October 04, 2020 09:38 PM

Dr. Jagadindra Raychoudhury

Since the inception of Vedas and Puranas the flourishing of Indian culture has no bound within its territory but spread across the globe. That tradition of cultural activities transmitted through the disciple of saints and sagas and with the progression of civilization it transferred to common people in snail’s speed through some specific gurus. Acquiring the knowledge of art and culture is a devotional task with purity of mind which needs a long span of time to conquer. It was Kapila Vatsayan whose name and fame spread in the field of culture not only in India but beyond with the background of proper and sincere learning at Kabiguru’s ashrama, Santineketan.

She gathered her knowledge effortlessly both in theoretical as well as extensive practice on various technique of art. Kapila moved around in literature, painting, music and dance. She was fortunate enough to be disciple of art scholar Pandit Vasudev Sharma Agarwal, her dance career under Acchan Maharaj of Kathak, Manipuri from Guru Amubi Singh and Bharatnatyam from Guru Menakshi Sundaram Pillai made her perfectionist in playing of verities of art performer. An extensive practisoner in the field of rasa, she was able to stand in such a position where she could able to establish the main rasa of classical background.

Kapila Vatsayan was born on 25 December, 1928 in a Punjabi Arya Samaj family and did her formal education, MA degree in English and switched over to another degree in Education from USA, University of Michigan. She did her Ph.D. from Banaras Hindu University. In her Ph.D. work she tried to draw the ethos of Jaydev’s Gita Govinda and the nuances of Pablo Picasso’s work with equal intensity. Kapila married to eminent Hindi writer S.H.Vatsayan, ‘Ageya’ but could not continue their conjugal life for long time and separated in 1969.
Dr.Kapila Vatsayan was indomitable character who was able to leave her imprints on Indian culture. There was no single chapter of arts where she moved around especially the performing art and visual art with her performance she could reach to an iconic position where she popularized the cultural beds of theoretical and management aspects. Besides these, she extended some collaborative effort with legendary maestro Guru Moni Madhava Chakyar and played pivotal role in safe guarding the legacy of classical Indian art forms.

Actually, Kapila was a multifaceted cultural icon with an interdisciplinary approach to the art. To achieve her aesthetic theories of dance she applied the study of literature, painting, sculpture, theatre and music. Her profound interest in classical dances led her to a deep study of folk, rural and tribal dances. Once she said in an interview, “I did not go to modern dance, but from tradition.”

Kapila spent her life time with exploring and reinterpreting the remarkable complexities of Indian culture which made it to a realistic one and laid the foundation of a strong ground for the future perspective. It will be an unaccountable aspect of passing her which focuses an ending of an era of classical culture and dance.

Kapila Vatsayan was an able administrator and initiator of institution builder because of her intellect capacity and uncompromising attitude. In this connection, she was fortunate enough to be associated with Kamalendu Chattapadhya, Jawaharlal Nehru, Dr. Radhakrishnan and Maulana Azad becoming the administration’s nodal centre of cultural affairs. She established the Centre for Cultural Resources and Training conceptualized the Indira Gandhi National Centre for Arts, and was the Vice President of the Indian Council for cultural relation.

In 1987 Kapila Vatsayan became the founder trustee and member secretary of this centre and held the post of Academic Director till 2000. Besides this she was also the Chairperson of Asiatic International Research Division. She served as secretary to the Government of India in the Ministry of Education and during her tenure she established quite a large number of higher education centers to her credit. The most important part in the tenure of holding this post, she was a part and partial of establishing the three Academies i.e. Sangeet Natak, Lalit kala and Sahitya Academy. Kapila was nominated twice to the member of Rajya Sabha.

Kapila Vatsayan authored of nearly 20 books to her credit on different forms of art and its histories but notable works including ‘The square and circle of Indian Arts (1997)’, ‘Bharat : The Natya Sastra(1996)’and ‘Matralaksanam (1988)’. She was awarded many prestigious awards, National as well as International including Sangeet Natak Academy and Padma Vibhushan.

Kapila Vatsayan experienced not only Indian but Asiatic art of culture especially dance but always had a keen interest in western tradition also. She never compromised the ethos of the originality of Asiatic Culture and said once as “I got the essence of each of these tradition without being bound by the conventions of these traditions; I became an unbounded bounded person.” This legendary icon of art and culture breathed her last on 16th September, 2020 at the age of 92. (Dr. Jagadindra Raychoudhury, Academician and Guwahati based columnist)


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