Creative and performing arts

The creative and performing arts also play an important part in Hindu worship. Their origin is traced to Brahma, the creator god, who is said to have taken different aspects of the arts from each of the four Vedas to create a fifth ‘Natyaveda’, which then formed the basis of a classical text called the Natyashastra which treats dance, drama and music as topics. Deities are sometimes portrayed as dancing. Examples include Shiva as Lord of the Dance, Vishnu who in his Mohini form used dance to defeat a demon and Krishna whose dance with Radha and the gopis (cowherd women) demonstrates the love between deity and devotee. Dance troupes re-enact the Raslila (play of love) between Krishna and Radha. Classical dance forms such as Bharatanatyam originate in temple dances performed by the devadasis (servants of God) and are still often religious in content and character.

Drama often makes use of Hindu mythology, most famously the Ramnagar staging of the Ramlila (play of Rama) in Varanasi every year, which claims to be the oldest, having taken place for two hundred years. Indeed, ‘the mythological’ became the dominant genre of early Indian cinema starting with the first feature film Raja Harishchandra (1913), the story of a legendary king who appears in several of the Puranas and other sacred texts, celebrated for his dedication to truthfulness and for giving away his kingdom and family to keep a promise. Other early films by the same producer (D.G. Phalke) were based on well-known stories from the Epics and Puranas such as Mohini Bhasmasur (1913), about Vishnu in female form, Satyavan Savitri (1914), about the exemplary love of Savitri and Satyavan, Lanka Dahan (1917) the burning of Lanka as told in the Ramayana, and Shri Krishna Janma (1918) about Krishna’s birth and childhood.

Music too is vital, echoing the significance of sound as ultimate reality which means that mantras, including the sacred syllable Om or AUM possess an intrinsic energy and efficiency. Members of ISKCON recite the Hare Krishna Mahamantra as their main form of devotional service, singing it in congregational worship and when preaching the message on the streets. Other types of music include chanting the Veda and singing bhajans (hymns) composed by saints.

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Hindu Worldview Traditions

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