• pankajcd@gmail.com
  • +91 86209 06088

Category Archives: creative personality

  • -

Tea ceremony at ‘Kokoro’: ‘Cup of Humanity’ overfloweth

Tags : 

In a country steeped in spirituality and religion, India could have introduced ‘tea ceremony’ the way China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan did and this could have been used as a unique protest against even colonialism during the Swadesi movement, feels Nilanjan Bandyopadhyay, poet, calligrapher and tea-artist.

An austere yet elegant room with wooden flooring and an exquisite calligraphy framed on the wall form a fitting tokonoma or alcove to the tea-making tools tastefully arranged as a centerpiece in Bandyopadhyay’s  ‘Kokoro House’ (‘kokoro’ meaning ‘heart’ in Japanese ) at Purva Palli, Santiniketan.

Nilanjan Bandyopadhyay’s ‘Kokoro House’ in Santiniketan

Nilanjan prepares tea for his guests

Bandyopadhyay, a Japanophile and an expert on Tagore and Japan, has introduced a unique ‘tea ceremony’ at his ‘Kokoro House’ combining the Chinese, Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean ways primarily for his guests coming from different parts of the world to promote peace and harmony.

In 1999, Bandyopadhyay went to Japan for the first time and since then he wanted to build a ‘Kokoro House’ (a house inspired by Japan). The house, designed by young Japanese architect Kengo Sato together with Milon Dutta, was finally completed in December 2018.

Tea was imported to India from China via Europe in 1839. Indians follow the European tea-drinking tradition. However, no spiritual and aesthetic aspects are associated with tea-drinking in India. Tea, in Indian culture, is considered either a popular drink, an addiction or simply a need to slake one’s thirst.

“Serving tea for my guests with reverence and achieving spiritual fulfillment, savoring aesthetic pleasure and fostering friendship, are the destination of my tea ceremony,” says Bandyopadhyay.

He was in a dilemma as to how he would name this ‘celebration’. “In China and Japan, the same character is used to write the word ‘cha’. “Even though the word ‘tea’ has an association with China and Japan, I wanted to infuse an Indianness to this ‘celebration’,” he says. “After much thought, I’ve named it ‘Bodhi Cha’– ‘bodhi’ in Sanskrit and ‘cha’ in Chinese and Japanese alphabets.”

Tea-making tools

‘Tea ceremony’ requires not only some specific tools, but also a particular method. Recounting the rituals of the ceremony, Bandyopadhyay says, before the guests arrive, the host will arrange flowers in a vase, burn incense and keep all tools needed for tea-making in a clean and tidy room. The guests will wait at a distance. One part of the arranged flowers will point to the heaven, the middle portion of the arrangement will point to humanity and the other part will point to the ground in such a way that the entire arrangement will represent heaven, man and earth respectively.

A tray will be placed between the guests and the host in such a way so that hot water of the tea will seep through different small holes of the tray and collect in a container. For the host and the guests, a small tea pot and very small cups are needed. Guests will be urged to take seats by ringing of a bell. The host will take his seat in front of the guests only after they are seated.

There should not be more than six guests at a time.

Even though there are some regional differences in tea-drinking across India, there’s, as it were, a unity in them which may be termed as ‘need’. Unfortunately, the tradition of tea-drinking in India has never gone beyond the ‘need’ to become an ‘art’ which is found in China, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Influenced by the British, the habit of tea-drinking with milk and sugar in India is actually ‘soulless’ which has taste and flavor but no heart (of its own), he says.

In the ancient times, tea used to keep Buddhist monks awake during meditation in China and it spread to Japan through them. In China and Japan, tea-drinking is a ‘celebration’. The objective of the ‘celebration’ was to prepare tea and serve it with reverence, devotion and self-control, aesthetic pleasure and spiritual fulfillment to foster harmony, friendship, oneness with guests, Nature, environment and even with the tools for tea-making. In ‘tea ceremony’, one comes across Taoism, ideas of Confucius and Buddha: creating profound connection between man and Nature, acknowledging the mystery of the universe.

In his widely acclaimed book, The Book of Tea, the great Japanese scholar and art critic Okakura Kakuzo, said: “The culture of tea-drinking in Japan is, in fact, Taoism in disguise.”

In the sixteenth century, world-famous Japanese scholar Sen no Rikkyu added a whole new dimension to the tea-drinking tradition that was born out of his wabi-sabi philosophy that celebrates the beauty of simplicity, imperfection and incompleteness. Linking Japanese tea-ceremony to simplicity, austerity and rugged beauty, he introduced the establishment of a tiny, simple tea-house, bamboo flower vases, art, calligraphy, poetry, tea spoons, tea cups and other tools —- all created with a touch of magical melancholy and dignified austerity.

The small, beautiful and modest Japanese tea-houses are surrounded by a slightly disarrayed garden. Guests wash their hands with water in a stone basin, make their way through this garden with a calm mind, enter with bent heads through a narrow door and step into the all-pervading silence of the humble tea-room, shorn of opulence and tacky grandeur. Herein lie purity, reverence, harmony and the opportunity to discover oneself as a part of this infinite universe.

“Sen no Rikkyu taught the world to look for beauty in simplicity and did away with the gorgeous and gaudy tea-making tools used in China. Instead he used simple yet aesthetically unique tools,” says Bandyopadhyay.

His tea rooms became smaller and more austere as a mark of silent protest against the increasing megalomaniac tendencies of his contemporary ruler, he says.

Okakura believed that true beauty encompassed both body and mind and until this state is achieved one has no right to talk about beauty. That is why exponents of tea-making wanted to become more than artists — the art itself, Bandyopadhyay says.

Bandyopadhyay’s Bodi Cha ceremony that resembles the tea ceremony known as ‘Gongfu’ cha, is remarkably different from the ‘tea ceremony’ in Japan known as ‘sado’ or ‘cha no yu’. Green tea powder is used in Japanese ‘tea ceremony’ instead of tea leaves used by the Chinese. Tea pots used in Japan for everyday tea-drinking are also comparatively wide and deep. No tea pots are used in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony as a tea bowl and a whisk are used to prepare thick, powdered green tea.

Tea pet ‘Ananda’

‘Cup of Humanity’

Among the various utensils of tea-making, an interesting one is the tea-pet ‘Ananda’—a silent companion and well-wisher of the tea-maker and his guests.

Another tool worth mentioning, as introduced by Bandyopadhyay, is the ‘Cup of Humanity’—a tiny cup capable of holding a few drops of water, dedicated to the ancestors, guru and the tea producers.

Rabindranath Tagore, says Bandyopadhyaya, understood the spiritual power of this ‘tea ceremony’. In his first trip to Japan in 1916, Tagore went to the house of Ryuhei Murayama, the owner of the newspaper, The Asahi Shimbun, to attend a ‘tea festival’. A mesmerized Tagore wrote in Japanjatri:  “Tea-making is all about practising abstinence, complete control over one’s body and mind, achieving perfect calmness of mind and embracing all that is beautiful in oneself….Immersing oneself in the profundity of beauty away from disorder and intemperance is the essence of the tea celebration.”

He realized the pure and unalloyed beauty of the celebration that protects one’s mind from selfishness and materialism. Tagore wanted to make the Chinese and Japanese ways of tea-drinking a part of Santiniketan’s aesthetics and that is why he, aided by Chinese poet Xu Zhimo, had set up ‘Xu Zhi mo cha chokro’ (the Xu Zhimo Tea Circle) which was later shifted to ‘Dinantika’, says Bandyopadhyay.

A calligraphy ‘Shyun ka shyu to’ (meaning ‘spring summer autumn winter’) by Kofude Ougai

Calligraphy by Nilanjan

  • -

Corona, Cartoons & Sketches of Suparno

Tags : 

Remember R.K. Laxman’s “You Said It”, the timeless cartoon strip published in Times of India that delighted millions of readers every morning?

Amid this corona catastrophe, when we’re missing Laxman and his immortal creations, faraway across the Atlantic in Maryland, US, Suparno Chaudhuri, an Indian digital marketing strategist, has taken up the cudgels against the powers-that-be through his incisive and insightful cartoons.

Laxman through his razor-sharp, and often virulent satirical cartoons, had exposed unbridled greed, rampant corruption and hypocrisy of Indian politicians. His portrayal of common man’s woes, their wretched conditions and helplessness and, above all, the precariousness of human life touched one and all.

Chaudhuri is now engaged in drawing cartoons touching on how our life is impacted in this extraordinary time. His cartoons range from homeless people to President Trump and sometimes, to pure, unalloyed fun. “While the pandemic has exposed the fragility and vulnerability of humans, I took to cartooning to reveal different sections of our society and ridicule Trump’s off-the-rails briefing and his ham-handed approach to battle the contagion. Sometimes they’ve global appeal, some are very American,” Chaudhuri said on telephone from his house in Silver Spring, Maryland.

Six feet distance during pandemic - Suparno's cartoon

Chaudhuri recalls Laxman saying: “The role of a cartoonist is not unlike that of the court jester of yore. His business in a democracy is to exercise his right to criticize, ridicule, find fault with and demolish the establishment and political leaders, through cartoons and caricatures.”

“I used to draw cartoons and sketches while I was a student of Presidency College in Kolkata. I was fascinated by the cartoons of Laxman, Kutty, Abu Abraham, Sudhir Dar, Chandi and O.M. Vijayan. I remember Laxman’s frazzled character, known as the Common Man (Times of India), Kutty’s wit and satire (Ananda Bazar Patrika), Abu’s analytical and hilarious (Indian Express) and Vijayan’s cerebral and sublime (The Statesman) cartoons,” he recalled. He follows American political cartoonists meticulously and is a big fan of New Yorker genre of cartoons.

“I must of course mention K. Shankar Pillai, fondly known as Shankar, the father of political cartooning in India who taught a nation to laugh at itself,” Chaudhuri said.

Shankar lampooned Jawaharlal Nehru, India’s first Prime Minister, mercilessly in some of his cartoons and yet there was a mutual admiration between them. Nehru even famously remarked “Don’t spare me Shankar”, he said.

Talking about Shankar’s brilliant caricatures, Chaudhuri remembers what Nehru said of him: “Shankar has that rare gift, rarer in Indian than elsewhere, without the least bit of malice or ill-will, he points out, with an artist’s skill, the weaknesses and foibles of those who display themselves on the public stage. It is good to have the veil of our conceit torn occasionally.”

Chaudhuri came to Kolkata for a short visit when the coronavirus was wreaking havoc in Wuhan which began in December last year. He went back to the US in mid-March while the Trump government was still downplaying the oncoming disaster. “The US government could hardly foresee the devastating impact of the virus on the country,” he said.

“New York, the city that never sleeps, is now almost a death valley; it’s shocking to see so many people perishing there every day,” Chaudhuri said.

“I thought I’d make some drawings of the US President to evoke laughter and point out his preposterous, utterly absurd advice and flawed strategy to combat the contagion,” he said. “At the same time, many ideas cross my mind for simple, pure fun. I’d be happy if my readers get a sense of positive perspective from my cartoons during these dark and depressing days.”


Suparno Chaudhuri

E-mail: suparno2k@yahoo.com


  • -

Feluda@50: exhibition on Ray’s creation wows visitors

Feluda Exhibition (April 30 to May 4) at the Bengal Art Gallery, ICCR, Kolkata to mark 50 years of Feluda, is a must-see exhibition not only for Ray aficionados but also for every individual who isn’t aware of myriad-minded Satyajit Ray.
Organised by the Society for the Preservation of Satyajit Ray Archives, the exhibition brings to the fore the man who’s the only director in the world who apart from film-making is an incredible writer and an outstanding illustrator. He was a bestselling writer of novels and short stories, and possibly the only Indian filmmaker who wrote prolifically on cinema.

Read More

Debesh Chakravarty: A drama teacher’s lust for theatre

If you happen to stroll down the Southern Avenue and pass by the Lake in south Kolkata, you may hear sound of foot-tapping, cheerful cries, and the buzz and stirring murmur from a little distance…a group of budding actors learning techniques of acting under close observation of an octogenarian. His passion for dramatics and commitment is amazing. He’s been training students over the past four decades with utmost devotion and sincerity.
Meet Debesh Chakravarty.

Read More

Remembering Steve Jobs

A year after the passing away of Steve Jobs, people across the world, especially techies and industry leaders, are recalling this brilliant mind and are pondering whether anyone can match his innovative firepower and vision.

Read More

Thanks for stopping by.