On Tuesday, June 15, 2021, Dr. Beloo Mehra addressed a small group of students and faculty from the School of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, Auro University. Her session titled ‘Young India Awakes to the Indian Spirit’ was part of ‘Synthesis – A Summer Immersion Programme’, organised by the School of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Dr. Mehra opened the session by asking the participants to visualise and share one or more images that come to their mind when they think of India. A variety of answers were generated – from the geographical map of India to the vast green fields, from a rich variety of colours to a rich variety of food, from masses of people to the flag of India. Dr. Mehra built upon these examples to illustrate the Indian way of looking at nation. She emphasised about the need to understand the nation and culture in the same way as the Indian thought looks at life – in all its inner and outer dimensions, from outer or gross to inner or subtle and to inmost and causal.
While emphasising the importance of developing an inward orientation if we wish to understand the deepest truths about India, Dr. Mehra gave some examples of what constitute the soul, mind and bodily aspects of the Indian culture. To bring to light some of the soul aspect of Indian culture, she narrated a few brief stories from the Upanishads and Itihasa-s to highlight for the group the aim of life that is emphasised in the Indian culture – that of growing and evolving in various parts of one’s being, with an aspiration to connect with the true self within, the spark of the Divinity within. In this regard, she also briefly described the deeper meaning of the word Yoga.
Taking the example of cinema being hugely popular among Indians of all ages, Dr. Mehra spoke on how stories have always been used in Indian cultural tradition to educate and enlighten the people. Bringing in examples from Ramayana and Mahabharata, she highlighted the concept of Dharma which is at the core of Indian vision of organising individual and collective life. She also briefly introduced the terms Satyam Ritam Brihat to the group, bringing to light their psychological sense for one’s inner development.
Some part of the session was dedicated to discussing the Aesthetic and Artistic heritage of India. Keeping the session interactive and participatory, Dr. Mehra was able to highlight the sacred dimension of arts in the Indian culture. She gave examples of how each art form in India is considered to have a divine origin, which gives a deeper dimension to the very purpose of art. This was illustrated through some stories as well.
Examples from the long and continuing tradition of theatre arts in India and the continuing relevance of Natyashastra were briefly pointed out. Dr. Mehra emphasised how arts education can be a great means for youngsters to get in touch with Indian spirit. A few questions at the end from a faculty member who is an artist made the group also reflect on how the boundaries between traditional art and contemporary art can transcended if one goes deeper and explores the purpose of art in Indian cultural thought.