# 14 Prakash Belawadi: One million stories of a multi-centric India

Theatre, film and TV personality, Prakash Belawadi is a bold voice in contemporary Indian storytelling. He is # 14 in our list of Bangalore’s Global Icons. In this free-flowing interview with CSP, he talks about Indian cinema steering a new course and about the need to write stories which reflect a new, vibrant India. Here is Prakash Belawadi, in his own words.

On Cinema: ‘The film industry defies the logic of one India. It is a multi-centric India.’

I think we should have a script bank and a bank of films and every year you should do an Indic film festival that actually looks at and interrogates Indian history reimagined in creative work today. Every year you must do that. Without showcasing these works, people will not be familiar with our real history and this must be in all the languages.

There is already a tendency in India now to look at India’s immediate history. We never had the courage to do this so far. That is why you had a biopic on the most famous person of the 20th century to be done by Richard Attenborough. You did that because you did not have the courage to give it to any Indian. Today such a thing will be unbelievable. First of all we have moved so far away from that kind of an India. The Government of India giving money to somebody else to make a film doesn’t exist. A Kannada film dubbed and released in Bombay – KGF- beat a Shahrukh Khan film released that week in Bombay. This is a changed India with films like Bahubali, KGF.

I acted in Madras Café which looks at the assassination of a former Prime Minister. You have Neerja, the heroic tale of an airhostess saving lives. I acted in Raja Krishna Menon’s Airlift which documents the largest air evacuation in history carried out by Air India. In Malayalam, I acted in a film called Take Off which talks about the release of nurses from the ISIS.

In our times we didn’t have this. We had a Garam Hawa, an art film which was like a lament on beautiful India lost. While doing my latest film with actor Surya, I told him: ‘If a star of your stature can come and do contemporary history film like this, it will lift Indian cinema.’ He said ‘it is time we all did this.’” That sensibility has come. Maybe that stream needs to be strengthened.

I acted in ‘Accidental Prime Minister’ which was based on Sanjaya Baru book on Manmohan Singh’s tenure. The film did not have the profundity that you see in a film like The Post (which depicts the true story of attempts by journalists to publish the Pentagon Papers) for example. However, you have films from directors like Shoojit Sircar (director of Yahaan, Vicky Donor, Madras Cafe, Piku, and October. He also produced the 2012 film Aparajita Tumi) that are remarkable.

The Tashkent Files, which is such a low budget film, has such high quality research. And its power lies in the imagination of the director to frame the story in such a way so as to be able to investigate the past with such contemporary or modern angst. All this is very interesting. These narratives have to be strengthened. It is happening across India.

Once I did the story of Punyakoti as a puppet show and children were weeping. In Punyakoti, when the cow tells the tiger, I will feed my calf and return, the tiger asks how can I believe that you will come back, the cow says, ‘Truth is our community, Truth is my father, mother. Truth is my everything. If I don’t agree to abide what I have given in contract, Achuta Srihari will not forgive me.’ The tiger is taken aback and lets her go. When the calf asks ‘When you go away, who will look after me,’ the cow pleads with the community, ‘look after this child as your own.’ When the cow is asked if she will not stay back, she says ‘I will not break my promise, I will not think bad, and the commitment I have made, whatever comes, I will meet it.’ What a profound value to give children. The meaning keeps coming as a refrain - that you are bound to the Truth and the truth here is Dharma. The cow is conflicted, it wants to live for the child. But it has given its word. In the conflict of Dharma it is interpreted in a way we understand.

On Content: “We need to give people genuine avenues to understand what India was”.

We are dependent on the media which is compromised by ownership, not just by politics. Owners come with agendas and that has so grossly interfered with the traditions of media freedom that you can no longer trust mainstream media alone. There are better India narratives. Somebody goes to Kashi or Kashmir and writes a blog, you should be able to fact check it, showcase it, and maybe commission these storytellers to make small projects, make documentaries, give talks.

It is the casual patriotism of the Indian people that is in the margins. I don’t use the word ‘nationalism’ as it is a bogus word and has no resonance in India. The Indian intellectual is a Western intellectual. In India, it is not enough to be an intellectual. You have to be a ‘viveki’. We should stand above the intellectual tradition, western educated people are spouting. They don’t know anything. What they know is what they have been told. I am sympathetic to the casually patriotic Indian who has not even gone to college. A person who has not even gone to high-school. You talk to auto-drivers, lift operators, they are far more concerned about India than all these people. You need to take the responsibility to reach this to them.

India, I can tell you has not been destroyed. It has seen much. All kind of stuff has happened. We have somehow survived, and this Liberal front that is projected in India is the swan song. This is the last stand. I feel after this we will settle into a sane debate. Where extremists on this side and extremists on that side will become irrelevant. So that we can talk. But for that to be enabled, you, we, can play a catalyst and it is a great role.  

You need to do a sufficient amount of push messaging before you have a critical mass of aware people, so that a pull model can operate and they can do it themselves. I am not sure we need to spend money to do a ‘Shankara TV or Aastha channel’. We don’t need anyone to teach us bhakti, we need them to teach us viveka. We need to give people genuine avenues to understand what India was.

On Translation and vernacular narratives: You need to revalorise people who genuinely did good in this country

Your history books, your best books are not translated into Indian languages. You should have a great translation project and a dubbing project for great works in audio-visual media. Invest in one radio channel or one frequency across the states and run an Indic series. Radio is your most powerful medium. Forget print. Second you should have a translation center, where great works are translated, digitalised, kept in a library, create an app where people can easily access the library. Just like the Gita and the Veda are now available easily, we should be able to access what our great gurus and leaders said. I don’t know what Bankim said. I would call him the father of the Bengal renaissance, but we Indians don’t what he said. I don’t know what Madan Mohan Malaviya said. I don’t know what Krishnaraja Wodeyar said - he was the Vice-Chancellor of Benaras Hindu University. You need to revalorise people who genuinely did good in this country and that should reach out not in a pious way but as knowledge, as annotated notes, you should find ways to do it through a TV channel, a translation center, and a series of radio channels.

Don’t try to start a university. This is India, you just give them a little bit of self-awareness and their self-respect will automatically flower. Indic culture is now a bonsai culture, it is hidden in the ground, cramped, dormant, terrified, and covered in mud. If you give them the sunlight of awareness, they will grow big.

There is a movement around the world where people are saying, ‘human beings need not go and regenerate nature, just leave it be, don’t go there, nature will heal itself.’ I don’t know if that is true and if we have done too much damage. However, India, I can tell you has not been destroyed. It has seen much. All kind of stuff has happened. We have somehow survived, and this Liberal front that is projected in India is the swan song. This is the last stand. I feel after this we will settle into a sane debate. Where extremists on this side and extremists on that side will become irrelevant. So that we can talk. But for that to be enabled, you, we, can play a catalyst and it is a great role.  

As city dwellers we know about Indian history because of Amar Chitra Kathas. Even when I was reading Shakespearean plays, I was still reading ACKs. Because that is all we had. So if you do quality literature people will be receptive. When Ramayana and Mahabarata series were running on TV, wedding invitations would come saying that TV sets had been arranged in wedding halls. The Indian narrative does not need push. Where it needs a push is access to it.

One way of doing it is by reviving traditions that we had in magazines like Chandamama, Ananda Vigadan, Sindhura, Mayura.  Exploit opportunities where children can be exposed to things more profound rather than just film songs through shows like Sa Re Ga Ma where their cuteness is exploited. You can do a classical music event for children. Do a 40-day event for children during holidays. Plug-in with the Ramotsav of the Ram Seva Mandali which is going on for 80 years.

Look at the wealth of this country. Now students are doing Panchatantra instead of Aesop’s fables. The idea that we can turn to our own culture has already come into this country. In a population of 1.63 billion, if you can get one 1 million writers, and give them one year to write a story which has the quality of a fable or parable which has an Indic, complex, moral value, we have enough, we have the narrative. We must do a one million story project and promote our own stories.

(As told to Aparna Sridhar)

“India has a special quality of energy”

When Mariellen Ward won the National Tourism Award for Best Foreign Travel Writer / Blogger for 2017-18, from the Ministry of Tourism she tweeted, "Couldn’t be more proud. And grateful. Thank you India for truly showing me the spirit of Atithi Devo Bhava."

Mariellen Ward first came to India in 2005, while still mourning the loss of her mother. She had been taking a year-long Yoga teacher training course in Toronto in 2004, when she suddenly felt a compulsion to come to India. It took her a year to plan and save for her trip.

Mariellen says, “I left my apartment, put my things in storage, and jumped! My plan was to travel for six months, but I wasn’t sure I would make it that long as I heard travel in India was tough. But the opposite happened. I had a fabulous trip and it completely cured my depression. I felt an instant affinity with India, and started travel writing and blogging … and have never looked back. I built my career and my life on travelling in India, and now I live here, in Rishikesh.”

Six months of criss-crossing the country, Mariellen says she was in a bit of an ‘altered state’, a feeling many visitors to India have described in detail. "It felt like a magic carpet ride. My imagination was stimulated like never before and India essentially became my creative muse.” 

Moving down South to the city of palaces, where geography and architecture conjure up history, Mariellen speaks about Mysore. “I remember walking through Mysore Palace and crying because I was so impressed with the beauty and magnificence of the place. It was the stuff of my dreams since childhood. My Mother brought me up to believe in the power of my dreams, and the magic and wonder of the universe. And it was the intractable grief over my Mother’s sudden death in 1998 that initially sent me to India. So walking through Mysore Palace, I felt connected to my Mother and her words, and my own deeply buried dreams. In India, I recovered from my depression and reconnected to my dreams. That trip saved my life in so many ways. And kick-started an entirely new chapter.”

India’s deep mysticism is very attractive and one can soak it in the most …in solitude. For someone who has lived in India for so long, I ask Mariellen what charms her the most. “The most enduring thing about India is …. India. Just India herself. I always tell people, you don’t need to do anything special or go anywhere in particular. Just come here and experience India. Perhaps it would be easier in a place like Pushkar and the desert in Rajasthan. Or Rishikesh and the lower Himalayas. Or Maheshwar and the jungles of Madhya Pradesh. Or the temples of South India. Somewhere less hectic, less crowded, and less “modern.” 

A sense of time, of the past and present, merges seamlessly, and for those willing to embrace it, there’s an opportunity to transcend it. “There is a quality of energy in India that I have never felt anywhere else. It could be the combination of an abiding, ancient culture or the palpable spirituality. I don’t know. But I think when visitors come to India with a sense of openness, they can feel it. I’m not the only one! Many others feel something special here, too. I asked a spiritual teacher why seekers have always come to India, and he said, ‘India is the soul of the world. It has all the extremes of human experience, from the darkest to the lightest,’” says Mariellen.

Breathedreamgo https://breathedreamgo.com/ is her travel website and blog which she started publishing in 2009. She had already begun blogging about her travels in India for four years since 2005 on other sites.  

The story of the birth of ‘Breathe dream go’ brings a smile. Says Mariellen, “I was actually in the shower when the words “breathe dream go” came to me. I jumped out of the shower to search, and see if the phrase was unique -- it was -- so I bought the domain name before I was dry!”

A professional communicator she started blogging in 2005. “Initially, it was just as a hobby and I didn’t become a professional travel writer until about 2008. In 2009 I realized the media was moving online, the digital revolution was in full swing, so I decided to take my career online and make a name for myself. I was just one of about three people who were travel blogging about India at the time. The other two were Lakshmi Sharath and Anuradha Goyal, as far as I know.” 

She does not set up India for people. She says the experience has unfold by itself. “It’s a challenge to give people an “authentic” experience of India -- it’s not exactly something you can engineer. It has to happen spontaneously. But you can help by putting them up in homestays and locally owned guest houses, and steering them away from tourist attractions and towards local markets, for example. It really helps to slow down, and spend some significant time in a place, so that you start to get to know local people. This is hard on a tour of course, especially when people feel compelled to see as much as possible.”

Every state in India has worked hard to get its tourism act together, but there are some that stand out. “Some tourism infrastructure is necessary of course, so the states I visit again and again, and the states that I encourage others to visit, include Rajasthan, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. They are among my favourites. In these states, you do get the tourism infrastructure, but you can also find some off-beat, unique, and authentic experiences too. Of course, this is true for most of the states in India -- Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, for example. You need to know where to go.” 

Mariellen has been following the tourism scene closely and says that there is a “growing movement of people dedicated to responsible, or sustainable, tourism. They are opening lodges, resorts, walking tours etc. all over the country. These are the people I am watching, and hoping to work with and showcase. I also feel the Northeast is opening up, and I’m really interested in travelling there.”

For those coming to find themselves and also to discover the core of some of India’s ancient sciences, India has never failed to deliver. “India has been the world’s leading destination for seekers for a long, long time. As I mentioned, a spiritual teacher described India to me as “the soul of the world.” There is a palpable sense of spirituality in the air here -- or at least, that’s what I feel. It’s also the birthplace of Yoga, an art and science that arises directly from the culture of India. It’s my personal belief that Yoga in the west has been lost in translation. Only a fraction of it has been exported. To experience the entirety of Yoga, you should come to India. It may not be the only place in the world to truly experience Yoga, but I feel it’s the best because here, you can see that Yoga is part of the culture.”

Mariellen says she has tried to do her bit in broadening perceptions of India, but “it’s a big job given the negative and stereotypical picture the mainstream media in Canada and elsewhere in the west insists on painting.  I participate in many online groups of female travellers, and whenever the topic of India comes up, the conversations are hijacked by people who are concerned about safety. Safety is, and should be, a concern for all travellers of course. But it completely dominates these conversations and I think that’s disproportionate to the actual dangers of travel here. So, the perception of India as a dangerous place for tourists has taken hold. It’s disheartening. I do my best to offer other perspectives and tell travel stories that showcase the beauty of India.”

Her tips for women travelling to India has been very popular and has been syndicated many times with perhaps over a million views.   


What can be done to draw more visitors to India? “Showcasing heritage sites in India is a worthwhile pursuit, but maintaining them better would be the place to start. I’ve seen so many priceless treasures, all across India, that are not well maintained. It’s heart-breaking.”

Aside from better maintenance, infrastructure, and training for people working in hospitality, the India tourism industry also needs to focus more on marketing and storytelling. The tourism industry here is almost exclusively focused on sales, and they don’t see the bigger picture. They lack vision and innovation, and -- except for the Golden Triangle and the Taj Mahal -- largely don’t know how to create a tourism product. Kerala would be an exception.”

“So first maintain the heritage sites better, then create storytelling and marketing that creates an “appetite” for these places. The world doesn’t know about Mandu and Hampi, Khajuraho and Ellora/Ajanta. If these places were in any other country, tourists would flock to them in droves!” 

Balancing energies in Sacred Spaces

The deeper we probe into Vedic knowledge and its iconography, we realize how a deliberate attempt was made to knit the ‘phenomenon and principals of well-being’ with a layman’s life by personifying energies and by creating rituals to establish the connect with natural elements. Seen from this perspective, it is amazing to find how folklore, crafts, art, daily practices and festivals were used as ‘devices and opportunities’ to introduce a common man to the principles of universe- in a very dynamic and artistic manner, writes Architect and Building Biologist Raman Vig.                                                       

Just like all the inanimate world is made out of elements of the periodic table, at the most fundamental level, all living forms on earth are created from five elements. The balance of these five elements: Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether determines the well being of a living creature at both gross and subtle level.                                                     

The intent of Bioenergetic Architecture is to create spaces that facilitate ‘health happiness and harmony’ in the lives of people who inhabit such spaces. Therefore, knowledge of the five elements (also known as Panch tatva or Panch mahabhoot), and their application in space design as well as integration with our lifestyle becomes integral to this subject.

Five elements and ‘health, happiness, harmony’

The five elements and their properties have been extensively explained in various Vedic literature (especially Taittiriya Upaniṣhad ). An element (mahabhoota) is the substance (dravya) which has an associated property called ‘guna’ ( qualitative aspect).

Humans perceive this ‘element-property’ (or dravya-guna) relationship through the five senses and this is how connect of our ‘body-mind-energy’ with five elements happens – incessantly from the time we are born till we leave our body.

In many ancient cultures around the world, there seems to be a clear understanding of how closely the well being of human beings is related to the natural elements. Therefore many ancient cultures integrated the five elements with daily rituals in some or the other manner.

This seems especially evident in Indian culture. What seems ritualistic at face of it, is interestingly a very systematic way formulated by sages (read scientists!) to bring back balance ( or resonance) of ‘panch-mahabhootas’ (or the five basic elements) in our body.

The deeper we probe into the vedic knowledge and it’s iconography, more we realize how a deliberate attempt was made to knit the ‘phenomenon and principles of well-being’ in a layman’s life by personifying energies and by creating rituals to establish the connect with natural elements. Seen from this perspective, it is amazing to find how folklore, crafts, art, daily practices and festivals were used as ‘devices and opportunities’ to introduce a common man to ‘Universal Principles’ in a very dynamic and artistic manner.

How Indian Temples facilitate balancing of Five elements

Temples of ancient India were definitely more than religious centers.  Their socio-economic relevance has already been well studied. However, the subtle mechanism of an Indian temple to re-connect a common man with the five elements - whose balance in our subtle and gross bodies holds the secret of wellbeing- has not been widely understood.

It helps to perceive this subject better if we look at the five elements not only for their physical or gross qualitative aspects but also for their subtle and energetic characteristics. The balancing of the elemental frequencies happens at the ‘subtle’ (quantum realm) through resonance. Hence the qualitative aspects of ‘the five elements’  becomes more critical phenomenon than their quantitative effects.

As we enter a temple complex, all five senses are systemically yet subtly engaged in following manner:

  1. Earth element (as we take off shoes) :  While reverence and hygiene are prime reasons for a common man to take off the shoes before entering any temple; however besides these the moment we take off our shoes to enter the temple premises, spontaneous grounding ( earthing) happens . This bringing numerous physical, physiological and bioenergetic benefits in a matter of just minutes, ranging from impact on blood viscosity resulting in improved circulation and oxygenation and stabilization of blood glucose and more (Watch the movies: “The Grounded” and “Heal for free’ to understand the science behind grounding). Later ( after or during the puja), receiving ‘prasadam’( all food is earth element) and consuming same, is a way of imbibing the earth element ( that has been charged through the chants and energized field of sanctum sanctorum). Also, the kum-kum and ‘bhasm/ vibhooti’ that is received is put on ‘ajna’ chakra       (third eye or forehead) and some put it on ‘vishudhi’ chakra ( throat) too – to resonate these with the energy of earth element.
  2. Water element during cleansing and as ‘panch-amrit’:  Before proceeding towards the inner chambers of a temple, when we cleanse our hands, face and feet ( and often face and top of head- the sahasrara chakra too) with water, our body temperature equalizes and a wave of ‘freshness and alertness’ engulfs our whole being.

Later (after or during the puja) receiving ‘charan-amrit’ or ‘ panch-amrit’ and consuming same, is a way of imbibing the positive vibrations generated through chants that water absorbs in it’s molecular memory! Water has memory and it works as a carrier of information and this fact was known to our sages who made water integral to all rituals (refer to the work of Dr. Emoto Masuru for more on the subject)

  • Fire element (flame of ‘aarti’/earthen lamps):  Most apparent manifestation of fire is through the flame or ‘jyoti’ that is swung around the deity and one takes it’s warmth/ energy (with both hands) as the priest offers it to every one- and bring it to our face and head. In the evening, the light of ‘deepams’ or the ‘earthen-lamps’ enlightens the environment.
  • Air element (fragrance of flowers, incense etc ):  A visit to an Indian temple is like having aromatherapy! Our olfactory senses get a dose of delightful fragrances – during the rituals, through the flowers we offer and through burning of camphor / cow ‘ghee’ etc. All fragrances flow through to the subtle element of air.
  • Sound element (ringing of the gong/bell and mantra chanting): Most temples have a bell at the entrance or there is bell ringing during ‘aarati’ or ‘puja’ of the deity. The Sanskrit ‘shlokas’ recited in correct manner simulate specific sound frequencies. Each sound has impact on us and our cellular being starts to resonate with it’s vibrational frequency. The sound element is representative of the space element – the subtlest of all ‘panchtatvas’. Many of us may also be able to relate to the ‘singing bowls and bells’ from Tibetan culture where similar techniques are used to resonate with the space element.

Through appropriate instrumentation it is possible to demonstrate how aforementioned ‘resonance’ of ‘panch-tatvas’ impacts us on subtle and gross levels. However, the proof of the pudding is in eating it. All it takes to get an experience of aforementioned is by visiting some ancient temple (preferably with an open heart and mind!) and observe how the play of five elements resonates at all levels.

(The author is a researcher and a space designers working with principles , protocols and  procedures  of  Bio-energetic Architecture.

For more information, visit  www. bioenergeticarchitecture.com or reach out via e- mail ramanvig@hotmail.com)   

(Featured Photograph by Jai Shankar)

# 13 Indian Music Experience – putting music in people’s hands


magine a museum for music, showcasing not just the past, but a living, breathing space where the sounds from the past and present merge in a very contemporary setting. Where perhaps, as one writer put it, “comes the idea of taking art (museum shows/collections) out of the realm of the ‘institution’ and putting it into the hands of the individual”. 

The ambitious Centre for Indian Music Experience (IME) built at a cost of Rs 40 crore in Bangalore recreates a sound scape of musical history, aesthetics and sounds in a walk-around campus of two acres under the aegis of the Brigade group. Started in 2008, the project was inaugurated this August by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain. It is 13th in our list of Bangalore's Global Icons.

Builders Brigade Millenium who own 20 acres of prime land in the up-scale JP Nagar area, had to dedicate Rs 2 crore to a socially relevant project. A survey was conducted to explore different ideas, and by popular vote it was decided to allocate the space to Indian music.

 In many ways, Bangalore’s eclectic musical tastes makes it the right choice for a national museum of such scale. It has been a melting pot of various genres apart being the home of Carnatic and Hindustani music. Director Outreach IME Dr Suma Sudhindra, says “Bangalore is a rich cultural place right now. If you look at India, apart from Mumbai, I think that it’s only in Bangalore that you have an audience for every kind of music and music is appreciated in all its forms. Another plus point is that we have a lot of tourists from abroad and this could become a great tourist destination.”

It was the Chairman and Director of the Brigade Group M R Jayashankar who decided to create a museum on the lines of the Experience Music Project in Seattle after a chance visit during a business trip abroad. Like the Seattle Music Experience Complex, IME blends exhibits, technology, media, and hands-on activities that combine the interpretive aspects of a traditional museum, educational role of a school, and audience-drawing qualities of performance venues and popular attractions.

New York based designers, Gallaghers and Associates provided the Interpretative Master Plan for the museum. They have designed many music museums in the US including the National Blues Museum Interactives, Grammy Museum Mississippi Interactives, Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, LA.

They believe the IME will be a “vibrant music epicentre that celebrates India’s unity in spirit, diversity and creative expression. Visitors will be able to rediscover their connections to the living tradition that is Indian music.” G&A worked to define the visitor experience model and its relationship to a conceptual architectural plan.

The Gallaghers design is the greatest attraction of the IME. A very contemporary style, they believe “giving life and meaning to the mission and collections of cultural organizations is the heart of excellent experiential design. Collaboration and innovative design creates engaging and theatrical storytelling. The design of exhibit experiences with strong graphics and interactive components, supported by well-articulated content, creates context and personal connections for each and every visitor,” states Gallaghers.

 The architects who worked with Gallaghers were selected through a competition. Suma says, “We have not chopped a single tree in this project. The fluidity of music has inspired the architecture. The non-standard site shape and a desire to weave the building (covering 50,000 square feet) around existing trees without having to cut them also makes it interesting.”

The content for the Centre has been developed by a committee headed by eminent musicologist Dr Pappu Venugopala Rao. Suma says, the idea has been to create an appeal for someone who has no initiation into any kind of music except perhaps Bollywood, “because everyone in India knows Bollywood, which is also represented here. If someone goes through the museum in 45 minutes, we want him to come out with an experience of our rich musical tradition. So basically we are not diving deep into our various traditions, but we are touching upon every aspect of our music from traditional to contemporary.”

“We touch upon most of the salient features. Here the concepts are more about the music and not the musicians. Though we have the stars galary where we will be featuring 100 legends of music across genres – from folk, to regional to classical. Since there is a lot of virtual material, there will be a lot of indepth material for someone who is interested. But if you ask very technical questions, they may not be answered here.

The five music Bharat Ratnas in music - MS Subbulakshmi, Bhimsen Joshi, Bismillah Khan, Lata Mangeshkar and Pandit Ravishankar are featured. Suma Sudhindra says “IME has  Bishmillah Khan Sahib’s Shenahi, which was I think a very emotional moment for all of us at IME. Because when his son came to hand over the instruments, he had tears while parting with the instrument. As an instrumentalists we all understand how emotional we get with our instruments. In fact its an intrinsic part of my life. I have hardly cried in my life, but when my veena broke once, I cried uncontrollably.”

All the Carnatic music instruments were given by practicing musicians. Suma asked her performing co-artistes if they could donate their instruments and they did so.  “They have been very generous. So much so that we have not bought a single Carnatic instrument and have got excess instruments. It would have been easy to buy the instruments and house them here. But it’s more valuable to have used instruments. Ghatam Manjunath was a famous ghatam artiste of yesteryears. His ghatam was with one young ghatam player Ravikumar and he parted with it. Ravikiran gave a ghotuvadyam,” says Suma Sudhindra.

Manasi Prasad, Managing Director of IME and a vocalist herself, says when she when she completed her MBA and was turning down a career in Wall Street and coming back to India to pursue a career in music, people thought she was making a sacrifice. “How many people have the opportunity in their 20s to be entrusted with the responsibility of setting up something that is going to be a landmark musical institution not just for this generation but for generations to come? I have lived this passion,” says Manasi.

“The vision of the IME is to increase the understanding and appreciation of the Indian music, from the traditional to the contemporary, through experiences that engage and educate. The idea is, we view this centre, which is to be the first of its kind, as serving two important purposes—one, to inspire, because young Indians today need role models beyond cricket and Bollywood, and see the stories of people like a boy who ran away from home at the age of eleven and toured India for over two years in search of a guru, and went on to become Bhim Sen Joshi, or the boy from a wrestlers’ family who went on to become a celebrated flautist like Hariprasad Chaurasiya… Whoever you are, wherever you come from, these stories can inspire. And that’s what the IME aims to do, through experiential storyboards we’ve created, from talking about these musicians to listening to their music. So that’s one part. The other part is education—how you can covey what the entire gamut of Indian music is about in a space of twenty thousand square feet, which is our gallery space. We do this through a variety of ways, and these are the experiences.”

“The IME consists of thematic galleries, where we’ve looked at various genres of music, things like the history of recording, how music plays a role in political movements like in our songs of struggle gallery. So we’ve taken these themes, and how we create the experiences is we take storyboards, which have images and little stories like how Vande Mataram was not chosen to be the national anthem, but Jana Gana Mana was, or how the microphone changed performance, and how some artists resisted it. There are hundreds of stories throughout the museum through storyboards. Apart from that, what’s more interesting is we have these audio-visual kiosks. We have these iPads, where whatever you see in the museum, you will hear. For example in the Hall of Fame we have one hundred musicians, and you will hear the music of these musicians with little notes saying what’s special in these pieces of music. Then we have interactive installations. So if you’ve always wondered how DJs create these pieces of music that has a little bit of sitar coming, then drums, then the electronic sound, we give you the chance to be DJs and you’ll have your own console, where you can mix pieces of music on an interactive touchscreen. And there are many interactors like this. And then we have many mini theatrical experiences. For example, in Hindustani music there is a concept called Samay chakra, which is about how music and time are so closely interlinked. How much ever you write about that, people may not understand, but imagine yourself in a theatre—you’re seeing the sun rise and set, and the music changes accordingly, and you can hear a little bit of the sounds of thunder and lightning, and the malhaar. The idea is to create the experience of the samay chakra, and not just give it in terms of dry information.”

The whole premise of the IME is ‘catch them young’. “We believe that it’s only when you can influence young minds that you can really make a change. We also subscribe to that philosophy of ‘you don’t need a thousand Tansens, but you need a thousand kaansens’. The audience is the ecosystem that supports the arts. The idea of a centre like this, which we believe can create change, is that your first engagement with culture and the arts should be in a way that’s fun, and exciting, and hands-on. So you come here to a sound garden, and in most places, when you see an instrument they say, “Don’t touch,” but here we say, “Please touch. Please play the instrument. Please hear what it sounds like.” So when you have this hands-on experience, when you can make that personal connect somewhere, we believe that that’s where people are going to be more engaged with the arts. So that’s on one side. There are other ways of answering the question. I do feel that there are problems with audiences. A Carnatic music rasika may not necessarily attend a fusion music concert, or a young rock music enthusiast will want to stay miles away from a Carnatic music concert. The idea of a space like this is when you present different forms of music on the same platform, people realise that ‘Hey, there are so many connections out here.’ For example in our film music section we have a section called diverse influences, where you look at the fact that there is a filmy Sufi song, a filmy Bhajan, a filmy hip-hop, etc., then you realise that there is a link to this tradition, which I will then explain in the folk music gallery, which is thousands of years old. So why are we making these distinctions between different forms of music? Yes, you can have a natural affinity towards one form, but I do feel like a space like this can give people the chance to experience more than one genre.”

The Indian music experience is comprised of three main elements. The first area is the sound garden, where outside the museum, there are installations, musical sculptures that are made out of natural materials like stone, wood, metal. So there are large xylophones, reeds, gongs, railings that produce sound… so the idea of the sound garden is to introduce visitors to the principles of sound, where they themselves can play the instruments and see how sound is produced. The second part of the museum is the exhibit area, which has eight thematic galleries and an instrument gallery. So here, through audio-visual kiosks, through storyboards, etc, the visitors will get to explore and find out a little bit about various genres of music… and also other parts such as the history of recording, political and social movements and their involvement with music, etc. As part of the exhibit area, there is an introductory theatre which will plays a film about the diversity of music. At the concluding theatre, a multi-purpose space live performances, film screenings and temporary exhibits are showcased.

The third part of the museum is the learning centre, with five classrooms, a seminar hall and a library space. Music and dance classes are conducted. IME also does periodic workshops and seminars by reputed international musicians who come and visit.  

# 12 G Raj Narayan: Radel supports tradition

G RAJ NARAYAN is a recipient of the Karnataka State Government Rajyotsava Award for his achievements in the field of electronic music instruments. His company Radel Electronics Pvt Ltd has revolutionised music learning and performing with several inventions including electronic tanpuras, tablas and veena. An A-grade AIR artiste, he is a flautist, and also holds a Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from IIT Madras. His love for music and technology have led to inventions which have dramatically decreased musicians’ dependency on others for practice

At the heart of any music is the need to achieve shruthi shuddham. Can your invention actually help learners develop a sense of shruthi?

When we started making these instruments in our factory, technicians without any music background used to test the instruments to see if each unit is holding its shruthi. All they had to do was put 30-40 instruments (set to the same pitch) in a sealed room and test them for about 3 hours. I found that after 5-6 months of sitting in that room, the technicians had developed a musical sense. And they were able to tune the instruments as well, sometimes better than professional musicians. This made me realise if you just turn this instrument on in your house for an hour or two and if your kids who are learning music listen to this, shruthi shuddham will come. A genuine musician who is seriously interested in developing good shruthi shuddham, should listen to shruthi and do exercises of holding on to a note.

Sadly, the desire to perform to higher levels of quality, especially when it comes to shruthi has come down. People think it is the fireworks, the brikhas, and complex patterns which are important, not the shruthi shuddham. In North Indian music also, people complain that present generation musicians are not as precise in sur as the older generation, but even to this day they hold on to a note for long periods because if they waver it gets noticed.

What advancements have you made on your original design of the electronic shruthi box?

The electronic tanpura which I made in the 1970s has gone through so many generations of designs. Every year we have come up with new designs. Initially it was the discrete transistor, then the small Integrated Circuit (IC) based tanpuras, then the microprocessor based tanpuras, then the microcontrollers and now we have Digital Signal Processing (DSP). Today’s tanpura is nothing but a digitally recorded tanpura sound in a studio. String by string these are played in real time in a sequence as controlled by the user. So you can alter the tempo. If people say it does not sound like a real tanpura, that does not hold true.

If you just turn this instrument on in your house for an hour or two and if your kids who are learning music listen to this, shruthi shuddham will come. A genuine musician who is seriously interested in developing good shruthi shuddham, should listen to shruthi and do exercises of holding on to a note

G Raj Narayan

All this was a result of developing the electronic tabla for North Indians. The electronic tabla was mix of analog and digital systems. A microprocessor was controlling the sequence but the actual sound generation was through analog means. The tanpura sound is a far simpler sound as compared to the complex sounds produced on the tabla. The electronic tabla had to sound absolutely like the original and like it would have to distinguish between tha, na, din. In the tambura you are looking for the Sa Pa Sa. If the sound is slightly different it doesn’t matter as long as you get the pitch. Whereas in the tabla, it had to sound like the dha, the na, the dhin.  So it was a far more challenging problem than the invention of the tambura.

Which of your inventions has had the greatest impact on learning?

I personally feel that the invention of the electronic tabla in 1987, is a bigger break through than the electronic tanpura. Not many people have recognised this in the South.  As a child I was aware that whenever my mother practiced Hindustani music on the veena, she would require a tabla artiste to come and play for her. The tabla is required for practice whether you play the veena, sing or play the sitar, sarod etc. Earlier North Indian musicians could only do the aalap or sing the raga, not a tala-based composition. That’s because the entire tala system of North Indian music is encoded onto the tabla. Anytime anyone wanted to practice Hindustani music, they had to wait for a tabla artiste. And he would come for maybe an hour, thrice a week. There was a limit on the number of hours a person could practice independently per week.

All the great musicians can always command a tabla artiste to come and play. But the middle level and beginners, and others non-professionals and amateurs have a big difficulty. With this instrument, they said atleast they had a point of reference. That is why I believe the bigger achievement has been missed in the media as well as in the South. These inventions have revolutionised Indian music because they have contributed to people learning or practising by themselves for long periods.

You say these technologies have made musicians independent. Can you elaborate please.

To demonstrate the tala instrument at the Music Academy, I played a complex Pallavi on the flute. To practice a complex Pallavi you either need somebody who is well-versed with music to put the tala or a machine like this. It was an audio visual instrument, which had lights grouped for laghu, dhrutham etc. Although it was not the same as putting the tala by hand, I tried to create this audio visual effect so that it is not a completely new or different format. Palghat Mani Iyer used to make some of these complex patterns on the mridangam and he said this instrument would help him practice.

Similarly, corresponding to the tabla we have a lehra instrument which enables a tabla artiste to practice (also called Nagma). It’s a precomposed tune set to different taals. Each of it can be set to any taal, any raag, different tunes, and then you alter the tempo so as to enable the tabla artiste to practise at different speeds.

So South Indian artistes are independent thanks to the tanpura, shruthi box and tala meter, the main Hindustani singer is independent of the tabla artiste, and the tabla artiste is also free to practice now.   

How is the electronic veena different and how have musicians responded to this invention?

The sounds of the veena are very feeble. I used to play duets with my mother and my wife (both of who are vainikas). After the concerts, people would say that the concerts were good but they could barely hear the veena. In 1971, I demonstrated a solid body electric veena with a pick up and removable gourd. Then I thought why not put the tambura into the veena, as they also need shruthi. This is a self-contained instrument where you have the shruthi, the veena and the pickup for the talam string. It has undergone various levels of development and today we have a synthesiser which is shaped and played like a veena.

The need for all of these inventions was born out of complete necessity. In any concert, vainikas have to keep tuning the strings every 3-4 minutes. When you pull one string, another string goes to a different shruthi. Refretting is one of the biggest problems faced by veena players. It is difficult to get it done even in India. Removable and adjustable frets are an engineering solution. The artiste can alter each fret even on the concert platform.

The main objection people had to the electronic veena is that it does not look like the Saraswathi Veena. However, my design resembles the veena in the older sculptures. Today’s vainikas are using the traditional veena with a magnetic pick up. The magnetic pick up bypasses the big kodam. It takes the sound from the string and out, exactly like the electronic veena. The only difference is they are using an electric veena which looks like a traditional veena. Why should a musician risk damaging a delicately carved out instrument when he/she can instead use something which made of solid wood and which does not break easily. Apart from solving the refretting and breakage problems, the most important issue of volume (in the conventional veena the fine nuances, gamakams, sangathis get lost because the sound dies) is solved because here the sound continues.

We now have shruthi apps and other manufacturers. How does Radel compare?

The app that plays in the mobile phone should actually be as good as a CD played tambura or an electronic tambura. If they are not as good as the electronic tamburas, it may be because ultimately the sound is being played through another attachment, the amplispeaker. The amplispeaker is not designed to reproduce the fine nuances of the tambura harmonics.

Flute Mali was already using a shruthi box developed by someone else when I met him, but he was not very happy as it used to wobble and drift with change in temperature. This is where I bring in my electronics background in HAL where everything has to be extremely precise and reliable.

People have started using these new technologies because of their convenience over traditional instruments, despite their initial hesitancy, reservations, conservatism, and the feeling that this was ‘not traditional’. I believe that tradition changes and if technology enables you to do things differently without any drawbacks, you might as well use it. (

Healthy Sound in a Healthy Body

Ayurvedic physicians Dr Poornima Krishnamurthy and Dr N.V. Krishnamurthy of Mysore have been treating musicians, including many leading vocalists, earning the monicker of “musician’s physician.” Soft-spoken, generous, and kind-hearted, they share their invaluable knowledge and deep insight about everything from Ayurveda, Yoga, Veda to Sangeetha.

By C.K. Shridhar

It is dawn at the Prajna Kuteera Ayurveda Centre campus in Kergalli just outside the city of Mysore. It is small but well-laid out, on one acre of land, and a couple of in-patients are taking brisk walks. Lights are on at the meeting hall.

By 6 am, all the staff, and the patients gather in, and wait for Dr N.V. Krishnamurthy (Dr NVK).

He and his wife Dr Poornima Krishnamurthy are the founder directors of the Centre, both Gold Medallists from the University of Mysore. Dr NVK is from a family of Ayurvedic physicians treating the royalty of Mysore for over two centuries.

Before Dr NVK reaches the hall, a couple of hours of his day have already passed. He typically gets up at 3.30 a.m, before Brahma Muhurtam, to begin his personal sadhana, which includes japa of 500 Gayatris.

When he comes to the hall, an elderly gentleman greets him. “Thanks to you, I can walk again,” he says, gratefully, hailing him as a healer who is one in a million. “You did it yourself, actually,” says Dr NVK smiling.

In the hall, he leads hospital staff, men and woman, in their morning sadhana, a 45-minute round of pranayama and chanting. It begins with the Prathasmarana Stotram, considered part of Shankaracharya’s works. Then comes a series of Pranayaamas, breathing excercises, like Shitali, Sadanta, and Brahmari, culminating in Vibhageeya Pranayama – in Vibhageeya Pranayama, the three components of Om, the aa, ou, and mm sounds are chanted separately, followed by the full Om. And finally, everyone chants the magical Sanskrit verses of the Upadeshasara, 30 verses composed by Sri Ramana Maharshi.

He then requests one of the staff members to sing, and she does so, in a sweet, engaging voice.

“All their voices have improved so much. So much clarity and strength,” says Dr NVK.

Their morning routine is not necessarily one that was developed exclusively for the voice – it is considered a whole body, lifestyle practice. But it is for the voice that the Prajna Kuteera Centre has been receiving some of its most distinguished seekers of good health, including many leading Carnatic vocalists, prompting the seer of the JSS Matha to comment, specifically pointing to Dr Poornima, that she is the “musician’s physician.”

Over a cup of coffee that Dr Poornima makes, (coffee and tea of course is not part of Dr NVK’s diet), we chatted about Ayurveda, the voice, stress, seasonal changes, and general health.

C.K. Shridhar (CKS): What brought you to the study and treatment of the voice?

Dr Poornima: We both come from a lineage of Vedic culture. We have been practising chants for all our lives. As young toddlers we were introduced into Om chanting and all the sahasranamas and shlokas. Then a guru came into our lives, Sri Nagaraj of Mysore, a senior sadhaka, to whom I owe most of my learning of Vedanta. And later, it was Dr Krishnamurthy, my husband, who took me further into spiritual and Vedic culture after our marriage. Sri Nagaraj taught us how to pronounce words, the rhythm, the tempo, the pauses, the tone of the recitation of a mantra or a shloka. It involved a lot of voice modulation. For instance – (She chants the Mahamrityunjaya mantra (tryambakam yajamahe) with power, articulation, and melodic tone, casting a spell in the room).

CKS: In traditional Vedic chanting in most chanting paramparas, there are no pauses in between mantras, unless mandated by sutras governing certain vowel sandhis. Some schools do have pauses, though, like how you are chanting.

Dr Poornima: Yes, in the pause there is also Pranayama. There is inhalation, exhalation. Our chanting was highly influenced by the Chinmaya Mission chants. We have been ardent students at Swami Vivekananda Yoga Anusandhana Samasthana (SVYASA), Bangalore. There again we had to chant with a lot of voice modulation. Along with that, we did our music lessons in Mysore. Dr NVK did his lessons in violin. His father was also a violinist. I picked up vocal Carnatic music. Our teachers were task masters. Vidushi Gowri Kuppuswami and Vidushi Koviladi R Kalaare my teachers They would concentrate on all aspects of music. From small children to adults there was no change in the way they taught.

Later, in our medical practice, we would come across people who would approach us randomly for their voice issues. Then the musicians started approaching. Many would have bad cases of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).One senior Vidwan, well into his 80s, was still performing, but had COPD. We would treat him, using techniques similar to what you experienced in the morning session here.

Then we get many lady vocalists. Obviously we cannot mention names, but one vocalist had an issue with sudden strained voice in the middle of a concert.  After examination and history, including Nadi pariksha by Dr NVK, I realised she had severe GERD, and because of acid reflux, there was a lot of erosion inside. ENT physicians, who she went to earlier, could not diagnose the erosion. They would go only upto the throat. She was treated here for two weeks and she is performing well with absolutely no issues. Also, because of their stressful lifestyles and erratic eating habits, concert vocalists suffer voice issues frequently. Acidity is caused basically by stress. All this brought us into contact with artistes who came seeking help for voice culture.

CKS: Dr NVK, so your inputs with NadiShastra clearly play a role. Do tell us about your own early introduction into Ayurveda.

Dr NVK: I chose to do Ayurveda because of my strong family tradition of Ayurveda. I am the ninth generation in a lineage that was the chief physician of the royal family of Mysore. With that background from childhood I knew a lot of things. When we were small, we would see our father and grandfather doing Nadi pariksha. That inspired us to join Ayurveda. I studied in Government College, Mysore. Then I did my course in modern medicine in Bangalore Medical College and then went on to my MD post-graduation in Kayachikitsa.Then we met our guru Nagaraj. He was a tapasvi in every sense.  For 12 years he visited us. Classes would happen from 10 to 11 pm in the night on the Upanishads, various prakarana granthas, Sahasranamas with commentary for Poornima and her mother, and so on.  So this prepared us a lot in our quest for the Self. There were a lot of principles of Ayurveda too that we adopted and practised.

 In my understanding, it is not as if anyone can give medicine and cure a patient. There is a krama for diagnosing and giving medicines to patients, thereby healing the patient.

In Charaka Samhita, there is something called Hastha Shuddhi (purity of the hand). Hasthashudhi is not just about washing our hands. Only when the mind is pure, the medicine given will have an impact. All herbs are governed by an adhidevatha. When we pray to these devathas and then administer the medicine, the effect is different from buying something from the shop and taking it. This we have really experienced here.

Dr Poornima: There is a traditional krama to source an Ayurvedic herb. We go near the plant, pray and chant a mantra which is specific to the adhidevata of that plant. We seek permission and say, ‘I am taking your root, your leaf, your flower, your fruit or your stalk. Please come out with all your potency as I will be using you to cure /help humanity.’ Even to process it, there are specific days, muhurthas, and the right nakshatra. Only when we do all this in a systematic way, will it have the right effect on the ailing. Patent medicines are different.

Dr NVK: We have a critical responsibility. If we are on the right path, we can cure any disease. There is a krama as to how a physician has to be.  A Vaidya has to be swastha in the first place. Swa – Astha means to dwell in The SELF. We  get up early in the morning and do our japas. Then we will be able to feel the Nadi correctly. (Ayurveda is based on a system of Nadipariksha, a reading of the pulse which tells the physician  precisely about the vitiation of the Doshas viz. Vata, pitta, Kapha and how to treat it).

We have to pay attention to our own Ahara Krama (food). Ayurveda advocates  us to follow a regime of two meals a day (Dwe anna kalou pratah sandhya).  I have been following that for many years. After I finish examining the nadi of patients in the morning, I come home and have a meal at 11 am. In the evening I finish my pooja, and Gayatri japam, and then have a light meal. This feels great. Your health is good and so is your mind.

CKS: Voice users are also subject to external stresses – pollution, seasonal changes and the like. How do they defend themselves?

Dr NVK: There is something called Vyadikshamata, or body resistance. Each and every organ will have its own weaknesses. Even if the whole body’s immune system is good, if one organ is weak, then the others are also prone for attack.  Firstly Ayurveda talks about Swasthasya Swasthya rakshanam, which means protect the health of the healthy.  Ayurveda is both a preventive and curative science.  This ancient Vedic tradition, cognized by the great Indian seers, offers a wealth of knowledge for a healthy and meaningful life. Ayurveda is a 5000 year old healing tradition which teaches us how our lives can be enriched, enhanced and extended without interference from disease and ageing. It propounds that good health is not simply the absence of disease, but a state of harmonious and dynamic balance on all levels, even encompassing the environment.

  It deals with Sadvritta (good conduct), Dinacharya (Daily regimen), Ruthucharya (Seasonal Regimen) and Ratricharya,  as lifestyle practices. If  on follows this discipline from morning to night, they could build immunity and build resistance against hazards of pollution, seasonal changes and can manage physical strain.  Wake up at  Brahmakalam,   do yoga,  follow a proper ahara krama and   practice Sadvritta  can be the key to good health.

Dr Poornima: All our procedures are unique, aimed at whole body recovery. They have all undergone research and scrutiny. Take the Abhyangas, oil massage for example. Each stroke depends on the origin  and insertion of a  muscle on a particular bone.   It is done in a very synchronised way. We have our own standard operating procedures.

On Stress...... Man may have made a lot of progress in the last four centuries of growth, but there is the challenge of stress and pollution. Even kids are stressed today. If pollution is shaking our material front, the buzz word called stress if shaking our existence.

Musicians, like everyone, have their own stresses and pressures. They feel they have to keep accepting concerts, or somebody else will take their place. They compromise on everything. For women there is another big conflict. Whether to take care of family or pursue passion for music. They end up playing multiple roles.

CKS: Many singers and other voice-users have this challenge of acidity and GERD (Gastro-Esophageal Reflux Disease). How to tackle this?

Dr Poornima: Everyone today has erratic eating habits. There is work, and for musicians, concerts. There is travel. They need to keep talking all the time too.  It strains their voice unnecessarily. They are constantly accosted by people with greetings and questions. I travel to speak all over the world, so I have experienced this too. Organisers and their assistants do not necessarily respect an artiste’s quiet time before a performance.

Stress creates GERD. GERD from the Ayurveda perspective is more to do with the mind. It is sometimes due to  irrational eating. When a person is stressed, unnecessarily stomach acids  ooze out, eventually damaging the stomach flora.   Regurgitation of these acids will erode the throat area, eventually leading to voice issues.

Wrong practice times for singing practice like in the evening, excessive travel,  emotions, all create  voice irritation. From IHD to skin disease, to CVA or migraine, spasms, infertility, lack of libido, lack of concentration, you name it, they are all related to the mind. So  spend a lot of time with my patients, give them a good listening. History taking is very detailed. I make them aware where they are erring in their lifestyle, diet, workday, and the like.

I also give them a panchakarma therapy, staring with deepan pachana to address their agni or the digestive fire, then Snehapana which consists of medicated ghee… There is another ghee Kalyanagunam which is also useful for vocalists. Depending on the ailment, we  infuse the ghee with certain herbs. This is given internally followed. Abhyangam for five days. There are different types of Abhyangam. On the last day, they are subjected to Virechana, which is a purgative therapy. For some people we give emesis therapy, which helps to eliminate kapha (from the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract). The body then becomes so clean from within that even a little quantity of medicine given, soon after, works wonders. The body becomes receptive to change.

We do this Panchakarma therapy on ourselves too every year. We take a 10 day break exclusively for this regimen.

Vibhageeya Praanayama for development of voice

Dr NVK: Vibhageeya Praanaayama helps a lot in developing a good voice, besides aiding general health of the organs of the body. When you say Aaaa, the lower part of the body vibrates. This part is monitored by Brahma.  It helps in healing problems in the lower part of the body. When you chant Ooo, the middle part of the body vibrates. And it cures and corrects chest diseases. Once Vishnu is satisfied with his Bhijakshara, he will bless us. Similarly during chanting of mmmm… (makara), only the part above the neck vibrates. Maheshwara  is pleased. When we join aa, oo and mm, in Omkara, the whole body vibrates. So much can be achieved with just this practice!

Using Yashtimadhu (GlycyrhizaGlabra) and Ghee for voice

Dr NVK: Take pieces of Yashtimadu root, crush it and soak it in water overnight. Boil this the next morning. After cooling, drink half a cup and gargle with the other half with a little salt. Another wonderful Kantya, a substance which helps the voice, is ghee. We should use it with our food.

The power of Rasayanas

Dr Poornima: There are many powerful herbs in Ayurveda. For example, there is a herb called Madhuyashti. In Sanskrit it is called Athimadhura. This clarifies the voice. So we ask patients to gargle  its decoction.

But there are everyday items at hand which we ignore. Most people don’t take ghee and milk. Ghee and Milk in Ayurveda are Rasayanas. Rasa in Ayurveda is to nourish. Ayana is a channel. That which nourishes every channel of the body is a Rasaayana.  They are nutritive and rejuvenative especially for all the dahtus and especially for the voice. The benefits of Rasaayana are captured in a shloka from the first chapter of the Charaka Samhita chikitsa sthana:

Deerghamayuhu smrti medha arogyam tarunamvayaha l

Prabha varna swaroudaryam dehendriyabalam paramll

Vaaksiddhim pranatimkantim labhate varasayanatll

Longevity, memory, intellect, health, youthfulness, radiance, complexion, and voice, strength of body and sense organs, and power of speech, lustre, all are enhanced by Rasayanas!

Ghee, milk, honey are all rasayanas. We are influenced by Western nutrition culture. The science of talks about milk, butter from milk, and cheese from milk. They don’t know that when butter goes through an agni-samskara it becomes ghee. For our joints, eyes, for brain development, for voice and for every organ, ghee is necessary.. It soothes, lubricates, strengthens the organs and help dislodge the toxins.   Therefore medicated ghee is used in Ayurvedeeya Panchakarma chikitsa. ihid

World needs Ayurveda’s code of medical ethics

Medical practitioners should take the Ayurveda oath of Ethics

Even the most routine of medical interventions today is a nightmare. The old trust in a family doctor who knew all about the family’s medical history and willing to listen to the patient’s complaint has long disappeared. Today the story is all about ultra-expensive annual checkups with fancy discounts, doctor-diagnostic center-pharmacy tie-ups, and insurance companies involved in payment wrangles.

Worldwide, doctors today continue to make the Hippocratic pledge, a tradition that holds that a doctor is ethically required to use the best of their knowledge to recommend to the patient what they consider to be in the patient's best interests—without regard to the interests of the third-party payer, or the government, or anyone else.

The Charaka mentions some topics not there in the Hippocratic Oath.  Student asceticism, the duty to withhold services under specified conditions, the value which places the patient's life above that of the physician, are the most prominent. Also scholars point out that while the ideas in the Charaka oath were mainstream, “the Hippocratic document originated in a group representing a small segment of Greek opinion”.

However, as Dr Jeffery A Singer wrote in Reason magazine, most doctors today are following the ‘Veterinary ethic’. “The medical profession has been forced to give up this (required by the Hippocratic) approach for what I like to call a ‘veterinary ethic,’ one that places the interests of the payer (or owner) ahead of the patient. For example, when a pet owner is told by a veterinarian that the pet has a very serious medical condition requiring extremely costly surgery or other therapy, the veterinarian presents the pet's owner with one or more options—from attempt at cure, to palliation, to euthanasia—with the associated costs, and then follows the wishes of the owner.”

On the other hand, A. Menon and H F Haberman say the Charaka Samhita's dedicated physician’s oath, reveals, “the dedication and high moral principles required of a physician. There is no doubt that the patient's welfare comes above any personal considerations of the physician. It seems that the physician was expected, in his bearing, speech and his approach to patients, to act in a particular manner which was considered befitting a physician.”

They say the Charaka Samhita oath is essentially ritualistic. “The spirit of the oath is essentially religious and it is apparently administered in a ritualistic manner. The student takes the oath in the presence of the 'sacred fire, Brahmanas and physicians. The prayer 'for the welfare of all creatures beginning with the cows and Brahmanas' is reminiscent of ancient Vedic prayers.”

This oath is reminiscent of other aspects of a Guru or teacher in Indian thought and culture. “The style of the oath, the rituals involved, the asceticism required of the student, the student-teacher relationship, the emphasis on the limitlessness of knowledge, the association of worldly prosperity, fame and ethical practices: all these are in conformity with the mainstream of Ancient Indian thought and practices,” say Menon and Haberman.

The Hippocratic Oath and the promise undertaken in the Charaka Samhita are similar, “both essentially religious covenants; both offer rewards for fulfilling the covenants and punishment for transgression, in both, the student teacher relationship is very intimate and similar to the relation between a father and son. Furthermore both express the high moral principles expected in the practice of medicine,” say Menon and Haberman.

However, the Charaka mentions some topics not there in the Hippocratic Oath.  Student asceticism, the duty to withhold services under specified conditions, the value which places the patient's life above that of the physician, are the most prominent. Also scholars point out that while the ideas in the Charaka oath were mainstream, “the Hippocratic document originated in a group representing a small segment of Greek opinion”. Far from being the expression of the common Greek attitude toward medicine or of the natural duties of the physician, the ethical code rather reflects opinions which were peculiarly those of a small and isolated group.”

Quoting Western authors Menon and Haberman say, 'It is more likely that Pythagoras was influenced by India than by Egypt. Almost all the theories, religious, philosophical and mathematical taught by the Pythagoreans, were known in India in the sixth century B.C. It is conceivable that the Hippocratic Oath was influenced by Ancient Indian teachings and practices via the Pythagorean school. On the other hand, we have seen that the oath found in the Charaka Samhita is the embodiment of concepts and practices of the Ancient Indian community in general.”  

The Ayurvedic Approach

Medical care has become a market place of options. Ayurveda however saw things differently. “It is the feeling of love and compassion for suffering humanity that first gave rise to the sages’ efforts to discover the science of medicine. (Caraka Sutra VI, 7).

Sage Kashyapa has written in the Kashyapa Samhita dated to 6th Century BC, “Medicine should be studied for the sake of the knowledge of truth, of acquiring spiritual merit for himself and of extending help to humanity.”

Dhanwantari, the Indian deity of medicine defined the purpose of the medical sciences as ‘release from suffering to those who are in the grip of disease and maintenance of well-being as regards those who arc right-healthy. Medical science is eternal, sacred and bestowed of heaven, fame, longevity and subsistence.’

Medical oaths and pledges are not new to India.  Charaka Samhita and Susruta Samhita, written around 2700 BC had very sacred oaths of initiation for physicians. The cure depended on the pureness of intent of the dispenser. Says the Charaka Samhita-‘weapons, learning and water are wholly dependent for their merits and demerits on their holder.’

Charaka Samhita

 ‘Thou shalt speak only the truth, be free from envy,

‘Thou shalt behave and act without arrogance and with undistracted mind, humility and constant reflection . . . thou shalt pray for the welfare of all creatures…,’

‘Day and night however he may be engaged, thou shalt endeavour for the relief of patients with all thy heart and soul. Thou shalt not desert or injure thy patient even for the sake of thy life’

‘When entering the patient’s house thou shalt be accompanied by a man known to the patient and who has his permission to enter. Thou shalt be well clad and bent of head, self-possessed and conduct thyself after repeated consideration… Having entered, thy speech, mind, intellect and senses shall be entirely devoted to no other thought than that of being helpful to the patient and of things concerning him only.’

‘The peculiar customs of the patient’s household shall not be made public. Even knowing that the patient’s span of life has come to its close, it shall not be mentioned by thee there, where if so done,it would cause shock to the patient or to others.’

‘Though possessed of knowledge, one should not boast…’

Susruta Samhita

‘Thou shalt renounce all evil desires, anger, greed, passion, pride, egotism, envy, harshness, meanness, untruth, indolence and other qualities that bring infamy upon oneself.’

‘Thou shalt clip thy nails and hair close, observe cleanliness . . . and dedicate thyself to the observance of truth, celibacy and the salutation of elders… ‘

‘The preceptor, the poor, the friendly, the travellers, the lowly, the good and the destitute – those thou shalt treat when they come to thee like thy own kith and kin and relieve their ailments…’

Kashyapa Samhita

‘O gentle one, you should be agreeable in disposition and righteous. You should control your senses and be ready to study… Share the suffering of others… and be resolute. You should be away from greed, anger, infatuation, envy, derision, enmity…’


‘O son! You should never turn deceitful, wicked, greedy, envious, hard hearted and unfair. You should always be free from lethargy and sin and should have the character of venerable persons and compassion for the family.’

Fees, presents and remuneration to medical men

‘This science of life is permanent and yielding merit… Those who, for the sake of a living, make merchandise of medicine bargain for a dust-heap, letting go a heap of gold… Practice of medicine is never fruitless, it sometimes gives money, sometimes religious merit, sometimes renown or sometimes the opportunity for study…’

# 10: Harish Bijoor: On Brand Bangalore

"Brands are meant to enable lives positively. Not by deceit. Not by subterfuge. And most certainly not by clever lines that hide more than reveal" - Harish Bijoor

When Harish Bijoor, Brand-strategy specialist was asked by me a few years earlier if Indian Classical Music needed branding, he replied, “A quick answer on this one. Yes. A big yes. Yes, yes, yes, said three times over and underlined even. Who doesn’t need branding really?”

By extension, everyone would benefit with a little branding.  But as Harish says, “Branding a complex amalgam of people, mindsets, and cultures that a country represents is far more difficult than branding an individual.”

Harish Bijoor is CSP’s Bangalore’s Global Icon # 10, our go-to man perhaps for strategizing India’s soft power. A Brand-thinker and practitioner operating out of Bengaluru, Harish runs a unique boutique-consulting outfit branded ‘Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.’, a brand name that has a consulting presence across the markets of Hong Kong, Seattle, London, Istanbul, Dubai and the Indian sub-continent.

Harish has spent his career across the aggressive realms of FMCG, Telecom and Consumer Durables. Ever ahead of the consumer thinking curve, Harish has spoken to corporate audiences across the world for 10419 hours to date (MICA website).

Harish teaches at the Indian School of Business, Hyderabad & Mohali, in addition to semesters at overseas Business schools in the US and Europe. He has been teaching at the Indian School of Business for the past 15 years.

Intrigued by his book titled, ‘Brand Irrationals: a fundamental journey into brand-think’, I asked him about his thoughts on branding. “My definition of a brand is a simple one. The brand is a thought. A thought that lives in people's mind. A simple thought that gets planted (either by intent or accident) in the mind of a person. This thought then has the ability to germinate and flourish in a person’s mind. It equally has the ability to decay and get relegated to the farthest recesses of the mind. Brands that invest in keeping their “thought” alive, peppy, contemporary, relevant to the generation, original in impact and innovative in their offerings tend to thrive and do well. Those that don’t die and get pushed into the outer-most periphery of near-oblivion in the person’s mind. And remember, this is a “person” and not a “consumer” I am talking about. Brands live in people’s minds. And these people are not necessarily consumers or fans, as yet.”

World over Soft Power has been concentrated in some core cities – New York, London, Paris and even perhaps Mumbai. It is telling that a major city like New York finds the need to spend billions on branding. In the 1970s New York had a reputation for a being a hard city, with scary edges. Brand managers were roped in, and branding budgets raised from $400,000 to $4.3 million and New York was transformed. Ad agency Wolff Olins asked:  “There’s only one New York City, but within it are five boroughs, approximately 191 neighbourhoods, nearly a million buildings and over 8.2 million people. How could a brand successfully represent this diversity?”

Bangalore Global Icon 10: Harish Bijoor

The answer was a brilliantly successful logo designed by Milton Glaser. His “I ❤ NY” logo is possibly one of the most iconic logos ever, which represented everything the city stood for, for everyone who loved it.

So if one had to brand Bangalore as a city – one can only turn to Harish Bijoor. “Bengaluru is a thought. A thought that lives in people's minds. These people may live in Bengaluru, live outside it in India or live as a diaspora of citizens outside, or live as citizens of other countries. Bengaluru the brand lives in each of these myriad sets of minds. And each has a different thought of Bengaluru. Brand Bengaluru is a collective amalgam of these thoughts. When we talk Brand Bangalore, we talk of this collective understanding of the city brand Bengaluru.”

What do people think of Bangalore? How can we brand it better? Make people come back again and again to it. Leave it with memories of a lifetime?

“I do believe we can brand Bengaluru better by an effort that is rich in experience. Rich in the collective experience of all our sets of consumers. To do that, we need to make a bottom-up effort and not a top-down one. A top-down effort would typically be an advertising effort that showcases Bengaluru and a bottom-up effort in contrast is one that offers real-time good experiences to people. I believe in the latter. Bottom-up Bengaluru is a preference anytime as opposed to Top-down Bengaluru,” says Harish.

“Bengaluru is a peaceful city. Foreigners love that. We offer the best of the tradition and technology. We are at the cutting edge of both. For the foreigner, we care able to offer a cultural experience during the day and a nightlife experience that is not far from what he or she or they are used to in their own country. The city is a young city, and that in itself is an attraction.

With the Internet of Things, perceptions are created both offline and online. “Bengaluru is therefore an experience we need to create. This experience needs to be both a physical and a virtual experience. The physical experience will be felt by those who live in it and visit it frequently and infrequently. The virtual experience will be ones that will travel as tales from those who visit and those who experience the brand physically. We can brand Bengaluru better by enriching the first hand experiences of our peoples. These experiences will cover the terrains of the political, the social, the economic, the religious, the cultural, the ecological and the touristy as well. Brand Bengaluru is an experience. We need to deepen and widen this experience. We need to enrich it. We need to make it socially inclusive and politically correct as an experience as well. This is a project in itself. A project no one wants to handle for now.” Let’s not forget the New York story. It can be rewritten.

Yes, there are things that need to be changed. But what are the things that Bangalore has going for it that attracts foreigners? “Bengaluru is a peaceful city. Foreigners love that. We offer the best of the tradition and technology. We are at the cutting edge of both. For the foreigner, we care able to offer a cultural experience during the day and a nightlife experience that is not far from what he or she or they are used to in their own country. The city is a young city, and that in itself is an attraction.  We offer 27 different cuisines in the city and are non-jingoistic by and large. The Kannadiga is a secular entity who embraces one and all, never mind where you come from. We do not frown at dressing styles and are comfortable with skirts of any length, from the South Indian 'Pavada' to the Korean mini-skirt. By and large, Bengaluru is the microcosm of the world at large. And we speak English better than a whole lot of countries can carry it off. These are big attractions for sure,” says Harish.

One can’t help but ask the brilliant ad man, what would he choose as a slogan for Bangalore. “My slogan would be: "Bengaluru: Bisi, Bisi Bisibelebaath Bengaluru!" ("Bengaluru: Hot, Hot Bisibelebaath Bengaluru). Bisibelebaath, to the uninitiated is the South Indian 'khichdi'. Tastier and more varied than the North Indian variant for sure. It has ingredients that come close to the 'Sambar-rice' combination. A wholesome meal in itself. It packs all of 23 ingredients. All varied. Everything that comes from all over.”

And that ties in with the cities cosmopolitan outlook. “And that is why I call Bengaluru a bisibelebaath city. We have people from every Indian city, from major cities of the world, and all of us cause for an eclectic city called Bengaluru. And we survive and thrive. And how! Therefore my slogan: "Bengaluru: Bisi, Bisi Bisibelebaath Bengaluru"! We are a piping hot city for sure!

Harish has spoken about the ‘The Enabling Lives Dictum’ where he says brands are meant to enrich the lives of people. “Brands are meant to be solutions. Real solutions to real problems. The moment your brand is moving away from this dictum, it is time to re-orient your brand strategy. If your business owner is however inclined to go his way, time to call your friendly headhunter and re-orient your job-strategy instead. Brands are meant to enable lives positively. Not by deceit. Not by subterfuge. And most certainly not by clever lines that hide more than reveal.”