Bharat Gupt

Bharat Gupt, a former Associate Professor in English at the University of Delhi, is an Indian classicist, theatre theorist, sitar and surbahar player, musicologist, cultural analyst, and newspaper columnist. Presently he is a Trustee and Executive member, at Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts (IGNCA), New Delhi (Ministry of Culture, Govt of India).

Early life and education

Bharat Gupt was born on 28 November 1946 in Moradabad (in Uttar Pradesh, India), a small city of mixed Hindu-Muslim population, known for Hindustani classical music and Urdu poetry. His parents moved in the early '50s to Delhi where he went to school and college and studied English, Hindi, Sanskrit and philosophy, spending, however, every summer in the district town.

He then spent a year in the US at the end of Counter-Cultural days, in the late '60s; then moved to Canada, where he took a Master's degree from Toronto.

Back in India, he learnt to play the sitar and surbahar, training for eight years under the eminent musician Pandit Uma Shankar Mishra. He also studied ancient Indian musicological texts and modern Indian Music, yoga sutras and classics under Acharya K.C. Brihaspati and Swami Kripalvananda.

His degrees:
*B.A Honours English, St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, 1967
*M. A. English, St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, 1969
*M.A. English, University of Toronto, 1971
*Ph. D. English, M. S. University of Baroda, 1991

His Doctoral Dissertation was "A Comparison of Greek and Indian Dramatic Theories as Given in the Poetics and the Natyasastra"

After his graduation, a series of grants and programs enabled him to pursue his cultural interests:

*1993 McLuhan Fellow, University of Toronto, Faculty Research Grant, Canadian Ministry of External Affairs through Shastri Indo Canadian Institute.
*1995 Visiting Professor of Indian Theatre to Greece under Bilateral Cultural Exchange Program between India and Greece.
*1995 Travel Grant to travel and lecture at Greek Universities from the Foundation for Hellenic Culture, Athens.
*1995-6 Senior Research Fellow invited by the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, Greece, for six months to research on Modern Greek Theatre Productions of Ancient Greek Plays.

In 1995 he was also a member of the Jury for the International Onasis Prize for Drama (1995)

He speaks Sanskrit, Hindi, English and Greek.

Career and writings

Trained both in modern European and traditional Indian educational systems, he has worked in classical studies, theatre, music, culture and media studies and researched as Senior Fellow of the Onassis Foundation in Greece on revival of ancient Greek theatre.

In his own words:

''As a classicist I came to realise that ancient Greek drama and culture as a whole, was given an unduly empirical color by the modern West. Looking at things from my own location I saw that Greek theatre was closer to ancient Indian theatre as an ethical and religious act or hieropraxis. Instead of being seen as Western and Eastern, Greek and Indian theatres should be seen rooted in the Indo-European cultural beliefs, myths and idolatry and the aesthetics of emotional arousal''.

Much of his writing is devoted to classical Indian and Greek theatre, comparing their similarities and differences and exploring the possibilities of common Indo-European origins.

His first book, "Dramatic Concepts - Greek and Indian", first published in 1994, reprinted 1996 and 2006, was directly inspired by his Greek travels and studies, and offers a fresh approach in comparing ancient Greek and Indian dramatic theories. Instead of treating the Poetics and the Natyashastra as Western and Eastern viewpoints, it places them within the broad framework of ancient Indo-European culture and the art of sacred drama (hieropraxis).From 1995 to this day (2010) he has made numerous and extensive lecture tours, speaking on theatre and music at various Universities in India, North America and Greece, a country he loves deeply and visits at least once a year. He has also directed major lectures and directed seminars.

As part of his research material he has made about 2000 photographs of amphitheaters and antiquities all over Greece as well as in Syracuse, Italy.

He writes for research journals and national newspapers on cultural and educational issues. As a reviewer, he is a frequent contributor to Journal of Sangeet Natak Academy, Journal of Music Academy Madras, Indian Musicological Society, Baroda.

His interest in Indian music has not waned: his second book was the translation of the 28th chapter of the Natyashastra, treating of the musical scales. This translation (saanvaya) of the text includes the translation of the Sanskrit commentary of Achaarya KCD Brihaspati, a leading musicologist of modern times and Gupt's teacher, who presents an original interpretation of the sloka, although he often makes reference to earlier contributions of the sage Abhinavagupta.

Now (2010) he is continuing his study of the Natyashastra and is working on two books:

*Natyasastra, Chapter 17: A Critique of Theatrical Polyglossia,
*Natyasastra Chapters 29-36, Trans. into Hindi

On another front, he is involved with two other projects:

*Modern Greek Productions of Ancient Greek Plays
*Co-Editor for the Edition of the Sanksrit-English- Greek Dictionary of Dimitrios Galanos, the 18th century Greek Indologist.

Indian heritage

Another area in which he is passionately involved and on which he has written and spoken extensively, is Indian heritage. In 2001, he was one of the founding members of the International Forum for India's heritage: a non-religious, non-ideological, apolitical body, IFIH is a network of scholars, educationists, artists, scientists, social workers, environmentalists, thinkers and writers, who have come together to promote India's cultural heritage.

He is an active promoter of the re-introduction of artistic education and Sanscrit language in the Indian education system.

His book "India ?- A Culture Decline Or Revival?", published in 2008, critically analyses the state of affairs in India after the British left in 1947 and examines whether Independence has ushered an era of cultural and social freedom or a cultural decline has set in – a thought-provoking subject.

For details about Bharat Gupt's books, a list of his articles and lectures, see the relevant pages of this website, using the menu buttons above or the text links below

Ram Mandir

His practical involvement with traditional Indian temple architecture resulted in initiating the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ashok Vihar (Delhi) it's a "nagar style" stone temple with carvings which will give Delhi a traditional temple after a millennium.

In his own words:

Inspired by the Saint preacher Swami Kripavananda of Gujarat, in 1975, I managed to convince the residents of Ashok Vihar, an upcoming neighbourhood in Delhi to initate the construction of a Hindu Temple according to the dictates of traditional Indian architecture (Vaastu S'aastra). Thus a Sri Ram Mandir Samiti was registered (S-6045) and after procurement of land (3430 sq. yards) from the Delhi Development authority it was consecrated (Bhuumi Puujan) on 14.2.79 and the foundation stones were laid (Shilaanyaasa) on 7.5.79 for a temple of Sri Ram. Delhi thus began a stone temple of Vaastu art after 800 years..

The temple was designed by Ogharh Bhai Sompura, the architect of modern Somnath, and is being supervised by his grandson C.B. Sompura. It is a Nagar Style plan replete with full carvings on its outer and inner walls and pillars and other features of embellishments such as Mahaapiith.a, Mand.ovara, Samvaran.a and three Shikharas, the centre one going upto 100 ft. The temple carving artisans and sculptors from Gujarat and Rajasthan have raised the structure to a height of 28 ft so far..

This Sri Ram Mandir shall have the Sita, Ram, Lakshmana and Hanuman in the middle as the main shrine and Shiva and Hanuman shrines on the sides. Located in the middle of a modern residential area, it aims to reflect the great Indian tradition of temple as living archtecture (Vaastu Purusha) stimulating the other arts of dance, music and poetry for the fulfilment of good conduct (dharma), wealth (artha), desire (kaama) and liberation (moksha).

Teaching Experience

When he writes and lectures about the Indian educational system, it's not as an outsider. He has been a teacher for many decades:

*1972- 73: Assistant Professor in English, Hindu College , University of Delhi
*1973- 87: Assistant Professor of English, College of Vocational Studies
*1988- 1993: Lecturer , University Grants Commission Refresher Courses for English teachers, University of Poona

Since 1987 he is Associate Professor of English at College of Vocational Studies, University of Delhi and since 1988 he is on visiting faculty at the National School of Drama, Delhi.


In 1976, he married Yukti, and the couple had two sons: Abhinav and Udayan. In August 2010 he became the grandfather of a boy named Atharva, after the 4th Veda.

Ideas on Art, Education and Indian values

Bring back the teacher

(...) for almost a millennium India maintained a system of higher education which was availed of by many neighbouring civilizations, including China. This traditional system, of guru and gurukul, centred entirely on the teacher and his direct relationship with the disciples. It was rigorous and demanding and yet flexible. It used emotional ties to create long term obligations and accountability. In spite of its hierarchy, it had an admiration for the individual excellence (pratibha) which sometimes elevated very young persons to be elevated as acharyas, a phenomenon which seems to have disappeared in modern India. Above all, it looked upon paedagogy not as an instrument of knowledge but as a catalyst. Epistemologically, it considered teaching as "awakening" and not as "transference" of knowledge based merely on "course-work". The student was regarded not a clean slate, but a seed nurtured by the psychic ability of the teacher who was a daily decision maker in his realm. Despite the obligatory support by the state and community monitoring of teaching institutions was distant and indirect. In brief, the teacher was trusted. Western paedagogy ushered two major changes. It not only brought in print technology to replace the oral Indian method, and it also removed the teacher from the centre and brought in the academic administrator. (...) The new bureaucracy, with a Euro- derivative mindset, eschewed all indigenous models of Gandhi, Vinoba, Aurobindo or Tagore and invited the American second raters to devise jargons as opiates to our academia because indigenous models, while opening all doors for modernity of curricula, affirmed the centrality of the teacher-figure, an anathema to our neta-sahab duo. The first step towards freeing higher education is to establish that the State is obliged to support but not to define education. Neither legislators nor administrators are trained to select and appoint educators or to prescribe the content of education.

From: " Bring Back the Teacher" - in the book India - A Cultural Decline or Revival?

Art and Sanscrit language in education

The biggest prejudice against the arts in India has been generated by its modern educational system that inculcates a diametrically opposite attitude to their worth posited in the traditional Indian psyche. So-called makers of modern India, assiduously preserved the schooling system left by the British (...). They have also maintained the hegemony of the printed word, the paper exercise book and the written examination over all other means of instruction and evaluation. (...) In this culture where the spoken word, intonation and gesture, signs, symbols and rituals had been developed as superb media of communication for thousands of years, now mere reading, cramming and reproducing prevails as the only method of passing examinations from nursery classes to the IAS. If the arts, except for music that still rests upon traditional training and Hindu ethos, have not touched great heights in free India, the sin lies at the doors of our education Ministers.

The prime purpose of education is to ensure creativity in individuals. It is the best way to subdue their destructive instincts. (...)

Societies, which are less emphatic about creativity, or are scared of it, such as ours at the present moment, tend to define learning in terms of short-term objectives. They value education systems by the materially productive work its students are likely to accomplish. (...) The arts though not dispensable, were only ornamental in the post Enlightenment [Western] education. This thinking was imposed on India by the colonial educationists. What was worse, it was reinforced by the so-called Indian Renaissance by its fabricated picture of ancient Indian educational values. (...) Visions of Tagore and Aurobindo that presented healthy and exploratory methods to bridge this chasm were systematically marginalized and denigrated as too aesthetic or spiritual by Nehruvian iron-jacket modernity.

A concerted effort needs to be made to reinstate the arts as a creative, therapeutic and moral force in our educational system, print and electronic media. In schools the arts should be among the main subjects of study and not mere extracurricular activities. (...) It has been demonstrated that theatre, dance, painting, and music are the best instruments of personality development for children. Why can there be no marking, promotion and academic recognition for them? Why have they been relegated to the lower category of 'vocational subjects' meant to be taken by duller kids?

From "Education without Art" - in the book India - A Cultural Decline or Revival?

In spite of the Orientalists, administrators like Macaulay forged for India an education system which had little or marginal place, not only for Sanskrit literature, but for all the traditional arts and sciences like music, poetry, dance, theatre and painting, Ayurveda, Rasayan, Jyotisha, metrics, etc.

This dichotomy continued well into the semi-century of independence and flourishes strong as ever. Even now, on one side we have the Indologists (using a collective noun for South Asian experts, Asian Anthropologists, Ethnomusocologists etc.,) white, brown, black and yellow, native and foreign, with unquestioned faith in the growth of native culture, and on the other hand we have the socialists, rationalists, scientificists, pluralists and globalists equally assured of its auto-built resilience and auto-generative capacity. But neither side thinks that a formal educative system should have any role to play in the formation of culture. For them, as for Macaulay, culture can be extra- curricular. Indeed, it could be so for the colonisers who did not require culture for babu-work. But that it can continue to be so for our future legislators, jurists, administrators, academics and scientists, is indeed a soft headed mystic belief that cultural values and behaviour are autogenerative and need no instruction.

(...) Enhancing present day utility of ancient and medieval texts should be the aim of bringing them into the curriculum at all levels from school to college. It means revision of curriculum and expansion of resources for inter- disciplinary participation. Instead of compulsion there should be a wide choice for the young to familiarise themselves with traditional arts and diciplines. Theatre, music, poetry, medicine, yogasanas, aromatics, architecture, dance, philosophical concepts, etc., can be imbibed at school in a easy familiar way as so much them still survive culturally. What needs to terminated is the artificial gap created between the lived culture and the pedagogic role-model of global yuppyism. These measure require sustained efforts and careful planning and but they can make classical learning and sanskrit worthwhile rather than an object of pious obeisance. They can make it a useful passport for a sizable modern educated class to travel through many ages of Indian history and check things for themselves, having neither a glorified perspective of the past nor a contemptuous disregard for the artistic excellences and sustaining wisdom of the pre-technocratic times.

From "Who's afraid of Sanscrit"

Support for the Arts

[In past times] (...) merit for future life was earned through charity, rituals, and the pursuit of the arts. Art was often called a 'sacrifice' (...). Besides spiritual merit (shubham or mokshada), it was said to bring subtle pleasure (rasaanubhuti) and a fair name (yashakarii). As a result the obligatory support to art became a major economic force in most periods of Indian history.

Nobody can claim that these ideals were fully lived in the Indian past. They were lived as much as ideals are lived anywhere else in the world. Nonetheless, they created a society in which daily pursuits were modelled on the paradigm of the arts, and consequently devotion to formal arts was highly prized. (...) Indian society in the past invested more heavily in the arts as a habit than most other cultures, and that too not as an indulgence or escape, but as a noble aim, as a worthy purushartha.

With the advent of modern technology in India there also arrived an alien work ethics in which not working for economic gain is considered synonymous with parasitism. Every artistic preoccupation or deeper intellectual pursuit came to be regarded as a non-productive burden.

Religious education in schools

The obligations of societies professing pluralism go beyond mere tolerance. Such societies are obliged to actively cultivate a reasonable acquaintance with the articles of divergent faiths and beliefs. But in most national systems of formal education, particularly the Indian one that inherits the British perspective, religious and moral education has been kept out of school and college education as a guiding principle of the secular state. (...) It is high time that the modern state should redefine its secularity which can no longer mean atheism, agnosticism or theophobia but an active engagement in imparting the basic tenets of all faiths in the world and specifically so that are professed by its majority and minority populations. And this should be done not as a necessary concession but as an endeavour that shall answer the deepest aspirations of mankind and make it harmonious with other beings and non-beings on the planet.

(...) the state is committed to the well-being of the adherents of all systems. It is then its bounden duty to educate them in all the faiths so that not only they fulfil their denominational needs but learn to understand the faiths of others. (...)

It is my hope that an educational policy that is able to open up the young minds to religious diversity shall also result in locating a common ground between various religious and cultural beliefs. It may be remembered that commonality between beliefs and not their differences are the raison d'etre of communication. If communication is to be something more than exchange of goods or info-commodity, then we may benefit most from turning to the core of vibrant similarity between religions and cultural identities that exists beneath all differences and which, instead of being wiped out by the individual differences, sustains itself and the differences as well. (...) In fact, all communication rests upon an unstated presumption that differences of identities and expressions are born out of a common ground, not by themselves. (...) Identities are meaningful only so long as they interact, as do the musical notes in relation to one another. Cultures are vibrant only when they reveal their consonances. Otherwise, they stagnate or become violent, leading both ways to self-destruction.

From "Religious Plurality in Education"

Modern Consumerism

Gandhi's svadeshi was not merely to resist exploitative European technology but to choose a way of life in which consumerist ambitions had no place. The charkha stood not for a medieval technology but for less wasteful ways of pursuing the essential human goals. As Thoreau said, "Life is fretted away by detail; simplify, simplify, and simplify." For Gandhi, complexity of desires and economic superfluity had little to do with the complexity of technology. It is possible to have immensely consumerist aims even in a pastoral culture. The Vedic Yayati was unsatiated even after a lifetime of indulgence and borrowed the youth of his son. Gandhi opposed the trickle-down theory of prosperity that forms the backbone of all capitalist societies of the West. He wanted ground level growth and distribution of wealth as well as a commitment by the rich under social pressure to share their wealth. It does not matter how sophisticated or expensive a technology is, what matters more is what section of the population benefits from it. The present-day technological innovations do not provide lasting goods but create objects of desire with planned obsolescence. The glossy packaging full of lies creates a culture of illusions and misplaced expectations. Deceptive packaging, whether of computers or potato chips, must go. In brief, the consumerist ideals must go, that alone can be svadeshi and also secular in the sense of being morally good to the self, others and the earth.

Talking of traditional Hindu values, it is unfortunate that varna, with thousands of its caste (jati) ramifications, has stayed in full force in independent India but ashram, the second half in the twin concept of the traditional 'varna-ashram-dharma' has disappeared.

From "Consumerism, the new Hindu ideal"

Download Prof. Bharat Gupt's CV in .doc format (2005)

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