A Heritage Walk
The book written in a very lucid style takes one through a myriad of walks around India’s art and culture.
It is a comprehensive perspective on the fabric of Indian culture and the many layers that go into the making of it—from music to dance to literature, from cinema to painting to religion to architecture, the book is a guide that takes the reader to literature, tribes and their language. The author, a geologist turned diplomat, delves deep into the roots of Indian civilisation, drawing influences from the past and scooping out the ‘Indianness’ that makes it relevant even today.
Dr Ausaf traces back to the times of the Indus Valley civilisation and the waves of migration that ebbed and flowed into the cultural landscape of India. He beautifully enlists the several unique cultural symbols, and diverse beliefs and traditions practised by different races over a period of time. Wandering through the past, the author draws upon the “unmistakable unity and continuity” that characterise these many elements of Indian art and culture. The book is rather precise and concise and could serve as a reference text.
Introducing the reader to facts, opinions with documentation the author talks about the evolution of Indian culture, drawing references from mythology, history, religion, literature, science, folklore and arts. He quotes Bharata’s Natyashastra while discussing the advent of dance in India and highlights many ragas composed by Tansen, the legendary singer in the Mughals’ court. He going through the walk tells readers about the world’s first university that was established in Takshila in 700 BC and our contribution to the world of mathematics in the form of the zero and the spinning wheel replaced the chakra in the national flag and how the National Anthem was a verse adaptation of an essay written by Tagore. From Aryabhatta to Ashoka, from the Golden Age of the Guptas to the era of Mahatma Gandhi.
The chapters in the book take you down several dynasties that ruled India and their architectural styles. It has a sprawling voyage starting from Stupas to temples to caves to stepwells. It talks about the monuments from the Mauryan era to the Guptas to Chandelas and the various South Indian dynasties like Cholas and Pallavas. We then glance through the various schools of art from Gandhara, Mathura, Amaravathy and Pala and end with a treatise on imperial Delhi—a showmanship of Indo-Islamic architectural style. The author takes the musical route and leads us on to a journey down the ragas and chants. At one level, the book reads like a documentation of the many elements that encompass Indian art and culture.
Dr Ausaf compiles every minute details that bring the past alive but he has preferred staying away from touching any controversial aspect or any of those controversies related to culture and the issues around that. This volume stands out because it carries this long range of facts and figures on any given subject. All systematically compiled under various sections to this volume, in that uncomplicated and no—fuss style. Squeezing in a small line that this book is a must read for those who want to acquire knowledge of the essential elements of India and her journey into and through the past. For a commoner it is a reference book that helps in providing an overview of the rich cultural heritage of India.
By Shvveta Arora