Prastara's initiatives are divided into three main verticals: Projects, Outreach, and Events.
With Projects, the work involves documentation and preservation of intangible and tangible cultural heritage using various mediums. Outreach activities are targeted at educational institutions, where the aim is to provide the students with education on history and heritage through field-trips, lectures, workshops, and talks; and the general public through heritage walks. Through Events, we look at engaging the general public on a larger scale to create awareness on specific themes.
Nagaswaram and Tavil Traditions of South India
Cave Temples of South India
Development of early south Indian Art and Architecture can be studied through the cave temples and the cultures surrounding the temples. The documentation of the flourish of Jainism can be clearly seen through the depiction in these cave temples. This project documented the confluence of different cultures, the evolution of temple architecture and agamic scriptures through video and photo mediums.
Agraharams of Tamil Nadu
Amongst the many architectural idiosyncrasies in South India are Agraharams situated in Tamil Nadu. The settlement of the Brahmin community usually around the temple premises has a distinct architecture and spatial organization. This project will trace the antiquity of agraharams in Tamil Nadu and their influences in cultural history. This project also aims to restore the agraharams and maintain its significance in South Indian cultural history.
Fundraising to Support Temple Musicians
The current global uncertainty is having a ripple effect in all our lives. We are all collectively going through an unprecedented crisis. As with every other field, the musicians, specifically Nadaswaram, Thavil artistes, and Odhuvars who are associated with various temples in South India are facing huge difficulties to make their ends meet. They rely on income from the temples and their meagre salaries (ranging from Rs. 500 to Rs. 1000 per month),do not provide them with opportunities for savings. Due to the lockdown across the country, their other sources of income, which comes from performing in weddings and other public events, have also dried up. We have been identifying and collating the details of these temple artistes across various temples in Tamil Nadu. We seeks support from art connoisseurs, art patrons and the public to help these artistes tide through these difficult times.
Educational Field Trips
Our first initiative to conduct field trips for educational institutions for free of cost, started with Swetharanya Swami Devasthanam Girls High School, Thiruvengadu in Tamil Nadu during March 2011. Since then Prastara has conducted field trips for about 2000 students in various government schools and colleges.
Talks and Workshops in Educational Institutions
To engage with the students at schools, we have been conducting talks and workshops with two main objectives. One, to make them aware and undrestand the local history and heitage and two, to showacse the diverse culture beyond their local boundaries. We have used the mediums of story-telling, movie screening, painting and pottery workshops to educate on diverse topics ranging from flora & fauna to craft making.
Cauvery Clean-Up Campaign
Prastara, in collaboration with Festival of Sacred Music, Tiruvaiyaru curated and conducted by Prakriti Foundation, undertook th Cauvery Clean-Up campaign from 2014 to 2017. The campaign was developed as a community exercise, involving students from various schools and colleges. Spanning over three days, the initiative also involved a heritage walk for the students. In the 4 years of the initiative, we have had around 2500 students participate. The objective with this campaign was to inculcate in the people, a sense of ownership for their place.
Learning Mathematics through Lucid Verses - Talk by Prof. K. Ramasubramanian
Prof. K. Ramasubramanian of IIT Bombay presented a talk titled ‘Learning Mathematics through Lucid Verses’ on 14th July 2018 at Tattvaloka Auditorium in Chennai. His talk covered India’s rich mathematical heritage which runs back to several millennia. He provided a glimpse of the origin and development of mathematics in India, starting from the emergence of counting to the discovery of the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus in Kerala around the 14th century. He spoke about the tradition of transmission of knowledge from one generation to the other. He focussed on the knowledge systems that have been couched in the form of metrical verses, since it would be far easier to commit poetry to memory than prose.
Immortal Poetry in Stone – Lecture by Dr. R. Nagaswamy
Prastara had the opportunity to video document a lecture by Padma Bhushan Dr. R. Nagaswamy titled "Immortal Poetry in Stone' as part of his Tamil Arts Academy Lecture Series. This lecture took place in 2018 and can be viewed here.
Contributions of the Cholas to South India – Lecture by Dr. Chitra Madhavan
One of the very first lectures conducted by Prastara was delivered by Dr. Chitra Madhavan on the Contributions of the Cholas to South India. The lecture, which took place in Chennai in 2014, covered the contributions of the Cholas to temple art, architecture, irrigation, literature, religion,philosophy and many other spheres.