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Posts Tagged ‘dancing monks’

Photo: Tim Tai
The Dancing Monks of Assam rehearse in Philadelphia.

As I mentioned in a recent post, I take tai chi chuan for exercise. The practice is also what is sometimes called a “moving meditation.”

Another kind of moving meditation is performed by the Dancing Monks of Assam in India.

Nancy G. Heller wrote for the Inquirer about an April visit that a group of monks paid to Drexel University.

“The Dancing Monks of Assam live on a remote river island in India and devote their lives to celebrating the Hindu god Krishna through the arts. Eight of them visit Philadelphia this week on their first-ever U.S. tour, initiated by a Philadelphia dance company with roots on that same river island. …

“Unlike dancers in the better-known Bharatanatyam and Kathak styles, ‘Sattriya dancers do not stamp their feet or wear ankle bells, [co-artistic director of Philadelphia’s Sattriya Dance Company — Madhusmita] Bora said. ‘Their movement occurs mainly in the torso.’ …

“At home at their monastery on the river island of Majuli, in India’s Assam state, the monks have the same religious obligations as members of any monastic community. But they also receive rigorous daily instruction in traditional singing; how to play drums, cymbals, flutes, violins, and conch shells; plus mask-making, yoga, and dance. They often join the monastery as children.

“Everyone studies everything, and eventually each monk chooses an area of specialization.”

If you are interested in weaving, you can also learn about Assam’s “Cloth of Vrindavan” here. The Inquirer article describes it as “an elaborate silk cloth once woven in Assam. It uses the now-extinct lampas technique to tell stories from Krishna’s life through stylized images and ancient Assamese text.

” ‘Growing up in Assam,’ Bora said, ‘everyone heard about this cloth.’ But no one saw it, since the textiles themselves, and records of their whereabouts, had long since disappeared.

“Then, in the 1990s, a British textile curator chanced upon several 17th-century examples in London, Paris — and the  Philadelphia Museum of Art. …

“Thanks to support from the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage and some other sponsors, the ancient Assamese script on the Philadelphia textile was decoded as part of the dance project. Bhabananda Barbayan, an Indian monk, translated the cloth’s images into movement.”

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