A poet, a playwright, a painter, a lyricist, a novelist - a man of letters, Rabindranath Tagore also made a revolution in the dance scenario of Bengal as well as in India. He was a great personality, who experimented with most of the art forms. Rabindranth was a philosopher and commentator of his own works. Whenever he dealt with any art form he was not only working with those practically, but also was speaking, writing, criticizing and analyzing on these in his own way. In furtherance of which, new styles, forms and even idioms emerged.
He was an admirer of Indian classical dances. In his understanding, he realized the barriers in those. He tried to break the boundaries and come out with a new dance idiom retaining the Indianness' in it. Like his song tradition, the Rabindrasangit, his dance form has become popularly accepted as the Rabin dramitya after his demise.
Bengal, Tripura and Bangladesh are the three strong bases where Rabindrantioa is a much coveted dance practice. Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata and Visva Bharati, Santiniketan are offering and teaching graduate, post graduate, MPhil and PhD degrees on RabindranriOa. Many autonomous bodies dedicated to disseminate Indian Culture have Rabindranrioa as a subject for Diploma and Certificate courses as well. Now Rabindranrioa is not confined within its base, but has gradually spread breaking the geographical boundary.
After more than 90 years of practice, a comprehensive book on Rabindranritya is yet to be seen. This book by Sruti Bandopadhay is the result of extensive research and documentation on history, presentation and practice with critical analysis of the dance idiom
Prof. Dr. Sruti Bandopadhay (born 8th October 1962) is an ideal combination of a performer and scholar in the dance field of India. She is M.A (Dance) & PhD (Dance) as a NEWF.) scholar of UGC in 1996. She is the first Mitt of Sangit Bhavana, Visva Bharati, Santiniketan in 2010. She is 'Top' Grade artist of Doordarshan (National T.V) in Manipuri Dance.
She is awarded with the Visiting Lecturer Fulbright Fellowship (2007) and the Academic Staff Commonwealth Fellowship (2012) to lecture and perform on Indian dances in USA and UK respectively. She was Professor in Dance and chaired the Department of Dance, Rabindra Bharati University.
At present she is a Professor in Manipuri Dance and coordinator of the Rabindranritya courses at Sangit Bhavana, Visva Bharati. Twelve scholars have received PhD degree on Indian dances and presently eight are pursuing their research under her supervision.
Her four books on Indian dances and a number of articles in international and national journals have been published. This is the fifth book of hers.
Sruti is performing for more than 35 years in the national and international circuit. She is one of the leading exponents of Manipuri Dance, being trained under Guru Bipin Singh, Guru Kalavati Devi, Padmasree Guru Darshana Jhaveri, Ojha Babu Singh, Ojha Gourakisor Sharma, Prof. Jiten Singh. She is a recognized artist of Sangeet Natak Acadmey, Outstanding category artist of Indian Council for Cultural Relations and other cultural institutions in India. She has choreographed a number of productions. She is awarded the Devadasi Rashtriya Samman at Bhubaneswar in 2018 and was also awarded the Sri Lalit Kala Academy Award from Mysore in 2009.
The songs of Rabindranath and dances on those together have become an essential element of Bengali daily life for decades. There is always a Rabindrasangit sung to calm down a crying baby, the first cadenced movements of a child are often accompanied by a Rabindrasangit, the school children dance in a group describing 'the floating white clouds on the blue sky_' on a abindrasangit.
In an organized performance, the dances composed on rabindrasangit have an array of movements carefully chosen according to the lyrics and are generally taken in from Indian dance elements. While composing movements on lyrics like kgapatar nouka gorhe sajiye dtvo pilule (Will make a boat from the leaves of the keya tree and decorate with flowers), a common act is a sitting posture with a mayura hasta drawing the boat near the floor and taking the hands around that imaginary drawn boat with alternating hastas of alapadma ai, and mayura. Dances on several other songs of Rabindranath can be described in a similar manner- a dance culture for the Bengali community- commonly called Rabindranritya in the same line as Rabindrasangit.
Dance schools, institution and other cultural organizations all over Bengal teach and perform Rabindranritya. In the signboard of the school the words `Rabindranritya sekhano hoy" (we teach Rabindranritya) is only a proof of how spontaneously the Bengalis have taken to Rabindranritya. An imaginative flow from creation to re-creation of dances on Rabindrasangit determines the continuum of the tradition.
There have often been questions raised on the authenticity as well as legitimacy of the term Rabindranritya, as Rabindranath may have used dance in stage productions but was never a dancer himself. But many of the asramites or the people staying at the Santiniketan hermitage since the time of Rabindranath, would never agree to such distrust in him as he taught dancing as an expression for many his dramas, which is detailed in several chapters in this book. His songs have a guideline of singing in the notations, but his dance thoughts have never been laid down in a structured manner for the benefit of a composer. Certain descriptions like the book Nritya by Pratima Devi, books of Santidev Ghosh, books by Amita Sen and memory of witnesses like Dhurjoti Prasad Mukherjee, Rani Chanda and others give us a guideline of what was happening during Rabindranath. Dhurjotiprasad Mukherjee after witnessing the dance drama Chitrangada in 1936 wrote' that at the then rime, the oppositions against Rabindra-Sangit was active while there was an indifferent impression for Rabindra-Nritva. It is interesting to note here that the dance of Santiniketan is termed as Rabindra-Nritya by Durjotiprasad that is during the lifetime of Rabindranath. So we may say that the dance introduced by Rabindranath was termed as Rabindra-Nritya from 1936 by scholars and intellectuals of those days. People also were familiar with this term since that time.
Today we perceive that the dance idiom introduced by him has stood the test of time and has now become an established tradition of teaching, practice and presentation dance-art of the Bengalis- a pedagogical structure is visible. Initiated by Rabindranath in Santiniketan this dance has spread its branches to the world and is now practiced in all the corners of Bengal, Tripura, Bangladesh and other countries. It has become a major cultural icon for the Bengalis settled in the other parts of the world too.
Sudhiranjan Mukherjee, a very dear personality in Santiniketan had been extremely kind enough to help me identify the stagecraft and costume design tradition and has provided me with valuable photographs. That he has allowed me to use photographs of his designs, made me greatly indebted to him.
I take this opportunity to thank Prof. Sushanta Duttagupta, former Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharati and Prof. Indrani Mukhopadhyay, former Principal of Sangit Bhavana for selecting me and encouraging me to join Sangit Bhavana as a Professor in Manipuri Dance. They bestowed me with the responsibility to design the curriculum of Rabindranritya and also to co-ordinate the course since its inception in 2014. This provided me the desired back up for the study that I delved into.
My PhD scholars Dr Kaberi Sen, Dr Pompi Paul and Iliya Das helped me collect extensive data from the dancer-choreographers of Kolkata. The libraries of Sangit Bhavana, with special assistance from Suchitra and Manisha, Central Library of Visva Bharati, Rabindra Bhavana, Rabindra Bharati University and others have been of immense help to me.
A word of gratitude goes to my husband, Dr Somnath Sinha, Professor in Drama, former Head of the Department of Drama and former Dean of the Fine Arts Faculty of Rabindra Bharati University for guiding me throughout the research. His immense support to me has been the pivot inspiration of this work. My mother-in-law Santi Sinha, a Rabindranritya dancer of yesteryears had been extremely excited about this book and encouraged me in every respect for this research. I would like to thank my dear friend Sri Sanjay Arya for consenting to print this book with confidence on this venture of mine. His timely reminder for sending the materials had provided me with the need to speed up the job. Suresh Kashyap has also excellently designed the book thereby making me indebted to him too.
Finally, how can I not thank my students, whose immense interest in Rabindranrioa and their inquisitive approach to the study made me probe progressively into the texts, autobiographies, journals, and newspapers as also the performance histories to get better equipped to answer their queries? I record here my loving admiration for my dear students. I am sure deeper studies into different facets of Rabindranritya will emerge from this effort of mine and I hope this work will be of some benefit to the students of dance, readers and for the future researchers as well.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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