[AW/GSM1] Art & Culture: Declining Male Classical Dancers & Sanskrit Literature in Modern India- with Model Answers

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  1. Mock Qs for UPSC Mains GSM1
  2. Ans1: Classical dances are female domination in modern times. why?
  3. Ans2: Sanskrit Literature not growing much

Mock Questions for UPSC Mains GS Paper1

Answer each of the following in not more than 200 words.

  1. While most of the Indian classical dances involve both the feminine and masculine aspects of the divine couple: Shiva- & Shakti or Radha & Krishna, the current state of gender in classical Indian dance has become female-skewed. Why?
  2. Although, both Sanskrit and Tamil are among the longest-surviving classical languages in the world, but as we begin to measure their growth from medieval to modern India, the Sanskrit literature has declined at a faster rate than Tamil. Why?

Syllabus relevance? These are not ‘out of syllabus’ questions, because, the syllabus of GSM1 mentions Salient aspects of Art, Architecture, literature from Ancient to Modern Times. Emphasis on the words ” Modern Times”. Anyways let’s begin:

Ans1: Classical dances are female domination in modern times. why?

Brainstorm

There are three ways to start an answer:

  1. Definition: we can define classical dance with some characteristics and examples but then it’ll finish in 2-3 lines.
  2. Origin: After giving the definition, we can give the origin of classical dances. This will help in padding the answer, otherwise in real exam, difficult to recollect of enough points about ‘falling number of male classical dancers’ for 200 words.
  3. Data: unlike poverty and unemployment, we don’t have any reliable data about falling number of male classical dancers. So can’t start this way.

Introduction (Definition + Origin):

  • Definition: “Classical dance” is an umbrella term for various individual and group dance forms that owe their origin to Bharat Muni’s Natya Shashtra. These dances have strict rules about movements, music, costumes and facial expressions. They are meant to be performed (1) at temples during festivals and religious events and (2) at royal courts for entertainment. Notable examples include Kathakali, Bharatnatyam, Kathak, Manipuri, Kuchi pudi and Odishi.
  • Origin: From the bronze statue of a dancing girl found at a Harappan site to the images Nataraja adoring the Chola temples, dance has been an activity for both males and females since the ancient and medieval times. But today we find the gradual decline in the number of classical dancers as a whole, and male dancers in particular. The underlying reasons are as following:

Body#1: Patronage & Economic opportunities

In Modern India, dances be divided in three parts

  1. Contemporary Dances: a person having proficiency over these dance forms can find work in Bollywood movies and Reality TV shows as performer, contestant and choreographer. Even if a man fails in such reality TV shows, he can open his coaching academy to train other aspirants of such reality shows. Therefore, if a modern Indian male had to invest time and money, he’d find it more lucrative to learn Bollywood, samba, tango and other dance forms over classical dances. Yes, the mastery over classical dances could help person adapt to western forms in better and faster manner but it’s not a prerequisite (as NEET is for MBBS or NCERT is for UPSC!), besides classical dancing requires long and arduous coaching training compared to the contemporary dance forms.
  2. Folk dances: such as Bhangra and Garba, where males take part in good numbers and in enthusiastic manner. It requires no formal training and is done mostly for celebration and pleasure.
  3. Classical Dances: Originally they were meant to be performed in temples and royal courts. At both places, the female dancers received more patronage than male dancers for the reasons other than performance i.e. for sexual exploitation whether of Devdasis in Southern India, or Kathak dancers in Mughal courts.

Thus, classical dance was never a lucrative full-time profession for the male dancers to begin with. In the modern India, classical / folk dance troupes find commercially gainful work in the cultural shows / events in the western countries but such occasions are few and far in between. Hence at most this is a seasonal work for men.

Recognition

  • Even if a person is not striving for economic gains, the symbolic rewards and accolades definitely help in pursuing classical dances as a recreational activity.
  • In 2016, noted Kathak maestro Pt. Birju Maharaj won Filmfare award for Bajirao Mastani. But such achievements are rare in frequency and rare in receiving media highlight. Otherwise in the same 2016, all the classical dancers / folk dancers who were given Padma awards, were female.

Besides, even if only MALE dancers are given all awards, still it’ll not ensure that all teenager boys of that given state / caste / graduation stream will flock in classical dances- as it happens after declaration of UPSC AIR#1.

Taboo notions

  • Taboo that classical dance is a feminine activity- even though the staging of classical dance-dramas involve and require both genders.
  • Bollywood movies have not helped in lifting this stereotype. In Bollywood movies, a classical dance teacher is ALWAYS portrayed as a transgender or gay person and used only for a comic relief rather than a significant character in the plot.

Misc. reasons

  • If a girl learned classical dance, her parents organized a grand Aarangetram, and invited the elites / elders of the society, then her marriage prospects will improve. Same can’t be said for boys.
  • Extra curricular activities as a whole, and classical dances in particular- have declined right from the school stage because of the mad rush and pressure especially on the teenage boys for preparation of competitive exams to seek jobs and admissions in India and abroad.

Conclusion (Summary):

In real exam, most candidates would write this answer at last in the sequence (Because as such content is less). And at the end of the exam, you won’t have much time to write a very thoughtful and sharp conclusion. So, better just summarize what we’ve already wrote in body and express concern that this fall of male dancers is not a good development.

  • In Indian society, a male is expected to be the ‘provider and breadwinner’ for the family. This economic compulsion further drives off males from classical dances. Further, the taboos and stereotypes associated with the classical dances and the lack of recognition have aggravated the situation, hence the declining number of male classical dancers.
  • The state and the society should take cognizance of this small but significant issue, otherwise some classical dance forms will not survive in their original formats, if this fall continues further. (Meaning, we’ll reach a stage where female will play the role of males in the classical dance dramas donning fake moustaches. While feminists will celebrate it as ‘gender empowerment’, but in reality it’d be ‘extinction’ of male classical dancer as a species.)

Common Mistakes in writing this answer

  • Writing too much about ‘why classical dance is declining because of other forms of entertainment’, instead of focusing on ‘why males classical dancers are declining.’
  • You’ve to write “Diagnosis” that for reason #1, #2, #3- there are less male classical dancers. But some candidates- in enthusiasm / ignorance, write “Prescriptive” answer that we should do @x @y @z to encourage males to study classical dances.
  • Writing “Rejectionist” answer that males have no declined because Birju Maharaj won filmfare award. Because here you’re not asked to ‘critically examine whether it’s true’. They’ve already given the premise that male dancers have declined. You’ve to enumerate the points on “why” this has happened?

Sanskrit Literature

Ans2: Sanskrit Literature not growing much

Again, same problem- difficult to think of enough points to fill 200 words a in real exam, so let’s drag the introductions longer.

Introduction: Origin

  • Sanskrit is the most ancient language of our country and Tamil is the oldest among our Dravidian languages. Both of them are among the twenty-two languages listed in the Indian Constitution.
  • Given the vast body of literature starting from the Vedic age and the Sangam age respectively, both of them are given the status of classical languages in India.
  • However, in the modern India, we see that literature in Sanskrit is not growing as much as Tamil. The underlying reasons are as following:

Patronage: Before and during Independence:

  • With the advent of Pali and Prakrit, Buddhism and Jainism, the Sanskrit readers and writers had begun to shrink since the end of ancient times. Still, Sanskrit authors and poets received patronage in the Gupta empire which extended all the way upto Modern day Odisha & parts of Tamilnadu. Even the Kushana Kings who ruled over Afghanistan too supported Sanskrit.
  • But in the post-medieval period, in geographic terms, the patronage available for Sanskrit scholars had shrunk only to Kashmir, as the vernacular languages and English gained more prominence across India.
  • During freedom struggle, the authors and poets wanted to instill a sense of pride and nationalism among ordinary masses, hence they opted to write in vernacular languages, disregarding the lure of British patronage and knighthood. Since Tamil is a language of ordinary masses, generation of new literature continued even during freedom struggle, unlike Sanskrit.

Post-Independence: Dalit consciousness

  • Dalit writing in Tamil has a conscious continuity since the 19th century- not as a commercial activity but as a tool for expression, empowerment and enlightenment of the masses about the issues affecting their community.
  • In the modern times, there has been a resurgence of Dalit themes and subplots within commercial Tamil cinema. For example, the opening scene of Tamil movie “Kabali” has Rajinikanth reading a book “My Father Baliah” which is considered a classic in Dalit literature in Tamil Nadu.
  • Such small gestures, encourage young demography to read those Tamil books. This further encourages the authors of scheduled castes, minorities and other oppressed communities to write more novels and poems in Tamil.
  • Same is not true for Sanskrit. Besides, if an author from an oppressed community wanted to pen something, he’d prefer vernacular language such as Gujarati, Marathi or Hindi to reach the larger mass.

Language of Masses

  • From the royalty, circulation and economics point of view, the literature in a particular language will continue to grow if there are good number appreciative readers.
  • Tamil is a language of general population without barriers of caste or religion. A Christian or Muslim borne and brought in Tamilnadu will also speak Tamil. There is a large Tamil diaspora abroad as well.
  • Sanskrit is clubbed with Hinduism and Brahminism. Even Jains, Buddhists parents may find no motivation to have their children learn it. And non-Hindus can make do with Hindi in most parts of Northern India.
  • Tamil movies, music, TV channels by private entrepreneurs ensure and facilitate the growth of Tamil fiction. The craze for some Tamil filmstars is so high that even of the non-Tamil speakers have begun to learn the language to understand and appreciate such movies in better manner! (E.g. Rajinikanth fanclubs in Russia and Japan)
  • On the other hand, Sanskrit news / channel / documentary movies will stop the moment government stops funding.

Commercial success of English fiction

  • The new age authors prefer to write in simple English and cover themes attractive to young adult (YA) population to attract sales both in their native countries and foreign territories – as well as to become eligible for prestigious awards such as Booker prize and Hugo award.
  • English novels have more chances of getting adapted as movies, TV-serials and video games – for example J.K. Rowling’s ‘Harry Potter’ and Chetan Bhagat’s ‘five point someone’ have been adapted into successful Hollywood and Bollywood movies.
  • George RR Martin’s ‘Game of Thrones’ and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ have been adapted into successful TV serials and video games.
  • This growing popularity of English novels is gradually weaning away even aficionados of Hindi and Tamil literature. Besides, If a title wins Booker prize, it’ll tremendously boost the sales of that English novel. There is no equivalent award for Tamil or Sanskrit literature to match it. In such commercial atmosphere, Tamil fiction provides little and Sanskrit fiction provides even less incentive to the budding authors and publishing houses.

Observe the formation of underlined sentence. If you don’t write like that, it might give wrong inference that YA English novels are hurting only Sanskrit and not Tamil.

Conclusion (Summary):

To understand and appreciate the diversity and richness of our culture, we should encourage all classical and vernacular languages. But, literature of a given language cannot grow without 1) appreciative readers 2) commercial gain. Sankrit suffers in both, hence the muted growth in its its literature.

Common Mistakes in this answer:

  1. Student write more lines on the a decline of language but the question is about finding reasons for decline of ‘literature.’ Don’t confuse.
  2. Student becomes ‘too frank’ in his answer. For example, in the post-colonial times, some prominent Indian authors would lash at Indian society and governance in their English novels. They’d receive foreign appreciation and patronage- particularly in Londonistan. (V.S.Naipul and Arundhati Roy to name a few.) But same has not been true for anyone writing in Sanskrit and eulogizing our culture, religion, sages and cows, until the results of 2014 general election. While this is an ugly but valid point for the fall of Sanskrit literature. but you can’t anticipate how the evaluator might agree / disagree with it so better avoid!
  3. You’re asked to write “Diagnosis” why Sanskrit is not growing. You’ve not asked to write ‘Prescription’ on what should be done to encourage Sanskrit literature.
  4. You’re not asked to ‘examine critically whether question premise is right or wrong’. Hence “Rejectionist” conclusion that both Sanskrit & Tamil literature are growing because of x, y and z novels, will be a wrong conclusion.

Mrunal recommends

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9 Comments on “[AW/GSM1] Art & Culture: Declining Male Classical Dancers & Sanskrit Literature in Modern India- with Model Answers”

  1. Tq u so much..sir..it was really helpfull…and 2 nd question’s answer as really AMAZING..

  2. Another important topic covered. This model question answer format helps in easy understanding of the topic. Thank you Mrunal sir.

  3. Very well defined .
    Thank you sir…..

  4. Sir, I appreciate your work greatly. It helps me greatly. Now one feedback – I know you are fond of stereotypes for lightening the mental load, as comic relief but generally your jokes “punch up” and not down and your stereotypes, (like most stereotypes) are true (but partly), which is what makes it funny. However, you missed the mark on your feminist stereotype. Feminists would never celebrate feminisation of a traditionally feminine activity! That’s pretty much against the definition of feminism! It’s like saying feminists would celebrate all women staying at home and remaining home-makers! Conservatives would celebrate that! Feminists would actually celebrate complete masculinization of a traditionally feminine activity (such as classical dance)! That gender roles are wrong is the basic theory! The joke was so off that I had to comment! :) Anyway, all that apart, great work! Your selfless work is invaluable! Side note: can you set up a Patreon or some such link to contribute to you on a monthly basis?

  5. sir please….hindi me bhio de do

  6. sir hindi me bhi model answer de do…please

  7. Its a great and revolutionary initiative of you Mrunal sir .We are gifted to have such well structured and quality content and that to for free :)

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