakala Paper cutting art.
This form of art requires the skill and confidence to cutout complete compositions from paper without tracing or drawing. This set of Devasthanakala paper cutting artworks on the subject of Ragamala enriches the cultural heritage of Indian visual art that has a direct relationship with performing art.
By Prabal Pramanik
(From the book "Ragamala" by Prabal Pramanik)



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