New Delhi: Visual arts, as studies show, can deal with depression and foster healthy childbirth. Now, such positive scientific elements of ancient and classical arts are at the core of a three-day cultural festival.

The beat of Indian percussion instruments, Naga yoga, spinning dervish dance, classical ragas and ancient dance movements act on the chakras or energy wheels of the human body to boost certain biological functions.

These positive scientific elements of the ancient and classical arts are at the core of the three-day International Ancient Arts Festival, presented jointly by the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR), the Ray of Wisdom Society, a non-profit organisation, and the tourism departments of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Puducherry, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa.

The festival, which was inaugurated by Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit on May 10, probed at length the importance of arts education in a lecture by scholar Eleanor Richards of Anglia Ruskin University from Britain. It was accompanied by a traditional orchestra from Kazakhstan and a kathak recital.

The lectures include a session on Arts and Healing by art therapist Cinzia Rigodanzo from Switzerland, Arts and Spirituality by Alka Pande, and Sama/Qawaali by Liaqat Hussain Moini, which will establish how repeated chanting of Allah's name can induce a soothing trance.

“The whole idea is to promote ancient wisdom and lifestyles that were devised by the ancient sages and spiritualists in India, China and Africa. The festival brings together arts and spirituality,” festival director Reela Hota said.

“People lived spiritual lives in historic ages. But over the years, they developed a questioning mind and ancient arts disappeared. The Mughals to India, the west colonialised large parts of the developing world. Even the Jewish Kabbalah had a system that was completely lost,” Hota said.

Hota, the founder of the Ray of Wisdom Society, said “Our culture, which was preserved by the ancient sages, has been witnessing a revival in the last 30-40 years.”

Hota said the festival was the first-of-its kind with scientists and scholars gathering under one roof to explain 'how and why of an art form and its scientific relevance to human beings'.

One such example is the movement therapy. “A lot of research has gone into the effect of movement in dances and the mind,” she said.

Belly dancing from Egypt -- one of the oldest performing arts, is one of the most spiritual art forms performed traditionally by women, Hota said. “It is dance for fertility. The circular and gyrating motions of the dancers activate certain chakras in the body.”

Indian classical and folk dances are effective stress-busters, she said. Hota, a disciple of Satyanand Swarasati of Jharkhand, plans to maintain her efforts with an institution to 'teach the scientific relevance of ancient arts in human lives and their therapeutic effects.