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Costume: moral values
- Ram Rahman, New York City

(In response to The costumes of the Sutra Odissi dancers of Malaysia: A dialogue with textual and substantial evidences by Dr. Soubhagya Pathy, Rahul Acharya, Chittaranjan Bairisal and Harsa Kumar Satapathy)

October 4, 2005

Thank you all for writing a letter which places this silly controversy in a historical context. Sadly, we in India are allowing legitimacy for all kinds of retrograde ideas, specially in the cultural field. Painters are being attacked for what they paint, singers because of their religion, even Ustad Allaudin Khan was branded a 'Bangladeshi' (read Muslim) by the BJP Govt in Madhya Pradesh. It is hugely important to confront this kind of moral policing with logic and specially with factual information on cultural history. Our culture needs no lessons from anyone and stands solidly on its own sophistication. And it has always been dynamic and adapting. If these people are so concerned about 'tradition,' let them take the dance back into the temples, make sure it is not performed anywhere else, removed from television, under only oil lamps. Of course, if we do go back to the 'glorious' past, these moral purists may be more than embarrassed by the outfits displayed all over India on all our temples!

As an aside, check the cover of a book done by the legendary photographer Sunil Janah, published in Calcutta in 1949. The book and cover were designed by Satyajit Ray, and the photograph is of a young girl in Malabar in the 1940's. Sunil Janah, of course, took the most famous pictures of the sculptures in Konarak and other temples, which we all grew up seeing in Marg.

Ram Rahman, son of Indrani Rahman, is a designer/photographer based in New York City and Delhi.

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