Sangeet Natak Akademi : An Introduction
Sangeet Natak Akademi - India's national academy of music, dance and drama - is the first national academy of the performing arts set up by the Republic of India. It was created by a resolution of the (then) Ministry of Education, Government of India, dated 31 May 1952, which was notified in the Gazette of India of June 1952. The Akademi became functional the following year, with the appointment of its first Chairman, Dr P.V. Rajamannar, and the formation of its all-India council of representatives, the General Council. The first President of India, Dr Rajendra Prasad, inaugurated it on 28 January 1953 at a special function held in the Parliament House. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, then Union Minister for Education, in his opening address at the inauguration of the Akademi, said:
India's precious heritage of music, drama and dance is one which we must cherish and develop. We must do so not only for our own sake but also as our contribution to the cultural heritage of mankind. Nowhere is it truer than in the field of art that to sustain means to create. Traditions cannot be preserved but can only be created afresh. It will be the aim of this Akademi to preserve our traditions by offering them an institutional form ...In a democratic regime, the arts can derive their sustenance only from the people, and the state, as the organized manifestation of the people's will must, therefore, undertake ... maintenance and development [of arts] as one of [its] first responsibilities.
The Akademi's charter of functions was expanded along the original lines in 1961, when Sangeet Natak Akademi was reconstituted by the Government as a society and registered under the Societies Registration Act of 1860 (as amended in 1957). These functions are set down in the Akademi's Memorandum of Association, adopted at its registration as a society on 11 September 1961.
Since its inception, the Akademi has been functioning as the apex body in the field of performing arts in the country, preserving and promoting the vast intangible heritage of India's diverse culture expressed in forms of music, dance and drama. In furtherance of its objectives, the Akademi coordinates and collaborates with government and arts academies of different States and Union Territories of the Union of India, as also with major cultural institutions in the country.
The Akademi establishes and looks after institutions and projects of national importance in the field of the performing arts. The Akademi established the National School of Drama and the Asian Theatre Institute in July 1959. The Asian Theatre Institute merged with the National School of Drama when it separated from the Akademi in 1975 and became an autonomous organization. It was registered as a Society the same year.
Sangeet Natak Akademi now has three constituent units, two of these being dance-teaching institutions: the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy (JNMDA) at Imphal, and Kathak Kendra in Delhi. JNMDA has its origin in the Manipur Dance College established by the Government of India in January 1964. Funded by the Akademi since its inception, it became a constituent unit of the Akademi in 1967. It was subsequently renamed after India's first Prime Minister. A leading institution in the teaching of Manipuri dance, JNMDA offers several comprehensive courses in the dance and music of Manipur, as well as other arts like Lai Haraoba and Thang-ta, The courses are designed as a foundation for professional artists. The Production Unit of the Academy has a rich repertoire of traditional and contemporary works.
Similarly, Kathak Kendra is one of the leading teaching institutions in Kathak dance. Located in Delhi, it offers courses at various levels in Kathak dance and in vocal music and Pakhawaj. Like the Jawaharlal Nehru Manipur Dance Academy, Kathak Kendra too has a Production Unit which strives to enrich the repertoire and technique of Kathak dance through experimental work.
Rabindra Rangashala is the third constituent unit of the Akademi. The management of Rabindra Rangashala was transferred to the Akademi by the (then) Department of Culture in April 1993. An open-air auditorium seating 7,000 people, the Rangashala is situated on the Delhi ridge. National Projects of Support to Kutiyattam, the age-old Sanskrit theatre ofKerala, Chhau dance of eastern India, and Sattriya traditions of Assam have been launched subsequently. The Akademi inaugurated its Centre for Kutiyattam, Kutiyattam Kendra, in Thiruvananthapuram on 27 May 2007.
The Akademi set up the Sattriya Kendra (a centre for Sattriya dance, music, and theatre traditions) at Guwahati, Assam, on 15 July 2008 to promote, propagate and preserve these traditions. The Akademi also set up its North- East Centre in Shillong the same year on 20 August 2008, for the purpose of preserving the traditional and folk performing art traditions of north-eastern India. The office of this Centre has now moved to Guwahati and is housed in the Sattriya Kendra premises.
The Sangeet Natak Akademi Awards are the highest national recognition conferred on pracnsmg artists. The Akademi also confers Fellowships on eminent artists and scholars of music, dance and drama. The Akademi's Fellowships (Akademi Ratna) carry a purse of Rs 3,00,000 and the Akademi Awards (Akademi Puraskar) a purse of Rs 1,00,000. In 2006, the Akademi also instituted annual awards to young artists - the Ustad Bismillah Khan Yuva Puraskar. These awards carry a purse of Rs 25,000.
The Akademi subsidizes the work of institutions engaged in teaching, performing, or promoting music, dance or theatre; gives grants-in-aid for research, documentation, and publishing in the performing arts; organizes and subsidizes seminars and conferences of subject specialists; and documents and records the performing arts for its audio-visual archive.
The Akademi's archive, comprising audio and video tapes, photographs, and films is one of the largest in the country and is extensively drawn upon for research in the performing arts. The Akademi maintains a reference library consisting of books in English, Hindi, and some regional languages. The Akademi has a gallery of musical instruments, masks and puppets in Rabindra Bhavan, New Delhi, where more than 200 musical instruments are displayed. It also has a documentation unit, which has recorded maestros in the field of music, dance and theatre. The Akademi's publication unit publishes literature on relevant subjects.