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Literature as Bridging Cultures: An Indian Perspective

April 30 All day

Speaker
Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan

Bio
Dr. Sudha Gopalakrishnan is the Executive Director of Sahapedia, an online encyclopedic resource on Indian culture and the arts. Previously, she was Founder Director of India’s National Mission for Manuscripts (2003–07), which led a nationwide effort to survey, document, conserve, and place in the public domain information on one million Indian manuscripts, now a global knowledge resource on www.namami.gov.in.

Sudha Gopalakrishnan did her doctoral research on the traditions of comedy in the plays of Bhasa and Shakespeare and has translated Shakespeare’s comedies into Malayalam. She was Assistant Editor, Encyclopaedia of Indian Literature, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi, and Coordinator, Encyclopaedia of the Arts, Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi (IGNCA). 

Sudha Gopalakrishnan has published eight books, several papers and translations in the field of Indian literature, performing arts and aesthetic theory.

She was Visiting Fellow at Cornell University, and Professorial Fellow at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi. She prepared the nomination dossiers and management plans which led to Kutiyattam, the oral tradition of the Vedas and Vedic heritage, and the Ramlila receiving recognition from UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. She has been associated as member or expert consultant with UNESCO committees on Intangible Cultural Heritage and was most recently part of the Lead Consultant Team advising the Government of Punjab towards framing a cultural heritage policy and action plan for the state. She has served on the boards of the Crafts Museum, New Delhi, and the IGNCA, and is Member of the Committee on Traditional Knowledge Systems (IGNOU), of the Steering Group on Digital Library Projects, Ministry of Information.

Participants: Indian Culture Course for E4Life PhD scholars (40) and other PhD candidates

Objective:  To understand how literature works as a cross-cultural medium, how cultures go from one place to another, how it evolves and becomes localized. She focused on the Indian literature context.

About Resource Personnel: Prof. Sudha Gopalakrishnan is the Executive Director of Sahapedia, an online encyclopedic resource on Indian culture and the arts. Previously, she was Founder Director of India’s National Mission for Manuscripts (2003–07), which led a nation-wide effort to survey, document, conserve, and place in the public domain information on one million Indian manuscripts, now a global knowledge resource on www.namami.gov.in.

Sudha Gopalakrishnan has published eight books, several papers and translations in the field of Indian literature, performing arts and aesthetic theory,

She was Visiting Fellow at Cornell University, and Professorial Fellow at the National University of Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), New Delhi. She prepared the nomination dossiers and management plans which led to Kutiyattam, the oral tradition of the Vedas and Vedic heritage, and the Ramlila receiving recognition from UNESCO as Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. She has been associated as member or expert consultant with UNESCO committees on Intangible Cultural Heritage and was most recently part of the Lead Consultant Team advising the Government of Punjab towards framing a cultural heritage policy and action plan for the state. She has served on the boards of the Crafts Museum, New Delhi, and the IGNCA, and is Member of the Committee on Traditional Knowledge Systems (IGNOU), of the Steering Group on Digital Library Projects, Ministry of Information

Event/Session Details/Discussions/Highlights:

Dr Sudha G discussed Indian literature through the ages, as an uninterrupted flow of knowledge. She explained the evolution of the intricate methods involved in this transmission. In the beginning, through oral tradition, a multitude of knowledge was transferred by learning scriptures, myths, epics, etc. There were professional storytellers who were attached to temples who were an integral part of this oral tradition. They traveled from villages to villages, told and retold stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata in public spaces. Their sophisticated interpretive skills ensured the effective communication of even complex ideas to common people. However, Vedic knowledge is transmitted in a more complex, highly sophisticated, elaborate way. These foolproof methods involved in learning and memorizing these compositions ensured the uninterrupted flow of knowledge in its purest form through the ages.

Then gradually written text came out. Written scripts were found on rocks, palm leaves, and paper. One can find such manuscripts in different parts of Asia even today. For instance, Gilgit manuscripts were the oldest surviving manuscripts in India. India is a diverse country with a huge number of languages. One should wonder how the Vedic literature transcends even with this plurality of languages. It is through these complex methods of learning it gets transferred. On the contrary, epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata got different versions in different languages and different parts of the country.

Dr. Sudha went on to narrate the story of Nala and Damayanti in a profound way as an example of how a small story of a large epic gets evolved in literature and transmitted over the ages. She presented it with a series of artworks that depicted the story in a vivid way. See images below

Outcome: Participants were provided a literal wealth of knowledge about Indian literature through the ages.

Dr. Sudha G with Participant List #1
Dr. Sudha G with Participant List #2.
Dr. Sudha G with Participant List #3
Ravi Varma’s Nala-Damayanti
The Arati of Nala
Sanskrit and English Text from the Flap of a Painting