Slow death of a fine institution
Posted November 7, 2009on:
A fine institution is dying a slow death because of the apathy of the BJP government of Madhya Pradesh. There was a time when the annual Kalidasa Samaroha (festival), organised by the Kalidasa Akademi at Ujjain, used to attract scholars from all over the world and provide them a platform to exchange views on the latest in the Indological researches. Now it has become a peremptory affair of the State government’s Culture Department which controls the Akademi. Even the chief minister has no time for (or no interest in) the Samaroha.
The Samaroha, generally spread over a week, starts on the eleventh lunar day of the bright half of Kartika which fell on October 29 this year.
The idea of holding the Kalidasa Samaroha was conceptualised by Pandit Surya Narayan Vyas (later awarded the Padma Bhushana) in the late twenties. He had formed Kalidasa Parishad to enlist the support of the distinguished scholars and leaders across the nation.
Kalidasa has not hinted in his works at the date or place of his birth nor has he written anything that could throw light on his worldly activities. However, tradition has it, and it is supported by several eminent Indologists, that Kalidasa was one of the nine gems (Navaratnas) in the court of King Vikramaditya of Ujjayini (that later became Ujjain). Vikramaditya, after whom the Vikrama Samvat was started in 56 BC, was believed to have ruled in the first century BC.
The Devotthayini Ekadashi (the eleventh lunar day of the bright half of Kartika) was chosen as the day for celebrating Kalidasa Jayanti. In Hindu mythology, the day is considered auspicious as the Devatas (or gods) wake up on that day from their six-month slumber.
After Independence, Vyas’s efforts caught the attention of Kailash Nath Katju, then chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. With cooperation and support from Katju, the first Kalidasa Samaroha was held on a grand scale in 1958. It was inaugurated by then President Dr Rajendra Prasad. A large number of eminent scholars and dignitaries, not only from India but also from other countries like the Soviet Union, China, Iran and Germany, participated in the Samaroha. The following year, the Samaroha was inaugurated by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Several countries were represented in the Samaroha in those days by their ambassadors or high commissioners or their cultural attaches.
Most of the Indian States made generous contributions for the Samaroha and participated in the functions through their representatives. The Natya Samaroha and an All India exhibition of paintings and sculptures, organised by the Madhya Pradesh Kala Parishad at the Samaroha, attracted participation of the noted artists from all over the country. Well-known authorities on Kalidasa like Dr V.Raghavan of Madras University and Dr Gauri Nath Shastri of Calcutta produced the plays of Kalidasa and also acted in them. Wu Shuch, who had staged “Abhigyan Shakuntalam” (of Kalidasa) in Peking in 1957, also participated in the Drama Festival held on the occasion.
The other notable foreign scholars, who had been associated with the Kalidasa Samaroha, included Dr A.L.Basham (a renowned British authority on Indology and author of “The Wonder that was India”, who had later settled in Australia), Prof. Hideo Kimura of the Buddhist University, Kyoto in Japan, and Walter Leifer of Germany.
Kalidasa Parishad was converted in the 1970s into Kalidasa Akademi, for the purpose of establishing a multi-disciplinary institution, which would project the totality of classical tradition with Kalidasa at its centre. Simultaneously, a panel of eminent theatre personalities and experts was constituted to advise on restructuring the Samaroha and to suggest ways and means to make the festival broad-based and a more relevant forum of the classical tradition.
The main activities of the Akademi included study and exploration of Kalidasa’s literature; translation, preparation, publication and documentation of Kalidasa’s and other Sanskrit works; establishment of a model Natyamandap (theatre) as per the norms of Bharata’s Natya Shastra; collection and analysis of all available material relating to the Sanskrit theatre; establishment of a museum of Sanskrit theatrical arts; and facilities for imparting training in classical theatre.
An international seminar on Kalidasa was organised by the Kalidasa Akademi on the occasion of the silver jubilee of the Kalidasa Samaroha. The participants included, among others, Prof Paul Thieme, Prof. Michael Honn and Miss Haessing from Germany, Prof. Clifford Wright from England, Mr and Mrs Phan Alphan from Belgium, Prof. V.Subramanyam from Canada and Mr and Mrs Miyomoto from Japan.
Whether because of their antipathy towards Pandit Surya Narayan Vyas or because of their lack of interest in the classical texts of ancient India (except for those which support their fanatic views), the BJP rulers of the State have been showing an inexplicable indifference to the country’s most prominent classical tradition. Instead of strengthening the Kalidasa Akademi and enabling it to further its research in different fields of Indology, they have in fact been trying to weaken the Akademi. Last year, the State government had even tried not to involve the Akademi in the annual Kalidasa Samaroha, inviting protests from several quarters.