By Pahal Bhasin
Books, art, and music are everywhere. It is almost impossible to imagine our life without them.
Faith and art: two totally different things yet still so connected. Faith is trust and reliance on someone or something. Religious media does not only teach me moral values but also contributes to my historical outlook. Either way, religious media can guide us and teach us how to live, though in a sometimes more exaggerated way with a simple lesson. This type of media also gives us a sense of what was believed and followed in past generations about which we have no other evidence. Compared to all the different types of media, I personally connect most with art that portrays faith and spirituality. I believe I am a visual learner, and paintings and pieces of art from our ancestors pique my interest the most. They provoke my imagination and influence my perspective on faith to a great extent.
Last year, I visited the National Museum in New Delhi. The Museum presently holds approximately 200,000 diverse objects covering a time span of more than 5,000 years of Indian cultural heritage. One of the prominent galleries is the Harappan gallery, where the exhibits come from important centers of the Harappan Civilization (circa 2000 BC), which developed along the mighty river Indus (and for that reason, it is also known as the Indus Valley Civilization). At the gallery, I was fascinated by a work of art, the famous “Dancing Girl.” She is a bronze sculpture and stands calmly on a fiber platform in the museum. She is just about 4 inches in height. I was amazed to see the artifact — her posture, her hand on the hip, her bun on the head, and bangles on her arms. She had very long legs and arms compared to her torso; her head was tilted slightly backward, and her left leg was bent at the knee. She was possibly a dancer or making an offering to her God. I saw many seals to support the existence of faith in the Indus Valley. Some seals resemble the god Shiva. Other seals depict a tree which the Indus Valley believed to be the tree of life. Besides realizing that people of Indus Civilization knew metal blending, casting, and other sophisticated methods, I realized that just like today, faith and entertainment, especially dance, were part of the culture.
Contrary to my statement about connecting most with art related to faith, when it comes to wisdom, I am most influenced by books. Wisdom is the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. For me, wisdom is also being able to think with the help of past experience and knowledge gathered from different situations. A lot of this knowledge can be gathered from books of all sorts. Whenever I read a new book, I am able to interpret a situation from the author’s perspective. Moreover, I learn from the characters’ mistakes and decisions.
I have learned significant life lessons from India’s two great epics, the Rāmāyana and the Mahābhārata. Going through the intricacies and complexities of their characters is an exciting journey that offers so much to learn and understand. The Rāmāyana teaches us that no matter how powerful evil is, it will always be defeated by Good. A person should always have a noble heart and good values. That is how Lord Rama defeated Ravana, the most knowledgeable and powerful person of his time. Lord Rama treated everyone equally and that’s how he earned the love and respect of everyone. He was always kind and humble to people. No matter if someone was a royal or a common person, young or old, male or female, he acted as the same person toward everyone. He treated everyone equally and did not discriminate on the basis of economic status, sex, age, or caste.
The Mahābhārata is also an amazing compilation of numerous interlinked stories, each depicting the vulnerable nature of humans, the true meaning of family, and the dilemmas of morality. For example, there are many insights that can be gleaned from two wonderful relationships of friendship and loyalty, one between Lord Krishna and Arjuna and the other between Duryodhana and Karna. Krishna became Arjuna’s charioteer during the war due to his preeminent love for Arjuna. When Krishna and Arjuna are together on a chariot, it is as if they become one in a divine sense. Likewise, there existed selfless love and friendship between Duryodhana and Karna. Even when he learned about his identity, royal lineage, and true right to the throne, Karna stayed loyal to his friend and fought against his own brothers.
Music plays a more important role in portraying the cultural tradition of a place. Traditional songs, commonly known as "folk songs," are passed down from generation to generation within a family, tribe, village, or other close-knit groups. For years, many traditional songs have been sung within the same family or ethnic and regional communities. In India, there are tons of folk songs associated with different cities. For example, we have Bihugeet of Assam, Lavani of Maharashtra, and Bhavgeete of Karnataka. These folk songs paint a picture of my culture in front of my eyes and connect me to my heritage. Furthermore, this shows me that music and culture are closely interconnected. Listening to certain music can transport me to a memory I have connected with it. Similarly, listening to music that goes back centuries, expressing cultures’ and communities' feelings, plays an important role in my spiritual and emotional well-being.
Each form of media always has something new to teach me, either through words or wisdom, ideas of faith, or life lessons. Sometimes music transports me and connects me to my heritage, sometimes books teach me lessons, and sometimes art opens horizons to my historical perspective. It’s not just media at the end of the day!
Pahal Bhasin was a 13-year-old budding poet when she wrote this piece. She enjoys reading and writing poems, acting, singing, dancing, drawing, photography, and community service, and loves nature. You can see more of her work at https://www.pahalbhasin.com/.