The basic work process involves traditional artists and masters, representatives of the following disciplines:
Bauls originate from a community of wandering mystical singers that goes back to the Middle Ages. Even if they are Hindus, they do not recognize caste divisions, they profess equality of faiths and religions and retain that Divinity has its place in the Heart of every Man.
Bauls were re-discovered by Rabindranath Tagore, a renowned Indian poet. Tagore regarded Bauls’ poems as masterpieces of Indian literature. Performing arts and creative techniques have become for Bauls their way of living that was originally combined with the search for inner knowledge. Nowadays it is the artistic aspect that prevails, to the detriment of personal search.
Bauls make their own characteristic musical instruments and are true masters of improvisation. They live through their music. The joy of being alive and present that comes from it is what makes them become true Bauls, i.e. “God’s fools”.
Chhau is an ancient sacred dance of Purullia (Bihar). To this day tribal rural populations are practicing it while invoking Šiva to grant them rain and abundant harvest.
Chhau dancers use beautiful masks (weighing up to 4 kilos) that represent Hindu deities, demons and tribal spirits. Each mask has only four tiny perforations that let through a very limited amount of air and light. Two big drums: one-membrane Nagra and two-membrane Dhal mark the pace and the rhythm of the dance while the drama itself is introduced by a pipe (Shanai) tune.
All the stories come from the ancient sacred books of India: Mahabharattha, Ramayana and Purana. An explosion of energy and movement, daredevil somersaults and jumps are distinguished traits of the Chhau dance.
Kalaripayatthu is one of the most ancient martial arts of India. It originates from Kerala and is sometimes called the Mother of all artistic disciplines of Southern India. It’s considered to be a Dravidian art, i.e. belonging to the native Southern Indian tradition.
Its practice is always preceded by Guruvandhanam i.e. salutation of Heaven, Earth, one’s own Guru and the god Ganesha. The series of movements (the first is always a defense) covers four cardinal directions and involves one’s whole body.
Sticks, one and multi-blade knives, swords, shields and fire are used in this traditional combat.
Throughout the ages, together with the practice of martial techniques, the Marma, knowledge of a human body and its 108 energy and vital centers, has been developed.
Fakirs belong to the Muslim community of India. Their roots go back to the Sufi tradition.
Nowadays Fakirs and Bauls can be found only in West Bengal and in Bangladesh. Their unique trait is the fact that Fakirs who are Muslims and Bauls who are Hindus have the same masters, participate in the same festivities and many Fakirs spend long periods of time at the holy Hindu sites. However, Fakirs’ songs are quite distinct from Bauls’ songs and usually follow repetitive patterns. Fakirs use small drums and simple string instruments.
The Patuas (from a Bengali word pata: leaf) are traditional painters and storytellers. On long scrolls of cloth or paper they draw ancient stories from Hindu and Muslim scriptures, they depict tribal legends and paint images describing current events.
As they show the painted scrolls to their audience they sing a corresponding story. Many songs have been orally transmitted.
Paintings are done with natural colors, using clay, ash, roots and plants.
The Patuas, in spite of the fact that they are traditionally recognized as descendents of the divine craftsman Vishwakarma, are put outside of the caste system. That is why throughout the ages many have converted to Islam hoping for a life of social equality, yet holding on to their Hindu roots. Today Patuas observe both, Hindu and Muslim, festivities.
For a long time they have represented a unique link between urban and remote rural areas where they meet and incorporate traditions of local tribal populations.
Gothipua Dance from Orissa
The roots of the Gotipua dance go back to the Indian Middle Ages and are linked to the ancient tradition of Devadasi (temple dancers). The soft harmony of acrobatic movements combined with vocal and instrumental accompaniment (Paknaj percussions and Armonium keyboards) characterize this traditional dance. The Gotipua celebrate a reunion of Man with Divinity in which the worshiper becomes identified with the female element (Shakibhave). Dancers are boys between the age of 8 and 15 dressed in woman’s clothes.
The Gotipua dance has some common traits with the Odissi dance, but the techniques of movement and the themes are very different from it. Using a very refined style, Gotipua dancers perform precise steps, as well as Mudras (hand gestures), eye and facial expression and Classic Yoga postures.
It is a style of Indian classical religious music, which was in its prime in 16th and 17th century. Like many other ancient styles of music, the Dhrupada fell in oblivion in the course of time and is now all but extinct. It is alive in North India even today, though it has undergone considerable changes over the years. Dhrupada compositions are full of devotional content, heroic and erotic themes and quite often are elogious to gods and kings. It was traditionally sung with the mridanga (pakhavaja) and vina, today the tabala are much more used.