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What are the Chausath Kalas ? Where are they today ?

The origin of Indian art traces back to the Third millennium BC [era of prehistoric settlements] where Sanskrit interpreted Kala as means of performing art. Traditional ancient India was well known for its stativity, cultural and religious influences. One such remarkable expression of creativity is traditional art forms called Chausath Kalas or Chathusashti Kalas [64 traditional arts]. These art forms are characterized in detail in an ancient text namely, shivtatva Ratnakar. According to Sage Shukracharya the varied art forms are not just known for the names but by the expressions – i.e. physical expressions with movement. They are also known for the significant basis of the development of a cultured individual in several parts of India. The 64 art forms are prominent with 14 Vidyas [4 Vedas, 4 Upa-Vedas, 6 Vedangas]. 

What Mythology Says?

It is believed that after killing Kamsa, Lord Krishna went to Avanti [Ujjain] in Guru Sandipani's ashram where he learned 14 types of videos and 64 Kalas within 64 days [it is assumed that for a normal human each would take 2 or more years to learn the forms]. Where 24 arts are work-based [karmasharya], 20 are gambling-based [Dyutashraya], 4 are miscellaneous [Uttarkala], rest are sleeping posture based [Shayanopacharika].

Let's See What Are The Chausath Kalas -

  1. Geet Vidya — the art of singing.

  2. Vadya Vidya — the art of playing musical instruments.

  3. Nritya Vidya — the art of dancing.

  4. Natya Vidya — the art of theatricals. 

  5. Alekhya Vidya — the art of painting.

  6. Aiseshakacchedya Vidya — the art of painting face and body with various colours.

  7. Tandula-Kusuma-Bali-vikara — the composition of formulating contributions from rice and flowers.

  8. Pushpastarana — the art of covering the bed with flowers.

  9. Dasana-Vasananga-raga — the composition of pertaining rehearsals for purifying the clothing, teeth, and dyeing body.

  10. Mani-Bhumika-Karma — the craft of carving the groundwork of gems.

  11. Sayya-Racana — the art of covering the bed.

  12. Udaka-Vadya — the art of playing music in water.

  13. Udaka-Ghata — the art of splashing with water.

  14. Citra-Yoga — the craft of virtually applying a combination of hues.

  15. Malya-Grathana-Vikalpa — the art of designing preparation of wreaths.

  16. Sekharapida-Yojana — the art of practically setting coronet on the head.

  17. Nepathya-Yoga — the art of practically dressing in a tiring room.

  18. Karnapatra-Bhanga — the craft of festooning the tragus of the ear.

  19. Sugandha-Yukti — the art of applying aromatics practically. 

  20. Bhushana-Yojana — the art of setting or applying ornaments.

  21. Aindra-Jala — the art of juggling.

  22. Kaucumara — a kind of art.

  23. Hasta-Laghava — the art of sleight of hand.

  24. Citra-Sakapupa-Bhakshya-Vikara-Kriya — the craft of assembling variations of flavorful food.

  25. Panaka-Rasa-Ragasava-Yojana — the art of tinging draughts with red color and preparing palatable drinks. 

  26. Suci-Vaya-Karma — the art of needleworks and weaving.

  27. Sutra-Krida — the art of playing with thread.

  28. Vina-Damuraka-Vadya — the art of playing on flute and a small drum.

  29. Prahelika — the art of creating and solving riddles.

  30. Durvacaka-Yoga — the art of practicing language hard to be answered by others.

  31. Pustaka-Vacana — the art of reciting books.

  32. Natikakhyayika-Darsana — the art of enacting short plays and anecdotes.

  33. Kavya-Samasya-Purana — the art of solving enigmatic verses.

  34. Pattika-Vetra-Bana-Vikalpa — the sculpture of formulating a trial of protection, wand, and pointers.

  35. Tarku-Karma — the art of spinning spindle.

  36. Takshana — the art of carpentry.

  37. Vastu-Vidya — the art of engineering.

  38. Raya-Ratna-Pariksha — the art of testing silver and jewels.

  39. Dhatu-Vada — the art of metallurgy.

  40. Mani-Raga Jnana — the art of tinging jewels.

  41. Akara Jnana — the art of mineralogy.

  42. Vrikshayur-Veda-Yoga — the sculpture of exercising treatment or medication, by plants.

  43. Mesha-Kukkuta-Lavaka-Yuddha-Vidhi — the sculpture of realizing the method of combatting sheep, cocks, and birds.

  44. Suka-Sarika-Prapalana (Pralapana) – the craft of knowing/ retaining dialogue between male and female cockatoos.

  45. Utsadana — the art of curing or tidying a person with fragrances.

  46. Kesa-Marjana-Kausala — the art of combing hair.

  47. Akshara-Mushtika-Kathana — the art of talking with fingers.

  48. Dharana-Matrika — the craft of utilizing mojos.

  49. Desa-Bhasha-Jnana — the art of knowing provincial dialects.

  50. Nirmiti-Jnana — the art of knowing prediction by the heavenly voice.

  51. Yantra-Matrika — the art of mechanics.

  52. Mlecchita-Kutarka-Vikalpa — the sculpture of assembling barbaric or exotic sophistry.

  53. Samvacya — the art of conversation.

  54. Manasi Kavya-Kriya — the sculpture of formulating lyrics mentally.

  55. Kriya-Vikalpa — the art of constructing an academic work or a medical treatment.

  56. Chalitaka-Yoga — the sculpture of disciplining as a producer of statues named after him.

  57. Abhidhana-Kosha-Cchando-Jnana — the sculpture using lexicography and meters.

  58. Vastra-Gopana — the art of concealment of cloths.

  59. Dyuta-Visesha — the art of knowing specific gambling.

  60. Akarsha-Krida — the craft of fiddling with cubes or magnets.

  61. Balaka-Kridanaka — the art of using children's toys.

  62. Vainayiki Vidya — the art of enforcing discipline.

  63. Vaijayiki Vidya — the art of gaining victory.

  64. Vaitaliki Vidya — the art of arousing emperor with music in daylight. 

Among all these Kalas some vanished with time, some are not properly accepted by society while some are not existing in their exact forms with time, we might know the names but finding the exact/pure expression of the Kalas is very tough. Just notice how amiable they are to your daily life like combing hairs to children playing with toys, there's a lot to know if we keep on discovering. 

The history of art in ancient India is said to begin with pre-historic rock paintings evidenced in caves of Badami, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Mahabalipuram, etc. Each era holds a distinct culture on its own, similarly, Indian Art forms have periodically evolved over thousands of years in various forms like Paintings, Sculptures, and Architecture, etc. However, looking at contemporary times learning and working with traditional knowledge or art forms has become very translucent. We can easily see the traces of Chausath Kalas in Bhubaneshwar-Odisha, Maharashtra, etc. Amazingly anyone can learn them but today it's very rare or difficult to find all the Kalas in a single area/ village of India or within one person. 

The Kalas teach us ethics like ekagrata [ unity ], anushashana [ disclipine], Satya [ truth ], rachanatmakta [ creativity ], svadhyaya [ self-expression ], atmavishvaas [ confidence ], drdhata [ perseverance ], and many more supportive qualities.

The Ancient Indian Education model aimed at facilitating 4 basic duties of a human [ student] which were - Righteousness [ Dharma ], Livelihood [ Artha ], Family life [ Kama ], and Attaining eternal peace [ Moksha ]. It covered 18 major vidyas/ disciplines, crafts, and 64 Kalas that helped the students to experience and perform sharply. It's interesting when you realize that some of these Kalas and crafts are still important means of livelihood [ ie; handlooms culture, jewelry, theatre, music, etc..]. These Kalas were taught and some are still taught by a teacher to his students - for learning Kalas, it requires watching the teacher working on it, starting up by doing odd little jobs assigned to the students, and then a long practice [ aka abhyasa ], on one's own. Only after a considerable amount of experience the learner/student can refine his art and may set up his arena to work. We miss recognizing that there always has been a close relationship between crafts/ Kalas and ordinary life.

The people who study or know about the Chausath Kalas express that there should be at least 10-20 Kalas out of 64 to be taught in the contemporary Indian education system. It will help to boost the creative, co-curricular, and practical choice of experiences, not only for students but for every generation leading Indian traditional culture to reach new progress.

 Introducing Chausath Kalas On A Global Stage! 

There's no doubt that we can offer a new cultural dimension to the global field for the Chausath Kalas just like Yoga -Asanas. Promoting the Kalas on a global level like Nepal, Bhutan [ where culture and traditions are accepted at a wide base ], UAE [ just like the launch of Indian pavilion in Dubai expo], and many other nations who promoted Indian culture with time. We can expand it through cultural fairs and in people-to-people programs or more productive policies.


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