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Divine Service and the Performing Arts in India

Selina Thieleman (Author)
Synopsis Music and singing represent well-established ritual tools in religious traditions all over the world. In the South Asian cultural sphere, music constitutes moreover a most vital and indispensable component in every branch of the performing arts, be it dance, or theatre, or other types of dramatic enactment. Tied into an homogeneous whole by the bond of music, the performing tradition has therefore found its fixed place in rituals and liturgies anywhere in the religious life in India. While the spiritual power of music is acknowledged and effectively employed in the religious practice no matter whether ritualistic or devotional, it is devotional religion in particular which utilize the intrinsic emotional energy concealed in the sounding reality. Music as a liturgical instrument functions in two principal modes, that is, as a medium to establish the contact between man and the aspired divinity, and as the channel into which man releases his overflow of emotions called forth at the touch of the divine. All performing arts moreover serve as offerings made to the divinity in the same manner as one would perhaps offer food, or light, or incense-the only difference resting in the fact that an offering of music or dance exceeds by far any offering of material goods in virtue and ritual effectiveness. The present book consists of a number of essays related to the theme of music and the performing arts as part of the divine service in Indian religious traditions, with emphasis on devotional religion and specifically on devotional Vaisnavism. Besides providing some basic insights into the integration of the various performing traditions into the ritual schedule of the Vaisnava temples, the thematic focus is directed at the theoretical purport for the significance of music, dance and acting as liturgical tools outlined in Vaisnava theology, as well as at the spiritual weight of music in larger philosophical dimensions. Dance is treated separately in a single essay, again from the viewpoint of its historical and practical association with the traditions of temple art throughout India. Since dance and theatre are brought to life in essence through the union of their aural and visual components—as distinct from ‘pure’ music which is based on a primarily aural experience-a small selection of colored photographs has been included in the compilation to suggest an impression of the extraordinarily rich and multifarious cultural heritage maintained by the Indian religious tradition.
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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 Divine Service and the Performing Arts in India
Format Hardcover
Date published: 01.01.2002
Edition 1st. Ed.
Language: English
isbn 8176483338
length iv+142p., Illustrations