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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Two

Continued from Part One

Let me digress here for a while

Before we get to the texts that are devoted to the discussion on the Theories (Lakshana) and practice (Lakshya) of Dance and its various forms, let us talk, in general on the issues related to Art, Art-form, Dance and Dance-forms.

  classical dancer

Art and Art-form

When we talk of a particular type of dance we call it a Dance form. And, when we talk of Dance, in general, we call it an Art form. What does this form mean? What is the relationship between Art and Dance? And, how is that formed?

Further, it appears there is a sort of genealogical relation that spans Art, Dance and Dance-form: Art ->Art form ->Dance ->Dance form.

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A form could be taken to mean as that which is formed. It suggests that something has gone through the process of formation; and, that has resulted in a distinctly cognizable ‘form’.

Mahidasa Aitareya (one among the earliest philosophers, revered as  a sage who showed the way to other thinkers that succeeded him), in his Aitareya Aranyakawhile elucidating his views on evolution of matter, explains that the evolution has a unity of its own; and , that unity implies identity and continuity, with change, of a common substratum. He says: matter (Pradanam) is that out of which a thing becomes; and, that matter is the ground of all plurality of forms, just as speech is the ground for all plurality of names.

And, a form is that which emerges out of a common substratum. A form (Murti) is that which is manifested. And, it is related to its principal or origin; just as a shoot (Tula) is to its root (Mula) – (AA.2.1.8.1 please check page 107).

Mahidasa did not look upon changes that take place from one stage of matter to another as unrelated or isolated events. It is a progression or a purposeful order, he said, where something that is nebulous and unstructured evolves into its next stage, which is more cognizable and better structured; developing its own individual features. According to Mahidasa, the more evolved an entity is, the more manifest or recognizable or better defined it becomes.

The same principle applies to Art and Art-forms.

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Origin

There are various references to Art in the ancient texts, at different levels.

Abhinavagupta (10th-11th century), says; the Art, indeed, has no beginning (Anadi). The origin of Art cannot, truly, be traced. Even when Shiva taught his disciples, he recollected and renewed the ancient art (Vijnana); and, passed it on. According to Abhinavagupta, what matters, therefore, is not the debate about the origin of Art at a certain point of time. But, our concern should be about its uninterrupted flow; and, its genius to create beauty of lasting value.

He explains the term Datta, as one who is inspired by his own creative brilliance; who independently creates verities of expressions of uncommon nature; and, gives (Datta) to this world a fresh perspective of beauty. The Datta, verily, is the creator, the artist, who is blessed with such clear perception, Vijnana.

Vijnana (a special type of knowledge) was the term that was used, in much a earlier period, to refer to what we call Art. Banabhatta in his Harshacharita regards painting and sculpture as branches of Vijnana. And, he calls those artists as Vijnani-s (viśva-karma-mandiram iti vijñānibhi).

And, such special knowledge (vijñānam) was admired as a gift of god. It said; Shiva taught the art of Dance to his disciple Tandu. And, Narayana , who was engaged in penance, created the art of painting (Chitram), for the welfare of the world; and, taught it to Visvakarma, to spread its knowledge in the world (Narayanena munina lokanam hita-kamyaya; kritva chitram lakshana samyuktamVishnudharmottara. 3.35.2-5)

The Mahabharata attributes all forms of arts to Vishnu (vijñānam etat sarva janārdanāt)

Yogo jñāna tathā sākhya vidyā śilpāni karma ca vedā  śāstrāi vijñānam  etat sarva janārdanāt – MBh. 13.135.139

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What is Art, kalaa –कला ..?

Since, Dance and Dance-forms are regarded as forms of Art, let’s start with the question: what does this concept of Art signify?

The most common term that is used to signify Art, is kalaa –कला. And, in the Indian traditions, it is said; Kala (Art) is that which delights (kam anandam lathi iti kalah). It stands for various modes of aesthetic expressions that enchant, gladden the hearts (hrudaya-ranjaka); and, that which requires some knowledge as also skill or felicity in expressing its creative impulse – kaushala.  Bharata, in his Natyashastra, according to some scholars, uses the term Kala to suggest fine (Charu) arts, as also the dexterity, skill in art-creation.  (Na sā vidyā na sā kalā NS. 1.116)

The Paramara king, Raja Bhoja of Dhara (1000–1055 AD), in his Samarangana –sutradhara, remarks that the best artists combine the knowledge of the theory of Art with proficiency in its practice (Bhudyante kepi shastranam kechid karmani kurvate: Samarangana-sutradhara -74)

Thus, Kala (Art) stands not only for what is ultimately expressed; but also for the process of expressing it.  The Art can, therefore, be understood in two ways. One: art is that which is expressed as an art-form (objective); and, two, the manner in which that is expressed – the process, the skill (subjective).

There was a belief that an object of art, say a painting, is basically subjective; and, it, usually, takes after the nature and merits of the artist; just as a literary work mirrors the intellect of the poet. (Yadrisas chitrakaras tadrisi chitra-karma-rupa-rekha; yadrisah kavis tadrisis kavya-bandha-chhaya iti– Viddhasalabhajika-1).

That is to say; the effort and the process of creating a poem or a painting, brings one face-to-face with one’s own personality with all its limitations as also its potentials.

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As per Grammar, it is said, the basic meaning of Kalā (कला) is ‘a part’, especially ‘sixteenth part of the moon’- Chandra-kala (e.g. Bhadārayakopaniad 1.5.14). The moon waxes and wanes in periods of fifteen days; each day it gains or losses one kalā. The sixteenth kalā is the amtakalā, abiding digit, which never fades away, even at the dark of the moon (Bh.Up.1.5.17). Thus, kalā is the symbolic expression of number sixteen.

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But, there is also another interpretation, which is more significant.

It said; the etymological meaning of the term Kala (कला) is derived from its root Kal, meaning to count or compute. In the broader sense, it also suggests the meaning of:  to do; to make; or, to calculate. The term Kala, thus, covers larger set of factors, apart from sheer abstract notions.

Artists are makers or creators. Any artistic activity involves creative perception to visualize; and, the intellect to estimate and to compute, in order to articulate and give a form to ones vision and to ones inner experience.

This etymological meaning of the word Kala, led to further exposition and development of mathematical and quantitative standards for artistic practices in India, especially in creative and performing arts. Most of the Indian Schools of thought, right from the Samkhya, adopted the analytical method of Anveshiki to enumerate categories of existence and experiences. The texts on technical subjects like Nyaya, Ayurveda etc., also followed the Anveshiki method of listing, in order to bring clarity into the analytical investigation of issues.

The texts on performing arts also followed the similar method of enumeration.

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There is an interesting argument which binds mathematics and art together. Both try to transport an abstract concept into the real world of structures and forms. And, both search for beauty and aesthetics, in the structural harmony of their creations.

Following that premise, the Art theoreticians of ancient India attempted to quantify artistic activities; and, also the process of manifesting or articulating creative experiences. They developed a complex system of measures and proportions, which defies rigid definitions. It is called Talamana paddathi, iconometry, included under Prathima-lakshanam, the discussion on the features and nature of images to be created.

In the field of painting and sculpture, elaborate and precise tables of aesthetic measurements and proportions (Taala and Maana) were drawn up for ensuring a harmonious creation, endowed with well proportioned physical features (lakshana) – for each class and each type of images. It was meant to achieve a meaningful correlation between the nature, the content and the form of the subject.

This systematic process of specifying measures and proportions became an essential tool in visual arts; such as, painting and image-making. And, such conceptual standards of aesthetics were followed by all the regional and religious Schools of Arts in India.

Such mathematical standards and regulations served as the medium, in the process to translate abstract concepts into postures, structures that are, at once, beautiful, illustrative and meaningful. They helped to bridge the artistic quantification and aesthetic presentation.

For instance; the Vishnudharmottara, while detailing how a painter should go about his task, mentions: “the painter should think of the proportionate size of the thing to be painted; and think of it as having been put on a wall. Then calculating its size in his mind, he should draw the outline marking the limbs. It should be bright in prominent places and dark in depressed places. It may be drawn in a single colour, where comparative distinction is required. If depressed places are required to be bright, jet black should be used. “

The Taala-Maana system was also extended to the field of Music, dance and theatre, where the units of measurement were interpreted in terms of the units of time (Taala, rhythmic cycles; and Laya, tempo). 

And, in Dance, the number of hand spans between feet in a particular posture (Karana); or the length of the step that should be taken, in harmony with the units of rhythmic cycles (Taala), is also regulated by a similar system of measures and proportions. In a way; the Taala could said to be the calculus of aesthetics, which allows the artist to explore the forms of beauty and their variations. This Grammar is followed by the artists, intrusively.

Prof. Vinod Viawans, in his very learned article Expressing with grey cells: Indian perspectives on new media arts, observes:

There is an important dimension of Art that has not been due consideration so far: ‘art as computation’. There appears to be tendency among the artists to treat Art as anti-analytical. They can learn from the Indian traditions, which have made some valuable advances in this direction. They have demonstrated that calculation and quantification can be an integral part of artistic practices. It is all the more relevant in the modern days. The artists, in the new age, need to be taught how abstract constructs and spaces could be created in virtual reality environment, with the use of mathematical values.

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Art expressions

At another level, art expressions are regarded as fundamental to human nature

According to Gargyayana, a sage–king who appears in the Kausitiki Upanishad (and, said to be one of the teachers of Uddalaka Aruni), Art (Chitram) is how the human mind, essentially, conceives and experiences the nature and the surrounding life (maanasi pratirupa chaksusi); how it expresses that experience in its own way; and, how it imposes its own forms and interpretations on nature.

Centuries later, the Buddha amplifying Gargyayana‘s view of art,  regarded Art as a product of human experience and imagination; a representation of ideas that take birth in human mind, in relation to diverse forms of life and human experiences – (caranam cittam citten eva cintitam – Samyukta Nikaya, 5.8 , quoted in the Atthasalini-204.)

Though there is no universally accepted definition of art,  it could, broadly, be understood as  an act of creating, expressing or making.   Art could said to be a means to present or represent ideas, thoughts, feelings and experiences by skillful, meaningful, and imaginative devises, through a chosen medium, employing its appropriate instruments.  It is both the means (Upaya) and the end (Upeya).

Artistic encounter arises from the ways and manners how the humans react to the world around them.  And, it is also a mode of sharing ones experience, feelings and thoughts with the society at large, through ones creative expressions.

The performing artist, endowed with creative imagination and the requisite skills, ingeniously creates an imaginary world, by use of artistic devises such as:  language adorned with poetic phrases or enchanting sounds (Vachica); beautiful hand gestures and body postures (Angica), and costumes (Aharya) etc.

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Idealistic view of life

The Indian theories of aesthetics (Alamkara) adopted the concepts and idioms of philosophical schools, like Samkhya and Vedanta. According to Prof. M. Hiriyanna (Art experience; 1954), the Samkhya takes a realistic view; while the Vedanta prefers an idealistic vision of the world which lies beyond the phenomenal one of appearance. Following the Samkhya way, one could say that the Art is the mode of representing the reality. And, the Vedanta way is one of deflection from the reality.

However, the Indian theories of aesthetics went along independently, synthesizing all shades of views and opinions. But, it agreed upon the universal character of Art; and, its purpose as that of providing a unique aesthetic experience (Rasa). And, it, generally, moved away from mere realistic presentation; and, positively leaned towards idealism in its representations.

According to such idealistic view of life, the ultimate objective of any artistic creation is to evoke Rasa; and, to transport the viewer or the listener to an imaginative ideal world (Aloukika).

The artist, in his endeavor, can use various devises of art, such as: words, sounds, rhythm, balance, aesthetic proportions, etc., to help to derive such out-of-the world, virtual experience. For instance; in the theater, as Abhinavagupta puts it, the audience witnessing a theatrical/dance performance reside in the physical space; and, they are aware of it. But, at the same time, they can leap into the simulated world. In a way of speaking, an engrossed spectator enjoys the best of the both the worlds. Abhinavagupta suggests that Art is not absence of life; but, it is an extension of life – every element of life appears in one or the other forms of Art. And, the aesthetic experience derived from Art is free from mundane passions and its limitations; it is indeed Wondrous, Chamatkara.

The art-creation in India has, therefore, been a process of life. The creation of the beauty of form, for the painter or the sculptor, was said to be a joyous rediscovery of the glory and beauty of the whole of creation. The Vishnudharmottara (a text of about the sixth century) states: The purpose of Art is to show one, the grace that underlies all of creation, to help one on the path towards reintegration with that which pervades the Universe

Further, the Vishnudharmottara asserts that the images which are made with the understanding of the harmony of life are immensely beneficial for the viewer. Thus, it states: Art is the greatest treasure of mankind, far more valuable than gold or jewels.

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Art creation

It is said; the artist employs matter and techniques to embody an idea, a vision. Such created art-object is not only a source of beauty; but, is also an invitation to explore and enjoy the meaning (Artha) of that beauty. Artha, in the context of Art, is, thus, not merely the objective property of art-work; but, it is also a deep subjective aesthetic experience.

In other words; Art-creation is about the experience of a person; and, his own interpretation of it. And, that calls for her/ his unique creative genius, imagination, enterprise and individuality as an artist. It is not about how the world appears to one and all, but how the artist experiences and visualizes it.

The Chitrasutra says; the concern of the artist should not be to just faithfully reproduce the forms around him. It suggests that the artist should try to look beyond the tangible world, the beauty of form that meets the eye. He should lift that veil and look within. The artist’s vision should reach beyond “the phenomenal world of separated beings and objects that blind the reality beyond”.

What is expressed need not be a replica of the day-to-day objects and experiences. It should be aesthetically beautiful, in its own way; and, it should be able to communicate with the receptive connoisseur. Abhinavagupta remarked that a creation in art is the expression of a feeling that is freed from localized distinctions; it is the generalization (Sadharanikarana) of a particular feeling. It comes into being through the creative genius (prathibha) of the artist.

This is particularly true in the case of Dance (Natya-dharmi- stylized movements and expressions) and painting (Bhava – techniques to draw out the inner world of the subject).

Even in the case of Drama, it is said, ‘Theater is a practice of artistic expression and communication’. Abhinavagupta makes a distinction between the world of drama (Nātyadharmī) and the real but ordinary life (Lokadharmī). The daily experiences are different from the aesthetic experiences. The relation between the actor and the audience during a performance is out of the ordinary.

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Art – forms

The Chitrasutra says, “Anything be it beautiful or ugly, dignified or despicable, dreadful or of a pleasing appearance, deep or deformed, object or non-object, whatever it be, could be transformed in to Rasa, by an artist’s imagination and skill”.

Such transformation of a concept or an idea into cognizable well structured forms could be called Art or Art-expression. The varied shapes it assumes, depending upon the medium that it employs, gives rise to different Art-forms. Following the principle stated by sage Mahidasa; the more evolved such a form is, the more manifest or recognizable or better defined it becomes. That is how, each Art-form branches out into well cultivated individualized sub-forms; each with its own characteristic modes of presentation, ethos and appeal.

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The Art and its concepts are, rather, amorphous (Amurta); not having a specified concrete form (Murti). It, therefore, needs a medium through which it can emerge.  It might assume different forms depending upon its medium of expression. For instance; sounds are the medium of songs and music; so are the lines and colours for painting. And, for the art of dancing, the body-movements, the gestures and facial expressions are the essential instruments. Such mediums of expressions also define the ways or ‘forms’ in which the artist’s emotions, imagination and excellence could be displayed. Had there been no variety in these mediums of expression, there would not have been varieties of Art-forms.

As said earlier, an artist in the Indian tradition is considered as the creator. He is regarded as an earthly representation of Vishvakarman; the deity of the creative power; the supreme artist who brought all things into existence.

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An artist, on earth, creates Art by transforming a given object of the world into a thing of beauty. The voice is given; and, melody is created. The language is given; and, poetry is created. The lines and colors are given; and, forms are created. And, so on. Thus, transformations are taking place, all the time, in the creation of newer modes of Art forms.

Thus, an artist is one who strives to express through her/his chosen form of art. The medium of expression that the artist chooses would also decide and regulate the skill or the faculty of expression that she/he would need to possess, develop and hone it to, almost, near-perfection. That would, consequently, enable the artist to possess the corresponding bodily efficiency, the knowledge and the proficiency to express his/her feelings and thoughts.

Sound

If the medium of expression is sound, the artist may use voice and express her/his art in the form of music. Such an artist is then called as a singer. Apart from learning the theoretical knowledge (Lakshana), imbibing the practical skill (Lakshya), the singer would also have to work on improving the voice-culture and the ways of presentation.

And, for the same medium of sound, another artist might, instead, use her/his palms and fingers. or breath or whatever, to play on a musical instrument. The artist is then known as an instrumentalist. The instrumentalist, according to the demands of the chosen instrument, needs to develop a certain level of competence and skill in playing it.

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Poetry

For any artist, either as a musician or a painter or poet, there is an inexhaustible richness and diversity in the world we live in. And, there is also abundant freedom to experience and to express in countless innovative ways. And, that freedom is not something  that is given  to him by someone else; it is his own inborn genius.

Every notion can be expressed in infinite number of forms. One has access to the largest possible number of variations. The virtue of freedom , here, lies  in  choosing and employing the most appropriate of them all. That again , calls for the mastery over ones medium of expression – be it language , sounds or lines and colors. 

As regards poetry; it is also considered as a distinct art expression – Kavya kala. Poetry is a unique form of knowledge (Vidya), an art or a skill. It combines in itself, the virtues of countless variations in the wonders of speech (ukti vaichitrya), delighting the heart of a responsive listener (sahrudaya- hrdaya ranjana), It also reveals the ceaseless mysteries of varieties of experiences (anubhuti) and thought processes (vichara vividyata).

Abhinavagupta muses: what is this ukti-vaichitryam (kimidam-uktivaicitryam?); and; responds by saying: it is the ever renewing (nava-navonvesha) wonder in speech that arises not only from the novelty of descriptions, but also, indeed, from the novelty of the object of utterance as well – uktirhi vācya-viśea-pratipādi vacanam / tad vaicitrye katha na vācya vaicitryam

Hemachandra Suri (late 11th century), a Jain scholar and author of Kavya-anushasana, a work on poetics, says: a poet endowed with the power of creative imagination (Pratibha), rearranges his world according to his wish. He has a vision. And, that vision is the power of unraveling, intuitively, both the reality and the idealism underlying the manifold material world and its aspects.

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Poetry and painting

The painter and the poet have much in common.  Conventionally the painter  deals with forms, moods and their representations in lines and colors . And, the poet is more immersed in the world of concepts, ideas, doubts and queries often tending to be philosophical. Both symbolize their emotions, sensations and ideas through concrete images and words;, each in his own manner.

Bhartrhari compares the communication through language (by use of sentences) to creation of a painting. Bhartrhari describes the painter as going through three stages when he paints a picture : “ when an artist wishes to paint a figure of a man, he first visualizes the object and its spirit as a composite unit  ; then , as of a figure having parts; and, thereafter, gradually, in a sequence , he paints it on the surface of a cloth or whatever”.

That is to say; a painter conceives a picture in his mind; and, thereafter gives its parts a substance on the canvass by using variety of strokes, different colors, varying shades etc. Which means; an artist paints the picture in parts though he visualizes it as a single image. The viewer of the painting, rightly, also takes in, absorbs the picture and its spirit as a whole, as an integral unit; and , he  does not look for individual strokes, shades etc or the permutation of such details that went into making the picture.  

The same could be said of a poem and its individual words.The poetry and painting have much in common.It is said; poetry is picture in words; and, painting is poetry with form.

But , at the same time , the two Art-forms have their individual characteristics. Painting is a static object in space in front of us, allowing our eyes to roam over it at our will, in any manner. The poem, on the other hand, is an ordered sequence. It unfolds progressively in time and space.  And, at the same time, the poem is also an illustration. The painting and poem are, thus, complementary; but, not in identical terms.

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Painting and sculpture

According to the Vishnudharmottara, the Shilpa (sculpture) and Chitra (painting) are closely related to Nritya (dance) They all  are based on a system of medians (sutras), measures (maanas), postures of symmetry (bhangas)   and asymmetry (abhanga, dvibhanga and tribhanga); and on the sthanas (positions of standing, sitting, and reclining). The concept of perfect symmetry is present in Shilpa and Chitra as in Nritya; and that is indicated by the term Sama, equipoise.

But, making a sculpture is infinitely harder than making a painting. That is because; painting as a two-dimensional form, can communicate;  and, can articulate space, distance, time and the more complex ideas in way that is easier than in sculpture.

The inconvenient realities of the three dimensional existence restrict the fluidity and eloquence of the sculpture. It is almost not possible to depict, directly,   in a sculptural panel the time of the day or night – darkness, evening, twilight or bright light etc.. That difficulty also applies to depiction of colors (color, in fact, is not a medium directly compatible with sculpting). And, it is also not easy to bring out the differences between a dead body and a sleeping person, particularly if the two are placed side by side.  The sculptor – artist (shilpi) will have to resort to some other clever suggestions to bring out the differences. That depends on the ingenuity of the artist. 

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Dance

When we come to Dance and its forms, the medium of expression is the dancer’s body. The precise movements of hands, face, eyes, feet and body positions; the gestures; and, aesthetic expressions that are put forth, are indeed, the modes its art-expression. There is a complete physical, mental harmony and emotional involvement with the dancer’s performance.

Thus, for a dancer, her/his body is the instrument. The knowledge and skill that the dancer gained through the long years of hard work, pursued with discipline and devotion, are manifested through the rhythmic body-movements, meaningful and expressive gestures.

As said earlier, Art (Kala) stands not only for what is ultimately expressed; but also for the way it is expressed.  The same is the case with dance also. What is presented through body-movements, gestures and expressions is called Dance. Similarly, the ‘processes’ and the ‘manners’ in which it is expressed are also called as Dance. The former meaning refers to a dance-item or a dance-production. However, it is the latter meaning that has gradually given birth to various dance-forms.

In other words; just as other Art forms, the Dance also has two aspects: what is expressed; and, the second, the way or the process it is expressed. The ‘outer’ form of art is the means to approach the beauty and purpose of its inner meaning. Accordingly, the various artistic processes by which dance-items are created by the artists; as also, the varied manners in which those dance-items are presented, has  , over a period, led to the birth of several dance-forms.

At a given level, a particular dance-form could be described as an entity, which has its own unique characteristics that are intrinsic to it. This is what distinguishes one Dance form from the other; and, lends its special appeal.

Such varieties of Dance-forms might have come about due to factors and influences, such as: historical, social and cultural etc. However, what, truly, makes a Dance-form exclusive, lending it a distinct character and charm; and, that which sets it apart from other forms,  is the dedication of the generations of artists – teachers and learners alike – who have striven to nurture its vitality, safeguard its purity and to enhance its creative  ingenuity .

And, once a well developed Dance-form establishes its identity, it acquires an eminent status within the art- community; and, also enjoys a long-lasting relationship with the society, at large.

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Convergence of Art-forms

In the Vishnudharmottara , the sage Markandeya explains to King Vajra, the interdependence of various art-forms ; and, takes him , step by step, from learning to make sculptures, the art of image-making ; to painting; to Dance; to instrumental music; to vocal music; composing, songs, poetry and prose; to literature , languages, grammar , logic, figures of speech; to aesthetic experience ; to theatrical arts etc.

That emphasized the convergence of all types of art-forms.  And, asserts that, Dance, music, painting, sculpture, linguistics, and grammar etc., are not isolated and mutually exclusive.

In any case, be it music, painting, poetry or dance, the person; her/his knowledge; and physical-artistic skills, in a way, all turn into the ‘instruments’ of expression of Art and an Art-form. But, while the Art or Art-form might be objective; the forms of its expressions are highly subjective.

That is to say; there are countless varieties and modes of expression, as each artist brings in to play her/his own ingenuity and creative genius. Hence, the expression of the same Art-form – both, in its process and in the manner of expressing it, as well as in its outcome – differs from artist to artist. That is how, for example, a song rendered by one singer might appeal differently than the same song sung by another singer. Similarly, the same theme, when it is choreographed and performed by different theater-artists, has differing degrees of success and appeal. In this way, this dynamic relation that binds the Art, the Art-form and the Artist together,  holds true in the case of  all Art-forms across the world and all artists across all times.

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Art experience

In the artistic process, where presentations are  made with the aid of various kinds of dramatic features such as Abhinayas and  synthetic creations  ,  we are moving from the gross  and un-stylized movements of  daily life towards more subtle forms of expressions and experiences; we move from individualized experiences to general representations; and from multiplicity to unity.

Its object is to elicit an emotional response, the viewer’s experience. And, it finds its fulfillment in the heart of the viewer, who derives Ananda the joy of aesthetic experience, the Rasa.

A work of art  is not a mere inert object; but, it is so rich in meaning that  it is capable of evoking manifold emotions and transforming the aesthete. A true aesthetic object, Abhinavagupta declares, not merely stimulates the senses but also ignites the imagination of the viewer. It can communicate through suggestions; and, evoke layers of meanings and emotion. Such artistic pleasure must not, however, bind the viewer; but, must liberate him from his limited confines of place, time and ego (self). Thus, he says, art experience is not mundane; it is alaukika, beyond the ordinary.

Thus, an Art-experience is a dynamic process that bridges the art-object and the connoisseur.

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Art is One

The Natya of Natyashastra encompasses drama, dance and music. At the time the Natyashastra was compiled, the arts of poetry, dance, music and drama; and even painting, and sculpture were not viewed as separate and individualized streams of art forms.

For instance; the ‘Music’ that the Natyashastra talks about is, indeed, the Samgita. The term Samgita, here, is a composite art-form, comprising vocal (Gitam) and instrumental (Vadyam) music; as also Nrtyam the dance movements or dance (Gitam, Vadyam, tatha Nrtyam trayam Samgitam uccyate).  The last one, Nrtyam, the dance, is composed of all those three elements.

It was only later that each of these developed into specialized Art-forms. And, even the components of the Drama of the Natyashastra-times later evolved and grew apart, assuming independent identities, such as: Opera, Poetic-drama, realistic plays and so on.

Thus, the Natyashastra presents an integral vision of art, which blossomed in multiplicity. All art expressions were viewed as vehicles of beauty providing both pleasure and education, through refinement of senses and sense perceptions.

The Vishnudharmottara also observes: One who does not know the laws of painting (Chitra) can never understand the laws of image-making (Shilpa); and, it is difficult to understand the laws of painting (Chitra) without any knowledge of the technique of dancing (Nrtya); and, that, in turn, is difficult to understand Nrtya without a thorough knowledge of the laws of instrumental music (vadya); But, the laws of instrumental music cannot be learnt without a deep knowledge of the art of vocal music (gana).

That is to say; the arts of Music->Dance->painting->sculpture are inter related.

Thus, in these texts, Art, essentially, is One. It is the common substratum. As it evolved, grew rich in content; and, with the passage of time, the Art branched into numerous Art-forms. And, each of those Art-forms, in turn, developed into specialized streams of art-creations.

That underlines the fact that Art has a fundamental unity of its own; and, that unity implies continuity, with change, while retaining its essential identity. The developments that take place during the course of its evolution; and, the varied forms it acquires, in the process, are neither unrelated nor isolated events. They all spring from a common substratum.

The principle that is involved here is based in the dictum that diversity essentially pre-supposes an underlying unity (abedha-purvaka hi bhedah).  In other words, it says, where there is difference or division, there must be a fundamental identity underneath it; else, each cannot relate to the other; and, each object in the world would be independent of, or remain unconnected to every other thing in existence.

This concept provides the foundation for treating all forms of Art as emanating from a single source. The various forms and levels of art, from the most subtle to the tangible, are, therefore, treated as different facets of a unitary art-system.

The entire process of the evolution of Art  resembles the imagery of the ancient mythical inverted tree – which the earlier Indian texts refer to so often – hanging down, with its roots in the air and with its branches spread downward (urdhva mulam, adah shakham). Its roots are ancient; but, its growing shoots, leaves, buds, flowers and fruits are ever green, tender and fresh. The roots of our art are in the very distant past.  Though those roots are no longer visible to us, the branches and extensions of those roots in vivid forms that have come down to us, are very alive; and, its fruits are within our experience.

In other words; what we call as Art is essentially One. But, depending upon the mediums and instruments chosen for expression, this essential Art gets molded into various forms. These Art –forms, born from that single essence, are patterned into numerous distinct expressions, according to the artists who work with varying mediums and Art-forms.

Therefore, growth, change and adaptation are essential aspects of a living organism, called Art. It is distinguished by continuity with change; as also by its diversity and creativity. That is the genius of the Indian traditions.

mandala4

Lalita Kala and Upayogi kala

The earlier Indian texts, such as Kama Sutra, make a mention of sixty-four types of Kalas (Chatus-shasti Kala). These include:

: – arts such as singing (Gayakatvam), dancing (Nrtyam), painting (Chitra-kriya), drama (Natya), poetry (Kavya-kala) etc;

: – branches of knowledge such as:  Grammar (Vyakarana); meter (Chhandas); logic (Nyaya); metals (Dhatuvada) or skillful management of state affairs (Rajyabhara);

: – practical arts (bahya-kala) such as: personal makeup (Vishesha-Kacchedya), costumes (Aharya); applying cosmetics, perfumes (Gandhavaadam); cooking (Suuda-karma) etc;

: – secret arts (abhyantara-kala) like erotic devices and knowledge of sexual arts (Kama kala) ;

: – crafts such as : as pottery (Mrutt-kriya), carpentry (Daaru-kriya), weaving (Ambara-Kriya), jewelry-making (mani-karma), garland-making or flower-arrangement (Pushpastaran), and so on; and,

: – dexterous skills such as swordsmanship (Khadga-vidya), horse riding (Asva-Kausalam) , riding chariots (Ratha-vidya) or even thievery (chora karma)  etc.

All these and such other arts, crafts and skills are regarded as art expressions. But, these are classified under two broad heads: Lalita-kala or Charu-kala (fine arts); and, Upayogi kala (crafts and skills of utility).

Many of the art-forms are categorized as Upayogi, because they serve a purpose; fulfill a certain need; and, are of practical utility. Take for instance; the crafts such as carpentry, fashion-designing, flower-arrangement and such others, which serve the consumers’ needs and the demands of the society. And, the diversity of such works also generates consumption patterns. And, in many cases, these utilities are practical necessities in the day-to-day living of the common people. And, the producers of these articles depend on their art/craft, as a means of their livelihood. The Upayogi kala is thus a part of the dynamics of life and living.

Another dimension of the issue is the status-image of the consumers that these objects tend to project; and, define her/his relationship with the society. For instance, the wearer of a piece of jewelry or a designer-costume makes a certain statement about herself; her taste, her economic capability; her social status; and, how she desires to be looked upon by those around her. It is, in a way, a natural extension of her identity; or defining who she is.  And, that also helps the wearer to construct a certain relationship with the society.

Similarly, the tasteful furniture, elegant crockery and classy accessories etc., do project an impressive image of the user’s sense of aesthetics, social class and economic power.

*

The Lalita-kala, on the other hand, has a more subtle relationship with the society. The term Lalita suggests something that is playful, delicate and graceful. Thus, Lalita-Kala is one that delights; and, ushers in a sense of beauty (Charu) and grace into life.

Lalita Kala is said to be distinct from the Upayogi kala, inasmuch as it is non-utilitarian, in a limited sense; and, it does not provide material objects or articles of daily necessities. It is, mostly, a matter of individual taste, choice, and attitude to life. It, therefore, enjoys a greater degree of the freedom of expression.

 Ideally, an artist should be under no obligation to please anyone, but himself. In a Utopian world, the artists who pursue these fine-art-forms need not be bound by the requirements, norms and demands of the society. In an ideal world, the acceptance or otherwise of her/his creation, could, plausibly, be left, with some disdain, to the whim of the onlookers. And, whatever be that, it should, normally, not greatly affect the artist.  But, that very rarely happens.

*

Unlike Upayogi kala, the Lalita kala might not produce tangible, common place objects of day-to-day use.  But, the fine-arts do bring in its own unique adorable values that render life more meaningful and enjoyable.  For instance; the soulful music brings along a certain tranquil joy, beauty and loveliness into ones heart and mind. And, Dance, which reflects the charm, delight, rhythm and harmony in all this existence, does enliven one to the splendor that surrounds us.

*

Apart from bringing joy, beauty and harmony to an individual’s life, the fine arts and performing arts also help in binding the society together in a common aesthetic experience.

Further, an Art-form forges relationships between the artists who create and develop it, and the common people of the society who, ultimately, receive it. This applies both to the Lalita-kala (fine arts) and to the Upayogi-kala (utilitarian) arts. Depending upon a particular art-form and the function it performs, its relation with the society also varies; and, such relation is categorized according to each ones’ perception of it.

Having said that; let me also mention that the line separating these two categories – Lalita and Upayogi – is rather very thin. And, these two, often, overlap. The differentiating Art from craft is rather recent; and, it is rather futile.

For instance; an artist who paints should necessarily have some knowledge of the use of brushes, colors, as also the skill to apply them. And, on the other side; a jewel-smith, who develops and uses tools that mold and give a variety of shapes to metals, should be gifted with refined artistic sensibility, to produce delicate, attractive and brilliant pieces of jewelry. He should be able to imagine various aesthetic designs; and, visualize the beauty solidified in the form of jewellery, say a necklace or a bangle etc.

Thus,  be it an art-form  or an artifact ; it , essentially, is an artistic invention , inspired  out of human ingenuity  and creative genius; and, is intimately related  to human nature , behavior and aspirations.

mandala4

Effects of Time and Technology

With the passage of time; and, with numerous artists exploring various dimensions of wide-ranging art-forms, these forms have grown and expanded into newer and more sophisticated art-creations.

In the present day, the individual artists have the liberty and privilege to choose their theoretical positions. They can twist, bend and wield their newly acquired medium of expression in any manner they love to do. They can carry forward their tradition; or innovate and leap on to modern or post-modern technology as a tool for their art expressions. They might even attempt to fuse the two together. Sometimes, their creations might have unpredictable impact on the viewers or listeners. 

 In the process, the content or the repertoire of each Art-form has grown in terms of quantity, quality, as well as in their elegance.  Consequently, they have become part of the ongoing tradition (parampara); and, gained acceptability both among the connoisseurs and the art-lovers, at large.  And, each well nurtured Art-form has become an intimate part of a society’s culture.

Further, each generation of Visual artists, musicians, writers and performers, in their creative pursuits, deem it their responsibility to preserve the integrity of the Art they inherited; and, hand it over to the next generation, in its purity.  Thus, the formation, growth and development of an Art-form is not an event or an incident; but, is a gradual process spread across generations of artists ; and , of enlightened teachers and ardent  students.

*

In the very ancient days, for the gentlemen of leisure, fine arts like music, dance painting and sculpture were the source of one’s own pleasure and amusement (vaiharika-silpa or vinodasthana). It is said; Nagarakas (city-dwellers), connoisseurs of art, accomplished courtesans, painters, and sculptors among others studied standard texts on painting. Such widespread studies naturally brought forth principles of art criticisms as in alankara-sastra

But, there were also several professionals who practiced these arts and art-forms as a craft, the main stay of their life. Kautilya deemed it a responsibility of the State to support all such art-masters, who spread knowledge among youngsters.

Another very telling effect of the passage of time; and, the effects it has brought upon some of the Art-forms is that those who purse arts as a leisure-activity are far less in number than those who have turned their art-pursuit  into professions. For instance; singing, dancing, painting, song-writing, acting or even sculpting etc., are now careers. And, those practicing such art-forms are known as professional- artists. With the change of times; and, with the growing social demands and economic pressures, a distinct class of such professional-artists has crystallized into recognizable groups, each with its own ethos and attitudes.

Whatever might be the past, one should recognize that these dedicated artists, in their own right, are well trained, qualified specialists in their discipline. And, they do constitute an important and a legitimate dimension of the cultural life of the society. There is absolutely no justification in taking a dim view on their professional tag; they indeed are Artists, in essence.

Their unique talents are utilized by various other trades and services (say, films, promotions, decorations of various sorts etc.) They render their expert service to the society; and, their professional achievements are recognized and appreciated by conferring awards and accolades.  The thin line separating Lalita-kala and Upayogi kala has almost completely faded out. And, that has to be accepted as one of the characteristics of the times we live in (yuga-dharma).

art form

Art and Technology

The relation between Art and technology has always been complex. And, at the same time, there is an affinity between the two.

Technology, broadly, is a human endeavor to shape, re-shape its physical environment to solve certain problems; or even to go beyond. And, Art is an act of beautifully making and shaping. At every stage in human life, available materials, tools and knowledge were put to use, to search for innovative applications. The degree of sophistication, in each age, went with the advancement in science and technology, at that stage.

The advent of technology and its innovations, it is needless to mention, has exerted a tremendous impact on all forms of art-expressions; and, have brought about transformation in the realm of fine-arts. Technology has also given rise to altogether new art-forms. In some cases, the association of technology with certain fine-art-forms has become highly essential; and is, in fact, inseparable.

One such art-form is photography, whose medium of expression is similar to that of the art of drawing and painting. Their concepts of form, shades and depth are alike. Here, the camera became the indispensable, principle medium of expression (in place of the brush), guided by the photographer’s intelligent understanding of the picture-composition; and, his creative skill in manipulating light, shades and focus.

In its initial stages, photography replaced portrait painting, which only the wealthy could afford. With the spread of the habit of taking photos, even the common people started going to the studios to get themselves photographed; or, hire photographers to take pictures of the auspicious and cultural events in their homes. In due course, photography came to be regarded as a credible Art-form, a pastime as also a craft. Thus, photography is at once a fine art as also a utility-based professional career.

The impact of technology on the visual media is awesome. With the advent of improved technologies, photography has taken astounding strides since its birth during the nineteenth century. In the recent times, the techno-artistic improvisations, in combination with the computer technology has elevated its art-craft and technique to an altogether different level.

Photography, in turn, has given rise to yet another art-form, which is Cinematography. It has brought along with it few more techno-artistic domains such as editing, art-direction, sound-engineering and so on. Further, the computer generated animation movies, in which images or objects are manipulated to appear as moving images, has emerged as the most astounding dynamic medium. It is the most amazing art-form, created with élan and superb artistry, which could not even be thought of in the earlier days.

 [There is also a flip side to this.  With the invasion of mobile phones, photo-video-graph is either for fun or for recording events; most of it being trivial. The persons who record these, as also the Selfies, for sharing on social networks, do not, basically, regard themselves as artists.  It is, at best, an upayogi tool.]

In a way of speaking, the movies* are the present-day equivalents of the Natya (Drama) of the Bharatha’s days; attempting to engage and entertain the audience as best as they can.  Various specialized domains of Art are converging into this media (just as it happened in era of Natyashastra).  Their theatrical performances combine, in themselves, all the elements of the Drama; and, even more. And, here too, as in the ancient days, its Sangita, indeed, is the skillful unison of drama, song, music and dance. It also signifies the Unit’s intense engagement with various forms of craft and art-forms, along with their related technologies in crafting and presenting . At the same time, the business of movie-making has the compulsion to pay serious attention to the commercial aspects of production and marketing.

 [*BTW, the term Films, itself, seems to have become redundant; since, in this digital age, the carbon films are no longer used for recording the actions or the stills.]

game of eternity

Digital age

Now, with the arrival of the digital age, new vistas have opened up.

New media technology offers enormous scope, in terms of self-generating and self-modifying images, texts and sounds etc. Digital world is not bound by the limitations of the material world. You can get all the colors the human eye can see; you can change their vividness and brightness; you can mix and erase them without a trace.

Although digital art is not bound by the rules of traditional art, it often simulates the real; and, renders the whole process more intuitive.  It facilitates the artistic quest for a newer form of beauty and aesthetic experience. It transforms the abstract constructs into completely novel and beautiful reality. And, the entire process of developing the algorithms, by itself, is highly imaginative; and, that too is Art, as per the ancient sages of India.

Art has always been a presentation, representation or reflection of the contemporary ethos.  Artworks are objects of interpretation; and, they are also subjective. Today artists have many more options to give expression to their thoughts, feelings, fantasies, ambitions etc. With the arrival of new technology, Art might become more cerebral in its manifestation; yet, it cannot lose its sensitivity. At the end, it is, essentially, tied to human reaction towards it.

Thus, even in the digital age of new technologies, with all its possibilities of convergence, interactive flows etc., the Art, in essence, still retains its Universal character.

***

As mentioned earlier, all such Art-forms are Lalita and Upayogi Kalas, at the same time. The fusion of art, craft and technology is so intimate and inseparable, complimenting one another, as to make it next to impossible to view each as distinct element in the composition of the final product. Perhaps, these could be called as ‘technology-based-art-forms’.

As you can see from the above, the world of Art is a highly complex entity, not only in terms of its multiplicity of forms and types; but, also in terms of its historical, cultural and technological roots. Yet; though the modes of presentation and the instruments of its execution, over the centuries, have varied greatly, the principle of Art – expression of ideas and emotions  that take birth in human mind; and , its effective communication – have remained the same.

All this again suggests that Art is essentially One; though it has countless forms. It is both the end and the means.

abstract-forms-

In the next part let’s talk about Dance and, Dance-forms, before we come to the texts dealing with the theory and practice of Dance

Continued

In the

Next Part

Sources and References

 

1.A Brief History of Indian Painting

2. http://chitrolekha.com/art-forms-and-dance-forms/  by  Ojasi Sukhatankar

3.Educating Artists for the Future: Learning at the Intersections of Artby Melvin L. Alexenberg

4. http://www.visual-arts-cork.com/art-definition.htm

5. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/60376/13/13_chapter%205.pdf

6. https://ausdance.org.au/articles/details/new-directions-in-Indian-dance

All images are from Internet 

 

 

 
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The Legacy of Chitrasutra- Fifteen – Shri S Rajam – continued

[This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India .

This is the concluding part of a series that attempted to trace the influence of Chitrasutra, the ancient text and its recommended practices, from the days of the Ajanta to the present period.

In the concluding part of this series we admire the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam, perhaps the sole votary of Chitrasutra tradition in the modern times.

The part – One of this article briefly outlined Shri S Rajam’s achievements in the field of music and in the music related arts.

In this concluding article part let’s look at a few of the general principles of the Chitrasutra and Shri Rajam as an artist who brought to life the traditional art style of India.]

 Continued from S Rajam Part One

1.1. The Chitrasutra of Vishnudharmottara, an ancient text dated around sixth century AD, states that one needs to understand music to be a good painter. That might be because the rhythm, fluidity and grace of music have to be transported to painting, in order to make the painting come alive and open its heart to the viewer (sah-hrudaya). That ideal requirement found its fulfilment in Shri S Rajam an eminent musician who is also blessed with a unique gift of creating sublime art works. He practiced both the arts with devotion and dedication over long years of his fruitful life.

1.2. I mentioned earlier that Shri S Rajam has been a true exponent of the Chitrasutra tradition in the modern era. Let’s get to know a bit more about Shri S Rajam’s art, mostly through his own words and pictures; and about his inspiration and guidance..

2. The Early years

2.1. Rajam took to art quite early in his life. By the time he was about fifteen years of age (when he was in Eighth grade) he was sketching fairly well. His father, Sundaram Ayyar as also his friends and relatives who too were artists, encouraged Rajam to hone his skills. He thereafter discontinued formal schooling in his senior year in High school to join the Government School of Arts and Crafts in Madras (1935). He appears to have had a great time in the Art School. He not only had a brilliant academic career but also enjoyed the friendship and support of his friends and teachers.  The Principal was so impressed by Rajam’s talent, that he allowed the boy to complete the six-year course in just four years.

Later in his life, when he was in his eighties, Shri Rajam while talking about his technique of water-wash said, “I learnt it all from my teacher Shri V. Doraisamy Achari”. Rajam’s Art – school-mates included KCS Panicker, Dhanapal and Kodur Ramamurthy who also flowered into great artists.

3. The quest

3.1. The young Rajam’s visit to the caves of Ajanta was a turning point in his life; it had a profound effect on him; and changed his life and artistic career forever. The ancient art of Ajanta brought about a sea change in Rajam’s outlook of art; his style of depiction in painting; and his attitude to life in general. He realized, painting was not just a technique of putting paint over a surface; it was a way of understanding and expressing your emotions about the life around you; it was a way of looking beyond the forms and appearances that meet the eye; and above all,   it was about giving expression to a deeply spiritual experience that springs from the artists very inner being. The practice of art, he said, was a Sadhana, to be pursued with dedication and reverence.

3.2. The traditional style of the ancient murals at Ajanta so overwhelmed S Rajam    that he suspended his painting activity for a while and got immersed in search of a style of his own that would at once be creative, traditional and soulful. He did eventually, after years of practice, succeed in his search and came up with a unique style that answered his quest and prayer.

Mr. Lewis Thompson (1909-1949)  of England — a poet turned philosopher and Sanyasin  – was also instrumental in Rajam adopting the Oriental school approach in his painting techniques. “I owe it  to  Lewis Thompson who came to Sri Ramana Ashram, where I used to sing occasionally. He was an English poet, deeply interested in Indian philosophy, ten years my senior. He used to write his verses in tiny books. He was responsible for my development and growth in Indian art. He moulded me. He would say, “Art must represent nature, not reproduce it. That’s why you see that Akbar is bigger than the horse in the miniatures. Learn perspective but ignore it once you have mastered it.. The size of the figures depends on their relative importance. “

The following is a brief note on Mr. Thompson.

[ Lewis Levien Thompson was born on January 13, 1909 in Fulham, England. He received a good conventional education in private schools, despite the modest circumstances of his family.  He was a good singer and accomplished pianist. In his teens, Lewis developed a fascination for the scriptures of the East. He taught himself the Eastern classics, in translations. He also read extensively in anthropology and psychoanalysis. He was greatly influenced by the French poet of the symbolist school Rimbaud (1854-1891) and his wish to discover the soul and the truth.

Like many western intellectuals of the early twentieth century who travelled East in search of spiritual wisdom, Lewis Thompson too abandoned his attachments and allegiances; and plunged into the depths of Eastern philosophy and spirituality. He departed from England when he was 23 years young (July 26, 1932) and lived in India for the remaining seventeen years of his short life. While in India, he wandered the country living off of what others would give him in the form of food and lodging. Thompson was not interested in finding a guru; but he came into close contact with various luminaries, including Sri Ramana Maharishi, Anandamayi Ma, Aurobindo, and Krisha Prem.

During his wandering years in India, Thompson practiced severe self-discipline of an iterant monk and produced some hundred-odd poems; an endless stream of aphorisms; maintained journals over his life in India as a marga, a spiritual discipline; wrote a large number of letters, and various miscellanea.

On June 19, 1949, Lewis Thompson was found wandering dazed and penniless by the River Ganges. Taken to a small room, he languished for two days, writing the last entry in his journal and his last poem, Black Flower, before lapsing into a coma. He died alone in Benares on June 21, 1949.

His journal and a collection of his poems Black Sun were published posthumously during 2001, with an introduction by Richard Lannoy. Lewis Thompson’s work is deeply spiritual, lush with Hindu imagery; and is sensitive, mystical and erotic. He was later described as ‘one of the most original, brave, brilliant and prescient of the pioneers of our contemporary mystical Renaissance’; and,’ as one of the century’s most intrepid spiritual explorers and a ravishing mystical poet’

http://www.richardstodart.com/Lewis%20Thompson.html ]

3.3. It is said; the curious scratch the surface, and, it is only the resolute that overcome the obstacles and delve deeper into learning of enduring value. The quest is always more challenging than curiosity but it surely is rewarding. Shri Rajam’s quest for a unique idiom and a style of expression took him far and wide into ancient caves and temples spread across the country and into the study of varied forms of ancient art-creations, such as the murals, frescos, miniatures, Chola bronzes etc. He spent week after week in the caves of Ajanta, Ellora, Amaravathi, Sittannavasal and Sigiriya (Sri Lanka); as also in the ancient temples of South India and Orissa.

S Rajam at Mahabalipuram

3.4. He took thousands of photographs of the sculptures and the bronzes. He was particularly fascinated by the three-dimensional comeliness and grace of the bronzes. He poured over his photographs and turned them into countless sketches and drawings, learning the art and skill of translating his observation into visual poetry; and coining fresh idioms, phrases and similes of art-expressions to stamp his individuality.

3.5.   He learnt to visualize his design clearly before giving it a form.  “I contemplate on the photograph for many days,” he says, “and form a clear picture in my mind. Then, much later, I transfer the image to the surface of the painting”.Thus, imagination, observation and the expressive force of rhythm became the essential features of his paintings. Through sustained practice,he learnt to make his pictures come alive with rhythm and expression.

In addition , he also studied the ancient texts on painting and sculpture such as the Chitrasutra of Vishnudharmottara, the Kashyapa shilpa sutra etc, along with the epics, puranans and countless dhyana-shlokas which describe precisely the form , appearance , countenance , proportions and the nature of each deity. These texts became his guiding influence; and helped to enhance the authenticity to his depictions.

He also read extensively on the contemporary art-historians and scholars such as Ananada Coomaraswamy, Stella Kramrisch, Gopinatha Rao and others. These helped Rajam as an artist to gain a broader perspective of Indian art.

shiva skanda

In 1939, Rajam met Sri K.V.Jagannathan – the editor of “Kalaimagal”. Rajam’s first published work depicting a Guru and his disciple appeared in Kalaimagal the same year. It was the first of the many that would follow.

His illustrations on the themes based on literature, mythology and philosophy became a regular feature in Kalaimagal and other published works of Sri K.V. Jagannathan. It was a matter of time that his works were sought by other publications such as Dinamani, Kalki etc. The special issues like Deepavali Malar gave him ample space to explore his subjects in depth.

4. An unusual Maverick

4.1. The initial years of Shri S Rajam’s art-career were stressful; and acceptance did not come easy. He was branded a maverick, perhaps in the sense that he painted like no one else did.  And, not many shared his philosophical perspective on art. He was criticized, mostly, for not belonging to a school of painting. But, that did not deter him in the least. He did not succumb to the trend of the day just for the whim of it. He was convinced that his style was authentic, creative and rooted in the tradition of our culture. He asserted he was not a ‘copier’, but one who painted in his own way. He said, “My art is in representing nature and not in reproducing it”.  It is our fortune Shri Rajam stood his ground. Since then, he has been composing his own one-of-a-kind masterpieces for more than six decades.  And, today his classical genius is not merely well accepted but revered as an icon of creativity and grace rich in tradition.

4.2. Even so, Shri Rajam is disappointed with the drift of the times. “Hindu heritage and tradition is ancient and priceless,” he laments, “but devotional art is dying in India and almost extinct. Unfortunately, we Indians ape the Westerners. This attitude wounds me a lot. In tradition, only good things should remain; the bad should be ignored and not continued. This is tradition. The art schools in India have failed to bring forward tradition…., Artistic creation is lacking in arts schools. The training imparted is purely technique oriented, and this by itself is not of much use.”

4.3. His message to the young and budding artists of India is this: “Study scriptures to improve your knowledge. Be modern; there is no problem with that. But know the beauty and elegance of your culture.”

5. Shri Rajam’s art and the Chitrasutra

5.1. Outlook

(i ). While talking about his approach to  art, Shri Rajam said,”  my art is not, nor was it ever meant to be, realistic or photo-like replicas of life, but rather intuitive perception  of life”. He asserts that in his paintings and line drawings, he attempts to imprison the important moments of the subject’s life to help the contemplative spirit of the observer.His pictures might depict the resemblance but, more importantly, as he said, they aim to bring out the essence or the soul of the subject.

(ii ) . When Shri Rajam said that, he was not merely making a statement but also was echoing the prescriptions of the Chitrasutra which stressed that the concern of the artist should not be to just faithfully reproduce the forms around him. The artist should try to look beyond the tangible world; and beyond the beauty of form that meets the eye. He should lift that veil and look within. The Chitrasutra suggested, the artist should look beyond “The phenomenal world of separated beings and objects that blind s the vision of the reality”.

(iii ). The Chitrasutra emphasizes that art expression is not about how the world appears to one and all, but how the artist would experience and visualize it. Art is an expression of his unique creative genius, imagination, enterprise and individuality as an artist. Its purpose is to present that which is within us; and to evoke an emotional response (the rasa) in the viewer’s heart.

(iv). Shri Rajam’s art creations are excellent illustrations of these principles of the Chitrasutra in the modern times. In his mission, Shri Rajam followed the approach of the classical Indian Art rather that of the west where art directly reproduces the nature and its physical form as it appears to one and all.

5.2. Abstract & Symbolism

(i ). While explaining the special features of traditional Indian art, Shri Rajam in his interviews and articles stresses the point that the traditional Indian art relies more on symbolism than on realism. He says, an artist’s power arises from observation translated into visual poetry through similes and suggestions. The eloquent expression of a painting, that is, its Bhava, according to him, consists in drawing out the inner world of the subject. It takes a combination of many factors to articulate the Bhava of a painting; say , through eyes, facial expression, stance , gestures by hands and limbs, surrounding nature, animals , birds and other human figures. Even the rocks, water places and plants (dead or dying or blooming or laden) can be employed to bring out the Bhava. These aspects gain greater importance in narrative paintings, which demand special skills to depict the dramatic effects and reactions of the characters, in its progression from frame to frame.

(ii ). The concept of the abstract and with it a whole set of symbols and symbolisms, that Shri Rajam was discussing, were also the concern of the Chitrasutra. The text suggested the means to render the absolute and the undefined into tangible visual forms.  It said, the objects in nature could be visualized or personified endowing each with a distinct personality in order to illustrate the essence of their character. Accordingly, in the traditional Indian art, the elements of natures like rivers, sun, moon etc   were personified, bringing out their virtues and powers through eloquent symbolisms.  Birds and flowers, trees and creepers too were depicted with a loving grace and tenderness. In certain cases, idyllic nature scenes were created just to convey a sense of joy and wonder.

Shri Rajam’s art abounds in such symbolisms.

5.3. The preparation

(i). Shri Rajam talks about the way he prepares before commencing on a painting. It is highly interesting. His approach is methodical, thorough and a classic example for others to follow. He studies every available material about the subject, such as the epics, scriptures, the legends; and, archived documents, earlier paintings and photographs in case of personalities. He visualizes his design, contemplates on it and lets it sink into him. He explains “The subject should be visualized with absolutely clarity in the mind’s eye, before setting pencil to paper. I let the preliminary sketch ‘sit’ for a few days, then review, making corrections and changes. Initially I color the background using a soft wash technique originating from the Santhiniketan School, a special feature in all my paintings. Then I define the main figure through light and shade, with highlights in white. I aim to bring out the grace of the human form and poses, for example tribhanga, with the drapery serving to accentuate form as exemplified in Buddhist sculpture.”

shiva nrtta2

(ii ) . Even to this day, after nearly seventy years of painting, Shri Rajam visualizes his design after careful study and research into the subject; and only then attempts to draw. He says, “I form a clear picture in my mind. Then, much later, I transfer the image to the surface of the painting.”

5.4. Rekhas, the lines

(i) . The Chitrasutra regards the lines – Rekhas – that articulate the form of the figures as the real strength and virtue of a painting; and the ornamentation and colouring as its decorative aspects. Chitrasutra favours employing graceful, steady, smooth and free flowing  lines. The Chitrasutra does not favour straight or harsh or angular or uneven lines. Its masters valued the effects best captured by least number of lines. The economy of lines and simplicity of expression were regarded as the sign of the artist’s maturity.

 (ii) . These too are the characteristics of Shri Rajam’s paintings.  The first thing you notice in his works is the strength of the lines that defines precisely the form of the figure. He says, “The line is the life of a painting. I developed my own style, taking from the model of our ancient culture.” He explains that in the oriental traditions, the lines – the Rekhas- are of prime importance unlike in an oil painting. It is the lines that define the substance and form of an oriental painting. He describes his style as closest to Shantiniketan style, emphasizing the lasya – lyrical – aspects.

[The Shantiniketan School of art, sphere headed by the renowned artist Abanindranath Tagore, was a revivalist movement that was started by around 1905. It strived to revive the traditional Indian techniques of art and art styles, deriving inspiration, mainly, from the murals of Ajanta. Its style was, basically, a refined and harmonious blending of simple beauty of expression brought to life by graceful lines and an essential Indianness. The Shantiniketan art done mostly in watercolours depicted Indian religious, mythological, historical and literary subjects. Its style, endowed with the beauty and vigour of its lines, sense of proportion, grace and charm soon became an authentic idiom of Indian art expression.

Shri S Rajam derived inspiration from this tradition too. ]

(iii). The lasya – the lyrical – aspect which Shri Rajam was talking about refers to delineating beautiful figures and their delicate inner feelings through graceful, steady, smooth and free flowing lines that capture their essence. His line-drawings are full of grace and vitality. The delicate touches and intimate details that he deftly adds enliven his figures.

(iii) Following the tradition of the Chitrasutra , Shri Rajam has depicted nature as in summer; Rainy season; Autumn ; early winter ; and, winter :

SummerRainRain-Thunder

AutumnEarly WinterWinter

(iv) Shri Rajam has also sketched some rather ‘non-traditional’paintings :

Amorphous Man with Red CloudsTrimurthy

Moonlit Mountainscape with YogiSmall Temple in Himalayan Foothills

 

5.5. Simplicity which is natural and pleasing

(i). Shri Rajam says, he aims to infuse into his paintings a simplicity which is natural and pleasing. He stresses the economy of lines and simplicity of form as central to his approach. It is upon this background, he says, he is able to introduce “personal innovations” into his works. That is the reason; his paintings are a rare blend of traditional styles with his unique touch.

(ii). It is because of that approach you find a natural quality and grace in Shri Rajam’s paintings; they almost seem effortless. The vigor, the strength and the power of a heroic figure are brought to life by the vitality of its lines; not by his fat muscles or his sheer size. With use of shading different parts of the body, it produces three dimensional effects in the images.  Even the demons in his paintings are never muscular or excessively fat. The outlines are strong and very sure; and there is an easy and natural depiction of volume, evidencing a good understanding of the rhythm and the structure of the human body.

(iii). His figures are never rigid and static. Their stances are always suggestive of flowing movements of languid grace and charming rhythm. Their distinctive display of smooth motion and the sense of balance are lovely. The painted figures of the “heroes” present a profound sense of peace and joy even while placed amidst activities and contradictions of life.

Shri Rajam’s works are excellent illustrations of the principles and aspirations of Chitrasutra.

5.6. Colours

(i). Another distinctive feature of Shri Rajam’s works is the use of soft color schemes, uniquely decorated costumes; and delicate, deft cultural “touches” that lend authenticity to the context, period and the status / nature of the subject. He often lets elements drift partially off the canvas. But above all else, there is a flow of curve in all of his designs that projects a certain distinctive grace of smooth motion even in stillness.

(ii). The other is the use of proper colours:  soft and subdued, the lines firm and sinuous and the expressions true to life. The colours, at times contrasting and at times matching are artistically employed to create magical effects. That effect is enhanced by skilful shading of the body-parts; giving them a three dimensional appearance; and providing depth to the picture. These were precisely the principles that Chitrasutra too recommended.

(iii). The Chitrasutra aptly remarks, when a learned and skilled artist paints with golden colour, with articulate and yet very soft lines with distinct and well arranged garments; and graced with beauty, proportion, rhythm and inspiration, then the painting would truly be beautiful.

How very true that is in the case of Shri Rajam..!

5.6. Eyes

The Chitrasutra tradition regarded the eyes as the windows to the soul. And, it said, it is through their expressive eyes the figures in the painting open up their heart and speak eloquently to the viewer. It therefore accorded enormous importance to the delicate painting of the soulful and expressive eyes that pour out the essence of the subject. The lively sets of lustrous pools of eyes continue to influence generations of Indian artists; those eyes are, in fact, a hall mark of Indian art works.

One finds a vindication of these principles in Shri Rajam’s paintings.

5.7. Gods & Goddesses

(i). A lot of figures depicted by Shri S Rajam are of gods, goddesses, sages and demons; as also of the kings, queens and the composers of the bygone eras. His involvement in their creation was total; he not merely researched into their every available detail but also tried to get into their spirit. “Practically speaking, to paint the Gods and Goddesses, you must imagine them aggressively,” says Rajam “There are rigid rules of grammar regarding proportions. Yet, the artist has to assume the freedom to compose his picture according to his aesthetic sense. There may not be a physical resemblance to the subject; but one should surely try to bring out the essential nature of its character.”

(ii). You will, therefore, find in Shri Rajam’s paintings the virtues and powers of the gods and demons made explicit by employing varieties of forms, symbols and abstract visualizations. That artistic liberty, freedom and felicity of expression is a characteristic of classical Indian art, as also of Shri Rajam’s art.  He quotes the text (Chitrasutra) and says, “Rules do not make the painting; it is the artist with a soul and vision who creates the art expressions”.

(iii). Many of his creations have now turned into objects of worship; and adorn the walls of the temples and puja-rooms. That might be because, Shri Rajam’s art awakens the divine presence within us; and we respond to the sublime images brought to us in his art. When that happens, we are filled by grace and there is no space left for base desires and pain: we have become that deity.

Shri Rajam’s art has that magical quality, which brings out the essence of life and the grace that permeate the whole of existence.

5.8. Secular art

Even his secular art is rich in expressive realism, reminiscent of the paintings at Ajanta, Bagh and Sittannavasal. They testify to his love of naturalism – in the depiction of the human form and in the depiction of nature.  Yet, his pictures always seem to suggest to something beyond the obvious, stimulating the senses and igniting the imagination of the viewer.

 

 

6. The technique

SRajam2

(i). Shri Rajam says, he first paints the outlines , then colours and goes on to finish  with lines.

His themes often required meticulous research. After research, he created the entire painting with the all details in his mind. He started off the paintings with a pencil outline depicting the central figure. The actual painting is done around this central figure thereby creating the required depth. 

(ii). The medium used by Shri Rajam is watercolor on cured plywood, veneer, handmade paper and silk (not the mulberry silk but the tussar silk, the non- violent silk, at the suggestion of The Paramacharya of Kanchi). It is said that in his earlier days Shri Rajam made the paper himself. As regards silk, he says one has to be very careful while painting on silk, because mistakes and wrong lines cannot be corrected or erased easily.

(iii).He used layers of transparent colors. Each color is applied only to be washed away with water using a brush. Upon drying the next layer is applied and washed away. It is this series of washes and the combination of the colors that eventually gave the desired color scheming that was originally envisioned. After the application of the transparent colors, the opaque colors are applied over it. Finally, his characteristic ink outlines (rekhas) were done using a Fine liner pen.

Each painting of his will have about 25 layers of colour; and will be washed ten to twelve times before it is completed. His technique involves washing the paper by dipping the brush in plain water and dabbing it all over the painting. This he does every time after applying a couple of layers of colour. “Do you know why I do it,” he asks. “It is to remove the excess colours from the painting. Only the subtle brush strokes and effects remain and all that is garish is washed away. Do you know I lose more than 30 per cent of the paints this way? It is a loss. But my painting will survive without problems and its life will be as long as the medium on which I do it”.

(iv) . Shri Rajam calls this process “water-wash”, which according to him is an oriental technique, unique to Indian and Chinese painting. The Chinese method, he says, is also the same but the number of washes is not as many as in the Indian method.  He explains, “A wonderful quality of this oriental wash technique is that the painting can be washed in water and no colours will come off except the final touches of tempura colours “.

(v) . He says, such repeated washing –treatment helps the colour stay on the surface and last longer, because through the process, all the colours are absorbed by the handmade paper on which the pictures are painted.  Luckily, the handmade, rag paper etc. that he uses can withstand his water-wash treatment. Not only that, strangely the paintings do not smudge and they emerge all the more beautiful after being subjected to water- wash.

(vi). He uses transparent watercolor while building the layers, and applies opaque colours in the final stages of highlighting and finishing. As colours are applied from light to dark, it enables the undertones of previous colours to be visible. This gives, according to him, a misty and toned effect suitable to portray the imaginative subjects.

(vii). The process is laborious and takes nearly ten washes and about a week to ten days to finish a painting. But, he says, it worth doing it because the method ensures that colours last longer and stay bright. And, even in case the painting gets wet, the colours remain unaffected.

Clearly, this technique requires immense patience and (depending on the size) each painting can take from a few weeks to a few months for completion. It was Rajam’s disciplined approach and incredible ability to multitask that allowed him to simultaneously work on several paintings. It was his capacity to quickly mentally switch from one theme to the other, as the paintings were drying, was the main reason for the volume of work he could produce.

(viii). Shri Rajam recommends that the watercolors be preserved behind glass and ensured that no fungus develops between the painting and the glass.

7. Phenomenal output

(i). Considering the volume of study, research and work involved; and the time taken to complete a painting, the prodigious output of Shri Rajam is totally amazing. For this scholarly-painter phenomenon who has entered his nineties, his work is his worship. His zest for work is enormous; and says he is “just beginning”. Even at his age, he is as inspired and enthusiastic about his work as he was in 1940 when he took to painting seriously; and he is no less prolific. Shri Rajam now in his nineties paints for about three to four hours every day.  Art and music are his passions and they keep him young.

(ii). His art work has adorned several books .The paintings produced by him over the years, I reckon, run into a few thousands. I am not sure whether either Shri Rajam or anyone else has kept a count of his artistic output.  Some of his works have also been compiled as books. Notable ones are the Chitra Periya Purana – depicting the legends of the 63 Nayanmars and the Thiruvilaiyadal Puranam – depicting the 64 divine plays of Shiva. Another book titled “Dancing with Shiva” published by the Himalayan Academy, Hawaii , USA has over 300 hundred works of Rajam reproduced with exemplary production value .

(Please see www.HimalayanAcademy.com)

It is said , the Himalayan Academy Publications has scanned 923 of Shri Rajam’s creations. Please click here for the web-page:

https://www.himalayanacademy.com/site/search/media_type/painting/file_id/rajam/page/-1/sort/time-descending

Apart from that, as I understand, there have not been serious attempts to put together a sizable number of his paintings. There have not been many formal exhibition of Sri. S. Rajam’s works either, except perhaps the one held in Los Alamos, NM, USA in 1981.

(iii). The arrays of subjects chosen by him are vast and diverse. They range from the gods, goddesses, demons, Vedic sages, characters from puranas, literature, history, planetary deities, music composers, Nayanmars , Thirthankaras  and Acharyas of various periods and inclinations  ; festivals , fine arts folk arts and so on and on.

(iv). His works are distributed over book- covers, countless magazines published in various languages, book illustrations, compilations, chronicles, life histories etc. Yet, he feels he has not done quite enough and could have done more; “There is so much more I can do” he rues even at ninety.

(v). Anyone,  even vaguely familiar with his paintings cannot help but wonder how a person, amidst his various interests , pursuits and preoccupations in life, could achieve so much in various other fields of his activities  and yet  produce countless  sublime and soulful precious works of  art .. And, all that in one life time…!

(vi). That was the genius called Acharya Shri S Rajam, the very incarnation of the Vedic seers he admired and adored.

draft_lens19135557module156995806photo_1329348026aa-aa-a-

 

Resources & References

Chitrasutra

http://ssubbanna.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/12/the-legacy-of-chitrasutra-one.htm

http://ssubbanna.sulekha.com/blog/post/2008/09/the-art-of-painting-in-ancient-india-chitrasutra-1.htm

S Rajam

http://www.carnatica.net/mmmela2001/srajam.html

http://www.vidvan.com/painters/rajam/index.htm

An afternoon with S Rajam

http://archives.chennaionline.com/musicnew/carnaticmusic/2004/319th.asp

http://archives.chennaionline.com/musicnew/carnaticmusic/2004/324th.asp

Aesthetic and faithful depiction of character

http://www.hindu.com/fr/2004/05/21/stories/2004052101920700.htm

Visual poetry

http://www.hindu.com/fr/2008/05/16/stories/2008051651090100.htm

Ajanta Cave Paintings

http://www.indian-heritage.org/ajindex.html

https://carnaticmusicreview.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/s-rajam-the-painter/

All the pictures of Shri Rajam are from internet

 

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The Legacy of Chitrasutra- Three – Badami

[This is the third article in the series.

This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India .In the present set of articles , I propose to talk , briefly, about the influence of Chitrasutra – its outlook, its theories and its recommended practices – on the Indian mural paintings. In this process I propose to cover some , not all , of the main mural paints of India that succeeded Ajanta , such as : Pitalkhora (c.6th century), Badami (c, 6th century), Sittannavaasal (c.7th century), Pannamalai (7thcentury), Kailasanatha – Kanchipuram (8th century),Brihadeshwara – Tanjore (11thcentury), Lepakshi (16th century), Mattancheri (c.17th century) and Padmanabhapuram palace (18th century).I propose to round it up the discussion with a note on the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam , who kept alive the tradition of Chitrasutra in the modern times.

The first article was meant to serve a brief introduction to the subject outlining the characteristics of the Chitrasutra tradition.

The present article attempts to give an account of the murals at Badami.]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra- Two-Pitalkhora

Badami

8.1. Badami, along with Aihole, Pattadakal and some other sites in and around the valley of the River Malaprabha in Bagalkot District of Karnataka, contain some of the earliest temples built in stone in the regions of Southern India.  Badami known as Vatapi in the earlier times, founded in 540 AD by Pulikeshin I was the capital of the early Badami Chalukyas from 540 to 757 AD.

The rock-cut cave temples of Badami located in a ravine at the foot of rugged sandstone rock formation were carved and sculpted mostly during the 6th and 8th centuries. However, the history of construction of monuments in stone go back much farther in time, as evidenced by the large number of megalithic monuments that are distributed at several sites in the Malaprabha Valley.

The ceiling designs in the Badami temples are highly intricate; and, are decorated  with  stylized padma-vitāna, lotus-ceiling involving radial symmetry, and concentric borders enclosing lotus motifs.

badami cealing designs

The four cave temples depict the art of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious inclinations, evidencing the secular outlook and religious tolerance of the ancient Kings of Badami. The rock cut temples at Pattadakal (UNESCO world heritage monument), Badami and Aihole are among the most celebrated monuments of ancient India.


8.2. It is said; the cave temples of Badami influenced the development of the rock-cut structures of Mahabalipuram. Rev H Heras SJ in his ‘Studies in Pallava History’ (SG Paul and Co, 1933) discusses in fair detail the similarities between the two groups of sculptures and traces certain features of  the statues and sculptures at Mahabalipuram to the caves of Badami. According to Rev Heras, soon after his accession to the throne the Pallava king Mahamalla Narasimhavarman I (ruled 630-668 AD), in retaliation, successfully attacked Vatapi (Badami) the capital of the Chalukyas. While at Vatapi, Mahamalla was greatly impressed by its extraordinarily well executed cave-temples; and particularly by cave No.3 the largest and most ornamented of all the Badami caves.

Narasimhavarman was struck with admiration at the beauty in the architectural concept and the perfection of its execution in those elaborate cave-temples. Rev Heras asserts it is beyond doubt that the Pallava king studied the Chalukya style of cave building took designs of some of the architectural elements and motifs of ornamentation. He also broadened his views on stone carving and fostered in his mind new ambitious projects to emulate the artistic achievements of his enemies. And he did succeed.

8.3 .Rev Heras points out striking similarities between the pillars the Varaha Mantapa of Mahabalipuram and the pillars in the veranda of Cave No.1 of Badami:” The same prismatic appearance; the same bulbous lotus-like development of the capital; the same interruption of the fluting by a band of filigree work; the same rosary-like garlands “. He also points out that Mahamalla adopted the Badami style of decoratively covering the side-walls with large sculptural panels displaying elaborate figures that resemble the Badami depictions. For instance Varaha, Vamana, Gaja-Lakshmi and Durga in Cave No. 2 and Cave No. 3 of Mahabalipuram closely follow in their depiction the figures of the Badami caves. Rev Heras remarks; the statues and sculptures of Mahabalipuram are plainer than those of Badami; there is neither profusion of ornamentation nor richness of details. But the figures of Mahabalipuram seem richer with their’ naturalness s and freshness of the poses ‘that is   not found in the more conventional panels of Badami.

vishnu badami d1613

8.4. It is remarkable; while the cave temples of Badami influenced the carved structures of Mahabalipuram, about a century later the Pallava temples influenced the style, structure and depiction of the Chalukya temples. Over a period the two rival schools enriched each other giving place to composite styles of sculpture and architecture.  

Paintings

9. Though its exquisite carvings and sculptures are fairly well preserved, the murals in the Badami caves have all but vanished. Only a few fragments of the paintings tucked away in the concave surfaces of the vaulted cornice of the 3rd and 4tn cave have survived. They are perhaps the earliest surviving specimens of the Hindu wall paintings.

578 CE Mangalesha Kannada inscription in Cave temple 3 at Badami

Badami inscription of Mangalesha

An inscription dated 578 AD records, in Kannada language; the caves were completed during the reign of King Mangalishwara (aka Mangalesha) son of Pulikeshin I. The wall paintings might therefore have been executed during that period. Some other paintings in cave 4 might belong to a later period (6-7th century) as they appear related to paintings in Cave 1 of Ajanta, depicting the visit of a Persian emissary to the court of Pulakshin in 625 AD.

10. It is likely that the caves were earlier painted and fully decorated. The fragment remains of the Badami murals still evoke the images of splendour and magi of the bygone eras. The remains of the Shiva and Parvathi murals, and of other characters from the Puranas ( in cave 3) strongly resemble the figures painted in Ajanta .

The mural in cave 4, dedicated to Adinatha Thirthankara, depicts Jain saints relinquishing the world for attainment of knowledge   , is truly uplifting.

11.  The secular paintings too closely resemble the Ajanta paintings, thus carrying forward the tradition of the Chitrasutra. Shri SM Sunkad an artist from Hubli (Karnataka) has attempted reproducing a mural each from Ajanta and Badami and illustrating how closely they resemble in style.

http://gallery.passion4art.com/members/sunkad/picture.html

This was the commencement of Chalukya style of architecture and a consolidation of South Indian style.

Next

— Sittanvaasal->

 References:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Badami_Cave_Temples

http://gallery.passion4art.com/members/sunkad/picture.html

http://www.indiamonuments.org/

http://indiabackpacker.blogspot.com/2008_11_01_archive.html

All pictures are from Internet

 

 

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The Legacy Of Chitrasutra- Two-Pitalkhora

 

[This article and its companion posts may be treated as an extension of the series I posted on the Art of Painting in Ancient India .In the present set of articles , I propose to talk , briefly, about the influence of Chitrasutra – its outlook, its theories and its recommended practices – on the Indian mural paintings. In this process I propose to cover some , not all , of the main mural paints of India that succeeded Ajanta , such as : Pitalkhora (c.6th century), Badami (c, 6th century), Sittannavaasal (c.7th century), Pannamalai (7thcentury), Kailasanatha –Kanchipuram (8th century),Brihadeshwara – Tanjore (11thcentury), Lepakshi (16th century), Mattancheri (c.17th century) and Padmanabhapuram palace (18th century).I propose to round it up the discussion with a note on the sublime paintings of Shri S Rajam , who kept alive the tradition of Chitrasutra in the modern times.

The first article was meant to serve a brief introduction to the subject outlining the characteristics of the Chitrasutra tradition.

The present article attempts to give an account of the murals at Pitalkhora.]

Continued from the Legacy of Chitrasutra- One

The previous post viz. The Legacy of Chitrasutra- One  tried to present, as a backdrop, an outline of the general principles of the Chitrasutra tradition: its outlook, its concepts and theories; and its recommended practices. As mentioned, the school of Chitrasutra wielded enormous influence on the artists of the sub-continent, over about fifteen centuries. We shall now look at some celebrated murals of ancient India, which either belonged to the period of Ajanta or to sometime thereafter.

Pitalkhora

6. The caves

6.1. The Buddhist caves at Pitalkhora are the closest to Ajanta; both in terms of space and time. They too are situated in the Aurangabad region of Maharashtra; about 40km west of the famous rock- cut temples at Ellora. The Pitalkhora caves are cut into the side of a secluded ravineand are located deep inside a valley with a gentle stream running through it.

6.2. The set of fourteen caves of early- Buddhist period are similar to Ajanta; and are dated around second or third century BCE. Some scholars identify Pitalkhora with ‘Petrigala’ mentioned in Ptolemy’s history and with ‘Pitangalya ‘mentioned   in a Buddhist tantric text Mahamayuri of 3-4th century AD. The inscriptions found here (c. second century) indicate that ‘Pitangalya ‘had close connections with Pratishtana (modern Paithan), the capital of the Imperial Shatavahanas. Pitangalya was also an important trade centre along the caravan -route from Surparaka (Sapora) to Nasik, further north.

A unique feature of Pitalkhora is its ingenious arrangement to drain out the seepage that found its way into the cave through cracks in the rocks. Long tunnel like openings were bored into the ceilings and the water was channelled underneath the cave floor, in concealed drains, leading to outside cave entrance.

Pitalkhora caves occupy a significant place among the ancient Buddhist monuments of 2 C B.C. But, sadly the caves are in a poor state of preservation.

 

6.3.  Pitalkhora consisting of 14 Buddhist Caves forms one of the earliest centres of the rock-cut architecture; and are said to belong to about 2nd C BCE. The architectural and sculptural representations are similar to that of the Sanchi stupa; and are approximately of the same period. The sculptural remains at Pitalkhora include some   unusual sculptures; such as those of the wonderful animal motifs, miniature Chaitya windows, the elephants, yaksha (semi divine beings), dwarapala  (door-keepers) and mithuna (twin ) figures.

7. The paintings

7.1. As regards the paintings, only a few fragments of the murals dated around 5-6thcentury AD (of the time of Ajanta murals) can be seen in the Chaitya and Monastery Caves. The best paintings are in Cave 3. These appear on the pillars and side walls. They bear a strong resemblance to Ajanta style of painting; carrying forward the tradition of the Chitrasutra.

7.2. This is evident from the gentle expression and typical soulful eyes (characteristic of the Ajanta) depicted in the figure of a worshipper in a Pitalkhora fragment. The hair- do and colour scheme of the Pitalkhora fragment resembles greatly the Ajanta figures.

7.3. The Buddha figure to with its benign countenance and soulful eyes does resemble the Ajanta.

Next

The rock-cut cave temples of Badami, in North Karnataka, carved and sculpted mostly during the 6th and 8th centuries, depicting the art of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain religious traditions.

 

References:

http://www.devi.org/pitalkhora.html

http://lavanya-indology.org/pitalkhora.html

http://asi.nic.in/asi_monu_whs_ellora_pitalkhora.asp

http://www.indiamonuments.org/Pitalkhora.htm

All pictures are from Internet

 

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The Art of Painting in Ancient India – Chitrasutra (6)

[This is the fifth in the series of articles I would be posting on the art of painting in ancient India with particular reference to the Chitrasutra of Vhishnudharmottara purana

The previous (the fourth) article was about colors; the concepts, classifications and application of colors. It also briefly mentions about shading and how to go about drawing.

The current article covers the concepts about depiction of things seen and unseen in the world around us, or rather how the objects in nature could be visualized and personified as if each aspect of it is a living person with a character and attribute of its own.]

20. The abstract and the realistic depiction

20.1. The Chitrasutra, at several places, discusses how the persons and objects that we see in our day to day life, as also the nature that surrounds us could be depicted in art. It adopts a two-pronged approach. It instructs; while the representations of the objects and persons,   as drawn on the canvas should bear a credible resemblance to their original, the artist , at the same time, should not restrict himself to just  faithful  reproduction of   forms and appearances, but should try to go beyond “the phenomenal world of separated beings and objects that blind the reality beyond”.

20.2. In other words, it was emphasizing that art was more than photographic reproduction of visible objects. It was about the experience of a person and his expression of it through art; and about his unique creative genius, imagination, enterprise and individuality as an artist .It was not about how the world appears to one and all, but how the artist experiences and visualizes it. Its object is to elicit an emotional response, the viewer’s experience, the rasa.

20.3. These two approaches are not mutually exclusive; they exist side by side on a canvas and complement each other. The abstract and the realistic depiction are thus the two sides of Indian art. The latter is outward looking, and derived through observation; while the other is inspired by emotive perception and visualization of its essence. The two together enrich the aesthetic experience provided by an art work.

21. Realistic depiction of objects

21.1. As regards the realistic depiction of the objects, the text considers it essential to lend credibility to their depictions. The text, therefore, reckons   rupa-bheda and sadrushya, among the six essential elements of a painting. Rupa-bheda consists in the knowledge of special characteristics of things – natural or manmade; say, the differences in appearances among many types of men, women or natural objects or other subjects of the painting; while Sadrushya aims to depict, in painting, those distinctions and resemblances.

21.2. The Chitrasutra instructs the resemblances should not merely be general but should extend to details as well. Every part of the object represented should agree with the general treatment of the whole object. It also says that the persons should be painted according to their country; their region, their colour, dress, and general appearances as observed. Having well ascertained the person’s country, region, occupation, age and his status in life; the text says ,  his other details such as his seat, bed, costume, conveyance, stance, and his gestures should be drawn.

[The Chitrasutra explores this subject in great depth, detailing the characteristics of persons hailing from various regions and occupations. The text also describes the characteristics of different tribes and castes as distinguished by their complexion; noticeable physical features, costumes and habits. Since it is rather detailed, I have posted it separately. Please check Part four]

22. Drista & Adrista

22.1. The representation of objects as they are seen or observed normally in life, is termed in the text as Drista, meaning in the way the things appear or as they are visible. In contrast to that, the text speaks of Adrista, meaning objects as visualized or personified by the artist, though they might not actually appear as such.

Having made this distinction, the text suggests that the two should together be employed to harmoniously blend the subject and its illustration; the subject and its effect; and the reality and its symbol, in order to provide the painting an expressive language. For instance, while faithfully depicting the details of the subject (say, the hours of day or night, or the seasons), its effect on the nature around and on the persons are also to be symbolically pictured. These help enhancing the quality of depiction of the subject and the artistic eloquence of the painting.

22.2. Hours of day and  darkness

The time of the day, morning noon and evening with its approaching darkness are suggested by appropriated indicators.

The daybreak is suggested by the opening of the lotus petals in the pond and the bees swarming around; the farmer with his plow proceeding to his fields

Midday is suggested by the Muni-kumaras clasping their hands in yama-pasa-mudra peeping at the sun through the aperture created by the joining of the fingers.

Evening is suggested by the approaching darkness, lighting of the lamps and return-home of the cows at go-dhuli.

The twilight is also suggested by the roaming on highstreets of courtesans and paramour vita-s, cheta-s and raja-vallabhas.

The Chitrasutra suggest that night may be indicated by the moon, the stars and sparse human movement as also by the lurking or prowling of the thieves in the shadows and of men asleep

Sachandragraha-nakshatram tatha darsita-laukikam / asannaatas-taskarm  ratrim darshayet supta-manavam // 3.42.68

In this context, the text, by way of illustrations, enumerates the following suggestions for showing the subject –the hours of darkness:

Evening – by the red glow in the sky, cows and calves retuning home raising a small clouds of dust, Brahmins engaged in their prayers;

Setting in of darkness – by men hurrying back to their homes, the birds flying back to their nest, lamps just beginning to glow;

The first part of the night – by young and eager love struck women walking hurriedly with side glances to meet their lovers;

The night – with moon , planets and stars, thieves lurking in the shadows, men fast asleep; couples amorously engaged;

Moon shine – by kumuda flowers (the type of lotus that bloom at night)  in full bloom while many petals of lotus are closed;

Early dawn ending the darkness – by rising sun, street -lamps looking dim and crowing cocks.

[There is an interesting argument going on, alongside, in the text. It argues that the art of sculpting is far more difficult than painting. It says; it is almost not possible to depict, directly,   in a sculptural panel the time of the day or  night –  darkness, evening , twilight  or bright light etc.. That difficulty also applies to depiction of colours ( colour , in fact , is not a medium directly compatible  with sculpting). And, it is also not easy to bring out the differences between a dead body and a sleeping person, particularly if the two are placed side by side.  The sculptor – artist (shilpi) will have to resort to some other clever suggestions to bring out the differences. That depends on the ingenuity of the artist.  ]

22.3. The seasons

Similarly, the text describes the characteristics of each of the six seasons as are gathered through keen observation of nature. It says that in general, the seasons should be shown according to their character. It also instructs , the  explicit depiction of the  nature of each season could be complimented    by  suggestions  and  effects  of the season on the state, the form  and appearance of the trees, flowers, fruits, birds, animals etc looking delighted or otherwise ; as also on the moods and lives of persons.

It is amazing how sincere was the detailed observation; and how close was the author’s involvement with nature. The text suggests showing the ways of depicting in the painting the six seasons (ritu) of the year :

:- The advent of  Spring season (Vasantha ritu) is announced by profusion of flowers, fresh shoots, hum of the bees and the notes of the cuckoos. The fresh blossoms of the Asoka trees excite the amorous lovers with budding sprouts decorating their ears.

And, by merry men and women, vernal trees in bloom, bees swarming about and cuckoos perched on tree branches.

Kusumanjanma tata nava-pallava tadanu  shad-pad-kokila-kujitam  iti yatha-kraman avirbhun-madhura druma-vatin avatirya vasanthalim (Raghuvamsha 9.26)

Kusumam eva na kevalam artavam navam Asokataros samaradhipam / Kisalayaprasavo pi vilasam madayita dayitasravanarpitah/ ( Raghuvamsha .9.31)

Meghair medhuram ambaram ( Gitagovinda)

:- Summer season (Grishma ritu) – by dried pools, languid men, deer seeking tree shades and buffaloes burrowing in the mud and wallowing in shallow ponds;, diminished water level in the lotus ponds; the moss exposing the length of lotus stalks; the water level in the ponds reaching up only to the hips of the bathing damsels

The fun-loving young women play in the water (jala-krida) – with the decorations on their faces in disarray; the braid unbound; musk painted patterns on their arms washed away; the pearl earrings loosened, the wet silken garments stuck on the hips, with pearl-white waistlines appearing like stars dimmed by moonlight. – Raghuvamsa 16.67.65

The ladies smear their breasts with sandal paste, stroll along the garden in the shade of thick leafy trees among the waterfowls in the cool water channels

Sarpatsarini varistalate vinyasta-pushpa-potkare nirandhre kadalivane guru-dala-achchhayapahatar –katvishi / karpura-guru-panka-pichchhila-ghana-uttunga stanalingibhih kantakelir-ratrair aho sukritibhir madhya-nadinam niyate (Subhashita-ratna-bhandagara)

:- Rainy season (Varsha ritu) – by flashes of lightening, heavily laden clouds, lions and tigers sheltered in caves;

The rainy season with its dark clouds, lightening streaks, long rows of  white storks in their picturesque splendor flying low against the backdrop of rain bearing dark clouds is lovingly immortalized in several of Indian poetic works.

The Rainbow on dark clouds stimulate mirth of the peacocks with spread colorful tails dancing as if to celebrate the arrival of cool showers, add luster and grace to beauty of the picture.

In the paintings, the gentle rain is shown by slight vertical dots in white, like scattered pearls, against the darkened sky.

Ghana eva tarala-balike tatid iva pite (Gitagovinda)

Garajabhis satadid-balakas-balair meghais sasalyam manah (Mricchkatika.6.1)

Garbha-dhanakshana-parichayan nunam abaddhamalas sevishyante nayana-subhagam khe bhavantam balakah (Meghaduta .1.10)

Srenibhutah parigananaya nirdisanto balakah (Meghaduta.1.22)

Navambhumattas sikhino nadanit meghame kunda-samana-danti Ghatakarpara/ sukla-apangis sajalanayanais svagataikritya kekah pratyudyatah katham api bhavan gantum asu vyavasayet (Meghaduta.1.23)

:- Autumn (Sharad ritu) – by trees laden with fruits and flowers, earth covered with ripe cornfields, tanks full of water with swans and lotuses;

akampayan phala bhara aanata shaali jaalaan  aanartayan taru varaan kusuma avanamraan utphulla pa.nkaja vanaam naliniim vidhunvan  yuunaa manaH calayati prasabham nabhasvaan (Ritusamhara.3.10)

:- Dewy season (Hemanta ritu) – by frost on horizon and earth covered by dewdrops; and

nava pravaala udgama sasya ramyaH praphulla lodhraH pari pakva shaaliH  viliina padmaH prapatat tuSaaraH hemanta kaalaH samupaagato ayam (Ritusamhara.4.1)

:- Winter season (Shishira ritu) – by horizon shrouded in hoar-frost, shivering men and delighted crows and elephants.

The winter with its blast of cold winds forces one to seek the warmth of the indoors, covering oneself with heavy wraps and enjoying the cheerful company of  youthful damsels  in front of the crackling fire .

Niruddha-vatatayanam-mandirodare hutasano bhanumato gabhastyah , guruni vasamsyabala sayau-vanah prayanti kaletra janasya sevyatam (Ritusamhara.5.2)

There are classic depictions of other figures as well :

Abhisarika, the beautiful girl, going out, in moonlit night  (jyotsni or Shukla), to meet her lover should be in serene white and flowing garments ; and , should be decked in pearls (mukta-abarana-bhushitam) . And,  on  other dark nights  (Tamasi)  she  wears blue garments (nilamsu parigraho). And, in either case, she covers her head ; and, she  does not wear bangles and anklets to avoid twinkling sounds. 

The lovelorn (viraha vyasthaya), lonely maiden in search of lover is to be drawn as pale (vyanjayanti) and emaciated (krisyam) ; her hair in a single braid (eka-veni) is twisted and unkempt .

The Proshita-bhartrka whose lover is in distant lands , on war or business,  is pining for him. She , in sorrow, has given up applying cosmetics or wearing ornaments and colourful dresses. She has grown lean and pale ; her eyes are constantly searching for her separated lover.

Pregnancy is suggested by pallor in the face, slimness of the body, sparce ornaments and a natural languor.

In contrast , Svadhina-bhartrka who enjoys the company of her lover , and eagerly sets out to meet him; and, the Vasaka -sajja who  is busy tidying up her room in anticipation of meeting her lover  , are  to be pictured as happy, radiant, light hearted and  sportive , wearing their best and joyous dresses .

The bridal sarees (vadhu dukulam), generally, have a swan design (kalahamsa lakshanam) on their border. It was a popular design. 

The heroic warrior facing his opponent is depicted in the challenging stance of Alidha or Pratyalidha – is a representation (bhava-chitra) of Vira -rasa. His torso is somewhat thrust out, the hair tied up, the left knee bent back and retracted, up to the ear, the strung bow with the arrow in position pulled back, looking heroic and magnificent

The amalgam of subject and its symbols   renders a work of art at once particular and universal. That is the reason the Indian figurative art is not mere portraiture of the specific; but it is a symbol pointing to a larger principle, akin to the finger pointing to the moon.

22.4. Barahmasa

Inspired by the vivid word-pictures portrayed in the Chitrasutra, a school of painting known as Barahmasa (meaning, the twelve-months), flourished during the later periods. Its scenery epitomizes the landscape of the imagination, in Indian painting. This school lovingly captures the delights, the emotions and the enjoyment of the lovers in each of the six seasons. These sublime works of art, which gained fame as iconic representations of the seasons and as metaphors for emotions, have inspired generations of artists, poets and lovers.

The essential theme of the Barahmasa is the passionate yearning of lovelorn hearts, the pangs of separation that each change of season stimulates. Each month bringing a special message to the beloved, every season a special reminder of the joys of love and longing. The nature participates in the world of human emotions and mirrors the lovers’ or singer’s experience of tenderness and pain of love.

The transformations in nature , such as the gentle unfolding of a bud’s petals; or melting of a winter night into dew-drops; or the dark dreadful clouds rending with their roar the sky and the earth and frightening the lovely nayika into the arms of her beloved Nayaka and bursting forth into torrential rains – all become symbolic expressions of the seasons and the state of love of the ardent lovers. The Barahmasa depictions of poetry, music and painting, bind the two confronting worlds, the worlds of man and of nature into one thread.

The Barahmasa pictures do tell a tale; each one narrates an event that illustrates the beauty, love and togetherness in the lives of the lovers. That story is entwined on the splendour of nature that surrounds them, in each season.

Let’s take a quick look at a couple of such picture. The painting associated with rainy season (varsha ritu) ‘the Bhadon’ (Bhardapada masa: August-September) captures the characteristic features and symbols of an evening in Indian monsoon.  The lovers relax in the balcony of a beautiful garden-house, enjoying the company of each other, watching the graceful flight of cranes against the background of dark monsoon clouds. And,  as the peacock dances and jumps on to a window in the courtyard, there is a sudden roll of thunder and flashes of lightening across the dark clouds. The lady-love is frightened and she clings to her lover in delicate embrace. Yet, she cannot take her eyes away from the spectacular and amazing drama of thunder and lightning being enacted in the skies.

The month of Chaitra (March-April) , in spring (vasanta ritu) is depicted by clear blue sky, water-filled streams and lakes, the bushes adorned with flowers just sprouting and singing birds perched on tree branches. The lady love, dressed in her best, is exhorting her lover to stay at home and enjoy with her the intoxicating delights of Chaitra.

The painting that illustrates the month of Agahana (Agrahayana or Margashira: Nov-Dec), in Hemantha ritu, the early winter, depicts clear skies, the swans migrating from the cold mountains and the lovers standing on the terrace overlooking the river with water-birds floating lazily. The day is neither cold nor warm; it is just comfortable. The lovers are wrapped in light-warm clothing.   Peace and tranquillity abounds in nature. The lovers are saying to each other how fortunate we are to be alive and to be together in this lovely evening.

22.5. Ragamala

During the later times, another school , the Ragamala  School of paintings too used the descriptions provided in Chitrasutra , of nature, men, women, birds, animals and plants, in each season and blended them with the musical  mood of the Raga or its queen the Ragini ; as also with the time of day in which the raga is sung  and  with the emotional response associated with that time . All these produced a series of most enchanting pictures. Those paintings are a delightful combination of art, music, poetry and a studied, controlled sophistication.

The Ragamala (garland of Ragas) School of painting attempted to translate the emotional appeal of a raga into visual representations. Each raga personified by a colour, mood, the nature surrounding the hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika).  It also elucidated the season and the time of day and night in which a particular raga is to be sung. The colours, substance and the mood of the Ragamala personified the overall bhava and context of the Raga. It is a delightful amalgam of art, colour, poetry and music. 

One of such pictures is Todi Ragini, a painting associated with Raga Malkauns, as its Ragini. Here, a young woman plays veena as she waits for her lover. But he’s been so long that she gets bored, distracted and a bit apprehensive. As she stops playing the veena and paces restlessly, clutching a flower garland, the deer in the park surround her as if expecting her to continue playing the melody.   She’s growing sad, and fears he might not keep his date this evening.

22.6. Landscapes

Continuing on the Drista, the text explains how the subjects associated with landscape paintings; such as: the sky, the hills, dales, trees, etc could be depicted in a painting. Here again the faithful depiction of the subject is to be juxtaposed with   its suggestions   and its effects, enhancing the artistic expression of the subject.  Its scenery epitomizes the landscape of the imagination.

For instance, along with the bright sun, one could depict the images of creatures suffering from heat; and of the flowers and creepers wilting under the hot sun. The shower of rain could be suggested by a person well covered; or running for shelter under a tree. Similarly, along with the full moon the kumuda flower in full bloom could also to be shown. Such artistic suggestions, symbols and effects add to the depth of a painting.

Some of the pictures lovingly capture the delights, the emotions and the enjoyment of the lovers in each of the six seasons.  The sense of belonging, togetherness and identity with each other is suggested in a rare and a beautiful painting that shows Radha (highly idealized lady love)   and Krishna having exchanged their clothes. It is as if each has entered the other’s soul.

She wears his peacock feather,
He dons her lovely, delicate crown;
She sports his yellow garment,
He wraps himself in her beautiful sari
How charming the very sight of it. . .
The daughter of Vrsabhanu turns Nanda’s son,
And Nanda’s son, Vrsabhanu’s girl.

(Srivasta Goswami, Trans. The Divine Consort, 87)
 

Elaborating on how the nature in a landscape painting could be depicted, the text suggests:

The sky should be shown without any special colours and full of birds;

A hill – by a cluster of rocks, peaks, trees, creepers, waterfalls;

A forest – by various sorts of trees, birds and beasts;

Water – by fish, tortoise, lotuses and other water plants.

While on the subject of water, King Vajra interjects querying “I cannot wait to ask. Please tell me more about representation of water. What are its true and untrue colors?”

The sage explains “The untrue color of water resembles that of lapis lazuli; that is because of the blue sky reflected in a pool of water. But, the natural color of water is seen in the cascades of a water-fall; its colour resembles moonlight.” 

22.7. Cities and village scenes

The text also explains the ways for depicting the atmosphere of a locale.

It suggests showing:

A city by beautiful temples, palaces, shops and royal roads;

Markets- by a variety of merchandize and people busy trading;

Drinking and gambling dens – by men rolling in intoxication; and gamblers without their upper garments-the winners making merry and the losers crestfallen;

A village by its hedges and sparse gardens; and , its women folk

village well

VILLAGE SCENE

23. Visualization and personification of deities and objects

lakshminarayana on garuda  vishnu lakshmi on elephant 2

23.1. While Elaborating on Adrista, the text says the objects in nature could also be visualized or personified by the artist, endowing its objects with distinct personality. In this respect, the art of painting, the chitra, enjoys a distinct advantage, and a far greater artistic liberty and freedom of expression, as compared to sculpture, the shilpa. A painting can comfortably handle things that are virtually impossible to be shown in sculpture; those things include the color, space or the darkness of the night etc. Painting enjoys the virtue and facility of rendering the absolute in tangible and visual forms.

23.2. In the traditional Indian painting, the ambiguity of color and appearance in its descriptive and suggestive forms was clearly kept apart. Each form of depiction had a purpose and a place of its own; but they often combined to produce a magical effect, bestowing on the Indian art a unique character and vision.

23.3. We therefore see in the work of the ancient painters, subtle nuances as also the representations of the tangible world, the beauty of its forms, its volume and weight; and yet there is always a suggestion of something which is more and beyond.

23.4. The visualization and personification of objects in nature, as envisaged in the Chitrasutra, employs whole sets of symbolism. For instance, the sky when painted in its natural and descriptive context should be painted almost without any color. But, when sky is personified, it should be depicted as noble person, blue-lotus in color, wearing a garment of that color; and carrying sun and moon in his hands.

23.5. The sun in its natural depiction should be bright and shining, lightening up the canvas. But, when personifying the sun, it should be shown as a person with four hands , very lustrous , in the color of vermilion, with all auspicious marks;, with glowing garments; adorned by flower garlands and rich ornaments. His left and right hands should be shown projecting sunbeams, resembling reins of a chariot.

The personified Moon should be made with a white body (as composed of water), in white garments, lustrous, with all ornamental and four hands. In his two hands he should be shown holding two kumuda (night-lotuses) flowers in full bloom .He should be endowed with luster and beauty.

While visualizing and personifying the rivers, they are to be represented as persons having their own character and personality. They have to be given a human shape, and they should be astride their vahana (mount) on bent knees, and holding in their hands a pitcher.

Each river it is said has a distinct personality and character. For instance, the Ganga turbulent and milky in color gushes down the mountain slopes. The Yamuna, in contrast, is of dark hue, placid and wide.

ganga on crocodile

Another name for water in Sanskrit is Apah. The term Apah is invested with varieties of meanings. Apah, the waters are called the mothers (apah asmin matarah) : ‘The waters are our mother (ambayah), womb of the universe’ (RV.1.23.10).Water is  the nourishing mother who gives birth to the manifest world. She is the Mother of all creation; and, denotes freedom from bondage. Apah, as rivers is the creative energy which is active and moving Since Apah suggests movement (gati), the life-giving (jiva-nadi) , flowing rivers and streams are deemed feminine (Prakrti) ; while the stagnant Samudra the ocean into which all beings go and from which all beings emerge acquired a masculine identity (Purusha).

Samudra (the Sea) is described as the gatherer of waters; the goal of all rivers; and, the eldest of the rivers (samudra jyestha), The sea is personified as the King of Oceans (Samudra –raja); and, is represented by a noble looking Lord holding afloat in his hands jewel-vessel. The halo around his head should be drawn resembling water.

samudra

The person of a mountain symbolized as Parvatha –raja (king of mountains) –  the lordly mountain, a sublime shelter for sages, the greatest treasure trove of minerals , giving birth to and sheltering great rivers,  cascades, cataracts, and caves is usually shown as a semi human mountain peak with a halo around his head.

Kama the amorphous desire (cupidity) that drives us and resides in each one of us, too, is personified. The text (Part Three; chapter: 73; verses 1-15) mentions that Kama as one of unrivalled beauty. He should be riding a parrot; and should be carrying a bow and arrow with five arrow-heads. His eyes half closed as if intoxicated and curled smile on his lips. His beautiful four wives Rathi, Priti, Sakhi and Madasakthi   should be done extraordinarily charming and bewitching.

24. Rasa

24.1. The artistic creation though not real can arouse in the mind of the viewer, the experience of the original object. The objects in art are virtual and not physical. The artistic experience is, therefore, inferential and indirect; rather than direct perception.

A real work of art, in addition to possessing emotive charge carries a strong sense of suggestion and the potential to produce various meanings. It can communicate through suggestions and evoke layers of meanings and emotion.

Rasa is that experience which the viewer derives from an art expression.

Sage Markandeya said (43- 1-39): The Rasa-s, (emotions) represented in painting are said to be nine, viz., Srngara (erotic), Hasya (humor, cheer), Karuna (pathos), Vira (heroic), Raudra (ferocious), Bhayanaka (horror, frightful), Bibhatsa (loathsome), Adbhuta (wonder, exotic and supernatural) and Shanta (tranquil, peaceful).

Pictures to embellish homes should depict Srngara, Hasya and Shanta rasas. The rest of the Rasas should never be used in the house of anyone where women and children dwell; including the residential quarters of the ruler. But, in the assembly halls of kings, palace of a ruler and in the temple of a god all the sentiments may be represented

krishna srngara

 

24.2. The text says, “Anything be it beautiful or ugly, dignified or despicable, dreadful or of a pleasing appearance, deep or deformed, object or non-object, whatever it be, could be transformed in to rasa by an artist’s imagination and skill”

24.3. The great scholar Abhinavagupta (10th-11th century), remarked, a creation in art is the expression of a feeling that is freed from localized distinctions; it is the generalization of a particular feeling. It comes into being through the creative genius (prathibha) of the artist. And, it finds its fulfilment in the heart of the viewer, who derives ananda the joy of aesthetic experience. He is, therefore, central to that art -experience. That pleasure must not, however, bind the viewer but must liberate him from his limited confines.

24.4. A true aesthetic object, Abhinavagupta declares, not merely stimulates the senses but also ignites the imagination of the viewer. That experience sets the individual free from the confines of place, time and ego (self). Thus, art is not mundane; it is alaukika, beyond the ordinary.

It is that magical quality which the Chitrasutra too was talking about.

Hanuman on lotus

25.1 At the end of Chitrasutra – the treatise  dealing with the Rules of Painting, the Sage Markandeya observes :

Oh King…! In this treatise only suggestions are given; for, this subject can never be described in detail even in as many as hundred years. Whatever has not been said here, should be inferred from the rules of dancing (Nrtya), Oh lord of the earth;

Painting is the best of all arts, conducive to Dharma, and emancipation (moksha). It is very auspicious (mangala-kara) when placed in a house. As Sumeru is the best of mountains; Garuda is the chief of birds; and, a lord of the earth is  the most exalted amongst men, so is painting the best of all arts.

 

 

Sources and References:

I gratefully acknowledge Shri S Rajam’s sublime paintings

And the other paintings from internet

Citrasutra of the Visnudharmottara Purana by Parul Dave Mukherji

Stella Kramrisch: The Vishnudharmottara Part III:  A Treatise on Indian Painting and Image-Making; Second Revised and Enlarged Edition; (Calcutta University Press: 1928)

The Painter in Ancient India by  Dr. C. Sivaramamurti

Technique of painting prescribed in ancient Indian Texts

http://curiosity-the-key-to-knowledge.blogspot.com/2006/12/technique-of-painting-prescribed-in.html

The “Sarvatobhadra” temple of the Vishnu-dharmottara-purana

https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/dspace/bitstream/1887/2668/1/299_022.pdf

http://www.artknowledgenews.com/British_Museum_Masterpieces_Of_Indian.htmlhttp://www.ethnicindiacrafts.com/Indian_paintings/kangra/the_month_of_bhadon_miniature.html

All illustrations are from Internet

 
 

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The Art of Painting in Ancient India – Chitrasutra (5)

[This is the fourth in the series of articles I would be posting on the art of painting in ancient India with particular reference to the Chitrasutra of Vhishnudharmottara purana

The previous (third) article dealt with the physical features of various classes and types of images, proportions, projections, foreshortening etc. covered certain concepts and general aspects discussed in Chitrasutra.

The current article is about colours; the concepts, classifications and application of colours. It also briefly mentions about shading and how to go about drawing.]

I. COLOR

13. Colours

13.1. Chitrasutra in one of its passages observes that delineation, shading, ornamentation and colouring are the decorative aspects of a painting; suggesting that rekha the lines that articulate the forms are the real substance of a painting.

At another place, the text remarks, “The masters praise the rekhas –lines (delineation and articulation of form), the connoisseurs praise the display of light and shade, women like the display of ornaments,; and , the richness of colours appeals  to common folks.”

Rekham prasamsaniya -acharya; vartanam apare jaguh / striyo Bhushanam ichchhanti; varnadhyam itare janah // 3.41.11

13.2. Yet, the colors are very important and significant aspects of a painting; they enliven a depiction. The text says , ”  when a learned and skilled artist paints with golden( radiant)  color, with articulate and yet very soft lines with distinct and well arranged garments; and graced with beauty, proportion , rhythm and inspiration, then the painting would truly be beautiful.”

13.3. The six limbs (anga) of painting enumerated in the text include Varnika-bhanga, which represents the artistic manner of improvising colour combinations, tones and shades. It provides for infusion of emotion, creation of lustre and irradiance. That involves, among other things, delicate and skilful use of brushes and other aids. It represents the maturity of the artist’s techniques and fruitfulness of his experience

Colour, therefore, is a major medium in painting; the emotions and moods are expressed through manipulating colours, their density, tones, lines, light, shades etc. The ingenuity, imagination and skill of the artist discover their limitations here.

13.3  While the Sutra-pata-rekha is the first line of the outline, the subha-varti-rekha is the finished sketch, ready for taking the colors. Now is the time for mandala – karya, drawing of curves, characterized as manorama (charming) and askhalita (un -erring) is the final stage of subha-varti-rekha. In this stage, the initially blocked rough contours are carefully rounded off at their edges; and, a new grace is added to the figures by more definitive work.

The initial coat of color is to be light (virala vilepana) and only the later depths are suggested by Vartana.

13.4 . The term Varna-krama indicates the general arrangement of color-scheme in a painting, the balancing of the tints to achieve a color-harmony. That term is also said to indicate the laying of tints like green, yellow and the rest (varnakramo harita, pita adi  varna-vinyasah). Another term, varna-sthiti –  is meant to indicate the color laid in its proper place in the picture. Such placement of just the right color in just the right place on the canvas is considered very essential, at least in the preliminary stages of coloring, when the effect of one color over the other, their contrast, the balance, the tone and such other details are to be determined.

The refinements of touching and blending etc. might come in later at proper time and place.

14. Colour – symbolism and suggestions

14.1. The colors in a painting have a descriptive and also a suggestive significance. Colours bestow a personality to a figure and speak eloquently of its character and mood. Colours also carry rich symbolism; they might depict the gunas such as the satva, rajas or tamas; and make explicit the essential character and attributes of an image.

In certain  Vasishnava traditions  , Radha   the personification of love and beauty, is adorned in the colour dearest to her,  the enchanting blue of Krishna, while he  is clad in pitambara  the lustrous golden hue of his beloved Radha, signifying sanidhya ,  the sense of being ever together.

There was, in addition, a class of pictures called rasa-chitra, the pictures of emotions, also called varna-lekhya meaning interpretations through colour. These were different from realistic paintings and sought deliberately to represent various emotions through distinct colours. In this school, idioms of colour visualized a range of emotions; and, each rasa had to be portrayed in its uniquely expressive colour. For instance, Srinagar (erotic) was of shyama hue(light sky blue) ; hasya (that which evokes laughter) in white; karuna (pathos) in gray; raudra , (the furious) in red; vira (the heroic) in yellowish-white; bhayanaka ( the fearsome) in black; adbhuta (supernatural and amazing) in yellow ; and bhibathsa (the repulsive ) in blue colour.

14.2. The colours of our mythological figures represent, symbolize and convey their attributes. For instance, the highest divinities with supreme attributes (gunas) are sky blue signifying their true infinite nature; Shiva, the ascetic the supreme yogi is Gauranga; he is colourless and almost transparent, he is without any attributes; Hanuman and Ganesh are red like the blood;   full of energy, vitality and life; and Kali’s black does not signify absence of colour but is the sum and culmination of all colours and energies in the universe. Her black is endowed with limitless powers of attraction that draws into her the entire existence.

14.3. During the later periods, the Ragamala School of painting attempted translating the emotional appeal of a Raga into visual representations. Each raga was personified by a colour, mood, the nature surrounding the hero and heroine (nayaka and nayika).  It also elucidated the season and the time of day and night in which a particular raga is to be sung. The colours, substance and the mood of the Ragamala personified the overall bhava and context of the Raga. It is a delightful amalgam of art, colour, poetry and music.

II. Colour in Chitrasutra

15. Primary colours and their derivatives

15.1.Talking of colors; Chitrasutra mentions basic colors as five, while the others only four (red, yellow, blue and white); though both agree on white as a primary color.

Chitrasutra, in chapter 27, mentions five primary colours (mulavarna) : white (svetha), yellow (pitha)  , black (krshna), green (harita) and red (raktha).  

sveto raktas tatha pitah krishno harita eva cha, mulavarnas samakhyatah panha parthivasattama, ekadvitrisamayagat bhavakalpanaya tatha, sankhyaivantaravarnanam loke kartum na sakyate.

The idea of four colors with yellow composed of gorochana; white sandal, crimson saffron; and dark musk in the varied hues of gems like turquoise, diamond, ruby and amethyst.

Pita vadata arunanilabhasam deho padehotkiranair maninam / gorochana-chandana-kumkumai-nana-abhivilepanam punruktayantim / /

At another place (ch.40) it mentions white, yellow, black, blue (shyama) and the colour of myrobalan (the dried fruit of a bush that resembles a plum) as the five principal colors.

15.2. The text says , it would be impossible to enumerate the mixed colors in the world created by the dexterous mixing of various colors and their derivatives;  the combinations are limited only by ones imagination and logic. The mixing of two or three colors, in various shades and tones,  and their manipulation is a mark of artist’s ingenuity. There is no limit to the numerous finer varieties of tints that can be produced by the imagination of the artist. Colouring should , however, be natural.

It appears, the range of colors employed by the ancient artists was wide enough to render with subtlety the local colors of the objects.

15.3. Chitrasutra classifies the application of colours into four categories: as those that are employed to depict (i) the faithful representations of nature; (ii) the true proportions but largely exaggerated size of the object; (iii) artificial qualities and perspectives of objects; and, (iv) an admixture of the three.

15.4. The text mentions five kinds of whites of light shade (gaura); and twelve kinds of whites of dark shades (shyama).

The light- whites are the : gold like white (rukma) ; ivory like white (danta-gauri); white like the split sandal( sphuta -candana- gauri); autumn cloud like white( sharada- ghana) ; and autumn moon like white (sharad –candraka-  gauri).

Some other texts, which followed Chitrasutra give a slightly varied versions of the light -whites as: milk, pearl, silver, star or a conch-shell (Kasyapasilpa); Foam-white, champaka and karnikara flowers (Bana); and lime (Manasollasa).

15.5. The twelve types of dark (shyama) shades of white which are derived by the mixtures and manipulations of white with other colors and shades, as mentioned in the text are:

  • the mixtures with dark red (raktha-shyama);
  • with brownish red like the mudga pulse (mudga-shyama);
  • with dark green like durva grass (durvankura-shyama);
  • with pale green (pandu-shyama);
  • with greenish like topaz (harita -shyama);
  • with yellow (pitha-shyama);
  • with brown like priyangu creeper (priyangu- shyama);
  • with reddish brown like monkey’s face (kapi -shyama);
  • with blue like blue lotus (nilothpala -shyama);
  • with slight blue like casa bird (casa- shyama);
  • with purple- lotus – red (raktotpala-shyama) ;
  • and , with grey- dark like a dark cloud (ghana-shyama).

The objects gain a character (vishesha) and a dimension with judicious inter-mixture of colors.

15.6. The text then goes to describe the forms of a few other colours.

Blue
colour is said to be of three kinds: with white predominating, with very little white; or with both in equal parts.

When blue is transformed a great deal it becomes green; and, it could be pure green or an admixture of white; and green with blue predominating. Blue with black and red becomes metallic blue (nila-lohitha) .Blue is transformed variously while   in association with anything applied as an astringent.

Blue tinged with yellow and white gives rise to a variety of colours and shades; and to Blue- lotus colour when shaded dark.

Thus beautiful paintings should be made greenish like durva sprout; Yellowish like wood-apple; and dark like mudga.”

The kinds of red mentioned in Manasollasa and Kasyapasilpa are   : red lead (darada), crimson (sona), juice of lac (alaktarasa), blood red (raktha), soft red (mridu-raktha), and red ochre (lohita).

 “A painting in red and dark like the red-lotus (rakthothpala)
becomes beautiful when combined with white lac, covered by a coating of lac and resin
.”

Four kinds of yellow are mentioned in Kasyapasilpa: golden (svarna), yellow (pita), turmeric (haridra) and like pollen of lotus (pisanga ).

As regards black,  Kasyapasilpa mentions four shades: of clouds (nila), of forest crow (shyam), of a peacock (kala) , and of wing of a black-bee (krshna).To that list Bana adds : light black like that of a buffalo; darker black like the face of a golangula monkey; black of the pitch dark night.

By proper selection and distribution of colours a painting becomes beautiful.”

A painting should be then very beautiful, when a learned artist paints it with golden colours, with articulate and yet very soft lines, with distinct and well arranged garments ; and blessed with beauty of proportions and rhythm.”

16. Colour pigments

The colour pigments were made from mineral and vegetable colouring substances (Rangadravyas) or dyes.

16.1. The text mentions some colouring articles : gold (kanakam ) , silver (rajata), copper (tamra),mica (abrakam ),lapis lazuli’s (rajavarta), red lead (sindhura), lead (tavara),yellow orpiment (haritala- a bright yellow arsenic sulphide mineral), lime (suddhe), lac (lakshya), vermillion (hingulakam) and indigo (nila).

Rangadravyani kanakam rajatam tamram eva cha abhrakam rajavartam cha sinduram trapur eva cha, haritalam sudha laksha tatha hingulakam nripa, nilam cha manujasreshtha tathanye santyanekasah, dese dese mahaaja karyas te stambhanayutah, lohanam patravinyasam bhaved vapi rasakriya- 3. 40. 25-27

It is said; in case of all colors the liquid of sindhura tree is desirable.

16.2. The text further says “In every country, there are many such substances. They should be manufactured with an astringent (stambhanayutah). The irons or metals should be either thinned into leaves (patravinyasa) or they should be made liquid (rasakriya) – by chemical treatment. A mica defile placed in iron should serve as a distiller. In this way, iron becomes suitable for painting”

[There is also a reference to dying the cloth with varied figures. Not only were paintings made of cloth but the cloth itself was dyed so as to be decorated with figures. It is a technique for which, later ,  was made famous by the weavers of coastal Andhra Pradesh.]

16.3. The Gold sheet and powder was used to make the background or details in painting. Gold is of the most malleable and softest of metals. Therefore, it can be made in to a very thin sheet and cover wide surfaces. There were various methods for the preparation of powdered gold.

There is an interesting description of the process of turning gold into gold-paint. The text says:

“Pure gold, which is costly, should be slowly ground on a stone slab with an instrument (tunda) having at its tip the virana grass.

The gold-powder thus prepared should be placed in a bronze vessel and melted over again. Thereafter water should be poured into it and then be stirred up time and again. Now water of the vessel should be so carefully shifted that the stone-dusts remain for their solidarity. In this manner, pure golden pigments, showing the hue of the lustre of a newly risen sun, would be prepared. Thereafter, this gold-pulp should be mixed with a small quantity of vajralepa, should be placed at the tip of the brush and all ornaments, imagined as of gold, should be gilded therewith. When the gold applied in painting becomes dry, it should be slowly rubbed with a boar-tusk as long as necessary to attain a brightness of lightning.”

Sri rama durbar

 

A painting should be then very beautiful, when a learned artist paints it with golden colors, with articulate and yet very soft lines, with distinct and well arranged garments; and blessed with beauty of proportions and rhythm.”

The Shilparatna (1.46.124-132) mentions two systems for application of gold on to the painting: one, with gold powder mixed with vajralepa; and, the other with gold leaves.

The first method requires that before grinding gold, it should be turned into thin and soft leaves; and, those leaves should be very minutely fragmented and mixed up with small quantity of sand and clean water. And, thereafter, it should be mixed with water and poured into a pot, which should then be well shaken, so that the sand will rise above the gold, which is heavier. After removal of dirt and sand, the gold would shine very bright. And, that gold should be pasted along with proportionate glue (vajralepa) ; and , skillfully applied with a suitable brush. When dried up, it should be slowly rubbed with the tip of boar-tusk till the gold glitters.

As per the second method, the spots on the painting meant for gliding should be smeared with glue; and, extremely thin gold leaves should be laid thereon very steadfastly. Again, the gold-spots should be brightened by rubbing.

17. Shading.

17.1. Methods of producing effects of light and shade were considered very important for projecting three dimensional presentation of the image.* Weakness or thickness of delineation, want of articulation, improper juxtaposition of colors are said to be defects of painting.”

One of the endearing features of Ajanta art is shading the different parts of the body to produce three dimensional effects in the images. The other was use of proper colors at times contrasting and at times matching to create magical effects. These were precisely the principles that Chitrasutra emphasized.

The Shilparatna (1.46.113-117) explains that a skilled painter should fill in colors slowly and spotlessly with a flat brush in order to achieve the three-dimensional special effects of depressions and protrusions. Everything should be made to appear pleasing by differentiation of darkness and brightness; and, of hardness and softness. In application of individual colors, the effect of thickness is dark; and, that of thinness is bright. This effect is also achieved by using different colors. Where yellow stands for bright; red would be dark. The borderline should be carefully drawn in lampblack (kajjala-varna) with a fine brush.

17.2. The text mentions three methods of Vartana-krama or delineation of depth on a flat surface by the suggestion of light and shade. Such effects are sought to be achieved by one or more of the techniques: Patraja (cross hatching); Binduja (stipping) and Rekhika (fine lineation).

Tisrascha Vartanah proktah patra-rekhika-bindujah ( 3.41.5)

The first method of shading (Vartana) is called (Patraja) on account of lines being in the shape of leaves. The Binduja method is restrained (i.e., not flowing) handling of the brush while planting dots patiently. And, the Rekhika method is said to be very fine line-shading

17.3. While stressing the importance of proper shading of an image the text mentions that a painting in which an object is devoid of shading (varttana) is of average class (madhyama). A picture which in some parts are shaded and the rest is un-shaded is below average or is bad (adhama). And, a picture shaded skilfully all over is best (uttama).

A painting in which everything is drawn in an acceptable form in its proper position , in its proper time and age becomes excellent, while in the opposite case it becomes quite different.” 

“A painting drawn with care, pleasing to the eye, thought out with supreme intelligence and remarkable by its execution, beauty, charm, taste and such other qualities, yields desired pleasure.”

Shuiyue Guanyin' (Avalokiteṣvara), the mural in the Fahai monastary Bejing

[The murals at Ajanta, which were rooted in the principles of the Chitrasutra, are said to have influenced the Chinese painting techniques, particularly with regard to  the style of depiction  and shading;  giving a three-dimensional effect to the details in the painting .

“The Indian Painting Technique introduced from India is also called the concave and convex method. The concave and convex method is one of the traditional painting techniques of India. The concave and convex method was widely used in the murals of the Ajanta Caves in India. This method in Indian traditional paintings was also introduced in China across central Asia, which is called “Indian Technique” in Chinese painting history.

The Chinese scholar Xiang Da said, “Both Indian and Chinese paintings give priority to the lines. But Indian painting adds the concave and convex method in the lines to present a three dimensional sense in a flat surface. For the figures painted, such as the arms, contour lines are clean and lively, deep colours are added along the lines, which change gradually to soft and light internally, forming a round shape. This is what is called the concave and convex method. The Ajanta and Sigiriya Caves in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) all used this method to show light and shade. The Indian painting was introduced in China; the most notable and worth praising part of it is also this concave and convex method, going in the same channel of western painting introduced in China in Ming and Qing Dynasties.”

Source: (Civilization of Chang’an and the Western Regions in the Tang Dynasty).]

Dunhuang murals during the northern Wei Period in China. It is preserved in cave number 254 of Mogao caves

18. Brushes and crayons

The text mentions the tools required for drawing and sketching. Vartika was a general term used to denote both a brush and a crayon or a pastel for drawing. The Chitrasutra suggests that brushes could made of hairs collected from the ear of a calf; from the belly of a goat; from the tail of muskrat; or from tips of grasses.

It appears Tindu was a crayon too, of carefully burnt ebony twig; while kitta was black carbon prepared as a roll for sketching.  Tulika was brush prepared, perhaps, out of animal hair like sable, squirrel and hog; and , of bird feathers. It is said; a painter used at least nine brushes for every color.

The text says, “A painting firmly drawn with a tulika , a magnificent hairy brush , on a canvas dipped in juice of the best Durva grass cannot be destroyed ; and it remains intact for many years , though washed by water.”

Eberhard Fischer in his paper The Technique of Indian Painters A short note observes :

It may also be of interest to mention that the fine brushes used by the Indian masters for precise lines are made from squirrel hair. The tied-together hair bushel cut from the tail is pulled through a bird’s feather quill and fixed to a bamboo handle. For each color, a separate brush is usually used. The finest brushes for outlining do not end in a straight tip but are considered best when the hair possesses a natural sickle-like curve ending in a tip. With this peculiar brush, a master can draw a circle with an utmost uniform thin line! One should also not forget that Indian painters traditionally sit on the floor when working and keep the tablet with the picture on their left thigh. (When a low table is used its top is generally slanted at an angle.) The painter’s hand with the brush touches or even rests on the picture, which is covered at that point with a small piece of paper. The regular viewing distance is thus given by the length of the arm. The traditional miniaturist has his pigments mixed with gum Arabic (from the babul or acacia tree) and sometimes with catechu sap or with shellac for an even flow. Mixed pigments are usually stored in small river-mussel shells placed to the right of the painter on the ground.

19. How to go about the task?

The first requisite for a painting , of course, is bhu-labha or bhu-lambha the preparation of a proper, smooth, white surface to paint. It could be a canvas (pata), board (phalaka) or a wall (bhitti).

In the process of preparing the ground and then in fastening colors on that ground, the binding medium plays a very significant role in painting.

In fact, in the characterization of technique of a painting the nature of the medium is always taken into consideration; and accordingly, the universally accepted classification, such as, oil, water, tempera, fresco, etc. is generally formulated on the basis of the medium.

preparation of Bhumi: – preparation of board phalaka or canvas, pata, or ghattana –  phalaka ghattinchi: is the preparation of the board with canvas applied to it; and, – Merungidi is ‘giving brilliance’.

In the case of canvas on a board, Sri Vidyaranya describes that process in his Panchadasi,yatha dhauto ghattitascha lanchhito ranjitah patah “- ‘like the canvas whitened, prepared, marked i.e. sketched out and colored….’

-As regards the preparation of wall: Bhitti- samakara , it is said : The preparation of loam to be applied to the plaster on the wall to make a proper base for painting is as follows: a mixture of powdered brick, gum resin, bees wax, molasses, oil, burnt lime plaster, in definite proportions, pulp of bilva, bark or pinhchhila, sand and lime all to be soaked for a month in water. The surface of the wall to painted on has to be prepared by the application of this loam, the coat neither too thick nor too thin, making it meticulously even in its surface and glossy, smoothened with clayey liquid, juice of sarja and oil and rubbed by repeated sprinkling of milk, so that when it is dry it could last a century.

[ For a detailed note  on the subject of Paint grounds and binders according to ancient Sutras, please refer to the latter half of Part Four of this series.]

**

Sutra-pata-rekha are the very first lines of an outline of a preliminary sketch. The outline sketch is usually drawn a stump of a sort pencil called Vartika.- ( purvam tinduka-lekhyam syad yad va vartikaya budhaih / aakara -matrikam rekham vina likhet punah // ) .  This rough sketch seems to be called as varnaka or hastalekha.

The outline, no doubt, is a quickly drawn rough sketch. Yet, it is a well thought-out , meaningful , studied drawing.

While the Sutra-pata-rekha is the first line of the outline, the subha-varti-rekha is the finished sketch, ready for taking the colors. Now is the time for mandala – karya, drawing of curves, characterized as manorama (charming) and askhalita (un -erring) is the final stage of subha-varti-rekha. In this stage, the initially blocked rough contours are carefully rounded off at their edges; and, a new grace is added to the figures by more definitive work.

The initial coat of color is to be light (virala vilepana) and only the later depths are suggested by Vartana.

**

The text briefly mentions how a painter should go about his task. The outlines ought to be drawn in yellow and red as a rule.”The painter should think of the proportionate size of the thing to be painted, and think of it as having been put on a wall. Then calculating its size in his mind , he should draw the outline marking the limbs. It should be bright in prominent places and dark in depressed places . It may be drawn in a single color , where comparative distinction is required. If depressed places are required to be bright , jet black should be used . “

At another place, the text mentions that outlines should be drawn with un-oozing black and white brushes in due order fix them on the duly measured ground.

Outline has to be filled with the first colour-wash which could either white or green. And, it can later be filled with colour in appropriate places.

Chitrasutra cautions that an inconvenient painting stance or a bad seat or thirst or absentmindedness or sloppiness or bad temper could spoil the picture.

 Durasanam , duranitam , pipasa cha anyachittata / ete chitra-vinasanasya hetavah parikritah / – 3.48.13

**

The text, Samarangana-sutradhara, mentions eight-limbs’ (asta-angani) of painting to which an artist should adhere for achieving success as a painter:

Bhumibandhana (preparation of surface) ; Vartika (crayon work) ; rekha-karma ( outline work ); laksana (features of face) ; varna-karma ( colorings ); vartana-karma (relief by shading ); lekha-karma (correction) and dvika-karma ( final outline)

Eberhard Fischer in his The Technique of Indian Painters A short note explains that  Painting a picture is generally done in eight stages after the paper is burnished to make it compact, smooth and less absorbent:

1 The rough outline of the composition is sketched with charcoal.

2 The first drawing – often in sanguine – is done with the brush.

3 A first thin white wash is applied above this drawing.

4 The drawing is repeated, now in a thin but precise black line.

5 The white priming is laid over the drawing in such a thickness that its black lines remain feebly visible.

6 Before now filling in colors, excess pigments are erased with a sharp knife-blade, and the surface is burnished.

7 The pigments are laid – one by one – in thin layers, the first ones being a rather liquid wash and usually somewhat lighter than the final color. The picture is burnished from the back when dry, followed by a second round of applying pigments and burnishing.

8 When all colors are placed and dried, the outlines are traced,  details incorporated  and shading or volume indications done.  Some wash with yellow or light brown may be given, gold can finally be applied on yellow undercoating, and white drops may be made for pearls from powdered conch shells or zinc oxide mixed with chalk. The gold (or tin for an silver effect) can be powdered foil and applied like other mineral pigments, but also gold leaf could be glued on the picture. In both cases its surface was often pierced with a blunt needle after burnishing it to enhance the glittering effect.

march_of_elephants_wj35

Next:

 Chitrasutra continued

Sources and References:


I gratefully acknowledge Shri S Rajam’s sublime paintings

And other paintings from internet

Chitrasutra of the Visnudharmottara Purana by Parul Dave Mukherji

Stella Kramrisch: The Vishnudharmottara Part III: A Treatise on Indian Painting and Image-Making;

Second Revised and Enlarged Edition; (Calcutta University Press: 1928)

Technique of painting prescribed in ancient Indian Texts

http://curiosity-the-key-to-knowledge.blogspot.com/2006/12/technique-of-painting-prescribed-in.html

The “Sarvatobhadra” temple of the Vishnu-dharmottara-purana

https://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/dspace/bitstream/1887/2668/1/299_022.pdf

 
 

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The Art of Painting in Ancient India – Chitrasutra (4)

The Art of Painting in Ancient India – Chitrasutra (Annexure to three)

wallpainting in cave 1 Ajanta

This segment is in the nature of a supplement to The Art of Painting in Ancient IndiaChitrasutra (3) . I mentioned therein: “The Chitrasutra explores in great depth the characteristics of persons hailing from various regions and occupations. Since it is rather too detailed, I would be posting a summary of that, along with few other issues, in a separate article”. Hence, this post.

The Chitrasutra, at several places, discusses the appearances  of  persons and objects that we meet/see in our day to day life. It instructs, the representations of the objects and persons,   as drawn on the canvas should bear a credible resemblance to their original.

The text, therefore, reckons   rupa-bheda and sadrushya, among the six essential elements of a painting. Rupa-bheda consists in the knowledge of special characteristics of things – natural or manmade; say, the differences in appearances among many types of men, women or natural objects or other subjects of the painting; while Sadrushya aims to depict, in painting, those distinctions and resemblances.

Things that usually are visible to all should be well represented,  resembling what is  commonly seen in nature.”

Shiulparatna, another ancient text, too refers to painting as that which bears resemblance to, and looks like a reflection  in   mirror.

figures in Ajanta cave 10

The Chitrasutra instructs that the resemblances should not merely be in general but should extend to details as well. Every part of the object represented should agree with the general treatment of the whole object. It also says that the persons should be painted according to their country; their region, their colour, dress, and general appearances as observed. Having well ascertained the person’s country, region, occupation, age and his status in life; the text says ,  his other details such as his seat, bed, costume, conveyance, stance, and his gestures should be drawn.

The Chitrasutra explores this subject in great depth, detailing the characteristics of persons hailing from various regions and occupations; the nobility, widows, courtesans, artisans, wrestlers, soldiers etc.  It presents a virtual catalogue.

I am posting some of them, in a summarized form along with some illustrations (wherever available) from the sketches of the figures depicted in paintings of Gupta period.

[ Please also see HISTORICAL ANALYSIS OF THE COSTUME IN INDIAN ART, for a scholarly discussion on costumes in ancient art.]

[Bharata in the Chapter Twenty-one of the Natyashastra also gives indications of the costumes to be worn by characters of different class and types. Briefly, according to him:

Such men and women as are devoted to religious practices; and kings , gods as also beings such as Yakshas, Gandharvas, Nagas and Rakshasas ; the maids in the queen’s quarters (Kanchuki), tradesmen, ministers and priests should be dressed in white robes  with, of course, each with their distinctive styles, qualities and richness , depending upon their nature and station in life.

In the case of the Nagarikas, their garments should be of fine texture. The garments of the damsels should be sprinkled with perfumes like musk (Kasturi), saffron (kumkuma) etc; and, cosmetics like laksha, alaktika, gorochana and chandana.

The rouges, the Vita and the vicious ones, intoxicated, should be in dark, gaudy costumes.

Those playing the roles of ascetics, monks and nuns should wear robes in vermilion or yellow or any other colour in keeping with each ones tradition.

As regards the hermits and their celibate disciples, they should be decked in garments made of the bark of the birch tree.

The warriors and soldiers of various class and ranks should be attired in the appropriate military uniforms and turbans, sporting various medals, arms. The Commander-in-chief s should be adorned with coronets and crests.

Gods, divine beings and kings should be presented with crowns, diadems decorated with gems and other precious stones.

brāhmaṇāḥ kṣatriyāścaiva gaurāḥ kāryāstathaiva hi ।
vaiśyāḥ śūdrāstathā caiva śyāmāḥ kāryāstu varṇataḥ ॥ 113॥

evaṃ kṛtvā yathānyāyaṃ mukhāṅgopāṅgavartanām ।
śmaśrukarma prayuñjīta deśakālavayo'nugam ॥114॥

śuddhaṃ vicitraṃ śyāmaṃ ca tathā romaśameva ca ।
bhaveccaturvidhaṃ śmaśru nānāvasthāntarātmakam ॥ 115॥

śuddhaṃ tu liṅgināṃ kāryaṃ tathāmātyapurodhasām ।
madhyasthā ye ca puruṣā ye ca dīkṣāṃ samāśritāḥ ॥ 116॥

divyā ye puruṣāḥ kecitsiddhavidyādharādayaḥ ।
pārthivāśca kumārāśca ye ca rājopajīvinaḥ ॥ 117॥

śṛṅgāriṇaśca ye martyā yauvanonmādinaśca ye ।
teṣāṃ vicitraṃ kartavyaṃ śmaśru nāṭyaprayoktṛbhiḥ ॥ 118॥

anistīrṇapratijñānāṃ duḥkhitānāṃ tapasvinām ।
vyasanābhihatānāṃ ca śyāmaṃ śmaśru  prayojayet ॥ 119॥

ṛṣīṇāṃ tāpasānāṃ ca ye ca dīrghavratā narāḥ ।
tathā ca cīra baddhānāṃ romaśaṃ śmaśru kīrtitam ॥ 120॥ ]

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1. A king should be drawn as if he were a god

The handsome looking King wears a brown striped silk garment. He is offering flowers to the gods , placed  on a tray painted with designs.

He wears a tiara of floral motif from which hand string of pearls and sapphire. He has on his wrists bracelets of different kinds.

2. Prince

gupta_dynasty_prince

 

The tender looking Prince wears a classy, decorative crown, twisted like turban in stripes; and, bound, at intervals, with braid. The crown is studded with large gems and is encrusted with   brooches at the sides;  and,  has a central ornament on the top.

He wears a simple earrings (Kuntala) ; a single string of pearls (Muktavali).

His flowing hair comes down to his shoulders; is loosely knotted at the nape; and, bound at the back with ribbons.  On his young forehead, play the stylized curls.  

3. Queen

Women of good-families should be made bashful, wearing ornaments and not showy dress.

The beautiful looking queen seated on a decorated chair is dressed in antariya, a sort of lehenga tied to body at her waist. She has an uttariya (duppatta) the upper garment made of fine material.

She is adorned with several pearl neck-laces (mukthavali), ornamental pearl -bracelets on wrists (valaya), on upper arm (keyura).She wear rings (angulya) on her fingers, and anklets (nupura) round her ankles.

Her hairstyle is elaborate and made into a bun at the nape. Her hair is adorned with flowers, jewels and a tiara.

[Note: BTW, the bodice or blouse is a late entry into the Indian notion of dress. The aristocracy, the ladies of position, and queens of vey ancient India did not usually use a bodice or blouse (as you can see from ancient fresco at Ajanta etc). The women in orthodox families,   engaged in religious duties too did not use one such. But , somehow the chambermaids , the  female attendants on the king and the queen,  were required to wear a bodice –  Kanchuka , a  long narrow scarf, which did not require much tailoring. The chambermaids were therefore, generally, designated Kanchuki (कंचुकी) – as in the old Sanskrit dramas of 2nd century BCE.

The Buddhist nuns were, usually, allowed to use three pieces of cloth: samghati (for lower part), antarvasaka (for the upper part) and uttarasanga (covering garment, in cold season). Kanchuka or bodice was allowed to young nuns.

Some say that wearing a blouse or jacket came into vogue after the entry of Scythians, Kushanas and such others who hailed from cold regions. And, it became fashionable during the Muslim period. The northern influences took some time to percolate down to  the orthodox Deep South.

ravi varma

For instance ; even during the 18th and19th centuries , the ladies of the Kerala royalty , portrayed  in their traditional costume,  did not wear ‘blouse’.  ]

4. Chamber maid

courtlady (1)

While her upper body is left uncovered, she wears a skirt (Ghagri )  stretching up to the knees ; there is a draw-string (nada) at the waist ; the border of the woven silk material is  vertically down the center.

She wears graded ivory or conch-shell bangles (Valaya); and a bead necklace (Hara)

Her hair is parted at the center , with chignon on nape decorated with ribbons; a wreath of leaves is worn around the head.

5. Queens’s maids

The queen had several maids, and each had her function. Their dresses, styles and ornaments too varied accordingly.

Court lady or a sort of superintend over queen’s quarters

She is a rather stern looking lady with her hair neatly done and decorated with a tiara (makuta).She has wheel-like large ear–rings (kundala), a strand of pearls across her neck (haravsti) and a twisted wire necklace.

6. Maid servant

She carries a fly-whisk (chauri). She wears a short lower garment tucked in under her belt (mekhala) and perhaps a choli too. She is modestly adorned with a strand of pearls round her neck (haravsti), an armlet (keyura) and a bracelet (valaya).She has simple ear-rings. Her hair is drawn back into one plait with few curls on her fore head.

maidservent_3

7. Another maid  is dressed in a lehnga –type , of striped cloth(Anatriya); and, choli-type blouse (Cholaka) with an apron front and V-neck made of pulakabandha-tie and dye cloth.

On her ears, she has rings (Kundala); and, wears simple bangles (Valaya).

 Her hair is made into a simple bun with flower wreath (mala)

maidservent_4

8. This maid appears to be from the West.

Her hairstyle is simple and is not ornamented.  Her curly hair is held back by a fillet

 For dress, she wears a double jacket (Cholaka), of bandhni (tie-dye cloth) the upper one with shorter sleeves in the angarkha style; the lower one with longer sleeves. The angarkha is shown open;, the left edge of the neckline fastening is curved to fit the inside right edge probably with ties .

She wears two necklaces (Hara), both of beads with the central bead of different shape

 

9.Another maid servant has a simple skirt with a draw-string (nada) and a breast-band (prathidhi). She has an armlet (valaya) , large ear-rings (kndala) . Her hair is worn loose and long. She carries a palm-leaf fan.

10. There was an Ayah (nanny) type of maid too. She wore a long sleeved tunic and covered her head. She had large ear-ring (kundala) and a simple chain (hara).

Nanny

11.This Nanny was, perhaps, from the North-West region. She is dressed in a tunic (Angarkha) reaching up to her knees; with long sleeves; and, bordered all around the edges. She wears a heavily gathered skirt (Ghagri) tied at the hips with a nada. Her head is covered with a scarf –like long cloth (Uttariya) having a decorative border; and hanging behind the shoulders.

As for her ornaments, she has a tiara-like headgear (Mukuta); a flat, heavy short necklace (Kantha); and, bangle on left wrist (Valaya)

As regards her hair; it is shaped into a thick twisted roll, with a padding fixed at the center parting and held in place by tiny plaits of hair. Her head is covered the head with the veil , which is possibly of Parthian /Scythian origin ,and is seldom seen at Ajanta.

12. Dancing girl

The dancer who entertains the queen has an apron-front dress with long sleeves. Her lehanga (antariya) is short with patterned stripes. She perhaps has a choli too. She is well decorated with strands of pearls (muthavali), bangles and brace-lets (valaya), elaborate ear-rings (kanchana kundala) and a tiara (makuta).

For hair-style, she wears a large bun on her nape; she is adorned with flowers, several strands of pearls and chains, held in position by broaches.

13. Another dancer is clad in a sari-like garment and a full sleeved upper garment. She has a simple twisted sash round her waist. She is adorned with a necklace (hara),a row of bangles (valaya)on her left wrist, ear rings (kundala)and a set of heavy rings(nupura)  round her ankles. Her hair style is a chaplet of leaves.

14. Widows

Widows are to be shown with grey hair, wearing white clothes.

She wears a sari –like garment fully covering. Her ornaments are modest; with a string around her neck, simple brace-let and ear-rings. Her gray hair is drawn back in a knot.

15. Female Guard

The female security guard  in queen’s quarters  was well covered with a knee-length tunic having long sleeves. Below that she wore another garment reaching up to her ankles.

Her hair was drawn back tightly. She wore a simple neck-lace (hara) bracelet (valaya) and a heavy –twisted sash round her waist. She wore heavy anklets (nupura).

She carried along sphere and an embossed shield.. She appeared to be a mixture of indigenous and foreign styles.

16. Musicians

Musicians, dancers and those in their party entertaining the royal couple should wear gorgeous dresses.

The dancer, usually, has a long garment from his waist down to ankles. He is heavily ornamented with rows of neck-laces and jewellery around his arms, wrists and around the waist. He has an ornamented head gear too.

 

17. Heralds

Heralds should be drawn tawny and squint-eyed, carrying staffs in their hands.

A Herald is often shown in calf-length tunic with pointed ends; and with trousers narrow and clinging to legs. He also had a sash round his waist. He is not shown with jewellery; but holds a staff.

18.Attendant

He has an ankle length tunic and a long sleeved upper garment. A round cap with border and a plume sits on his head .

19. Bards

Bards should have a resplendent dress. Their look should be directed upward and the veins on their neck should be shown.

20. The doorkeeper

Door-keepers should be shown with a sword hanging by his side. He holds a staff in his hand; he should not look mild. His dress should not be too conspicuous.

He has a coat made in kachcha (Gujarat) style; and turban with twisted clothing. He holds in his hands a sphere and a shield. There is perhaps a sword hanging by hid waist-band.

21. Sage

Sages, emaciated yet full of splendor should be represented with long stresses of hair clustered on top of their head, with a black antelope –skin as upper garment.

22. Minister

He wears a simple tunic-like garment (Kancuka) with a round neck and long sleeves. It is open at the front. On top of that tunic,  he is wrapped with a long garment  (Uttariya) coming around his waist , and thrown over his left shoulder  like a  upavita ; with  the final end resting on his left arm.

He does not wear many ornaments, except for an earring (Bali), with a pearl suspended. Round his neck, he wears a simple necklace (Haravsti) of large pearls .

His long hair is combed back , smoothly.

23. Priest

Priests should be represented with white garments, and emitting splendor.

A priest was shown wearing a dothi type of garment and an upper garment (uttariya) thrown across his left shoulder. He had a simple string round his neck. His hair was tied in a top-knot.

24. Female worshiper ( or priestess)

female_votary

She perhaps was a counterpart of the priest. She wears an elaborate tiara-like ornament around the head (Ratnajali); and, there is a central ornament at the forehead from which are suspended the strands of pearls.

 She is decorated with garland (Mala) of flowers. And, large flower rests on  top of one of her ears like an ornament (karnavathamsa).And, on the ears she wears a large-sized ring  (Kundala). Further, higher up on her ears are suspended small earrings of pearls (Bali).  On her chest she wears a string of pure pearls (Suddha Ekavali), with a gem hanging from its centre.

Her hair is worn in a large pompadour style on the crown of the head with tiny curls neatly arranged along the forehead. And, strands of pearls form a net over the hair-style.

25. Another pristess

votary_figure

She carries an offering. She wears two long strings of pearls crossed at the chest (Vaikaksha); and , a string of pearls (Muktavali ) round her neck. On her ears , she has large disc-type earrings (Kundala). On her upper arms , she wears  armbands (Keyura); and, bracelet, one on each wrist (Valaya). One her legs, she has anklets (Nupura).

As regards her dress, she wears a short blouse (Choli); and, over that, an upper garment (Uttariya) worn over the left shoulder. She is dressed in a striped drawer- a short strip of cloth worn around the waist with an attached strip from the centre of the waist which is drawn up between the legs and tucked in at the back.

 For the head, she has a striped scarf tied around the head and knotted at the back, tassels are visible behind the right shoulder; further back on the head is a decoration of leaves with a central motif probably tied around a chignon-type hairstyle.

26. Commander

The commander of an army should be represented as strong , proud and tall, with big head, powerful chest; fleshy shoulders , hand and neck; firm hips,; prominent nose , broad chin with eyes raised upward towards sky.

27. Soldiers

Soldiers should generally be painted with frowns on their faces. Foot soldiers should be represented with short and showy uniforms, carrying weapons. They should have arrogant looks.

A foot-soldier wore a short jacket (cholaka) with half-sleeves, covering the chest. The lower garment (antariya) was short above the knee –level and had decorative stripes. He wore long hair and no headgear. He often wore domed caps with bands.  He carried a sphere and a shield.

Another soldier carrying a sword and shield is dressed in a calf-length tunic and a girdle at the waist. He has a disc type ear-ring (kundala). His hair is drawn in large top-knot bun.

28. Archer

Good archers are to be shown with bear legs. Their dress should not be very short and they should wear shoes.

He has a tunic with short sleeves and up to the mid-thigh. He has a wide wrap round his waist (kavabandh); an elaborate turban with top-knot; and, has earrings.

29. Elephant riders

Elephant raiders should have swarthy complexion. Their hair should be tied in a knot. They should wear ornaments as well.

It is said the foot soldiers and elephant-riders in the Gupta army wore a similar uniform. They wore sometimes more resplendent in gold-striped antariya and skull caps or fillets on their heads.

30. Horsemen

Horsemen were shown dressed in coat having pointed collar and floating ribbon ties; baggy trousers up to ankles and wearing dome-cap.

 

31. Wrestlers

Wrestlers should be drawn with broad shoulders, fleshy neck and lips; with closely cropped hair; and with arrogant and impetuous looks.

32. Elders

The elders and respected people of town and country -side should be painted looking calm, with almost grey hair, adorned with ornaments suitable to their status, wearing white garments; and stooping slightly forward, ready to help.

An elderly gentleman’s hair is arranged in a large top-knot and with turban in a twisted style. He is decorated with elaborate ear-rings , necklaces and bracelets.

33. Merchants

Merchants should be shown with their heads covered on all sides by turban.

A merchant is usually shown in a calf-length tunic (kanchuka) gathered at the neck, with long sleeves. He has a heavy looking and a long cloth (uttariya) thrown across his chest and shoulders. He has waist band too (kavabandh).His turban has a fan shaped frill. He carries a baton like stick.

34.  Buddhist Monk (Bhikshu)

He wears a long lower-garment (Antaravasa) , folded into layers around the body. At the waist the garment is was secured by a girdle or tucked into the nada (drawstring). He has the upper garments (Uttarasanga) thrown over the shoulder in a loop.

He is clean shaven’; and is usually shown carrying a bowl.

Resources:

Stella Kramrisch: The Vishnudharmottara Part III:  A Treatise on Indian Painting and Image-Making; Second Revised and Enlarged Edition (Calcutta University Press: 1928)

Gupta period [Early Fourth to Mid-Eighth Century AD] –Ancient Indian costume

http://www.4to40.com/discoverIndia/index.asp?article=discoverindia_guptas

http://www.4to40.com/history/print.asp?p=gupta_period_early_fourth_to_mid-eighth_centuary_a.d.

 

 

Sml. Attr Nainsukh, A Troupe of Trumpeters

The following is also by way of  an appendix.

This is about the details provided in Chitrasutra for preparing the wall-surface for  the purpose of painting a mural.

A word of caution ; the instructions detailed here are rather too technical me. And ,  I do not pretend I understand all that is said in the text . That is the reason,  I am posting those details in the form of an appendix.

Preparation of the wall- surface for painting a mural

The text details two methods. It assures that if its recommendations are followed “it (the wall-surface) does not go to ruins even at the end of hundred years.”

*****

A. The wall has to receive a thick coating  of bricks , burnt conches and the like , powdered and mixed with sand; the watery preparation of molasses and drops of the decantation of mudga(phaseolus munga –mung pulse) amounting to a fourth part of the mortar powder.

In to that, smashed ripe banana fruits have to be added, also a fourth part of the amount of the mortar.

After three months, when the mixture is dried, it shall be ground again.

Then it must be mixed once more with molasses-water, until it gets a touch of fresh butter.

In this stage, buffalo-hide has to to be boiled in water, until it becomes soft like butter. The water then has to evaporate and sticks have to be made of the paste and dried in the sunshine.

This hard plaster is called Vajra-lepa (diamond like –paste). If, then boiled in mud vessel with water, it will make any colour fast with which it is mixed. If mixed with white mud, it has to be used as coating for the wall, in three layers, each layer being allowed to dry before the application of the next.

The wall having been cleansed with coconut fibres and having been sprinkled for some time with molasses- water, on this the painting may be applied.

This is the two-fold process by which the wall is made ready for the drawing and application of colours.

*****

B. Brick powder of three kinds has to be mixed with clay, one third part (in amount of the brick powder). Having mixed saffron with oil, one should mix it with gum resin, bees’ wax, liquorices, molasses and mudga preparation in equal parts. One-third part of burnt yellow-inyrobalan should be added therein.

Finally , the astringent made of Bel-tree (Feronica-elephantum) destructive (of all injurious agents) mixed in proportion of two to one should be added and also a portion of sand , proportionate to the amount of the whole.

Then the artist should drench the mixture with moist split pulse dissolved in water. The whole of the moist preparation has to be kept in a safe place for one month. After the moisture has evaporated within a month, one should put this dried, yet still damp, plaster on the wall, having carefully considered everything.

It should be plain, even, well distributed, without ridges or holes, neither too thick nor too thin. Should it look ill-done after having become quite dry , due to shrinkage , then it ought to be carefully smoothened by coatings of plaster made of that clay (as mentioned before) mixed with resin of the sala-tree (shorea-robnsta) and with oil.

It is further made smooth by repeated anointing, constant sprinkling with water and by careful polish. When this wall has promptly dried, it does not go to ruins anywhere even at the end of hundred years.

By this same means various jeweled floors can be made of variegated mixture in two-fold colors.

flower

For a detailed discussion on the subject of Paint grounds and binders according to ancient sutras, please refer to : M. Singh and B.R. Arbad who conducted technological studies on Ajanta painted mortars, write in their in their research paper Ancient Indian painting recipes and mural art technique at Ajanta

 (A) Vishnudharmottara Purana

 For the preparation of paint ground this text prescribes three types of brick dust and three parts of mud mortar to which Guggula (gum or resin), madhu-cchlliioa (bee wax) are added in equal quantity. According to the text all these must be mixed with one third of powdered burnt lime, pulp from bilva (Aegle marmelos) in two to one ratio along with necessary quantity of salt free sand. The text recommends storing this mixture in water mixed with the bark of picchila (a legume, probably Dalbergia sisoo, Bombax heptaphyllum) for one month. An experienced artist removes this mixture from the container and applies it to the wall and allows drying. Particular care has to be observed that this layer is smooth and uniform and neither too thin nor too thick. If the wall that is starting to dry does appear not properly done, then it must be carefully polished to make it uniform with a layer of intonacco (lepna) made up of earth mixed with a juice of oarja (Shorea robusta). The surface is also polished with a fine lamp black (anjana) and repeatedly spread with milk. The text confirms that the wall mortar treated in this way will not deteriorate even after one hundred years. It also says that the same procedures must be followed to prepare various paint grounds.

For the binder, the Vishnudharmottara prescribes the use of decoction of skins (Carmakvatha) which corresponds to famous Vajralepa glue, used in the mixture to cover the surface that act as protective coat. The text provides five different recipes for the preparation of Vajralepa. One of the recipes lists ox or buffalo horns among the ingredients, a buffalo or cow or goat skin mixed with juice of bimbo (Momordica monadelpha) and kapittha (Feronia elephantum).

In Vishnudharmottara the use of binders with vegetable origin is also prescribed. One such recipe is the juice of bakula (Minusops elengi) and sindura (Grislea tomentosa) which are mixed with Carmakvatha.

For protective agent or fixative, the text recommends application of juice of Cynodon dactylon (durva grass) to the finished paintings with the help of cloth soaked in it.

(B) Samaragao Sutradhra

The Samaragao Sutradhara describes very clearly to Vishnudharmottara between the first preparatory layer known as bhumi-bandhana and intonaco, known as Lepkarma. It recommends that juice from various plants, such as Snuhivastuka (Euphoria anti quorum), kuimaoa (a cucurbit, Beninacasa cerifera), kuddali (Bouhina variegata), Opamarga (Achyrantes aspera) and Ikika (Sugarcane sp.) are let to rest for a week and them mixed with the juice of Siaoapa (Dalbergia sisso), Ashoka tree, Nimba (Azadirachta Indica), Triphala (Myrobalan sp.), kuooja (Wrightia antidysenterica) and kaiayaka (Acacia catechu) together with sea salts (about 2%). This mixture is sprayed in previously leveled wall where the painting work has to be undertaken. The juices of these plants are used to wash the wall surface that also probably works as insecticides.

Some of the fine earth is mixed with double quantity of sand, to which juice of kakubha (Terminlia arjuna), Maia (seeds of beans or other legumes), oalmali (Salmalia malabarica) and oriphala (Aegle marmelos, bilva or bel tree) in variable proportions are added. The mortar thus prepared by mixing the ingredients are applied to the wall in sufficient quantity to get what has been described as thickness of elephant skin. When the wall is dry it must be washed with care. Whitish lime stone fine powder is mixed with boiled rice and starch in correct proportions and applied three times to the prepared wall.

After the application of first preparatory layer (bhumi-bandhana), neutral colored, red or brown clay collected from different places (such as bank of lotus pond, side of the wall under the roof of tree or along the bank of the river etc.) is applied on the wall. For the third layer, the text says that earth from anthill (free from stone grains) should be added to the juice of Oalmali (Salmalia malabarica), kakubha (Ferninalia arjuna), triphala (myrobalan), chopped betel nuts (Areca catechu, kramukha), bilva pulp (Aegle marmelos, bel tree), horse hair, ox hair, coconut fiber, a certain quantity of rice husk, and double quantity of mud and sand in one to two ratio in respect to mud is applied on the already prepared wall. A further mixture of mud slip and marble dust, gypsum or sugar dust is applied to the mortared ground with a brush. Finally, the mixture of lime putty and wax is applied.

(C) Silpratna

Silpratna is the southern Indian traditions of preparing paint ground with lime based materials. The text prescribes that the mixture of first layer is prepared with lime obtained from conch-shells burnt in wood fire and grounded into powder, mixed with a quarter part of mudga juice (Phaseolus mungo), a quarter parts of sand and molasses and a quarter part of paste of banana burnt in fire. After proper mixing, these are stored for three months, after which it is grounded in the form of a mortar with molasses until it has the consistency of fresh butter. In the meantime, the wall is first leveled and polished with coconut coir brush. It is then tampered with molasses water to keep it wet for at least a day. The lime mortar prepared as above slowly applied layer by layer to the wall so that the surface becomes smooth and uniform. While intanaco application is under progress water must be sprayed on to the surface using coconut coir brush. For the preparation of upper preparatory layer, powdered shells or white earth fine powder mixed with kapittha (Feronia elephantum) and nimba (Azardirachta Indica) is applied to the wall. This compound must be applied using the bark of ookooa (Trophis aspera) tree or with a brush made up with the stem of ketaki plant (Pundunus odoratissimus) plant until the wall becomes smooth and polished. The same powdered lime having been moistened with the milk of a tender coconut is again grounded and diluted with hot water and applied again to the intonaco as described above.

***

The authors conclude:

Although ancient Indian painting text were written after Ajanta, it is worthwhile to explore where what is written in the text are in consonance with the technique employed at Ajanta

Analysis of mud mortars and its composition reveals that there are no changes either in composition or technology of preparation of mud mortar and execution technique of murals at Ajanta supporting the short chronology. The investigation showed that the organic binder has invariably been used in the preparation of mud mortar of Ajanta in accordance with ancient text which might have now transformed into calcium oxalate, observed through FTIR images. The mortar is also found mixed with organic additives such as rice husk, plant fibers and seeds for re-enforcement. With minor variations, almost similar technology was used for the preparation of mud mortar and pigment layers were also found mixed with organic binder and sometimes with kaolin as per ancient text. With minor modification, the technique of painting at Ajanta remained almost identical and the pigments used are always natural mineral colors. All the pigments are of local origin except lapis lazuli which was probably imported from Persian countries through trade on silk route. The studies are of great importance in planning future conservation measures of Ajanta murals and understanding of execution technique.

pattern118

 

 

References and sources

Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara Purana by Parul Dave Mukherji

Stella Kramrisch: The Vishnudharmottara Part III:  A Treatise on Indian Painting and Image-Making; Second Revised and Enlarged Edition; (Calcutta University Press: 1928)

M. Singh and B.R. Arbad who conducted technological studies on Ajanta painted mortars,  in their research paper Ancient Indian painting recipes and mural art technique at Ajanta

 

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