Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Eighteenth Century Kirtan.

Here is a detail from an etching by 18thc. Flemish artist, Balthazar Solvyns, of a Calcutta kirtan. Apart from the garb, and the outdoorness, it could be an etching of our kirtans in Oxford! The same drums and hand-cymbals are there - although in the centre you can see someone holding a large trumpet; we don't have one of those yet.
It all goes to show that the ancient tradition of kirtan is alive and thriving, and that the vision of the Bengali chanter Sri Chaitanya over five hundred years ago, that kirtan would spread to every town and village of the world, is on it's way to fulfillment. At the time his vision must have seem far-fetched - his country was being overrun by the Moslems as he spoke and was soon to be dominated by the British... yet here we are.

The etching is included in an excellent book by Robert L. Hardgrave A Portrait of the Hindus which you can investigate here.

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