Shastram is a contemporary initiative that looks to question, experiments with, understands, document and shares knowledge about Indian classical dance, its history and culture.
Shastram was founded in Australia by Ghirija Jayarraj, however, it is very mobile in its presence around the world. It has delved into various projects involving Theatre, Film, Photography and other virtual mediums.
Its initial beginnings were when Ghirija began dancing in Perth, Australia as a child. She struggled with the reality that faced her, on one hand she felt like she had an identity because of Bharathanatyam, yet when she performed it in a public forum consisting of people from various cultural backgrounds, she couldn’t help but feel alienated. For Ghirija, the urge to be able to connect to people from all backgrounds came from those moments.
Ironically growing up in a Western country with all the various influences also made her see this art form in a new light. She truly believed that the presentation of Indian Classical dance can be enhanced with innovations.
So she began her journey experimenting with innovative presentations of Indian classical dance from 1998. Her first full-fledged Theatre Production where she combined the elements of screen and stage named Naatya Vandhanam was in 2005. During the making of this, she came to realise that even in India the art form struggled to reach to a modernised younger generation or the older “non-classical” cinema-goers. This makes up a lot of the population of India and South Asia. The artists she had interviewed for her Documentary Theatre production felt that knowledge may be lost at the rate of modernisation that India was experiencing. Additionally, up and coming artists struggled to get opportunities to perform even after years of blood sweat and tears.
If there is no market where will artists perform? This concerned Ghirija. Indian Classical dance is something that gave her and many others like her stability and understanding of life. These are dance forms that should be preserved as long as possible. Artists who practise this art form are the vessels who carry it forward to future generations. They should be encouraged as much as possible.
However, right after this realisation, Ghirija’s life took many turns and she started to move away from performing. But something inside of her didn’t want to let it go. Indian Classical dance was more than just something she performed. It was a part of her. So she decided to speak to other artists and tried to get inspired by them to get back on track with dance. Many artists provided insight into not only the art but also life, and of course this is no surprise for both are very intertwined. She felt what they shared was so valuable that she had to share it with everyone. This was the birth of Shastam TV The name “Shastram” and this initiative officially began after this.
Ghirija decided to materialise all the thoughts and ideas in her mind and apply her knowledge as an Indian Classical Dancer, Film Maker and Theatre Producer to create new works of art. The point is to reach to people from all walks of life. Especially the ones who knew nothing or little about Indian Classical dance; She also wanted to work with artists who were up and coming and needed some exposure to world space. Furthermore, being part of the diaspora she had many questions about her culture, history and identity which she hoped to answer through this journey.
Since 2011 when the initiative was initially registered, Shastram has become much more than just a personal journey. Ghirija has shared this journey with many wonderful dancers and enthusiasts who have helped bring Shastram creations to life.
She also wanted to work with artists who were up and coming and needed some exposure in the world space. Furthermore, being part of the diaspora she had many questions about her culture, history and identity which she hoped to answer through this journey.
Provide a platform to as many Indian Classical dance practitioners as possible, to share their voice and stories
Reach out to current audiences through current mediums, technologies and contribute to growing the Industry of Indian Classical dance, so that more practitioners have more opportunities to practice the art form professionally.
Be a cross-cultural platform where artists of various cultural and artistic backgrounds can come together, experiment, create and share their art.
Shastram TV – a web series that explores the world of Indian Classical dance and provides a space for practitioners to share their stories.
Dance videos and Films showcasing a new representation of Indian Classical dance;
Theatre Productions utilising new technologies that are not only new to Indian classical dance but Theatre worldwide;
Concept photo shoots that highlight the aesthetics and ideas behind the art form;
Exhibitions of Visual artwork based purely on Indian Classical dance.