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Rasalila: A Musical Study of Religious Drama in Vraja

Selina Thieleman (Author)
Synopsis Rasalila is a well-loved form of religious drama characteristic for and unique to the region of Vraja in northwestern Uttar Pradesh, one of India's foremost religious and cultural centers. The rasalila theatre of Vraja takes episodes from the childhood life of the Hindu God Krsna for its subject-matter; the central theme of the dramas is the enactment of the rasa, the circular dance performed by Krsna with the cowherd women of Vraja on an autumn full-moon night. The location of any of the episodes narrrated in rasalila is Vraja, the homeland of Krsna which is also the homeland of the plays. The language of rasalila is Vrajabhasa, the principal language of north Indian literature and poetry, and the native dialect of Vraja. In its structure, rasalila represents a perfect combination of poetry, music, dance and drama. The characters of the rasalila are portrayed by child actors, Brahman boys of Vraja, who make visible the playful and spontaneous nature of Krsna's childhood games. Vraja is famous for its rich traditions of devotional poetry and music. To the present day, the region has maintained strong links between the traditions of Vaisnava temple music and north Indian classical music. Rasalila, in its entirety, represents an ideal exponent of the great variety of musical styles in northern India, ranging from classical and semi-classical styles to genres belonging to the local folk music tradition of Vraja. The present book offers the first comprehensive account of the musical elements of rasalila to be published in English language. The study, after providing a brief historical survey, focuses on in-depth analysis of the constituent musical components of the rasalila performance on the basis of examples from selected performances. All songs are transcribed into Indian and western notations and subsequently discussed. The issued raised in the course of analysis are reconsidered in an interview with Svami Fatekrishna Sharma, one of the leading rasalila performers of the present, who offers his explanations from the insider's point of view. An extensive photographic documentation, displayed on 58 color plates, covers preparations for the performance, musical instruments, scenes behind the stage as well as the rasalila performance itself in its various parts and aspects.
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About the author

Selina Thieleman

Selina Thielcmann, who belongs to a family of musicians, began her academic carrier with a first degree in Western music and violin performance. Thereafter she completed her M.Mus. in ethnomusicology from the school of Oriental and African Studies/University of London, and M.Phil from the University of Cambridge. Her research focuses on Indian music, in particular on dhrupada and on Vaisnava devotional music. Since 1994 she is based in Vrindaban where she studies dhrupada singing with Pt. Vidur Mallik. She is currently completing her doctoral thesis on Vaisnava temple music ofVrajaat Banaras Hindu University.

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Bibliographic information

Title Rasalila: A Musical Study of Religious Drama in Vraja
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.1998
Edition 1st. Ed.
Language: English
isbn 8170248647
length 200, Gloss., Index., Bibliography