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The texts of the Indian Dance traditions – Part Nine

Continued from Part Eight

Lakshana Granthas – continued

2. Tamil Traditions

lavanya

The ancient Tamil classic Silappadikaram (dated around the second century) attributed to Prince Ilango Adigal; and, Manimekalai by the Poet Chithalai Chathanar (around the fifth century) have abundant references to Dance. The Silappadikaram also refers to another text on Dance: Jayantam, which prescribed the rules for the dance. These were said to be part of the Tamil Art traditions, the Muthamizh.

There are two existing commentaries on Silappadikaram; one of which is ancient – the Arumpadavuri; and the other is from the fifteenth century by Adiyarkunallar.

The Silappadikaram mentions many technical terms related to Dance. Some of those terms are similar to the ones that figure in the Natyashastra; such as: Natya, Ranga (Arangam, Aadukalam), Pindi, Karana and Mandala (Mandila) etc. There are also many Tamil technical terms; such as: elir kai, tolir kai, arangu, izzippu and such others.

And many concepts and techniques of the Natyashastra are adopted into the Tamil texts. For instance; Nilai, meaning stance, are the six Sthanas as in the Natyashastra; and, Padam the feet variations and the sixteen Angakriyas are also the same.

In its Third Chapter Arangetrakadai, the Silappadikaram mentions how a dancer should have mastery in ‘Pindiyum Pinayalum Ezhirkaiyum Tozhirkaiyum’. Dr. Padma Subrahmanyam explains how these are related to the terms in Bharata’s Natyashastra: ‘Pindi’ denotes group dance; ‘Pinayal’ means chain-formation, i.e., the dance where dancers form links; ‘Ezhir kai’ meant Nrtta hastas; and, ‘Tozhir kai’ meant Abhinaya hasta.

The scholars regard Silappadikaram as a Lakshya- Grantha, a text for practice of dance, based on Natyashastra, a Lakshana Grantha, a text which provides theoretical principles.

Silappadikaram refers to the contemporary streams of classical and folk dances. The Dance was known as Aadal or Arangetru Kadai; but more popularly as Kuttu. The folk dances were known as Archiyar Kuravai-kuttu. And Music was: Kadaladu Kadai, Konalvari and Venir Kadai. The folk- Kuttu tradition flourished under the patronage of temples. And, even today the Teukuttu dance troupes perform mythological dance dramas during festivals.

The text also explains the classification of two distinct dance types, prevalent in that era, the Aham (Ahakuttu) and Puram (Purakuttu).

Under the Ahakuttu, twin concepts are explained; such as, Aryam and Tamil; and Lyalpu and Desi.

Further Santi Kuttu, representing classical form of dance was divided into four types, namely Chokkam; Mey kuttu; Avinaya kuttu and Natakam. Of these, the Chokkam or Suddha Nrttam (pure dance, Nrtta) was having the 108 Karanas.

The other was Vinoda Kuttu or Metu Kuttu (also called Ahamargam) for entertain­ment, depicting love themes. It was of three kinds, viz., Desi, Vadagu and Singalam.

It again had three divisions – Sama Kuttu, Vanmai Kuttu (Tandava) and Menmai Kuttu (Lasya).

Under the other category, Purakuttu, three modes of dances were mentioned as: Perunatai, Charyay, and Bhramari.

*

As regards the Dancers, apart from the Devadasis-the temple dancers – the Silappadikaram mentions other classes of female dancers. It appears during the time of the Silappadikaram a three-fold classification of female dancers existed as: ganikas, kuttis and adal siladi – corresponding to the later classification tahyilar, patiyilar and devaradiyal.

The text, in that connection, names these other classes of dancers as: kaval ganika (women guards); kalattiladum kutti (dancers in the military camp); adal kuttis (dancers who performed ahakkuttu or srngara dances like padams), and so on.

Women musicians and dancers were known in the Tamil country from the Sangam Age. The daughter of the Chola King, Karikal Chola, Adi Mandi was an acclaimed dancer. She danced with bells around her waist to the sweet sound of the golden symbols, a kind of musical instrument. The Sangam literature refers to Panar and Viraliyar, the musicians and dancers. Both formed into a troupe and travelled together to perform in front of patrons.  They played on the Yal (a kind of lute); Maddala, Kudamula (drums); and, on the Amantirikai i.e., Edakkai, all of which blended in unison beautifully.

In one of the verses in Ahananuru, the dance of the girl Virali is compared to the movement of the peacock with spread out plumes.

peacock2

Madhavi, the most beautiful accomplished dancer by profession (Parathiyar), described as Vanavamakal (divine woman), is one of the three leading ladies in the Silappadikaram.

It is said; Madhavi’s training began when she was a young girl of just five years; and, it lasted rigorously for seven years

From the early age of five, for seven years, Madhavi had been put through a course of rigorous training. Every single day her teachers would arrive in Morning and evening; and, she sang scales and practiced dance movements. More masters came. She learnt to accompany herself on the Yal. She learnt the fine points of the flute and drum. Later still, came the composers, insisting that she should bring out all possible shades of meaning from every song she sang or danced to. And, till the day of her first performance she kept practicing, rehearsing strenuously and planning out every detail.

**

Madhavi was described in the ‘Ararigetru kaathai’ Chapter of Silappadikaram, as a woman (matantai), having broad shoulders (perun tol) and curly hair (puri kuzhal) adorned with pollen (taatu avizh) of flowers. Madhavi studied dancing (aatal), paatal (singing) and the art of enhancing beauty (azhaku). She was capable of singing without even one (onru) defect (kurai) in three (muunru) modes (kuur) ; and, was an authority (pataam) in her field. She studied these skills with great effort (iyatti) for seven years (eezh aantu). After twelve (eer aaru) years (antu), she wished to show (kaattal) her performance before the king (mannar) of Pukar, who has the surrounding (chuul) sea (katal) as the boundary of his kingdom.

arangetram55

And Madhavi’s Arangetram (Talai Arangerai) took place in the presence of the Chola King Karikala Peruvalathin, in his Royal court, located in the famous city of Kaveri poom-pattinam.

The Chapter Arangetrakadai, opens with a description of Madhavi and then her troupe, consisting of a very learned Natyacharya or Nattuvan (Adal Asiriyan), a Sangitacharya or musician (Isai Asiriyan), the player on the drum (Tannumai Asiriyan), and an accompanying orchestra of a flutist and a lute-player (Kuzhalon and Yal Asiriyan). 

talaikol2

After describing the qualities of these accompaniments, the poem describes the stage on which Madhavi gave her performance.

The debut of Madhavi is said to have commenced by rendering the innovatory songs called the ‘Vara’ or ‘Tevara padal’ collectively sung by a group of songsters including the old dancers.

Madhavi, of long, black-flower-like eyes, adorned with rich ornaments, performed Cittira Karanam (perhaps similar to the Purvaranga or invocation, as mentioned in Natyashastra).

She performed as many as eleven types of Kuttus or dances (Mandalas – combination of 8-10 Caris), in all the tempos, in accordance with the dancing conventions; and thus, completing Antarakottu. And, then she demonstrated all the four parts of the auspicious Palai song, displayed in the Desi dance. She began with the Mandalam having three beats; and ended with ‘Eka talam‘ having one beat. In the same manner, she danced the Vaduhu dance. Madhavi, in her performance, effortlessly followed the prescriptions of the Dance-scriptures.

Her performance revealed that she knew (purintu) all the divisions (vakut) of Nrtta and Nrtya (naattiya nannuul); and, the authentic text on dancing (Natyashastra).

It is believed; unlike the present day practice, where the dancer enacts different characters by wearing same costume (Ekaharya), Madhavi is said to have adorned different costumes suggestive of the character portrayed by her in all the eleven dances.

The fawn eyed Madhavi, strikingly beautiful with perfect features, lit with vivacity and laughter, in her quick movements dazzled like a golden creeper (pon iyal) throbbing with vitality, adorned with flowers (puun koti).

The king (ventan) awarded her with a garland of leaves and flowers (ilai puun kotai), in accordance with (vazham ait) the established custom (iyalp-p-inil).  He also rewarded her with one thousand and eight (aayirattu en) Kazhanchu (pieces of pure Gold) as per the tradition (viti murai). She was awarded the title of  Talaik-koli, in recognition of her skill and her achievement. She was also presented with the sacred-staff Talai-kol, a traditional gift given to first-time-performers (talai-arangu-eri).

Talaikol3

[As regards Talai-kol, it was a sort of staff wielded by the dance-master to regulate the dance. It was conceived as a symbol of Indra’s son.  It was crafted out of the handle (kaampu) of a white umbrella (ven kutai) that belonged to noble person (per icai) or a king (mannar) or a great sage (periyar).

Its middle (itai nilam) was decorated with the best Navalam; covered with plates of gold (polam} ; and, adorned with  nine kinds of gems (nava Mani), studded (ozhukki) in its joints (kan itai), forming a beautiful pattern. It had an emblem of Jayanta (cayantan}, the son (ciruvan) of Indra (Intira). The finished rod was offered worship (vantanai) in the palace (koyil) of the Chola king (mannavan), who sits under a white Umbrella (ven kutai).

Talaikol

On an auspicious day (nalam taru naal),  Madhavi washed (manni) the rod (kol) with holy waters of the Cauvery (punniya nan neer) in a golden pot (por kutam) and adorned (anintu) it with a garland (malai) . It was then publicly (paracinar) placed on the head (tatakkai) of the sixty year old royal-elephant (aracu-uvaa), along with a beautiful (puun) golden (polam) vessel (otai) containing sandal (Cantaam) and other auspicious things.]

arangetram3

Shri T. S Parthasarathy, in his article Bharathanatyam in History, writes: Arangetram was called Talai Arangeral. As soon as the dancer got on to the stage two songs were sung and they were called daiva-padal or prayer. After this, all the instruments on the stage were played together; and, this was called as Antarak-kottu. The dance started after this; and, the girl first danced desi-koothu. This would start with Matta-talam and end with Eka-talam. The next item was Margam for which a Prabandham was sung in the Pancha-talam.

The Chapter on dance, Arangetrakadai, elucidates, in great detail, the proficiency of the dance teacher and his skill as a choreographer and musician, and tie principles of stage management.

This chapter also gives a detailed account of the rules and principles pertaining to the dance music i.e. vocal as well as instrumental dance musical accompaniments. The importance of the proper instrumentation i.e., tuning and playing of different instruments such as Yal, flute and drum and the manner in which the combination of these instruments should exist and be executed which ultimately facilitate in heightening the aesthetic pleasure of the dance have been mentioned in elaborate measure.

In addition to this, Silappadikaram states the qualifications of a good dance teacher, known as ‘Adal asiriyan’, vocalist and other members of the orchestral troupe.

Regarding the dance teacher, it mentions that the adal asiriyan should be proficient not only in the eleven types of dances, but also should be well versed in its music ; and, must have thorough knowledge in the allied arts such as music, literature and should be capable of playing on different musical instruments too.

ramya

References and Sources

  1. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/71949/8/08_chapter%203.pdf
  2. https://joss.tcnj.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/176/2017/04/2017Ruhl.pdf
  3. https://www.scribd.com/document/234378951/Arangetram-History
  4. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/71949/8/08_chapter%203.pdf
  5. http://www.yabaluri.org/Web%20(1978%20%-202008)/theatrearchitectureinancientindiaoct98.htm

agni purana

3.Agni Purana

Agni Purana is one of the eighteen Puranas. It usually figures eighth in the list of eighteen. It is a medieval Purana that was, perhaps, compiled in stages during the Seventh and the Eleventh centuries. It is a voluminous work having as many as about 15, 000 or more verses , spread over 382 or 385 Chapters.

In its nature and content, the Agni Purana is a sort of an encyclopedia that covers ‘anything and everything’. It deals with wide-ranging subjects, such as: geography; cultural history; politics; education system; iconography; taxation theories; organization of army; theories on proper causes for war; diplomacy; local laws; building public projects; water distribution methods; trees and plants; medicine, Vastu Shastra (architecture); gemology; language; grammar; poetry; Alamkara, Chhandas; Rasa ; Riti; Yoga; food,; rituals and numerous other topics.

Just to gain a familiarity with the coverage of the Agni Purana, please click on HERE and on HERE.  

The initial Chapters of the Agni Purana describe about various incarnations of Lord, including Rama and Krishna. Other chapters describe about religious rituals especially those related to the worship of Lord Shiva. Many chapters have description about the earth, stars and constellations as well as the duties of the kings. The Agni Purana, generally,  is full of rituals

All this leads to the fact the Agni Purana was composed at a much later period , attempting to bring together , in a summary form, the stories, the rituals, and the details of various subjects that were described in the earlier Epics and the Puranas.

Therefore, none of the material in the Agni Purana is new or original. Its aim, perhaps, was to supplement the branches of traditional knowledge contained in the earlier texts; and, to collect and to preserve the core-topics of the important subjects, which were of current interest during the period of its compilation.

Thus, the Agni Purana, by its very nature is a summary. Therefore, its chapters are generally not long, they are very brief. And even when the stories, rituals and other information are given, they are in greatly summarized form.

Following that type of presentation, the Agni Purana, in its Chapters 340 and 34i , gives some information about Dance, particularly relating to Anga-karma Abhinaya (actions, gestures and movements) , largely taken from the ancient Nrttasutra and the Natyashastra.

[Please click HERE for the text of the Agni Purana; and, refer to the portion commencing with the title Ntyādāv-aga-karma-nirūpaa; and, here for  Abhinayādi-nirūpaa ]

In Chapter 340 (Aga-karma-nirūpaa) , the Agni Purana mentions the actions of the Angas and Pratyangas; thirteen actions of head (Shirobedha); which are the same as given In the Natyashastra.

Thirty-six movements of eyes (Dṛṣṭī-lakaam) are mentioned, among which, eight are the Rasa-drstis, related to the expressions of the various emotions and sentiments.

The Purana refers to nine actions of the eyeballs (Tara) (as compared to eight by the Natyashastra); but mentions by name only the twoBhramari and Calana.

Agni Purana mentions just four types of actions of the eyebrows (Bhru) – (Patana, Bhrukutimukha, Sthayi and Sanchari). However, the last two were not included among the seven types of eyebrow movements enumerated in the Natyashastra.

Agni Purana refers to six different actions of the nose (Nasika), without enumerating them by name. The Purana refers to nine actions of respiration (Nisvasa) . But, these were not mentioned In the Natyashastra.

The Purana refers to six actions of the lower lips (Adhara);  seven actions of the chin (Cibuca); six actions of the face (Mukha); and, nine actions of the neck (Griva) ; without , however ,  naming them .

The Agni Purana also refers to there are various actions of the hands (Hasthas) – single and combined (Asamykuta and Samyukta). It mentions the twenty-four Asamyukta-hasthas in the same order, with slight variation, as mentioned in the Natyashastra. As regards the Samyukta-hasthas, they are twelve in number (not thirteen as in Natyashastra). The Pushpaputa is omitted here.

[Similarly, the other Puranas, such as , the Vishnu Purana, the Bhagavata Purana and the Harivamsha  provide some general information of the Hastas.]

The Purana also refers to five actions of the chest (Urah) ;  five actions of the sides (Parsva) ; and, to  five actions of the thighs (Uru) . But, these are neither specifically named nor discussed.

Agni Purana names the three actions of the belly (Udara) as: Duratiksama, Khanda and Purna. The first one is mentioned in the Natyashastra, merely, as Ksama.

The movements of the feet (Pada-bedha) are mentioned as being various;  but without  mentioning  their specific numbers.

*

Thus, the Nrtyadi-ranga-karma, information about the bodily actions in Dance, is very brief. And, in certain cases, it slightly differs from the Natyashastra. Obviously, the Agni Purana obtained its information about Dance from another source also; perhaps from Nrtta-sutra, which is no longer extant.

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The Agni Purana , in its Chapter 341, describes the importance of the four types of Abhinayas ; and , remarks that the four factors viz., Sattva, Vac, Anga and Aharya  play a dominant role in bringing out the best that exists in a dramatic composition and In the heart of  the dramatic personae.

Ābhimukhyan nayann arthān vijñeyo a’bhinayo budhai / caturdhā sambhava sattva vāg agā ahara rāśraya //AP_341.001//

stambhādi sāttviko vāgārambho vācika āgika / śarīrārambha āhāryo buddhyārambhapravttaya // AP_341.002//

***

References and Sources

  1. http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/164285/8/07_chapter%202.pdf
  2. https://www.kamakoti.org/kamakoti/agni/bookindex.php
  3. http://www.bharatadesam.com/spiritual/agni_purana.php
  4. http://www.aa.tufs.ac.jp/~tjun/data/gicas/ap3_tr_frame.html

 

natya

 

  1. Vishnudharmottara

The Visnudharmottara Purana  (Ca. fifth or sixth century) is a   text that is Encyclopedic in its nature.  Apart from painting, image-making, Dancing and dramaturgy, it also deals with varied subjects such as astronomy, astrology, politics, war strategies, treatment of diseases etc.

The author asserts that the Vishnudharmottara  is but a compilation; and, is an attempt to preserve the knowledge that was hidden in older sources. Sadly, all those older texts are lost to us. Vishnudharmottara is thus the earliest exhaustive treatise available to us on the theory and practice of temple construction, painting,  Dancing and image making in ancient India.

The text, which is divided into three khandas (parts), has in all 570  Adhyayas  (chapters).  It deals with dance, in its third segment – chapters Twenty to Thirty-four.

The author follows the Natyashastra in describing the abstract dance form, Nrtta; and, in defining its function as one of beautifying a dramatic presentation. There are, however, slight variations in the enumeration of the Karanas, Angaharas and Hastas.

The focus of the text is on Nrtta, defining its vital elements such as Karanas, Cari etc., required in dancing. In addition, the author briefly touches upon the Pindibandhas or group dances mentioned by Bharata; and, goes on to describe VrttiPravrtti and Siddhi; that is – the style, the means of application and the nature of competence.

swans

As regards its  structure and the contents of the Parts dealing with Dance:

:- In Chapter Twenty (the first chapter of the section), the author follows the Natyashastra in describing the abstract dance form, Nrtta; and, in defining its function as one of factors beautifying a dramatic presentation.

The Chapter Twenty deals with the appropriate places for the performance of Nrtta. It also discusses the aspects of the stage and the presentation of the preliminaries. The discussion includes the characteristics of actors; the four different types of Abhinayas, namely – Angika, VacikaSattvika and Aharya; and the names of all the complicated movements necessary for the composition of a dance sequence. In addition, the author briefly touches upon the Pindibandhas or group dances mentioned by Bharata; and goes on to describe  Vrtti,  Pravrtti and Siddhi, ; that is – the style, the means of application and the nature of competence.

:- The Twenty-first Chapter discusses Sthanas or postures while lying down (Shayana);,while the Twenty-second deals with the Sthanas to be assumed by persons of  different status , while sitting. The focus of these two chapters seems to be on dramatic presentation.

:- The twenty-third chapter is devoted to postures meant for both men and women.

:- The Twenty-fourth Chapter lists the movements of the major limbs, the Angas, along with the meaning attached to each of those movements. The major limbs, according to this text, are the head, the neck, the chest, the sides, the waist, the thighs, the shanks and the feet. In conclusion, the Chapter defines the Cari and the Karana, the two vital and complicated movements required in Dancing.

:- In the Twenty-fifth Chapter, the movements of the Upangas or minor limbs are discussed, including the glances of the eyes (Dristi bedha) that express the   Sthayi and Vyabhicari- bhavas; the movements of the pupils; the eyebrows; the nose (nostrils), chin and lips, as well as the application of these movements.

:- The Twenty-sixth chapter describes three types of hand-gestures (Hasthas), those made with one hand (Asamyukta), those made with both (Samyukta) – along with the meanings they can convey – and hand-gestures meant for dancing (Abhinaya), which convey no meaning (Nrtta-hastha).

:- The twenty-seventh chapter is devoted to the explanation of different kinds of Abhinaya and the costumes and decorations (Aharya) necessary for a performance.

:- The twenty-eighth chapter deals with Samanya-abhinaya, giving general directions for expressing different moods and responses to seeing, touching and smelling objects. Although the author designates this chapter as a discussion of Samanya-abhinaya, he includes Citra-abhinaya, that is, special presentations. In fact, this Chapter is a conflation of the contents of Chapters twenty-two and twenty-five of the Natyashastra; and, contains extensive quotations from it.

:- The Twenty-ninth chapter describes the Gatis, that is, gaits; while the Thirtieth discusses the nine Rasas; and the Thirty-first Chapter discusses  the Bhavas.

A new feature of the treatment of body movements that is added to the discussion of body movements appears in the Thirty-second Chapter, which deals with what is termed Rahasya-mudras, that is, hand-gestures meant for mystical and ritualistic purposes.

:- Continuing the discussion in the Thirty-third Chapter, the author lists more Mudras all meant for religious purposes, and calls them Mudra-hastas, and associates them with hymns to the gods and goddesses.

:- The Thirty-fourth and the final Chapter on dancing is devoted to the legend of the origin of dancing. Since the work is devoted to the worship of Vishnu, it is not surprising that its author should view Vishnu as the originator of the art of dancing.

vishnu

The Vishnudharmottara is Vasihnava text, affiliated to the Pancharatra Agama, which is associated with the Vyuha doctrine. Here, Adi-Vishnu or Para–Vasudeva represents the Pancharatra ideology of the transcendental form (Para) of Vishnu the Supreme principle abiding in the highest realm Paramapada. Vishnu the Absolute, the Brahman, out of loving- compassion, voluntary assumed bodily forms so that the devotees may gain access to his subtle form.

According to Vishnudharmottara, it was Lord Vishnu who created the sublime Art of Dancing, which represents the three levels of existence in all the three worlds (Trai-lokasya-anukaranam).

vishnu-dancing

The Nrtta created by Vishnu was composed of Angaharas and Karanas. The text considers Nrtta as the pure, absolute form of Dance; Natya as the depiction of the ways of the world (jagato-anukriya); and Nrtya as the factor that lends beauty to Natya- (VDP. 3.20.1)

The text declares that Dancing in the presence of the Lord is the true worship; it is the adoration of the divinity with one’s body, mind and soul. And, performing Dance as a spiritual discipline (Sadhana) is superior to offering flowers (pushpam, naivedyam) etc. It leads the way to liberation. Thus, the Art of Dancing, Nrtta, is regarded as Mangalya, auspicious and sacred devotional submission to Lord Vishnu.(VDP. 3.34 – 25,26,27 )

dancing in temple

The Vishnudharmottara emphasizes the inter relation, or rather the inter-dependence between the various art forms.  Sage Markandeya instructs : 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 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).

Whatever is prescribed for Nrtta is equally applicable to Chitra as both imitate the rhythm or Chhandas or the subtle aspect of the phenomenal world. Movements of eyes, lips and limbs, depiction of Bhava and Rasa (sentiments) and the various Mudra-s (postures), prescribed .for Dance are also followed in Chitra ; and, the same principles govern the practice of these two sets of Fine Arts, one performing and the other synthetic.

The main difference between the Dance and painting is that the former has Tala or Laya; because, it is related to Kaala (Time). And, the latter has Rupa (form) and Mana-Pramana (measures and proportions) ; because, it is related to Dik (Space) .

And between Dance and sculpture, , the human form is the instrument of expression; and, everything in the figure, the face, the hands, the posture of the limbs, the pose and turn of the body, each accessory has to be imbued with an inner meaning.  It manifests, on the  one hand, the basic idea;  and, on the other, suppresses anything which would mean an emphasis on the merely physical or sensuous.

lasya

The dance-posture gives each sculpture a rhythm which is its soul or spirit. Because of the fact that the rhythm arising out of dance-postures instils life into its form, the stone-mass seems to breathe and pulsate like a living organism. Dance (Nrtta) endows life to sculpture (Shilpa).  

Hence, the Sage Markandeya declared Nrtta and Chitra, to be art-forms par excellence  : ta eva chitre vijneya nrittam chitram param matam

Yatha nritte , tatha chitre  trailokya-anukritis smrita / drishtayas cha tatha bhava angopangani sarvasah / karas cha ye maya nritte purvokta nripasattama / ta eva chitre vijneya nrittam chitram param matam // 3.35.5-7//

hasthas333

Angikabhinaya

As said earlier; the Vishnudharmottara generally follows the descriptions and technical details as given in the Natyashastra; but, with slight variations. For instance; it describes Tandava as a form of dance that is characterized by intense excitement and ferocious mood; and, it is to be performed by males. And, it describes Lasya as show of amorous expressions and graceful movements of limbs; and, it is performed by women. There also some other minor variations in the enumeration of movements of certain Angas, Pratyanga and Upangas.

It devotes more space to Nrtta and Angikabhinaya. It mentions that the ideal Nrtta is full of Rasa and Bhava. It follows Tala (rhythm), Kavya-rasa (meaning) and Gita (song and lyrics). It gives happiness; and increases the Dharma.

Rasena Bhavena samanvitan ca talanugam kavya rasanugam ca/ gitanugam Nrtta mukati dha Sukhapradam dharma vivardhanam (VDP. 3.20.1)

The Vishnudharmottara devotes three Chapters (24, 25 and 26) of its Third Khanda to discuss, in detail, the various aspects of the Angikabhinaya, which portrays actions; and, also reflects emotions through movement of the various parts of the body.

The Chapter Twenty four enumerates the movements of the major limbs, the Angas, along with the uses of each of those movements. The Chapter defines the Cari and the Karana, the two vital and complicated movements required in Dancing.

In the Twenty-fifth Chapter, the movements of the Upangas or minor limbs are discussed, including the glances of the eyes (Dristi bedha) that express the   Sthayi and Vyabhicari- bhavas; the movements of the pupils; the eyebrows; the nose (nostrils), chin and lips, as well as the application of these movements.

The Chapter Twenty-six  on the Hasthas (Hastha-adyaya) gives the descriptions of the three types of the arrangement of the Hasthas (Asamyukta, Samyukta and Nrtta-hastas)

As regards the Nrtta-hastas, The Vishnudharmottara emphasised that all the Nrtta hastas should be delicate, beautiful and charming. The main characteristic of Nrtya is Lalitya, delicately graceful.

The sage Markandeya remarks: The learned should make graceful movements of the Nrtta-hasthas; because, it is the grace and beauty that differentiates Nrtta from other movements (VDP. 3.26.95).

Karya lalita sancara nrttahasta para vidhau / lalityameva viterya pratibhodanam (3.26.95)

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Pindibandha

There is also a brief description of the Pindi or Pindibandha performed by groups of dancers; which is the technique of group formations, and, weaving patterns. Pindi is described in the Vishnudharmottara as having the shape of the symbol of a particular deity. In the Natyashastra, Bharata mentions several such Pindis; and, says that the Pindis of the presiding gods and goddesses will be marked with their own banners. Thus, the Īśvara piṇḍī  is for Īśvara; Sihavāhinī for Caṇḍikā; Śikhī piṇḍī for Kumar and so on.

dance costume

Aharya

The whole of  27th Chapter is devoted to Aharyabhinaya, which deals with costume, ornaments, makeup , stage props etc. The Aharya has to be particularly suited to each type of character; and, has also to be relevant to the situation. The appropriate Aharya for each character is essential for bringing out the dramatic effect; and, often, the entire production depends on it.

The Aharyabhinaya is said to be of four kinds: Pusta; Alamkara; Angarachana; and, Sanjiva.

The Pusta refers to imitative forms made of clay, wood, cloth, leather or metal. These are the masks (Pratisirsani) of gods, demons, Yakshas, elephants, horses and birds, made by use of the Pusta techniques.

The Alamkara is adornment or decoration by means of costumes, garlands and ornaments etc.

The Angarachana (lit. Painting of limbs) is makeup by application of creams, colours, paints etc on the person of the actor.

And, Sanjiva is the use of living creatures, animals and birds.

For the Angarachana, the Vishnudharmottara mentions the rules that should be followed for gods, other beings and humans.  These have to be in accordance with the types of masks (Pratikira) and head gears or crests (Makuta or Kirita), beards, moustaches etc., of those characters.  

Three kinds of costumes are mentioned:  White, Variegated and according to male or female characters, as per the common practice.

The actors should wear the masks of various animals, and, similarly the symbols of various gods carrying their weapons should be represented by masks.

Bharata says that such different modes of dress, makeup and ornamentation should help the actors and actresses to enact their roles in a more credible manner, to bring out the right sentiment of the scene.

As regards colors with which the actors or dancers are to be painted, the Vishnudharmottara mentions five basic colors: white, red, yellow, black and green (blue?). It then enumerates five kinds of white and twelve kinds of black colors. And, by mixing one, two or three colors, with imagination, innumerable skin colors could be derived (VDP.3.27.8-9). It says, when the beauty of the limbs is increased with these colors, the presentation becomes more effective.

That is followed by specifying which characters among the gods, demons, serpents and humans should be painted with which colors. And it says, when no particular color is mentioned for a god, then it should be given Gaura (white) color.

Similarly, the text then specifies the colors of the costumes of different types of characters. It also mentions the various types of head gears, crests, masks, wigs and mustaches etc.

In short, it says, various accessories should be used , with intelligence, in accordance with the customs prevailing in the society.

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Samanya-abhinaya

The Chapter Twenty-eight is named Samanya-abhinaya. The Samanya-abhinaya is the harmonious use of four kinds of Abhinayas; and, Citra-abhinaya applies only to the special representation of various objects and ideas.

At first, the instructions are given about the representation of five qualities of senses viz. sound (sabda), touch (sparsa), form (rupa), taste (rasa) and smell (gandha) , through gestures according to their experiences (Anubhavas) and natural expressions. Then come the representation of particular objects. The various gestures and expressions are prescribed for the representation of Bhavas including Sthayi-bhavas occurring in different Rasas. The Abhinaya to show sky, morning, night, evening, day, deep darkness, the moon-light, the smoke, the fire and different seasons follow.

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Abhinaya

Chapters Thirty and Thirty-one give a very detailed description about the Abhinaya of the various Rasas and Bhavas by appropriate gestures. Here, the text discusses nine Rasas, including the Shanta-rasa, as compared to eight Rasas mentioned in the Natyashastra.

It also discusses forty-nine kinds of Bhavas, beginning with Hasa, the mirth; and, they should be skilfully combined with the Rasas.

The forty-nine Bhavas or psychological states, include:  the eight Sthāyi-bhavās; thirty-three Vyabhicāri-bhāvās; and, eight Sātvika-bhāvas – (excluding Vibhava   and Anubhava).

References and sources

  1. Shri Vishnudharmottara by Dr. Priyabala Shah
  2. Arts in the PuranasChapter Two- Dance by Dr. Meena Devadatta Jeste

All images are from internet

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In the next part we shall move on to other texts dealing with Dance and its several aspects

Continued

In

Part Ten

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Art, Natya

 

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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.

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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 and the end.

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. 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 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.

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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.

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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).

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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. 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 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 colours; the concepts, classifications and application of colours. 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 pasteurized. 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  effect s  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.

:- 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

:- 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.

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

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

:- 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 .

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 colours?”

The sage explains “The untrue colour of water resembles that of lapis lazuli; that is because of the blue sky reflected in a pool of water. But, the natural colour 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.

23. Visualization and personification of objects

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 colour 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 symbolisms. For instance, the sky when painted in its natural and descriptive context should be painted almost without any colour. But, when sky is personified, it should be depicted as noble person, blue-lotus in colour, wearing a garment of that colour; 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 colour of vermillion, 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 lustre 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 colour gushes down the mountain slopes. The Yamuna, in contrast, is of dark hue, placid and wide.

Another name for water in Sanskrit is Apah. The term Apah is invested withvarieties 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

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.

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 colours 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 intermixture of colours.

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.”

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॥ ]

****

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.”

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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.

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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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The Art of Painting in Ancient India – Chitrasutra (3)

[This is the third 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 (second) article covered certain concepts and general aspects discussed in Chitrasutra.

The current article deals with the physical features of various classes and types of images, proportions, projections, foreshortening etc.

The next article discusses colours and representation of things seen and unseen; and briefly talks about certain symbolisms mentioned in the text.]

8. Tala-mana

8.1. The Indian artist never took in the world at a sweeping glance. He had an eye for details. In the canons of Indian art there is a definite and prescribed proportion of the limbs and their ratio to one another. The Indian artist paid more attention to ratio than to the actual standard of measurement of the different limbs. The ratio being the same, the figures may be pygmy or colossal. A standard measurement, however, was in vogue.

The Chitrasutra gives an elaborate classification of different types of men and women. They are classified into one of the five standard types called: Hamsa, Bhadra, Malavya, Ruchaka and sasaka. Their respective measures are given in terms of angula. The measurement of each of the types would be relative to their respective angulas, such as 108, 106, 104, 100, and 90 angulas.

In the context of mana or proportion, the division of the limbs in terms of tala measurement is elaborately discussed in the Vishnudharmottara. Tala is said to be made of 12 Angulas : dvadasa-angula-vistaras tala ityabhidhiyate (3,35,11) . And,  one tala,  was taken as  the length of the palm from the edge of the wrist to the tip of the middle figure. Usually, the face of the image would measure a length of one tala, which, in other words, would be one-ninth of the body length of a Hamsa category image. The proportions of the various parts of the image –body would be in terms of the tala and its denomination (the angula). Hamsa is the standard measurement of body -length of an image; and the proportions of the other categories of images (Bhadra etc.) are to be worked out by taking Hamsa as bench mark.

[A similar tala-mana system of proportions and measures governs the shilpa iconography. Its iconometry prescribes the proportion of the limbs and other parts of its body in relation to its face -length. The Indian artists are governed by proportions than by actual measurements. Thus a figure might look pygmy or colossal while the principles that govern the proportions would be the same.

These rules specify the various standards to be adopted for ensuring a harmonious creation endowed with well proportioned height, length, width and girth. These rules also govern the relative proportions of various physical features – of each class and each type of images.

In shilpa-sastra, the madhyama navatala(standard height of nine-face lengths) is normally used for images of celestial beings such as Yakshas, Apsaras and Vidhyadharas. Here, the height of the image would be nine talas (with each tala divided in to 12 angulas) or a total height of 108 angulas.The angula (literally ‘finger’) is a finger’s width and measures one quarter of the width of the shilpi’s fist. The value of the angula so derived becomes a fixed length (manangulam), for all practical purposes, for that image. All other measurements of the image are in terms of that unit.

The face – length of the image i.e., from its chin up to the root of its hair on the forehead – would be 12 angulas or one tala. The length from throat to navel would be two tala; from navel to top of knee would be three tala; from the lower knee to ankle would be two tala making a total of eight tala. One tala is distributed equally between the heights of foot, knee, the neck and topknot. The nava tala thus will have a total of nine tala units, in height (108 angulas).

Hamsa of Chitrasutra corresponds to Nava-tala of the Shilpa sastra.

*

Sthana or stance for the figures grouped in a painting is very important; for, it is vital to indicate the action or repose in the picture, apart from highlighting its central theme.

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“In composition the central figure is given importance  over  the other figures. And , that leads to the heightening of the fundamental emotions or fuller expression of the central figure for which alone the others exist.”

Portrait of a Nobelwoman, Mughal c.1740

8.2.The text describes the characteristic features of the five categories of men.

(i). Hamsa (108 angulas) should be strong, with arms resembling the king of serpents (Sesha) , with moon-white complexion, having sweet eyes, having the color of honey, set in a good-looking face; and with lion-like waist and swan-like majestic gait. The deities are depicted in Hamsa category of style.

(ii).Bhadra (106 angulas) is learned, is of the color of lotus; with full grown tapering round arms, a hairy cheeks and   elephant like step. The rishis, gandharvas, vidhyadharas, ministers and family priests are depicted under this category.

(iii). Malavya (104 angulas) is dark like a mudga –pulse (kidney bean?), good looking ; with a slender waist, arms reaching up to the knees, thick shoulders, broad jawas and a prominent nose like that of an elephant. The kinnaras, nagas, rakshasas and domestic women are depicted under Malavya category.

(iv). Ruchaka (100 angulas) is high souled, truthful and clever, of good taste. He is of autumn-white complexion and strong with a conch-like neck. Yakshas, vaishyas and prostitutes are depicted under this category. And,

(v). Sasaka (90 angulas) is clever reddish dark and of a slightly spotted colour; with full cheeks and sweet eyes. The tribal chiefs and sudras are depicted as Sasaka.

Measurement of Hamsa is the standard measurement given on relation to which the measurements of the other types are to be worked out keeping in mind the characteristics of that particular type.

8.3. As regards the female figures, there is a discussion about the body types of women but it has not been specified . But the discussion does state that they too fall under each of the above five categories of males, according to the measurements of the limbs and parts. Therefore, there would be  five  kinds of female bodies. The figures  corresponding to various categories (say Hamsa, Bhadra etc.) too should be depicted in proportions that are applicable to that male-category. But the size of the female figures should be smaller than of the male figures appearing on the same canvass or surface. Her height should be made to reach the shoulder of the man placed near her, in proportion. Her waist should be two angulas thinner than that of a man. On the other hand, her hips should be made wider by four angulas. The breasts should be rendered soft, charming and proportionate to her chest.

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Talking about women, the text mentions elsewhere, “a female figure should be drawn with one foot calmly advanced, and with the part about the hips and loins broad and flurried on account of amorous dalliance”.

The women of good-family should be made bashful, wearing modest ornaments and not-showy dresses; and she with a slender waist depicted under Malavya characteristics.

Her expressions of love are Sukumara (gentle, delicate and graceful). When she is in love, her eyes clearly show her feelings. Her eyes are, at the same time, tearfully smiling, slightly closed; while her eyelids droop. When she looks at her lover with half closed eyes, she appears beautiful, graceful and inviting. And, when she blushes, there are drops of sweat on her cheeks; and, there is a discreet thrill, stiffening her body. It is mainly through her smiling eyes that she expresses love. Her lips, sometimes, show her agitation.

The courtesans on the other hand should be painted with vermilion or emerald colour, moon-like complexion or dark like the petals of blue-lotus. Her dress should be unrestrained, designed to excite and evoke erotic feelings. She should be painted as a Ruchaka character.

The courtesan expresses her desire through alluring side glances; by touching her ornaments; by scratching her ears, while her big toe draws designs on the ground; and, generally by attractive body-gestures. She is also shown as  exposing her navel, and partially, her breasts; polishing her nails; lifting up her arms ; and, tying  her hair.

9. Drista – those things visible

9.1. The text then goes to describe in great detail the characteristic appearances of country folk, the nobility, widows, courtesans, merchants, artisans, soldiers, archers, door-keepers, wrestlers, monks , mendicants , bards , musicians , dancers and others. Vivid descriptions of their dresses, movements, habits, and features peculiar to their class are given in Chitrasutra. They make a very interesting reading.

9.2. The text also describes the characteristics of different tribes and castes as distinguished by their complexion; noticeable physical features, costumes and habits.

9.3. The Chitrasutra instructs things that are usually visible should be well represented; resembling what is ordinarily seen in life. The aim of painting is to produce an exact resemblance; but not to copy. Persons should be painted according to their country; their colour, dress, and general appearance as observed. Having well ascertained the person’s country, region, occupation, age and his status in life; 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 characteristics of persons hailing from various regions and occupations. It is rather too detailed to be posted here. I would be posting a summary of that, along with few other issues, in a separate article.]

10. Features of the Chitra

10.1. General

There is a detailed enumeration of the features of the images of deities, kings and other class. The Chitrasutra also makes some general remarks of such paintings; and says:

A painting drawn with care pleasing to the eye, thought out with great intelligence and ingenuity and remarkable by its execution beauty and charm and refined taste and such other qualities yield great joy and delight.

A painting without proper position, devoid of appropriate rasa, of blank look, hazy with darkness and devoid of life movements or energy (chetana) is considered inauspicious.

A painting cleanses and curbs anxiety, augments future good, causes unequalled and pure delight; banishes the evils of bad dreams and pleases the household deity. The place decorated by a picture never looks dull or empty.

10.1. a. Deities

While discussing the image of the deities to be painted, the text says, the painted image should have a pleasing body, a well finished and well proportioned limbs, delicately painted effects of shade and light, facing the viewer. It should be pure and charming adorned by manifold lines and embellishments.

The front view, face, chest and abdomen should remain undiminished; but, it should grow narrow towards the waist from thighs and also from the shoulders. Its shoulders should be broad.  The abdomen should neither be shrunk nor bloated.

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The deities should be drawn wearing strings of garlands and ornamented by crowns, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, ornaments of the upper arms, long girdles reaching up to the ornaments on their feet, and sacred threads with ornaments for the head.

The text says, in general, an image possessed of all auspicious and beautiful marks is excellent from every point of view. Its mudras (gestures of hand and fingers) should be benevolent blessing people with welfare, peace and prosperity. Such an image would add to the wealth, crops, fame and the longevity of life of the worshipers. ”  Blessed is the work of art that is endowed with auspicious marks as it is a harbinger of fortune, fame to the country, to the king and to the maker.”

 1_abaya_hasta2_varad_hasta3_katak_hasta4_vyakyana_hasta5_susi_hasta

As regards the depiction of great men such as kings and noble persons, the text recommends their images should possess the auspicious lakshanas associated with greatness.

The height of the head should be 12 angulas and its girth 32 angulas. The structure of the face should be divided into three parts:  forehead (lalata) – 4 angulas high and 8 angulas wide; nose (nasika)- 4 angulas high, 2 angulas deep and  3 angulas wide; the nostrils being 1 angula broad and 2 angulas wide and, chin (hanu or chibaku) – 4 angulas high.

The Chitrasutra lists typical features of the Hamsa – including that of Urna (tuft of hair on the forehead, between the eyebrows) – ½ angula; and, Usnisa ( a sort of protrusion of the skull) – 4 angula high and 6 angula wide. (Yuva is 1/8 of an angula). 

The hair on the head should be made thin, wavy, shiny, with natural glossiness and like the dark blue sapphire. They should be properly ornamented.

As regards the ears, they should be 2 angulas wide and 4 angulas high; the opening auricle being half (1/2) angula wide and 1 angula high.

As for the mouth, the Chitrasutra (36.12-14) mentions that the space between the nose and the lip should be half (1/2) angula. The size of the upper lip is 1 angula; and, the thickness of  the lower lip is half (1/2) angula. The mouth is 4 angula wide.

In chapter (36.25-27) the Chitrasutra mentions some bodily measures, as: the nape is 10 angulas high and 21 angula girth. The distance between the nipples is 16 angulas. The space between the chest and the clavicle is 10 angula. And again, in the same chapter (lines 37-42) it mentions: the abdomen measurement is 42 angulas. The navel is 1 angula. The hip is 42 angulas wide. The penis being 6 angula in size.

Chitrasutra (35.13) mentions the distance between the penis and navel as 1 Tala; and the same measure from navel to heart; and from heart to throat.

Apart from that, it also mentions that their hands should reach up to their knees (aa-janu bahu). The hands and feet of a chakravartin should be webbed (jala). The auspicious mark of small circle of hair (urna or tuft of hair) should be shown between their eyebrows. On the hands near the wrist three delicate auspicious lines slender curving should be drawn; as if scratched by a hare.

Shoulder to elbow 17 angulas long and 18 angulas in girth; and  Elbow to wrist: 17 angulas long and 12 angulas in girth

As per Chitrasutra (36.30-34) : Palm is 6 angula long and 5 angula wide. The middle finger has a measure of 5 angula. The forefinger is half the size of a part less. The fourth finger has the same proportion. The little finger is the smallest among them.

The thumb should be divided into two parts: 4 angulas and 3 angulas. The space between the fingers should be webbed (jaala-anguli)

As regards legs and feet; the Chitrasutra (35.12-13) indicates: the height of the foot up to the end of the ankle should be ¼ tala (3 angulas). The legs- from ankle to the knee- are 2 talas (24 angulas); and, the same are from knees to thighs. Heels -3 angula wide and 4 angula high. Foot 12 angula long and 6 angula wide.

As regards the toes; the big-toe is 3 angula; the next toe is as long as the big-toe; and the other toes are 1/8 shorter than those.

The text also warns, when an image is devoid of these auspicious marks (lakshanas) it would cause destruction of wealth and crops. And, it instructs that such an image should therefore be made with great care, dedication and devotion.

10.1. b. Others

Vidhyadharas should be shown with garlands and ornaments; and accompanied by their wives on either side. They should be shown either on land or in air, with swords in their hands.

10.2. Face:

10.2. a. Deities

The gods should be represented according to Hamsa measure. The face beautiful should be well developed, well finished, and benign marked with all the auspicious lakshanas. The face should be youthful radiating peace and joy. The face should not be triangular or crooked; nor should it be oval or round. The face should never look angry, sad or blank and lifeless . If such expressions creep in, the image should be discarded.

All organs of senses like eyes, nose, mouth and ears should be made visible.

Gods and gandharvas should be represented without crowns but with crests.

10.2. b. Others

All kings should be endowed with auspicious marks. They should be ornamented suitably.

Daityas and danavas (demons) should be made to have frightened mouths, frowning   faces  round eyes and gaudy garments but without crowns.

10.3. Eyes:

The text pays enormous importance to the depiction of eyes of a painted figure.

The text informs that the eyes are the windows to the soul; and it is through their eyes the figures in the painting open up their heart and speak eloquently to the viewer. 

The section related to the eyes is quite detailed. It gives the measure of each part, as also the descriptions of different types of expressions. The Chitrasutra emphasizes the fact that the fundamental element for a painting to be auspicious is the way that the figure glances – neither upward nor downward; neither too strong nor weak; and, neither angry nor fierce.

Unmilana, ‘opening of the eyes’ , infusing life into the picture by opening the eyes of the figure was the final stage of painter’s work. The importance of Unmilana is given is stressed by Vishnudharmottara: Sajiva iva drisyate, sasvasa iva yachchitram tachchitram subhalakshanam (, 3. 43. 21-22) – ‘that is an auspicious painting in which the figures appear to be alive and almost breathe and move’

As regards the measure of the eyes, Chitrasutra (36. 19-22) mentions: ‘the eyes are 1 angula high and 3 angula wide; the black orb (Krishna-mandala) – perhaps the iris-  is the third part of the eye. The pupils are the fifth part. The eyebrows are half (1/2) angula thick and 3 angulas long.

The text describes   some positions of the eyes : looking straight; half of eyes , nose and forehead are seen ;one eye is seen in full and half of the eyebrow is suppressed; one eye, one eyebrow, one temple , one ear , half of chin are seen etc.

In each case it describes how the eyes and eyebrows should be foreshortened, that is delicately reduced in size or suppressed by artistic means such as gentle lines, delicate shading or by dots.

The text describes five basic types of eyes. And, it says the eye could be in the form of a bow (chapakara); or like the abdomen of a fish (matsyodara); or like the petal of blue lotus (utpalaptrabha); or like a white lotus (padmapatranibha) or like a conch (sankhakriti).

Chapakara – 3 yava measure; Matsyodara– 4 yava; Utpalapatrabha – 6 yavas; Padmapatranibha – 9 yavas; and Sankakriti – 10 yavas ( 8 yuvas make 1 angula)

   

It is explained that   the eye assumes the shape of a bow when looking at the ground in meditation or when lost in a thought.

The eye in the shape of fish should be painted in the case of women and lovers.

The eye in the shape of blue lotus is said to be ever calm and look charming with red at the corners and with black pupils, smiling, gentle and ending in long eye lashes sloping at its end.

The eye in the shape of white lotus petal befits a damsel frightened and crying.

A  conch like eye suggests angry and woe stricken state.

10.3. a. Deities

The eyes of gods  ( of Padma-patra type) should be wide with black pupils, enhancing the beauty of the divine face, beautiful to look at, charming the mind, smiling and with slight reddish tint at its ends like those of blue-lotus petals, with eyelashes bent at the ends, of equal size, gentle; and fluid and pure like cow’s milk. Such gentle serene eyes and pools of tranquility  expressing love and compassion bless the viewers with happiness.

The images with white-lotus petal eyes bring wealth and prosperity. Its eyes should also be even, wide, serene and pleasant to look at. It should have eye-lash sloping at the end and black pupil. Its look should be placid,

Unmilana ‘opening of the eyes’ of the figure is described as the final act; a painting would be complete only with that; and after that, ” an auspicious painting in which the figures  will appear to be alive and almost breathe and move’ . Drawing of eyes with delicate lines and giving an expression to the image infuses life into it.

The artist is cautioned to be careful and not to give an upward or downward or sideward look to the deity. An image of god with too small or too wide eyes; or looking depressed, angry or harsh should be discarded.  In case such mistakes happen, the deity should be discarded.

The text warns of the ill effects of making a painting of a deity with bad proportions or unacceptable dispositions.

An image of god should be properly made with great care and devotion; and with all the auspicious marks

10.3. b. Others

Daityas and danavas should be given round eyes wide open in fright. Their mouths should also be open as if about to scream. They should be given gaudy ornaments, but no crown.

Representation of human figures with too thick lips, too big eyes and testicles and unrestrained movement are the defects.

10.4. Hair

Hair is an important aspect of the image. It provides it with individuality and it also symbolizes its character.

The text specifies six types of hairstyles: Kuntala (loose) hair; Dakshinavarta (curled towards the right); Taranga (wavy); Simha kesara (lion’s –mane); vardhara (parted) and jatatasara (matted).

10.4. a. Deities

Hair should be represented auspicious, fine resembling deep blue sapphire, adorned by its own greasiness and with endearing curls.

In case of gods, the halo should be drawn around their heads, proportionate to the measurement of the head and colour of the hair. The colour of the halo circle should enhance the glow of the deity. Their body should be devoid of hair.  On their faces, they should have hair only on their eyelashes and eye brows.

Gods and gandharvas should be represented without crowns but with crests.

10.4. b .Others

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

The manes of the sages, ancestors and gods should be made to glow like gold and with ornaments consistent with their own colour, outshining all others.

In the case of kings a circle of hair should be drawn auspiciously between their eyebrows. The hair on a king’s body should be drawn one by one.

The respectable people of country and town should be painted with almost grey hair, adorned with ornaments suitable to their status.

Merchants should be represented with their head covered on all sides by turbans.

Wrestlers should be represented with cropped hair, looking arrogant and impetuous.

Widows are to be shown with grey hair , wearing white dress and devoid of ornaments.

The artist should use his skill and imagination in providing appropriate hair-styles to the figures.

10.5. Arms and hands

In case of gods and kings, arms reaching up to the knees should be strong and tapering resembling the king of serpents or the trunk of an elephant; and should reach up to the knees. Hands should be delicate. The images of the kings should be shown with webbed hands. (I do not know the “why” of this requirement). All kings should be endowed with auspicious marks.

Indian_murti_(statue)arms

The hands of deities should be delicate and expressive. Their mudras, the gestures by hands and fingers, should be auspicious in benediction.

10.6. Feet

There is an elaborate discussion on the feet-positions, which enhance the mood and message of the image. The positions described include, standing straight in traditional position (sampada); standing with a spans apart (vaisakha) ; half straight with left knee advanced and right knee retracted- suggesting movement (pratyalidha); its counterpart that is right knee advanced (alidha) legs in circular motion (mandala).

The knee-bent positions are related to an archer or a javelin thrower or a swords person etc. (as in pratyalidha or alidha). These positions are improvised to show a fat man running or a pitcher- carrier. The bent knees and feet apart positions are also used to depict the broad hips, flurried loins of the amorous dalliance of a woman.

Accordingly, the gods should always be made beautiful, having gaits like: a lion, bull, elephant or a swan.

*****

11. Postures and perspectives

Abhanga etc

Chitrasutra mentions that an image could be presented in any number of positions; but categorizes nine positions as the leading attitudes.

11.1. The nine postures, mentioned under, can perhaps be understood as stylized views, as they are the same figure viewed from different angles. That causes portraying the same figure, with altered body- proportions, because some parts are hidden from view while some others are prominent. The ratio of the head with the other limbs of the body has to be altered in accordance with the different postures and view positions (perspectives). Yet, the image should not look disproportionate. That has to be done by manipulating density of light and shades. These indicate that the Chitrasutra had a sound understanding of the spatial perspective of things.

11.2. The various positions and perspectives are achieved by what the Chitrasutra calls – kshaya and vridhi, decrease and increase, which is the art and skill of foreshortening. The positions are:

(i)*. front view (rivagata);

(ii)*.back view (anrju);

(iii)*.bent position – in profile view (sat-chikrat-sarira);

(Iv)*.face in profile and body in three quarter profile (ardha-vilochana);

(v)*.side view proper (paravagata);

(vi)*.with head and shoulder-belt turned backwards (paravritta);

(vii)*.back view with upper part of the body partly visible in profile (prastagata);

(viii)*.with body turned back from the waist upwards (parivrtta);

And

(ix)*.the back view in squatting position with head bent (samanata).

*

11. 3. Then, the Sage goes on to describe the nature of these positions; and how to draw them (39. 1-32)

(1)  The front view (rivagata) is, of course, the pre-eminent position amongst those enumerated earlier. It presents a beautiful static posture (rju) of a well-proportioned pleasing body  , expertly  shaded with artistic display of light and shade . The pure, charming figure, adorned by manifold lines and embellishments, faces the viewer, in full. The front view, face, chest and abdomen should also remain undiminished. The figures grow narrower towards the waist from the thighs, as well as from the shoulders. Their nose-wings and lips appear foreshortened by a fourth part of their width; and their limbs are foreshortened by a third part of their breadth.

(2).  For the back view (anrju), the portions on the back should be without foreshortening (lit. diminished limbs)

(3) . The profile view in a bent position (sat-chikrat-sarira) could be very alluring. The bent posture (tiryak), well rounded, but slender and tender limbs all contribute to enhance the charm of the posture.  In this profile; only one of the eyes and a portion of the forehead and also of the nose are shown. The one eye that is shown, in the profile, is foreshortened by artistic means; and, the eyebrow is also artistically suppressed (i.e., foreshortened); and is painted with gentle lines. The face is neither straight nor serious; neither black nor shady.

(4)  The next position is called ardha-vilochana ‘ – with one eye – face in profile and body in three quarter profile. Here, the one eye in the face of the figure is shown in full; and, half of the eyebrows is suppressed (i.e., one eyebrow is not to be seen). The forehead (the curve of the forehead in half its usual size); and, the curve of one eyebrow are visible. The other visible part is half of the cheek from one side only; while the other half is invisible (lit. suppressed). Half of the usual length (lit. measure) of the lines on the throat and a yava only of the chin are shown. The navel, one angula less than the opening of the mouth, and three quarters (lit. half and half of that half) of the waist and other (parts) should be shown.

(5)  The side view proper (paravagata) or Parsvagata is as if it is emerging out of the side or the wall (bhittika) or out of the shade (chhayagata). Only its one side is seen – either the right or the left. Only its one eye, one eyebrow, one temple, one ear; and, half of the chin and the hair should be shown. The figure which is well proportioned should exude grace and sweetness.

(6) . The position with the head and shoulder-belt turned backwards (paravritta) is   said to be ” turned back by the cheek” (ganda-paravrtta) whose limbs are not very sharply delineated.  It has appropriate measurement in proper places; looking tender; and, artistically foreshortened, kshaya with dark shades in forehead, cheek and arm and also in the throat, (i.e., the parts that are vaguely discernible, as they are lying in the shade) .

(7) Usually, the wall paintings presenting a back view with upper part of the body, partly visible in profile, are tradition-ally called (prastagata)- ‘derived from the back ‘.  Such pictures reveal the attractive back frame of the body, showing muscles and joints. In such depictions, only one side is seen; the chest, (one) cheek and the outer corner of the eye are only faintly visible.  Such well-proportioned profiles possess qualities like sweetness (madhurya) and grace (Lavanya) .

(8) The Parivrtta is a figure whose upper part of the body is turned back from the waist upwards; and, only a half of it is seen on account of its reversed position.  The upper and lower portions of the body, towards the front, are somewhat lost in shade. Its face is tainted with envy; and, the lower half of the body is like that of a rustic; and, its middle is properly foreshortened and made agreeable to the eye.

(9) The back view in squatting position, with the head ;  with the buttocks in full view; with the soles of the feet joined; with half of the body faintly seen from above; with the part about the entire waist shown; with the two entire soles shown;  with foreshortened lower part of the toes, beautiful all round, well finished, not terrible-looking, with arms visible ; with head and trunk well joined and  bent down towards the legs is known  by the name of Samanata – methodically bending .

The text cautions; these positions should be drawn with care, accompanied by qualities like mana (proportionate measurement, etc.). And then , it adds; if these nine positions are depicted thoroughly , as prescribed,  ‘there is none besides and superior to these’- ( 39. 34-51 )

12. Foreshortening

The concept of foreshortening i.e. the lengthening or the shrinking of the limbs is called Kshaya-vriddhi. It is explained with the help of nine postures (as mentioned above)  when viewed from different angles.

The techniques of foreshortening –  Kshya (decrease); Vrrddhi (increase) and Pramana (proportionate measurement) – are vital to the art of drawing. These techniques are said to be of two kinds – Chitra (simple) and Vichitra (multicolored). the latter, again is graded into three sorts, according to the quality of the results obtained by proportionate measures:  Uttama (full), Madhyama (middling) and Adhama (small).

Further, the techniques of Kshya and Vrddhi are said to be of thirteen varieties, depending upon the nine positions or postures to be depicted in the painting, as mentioned above. The foreshortening will also have to take into account the various positions of the feet and the series of their movements like alidha (the right knee advanced and the left leg retracted); pratyalidha (i.e., with the left knee advanced and the right knee retracted); and, vaisakha (i.e., with feet a span; apart)- as described above.

*

In describing the various kinds of postures, the Chitrasutra advises the display of various kinds of light and shade in and through which the exact position of the postures could be expressed. According to diversity in posture there is a diversity of relation of the different parts of the body which disturbs the normal relation that the head bears to the different limbs. Twelve such postures are described in the Chitrasutra

Foreshortening is achieved, as the text says, by manipulating light and shadows with the aid of coloring, shading with delicate cross lines, stumping and dots; and at the same time maintain the proper proportion (pramana) of the figure and its aspects.

“Weakness or thickness of delineation, want of articulation, improper juxtaposition of colors are said to be defects of painting.”

*A painting without proper position, devoid of appropriate rasa, blank look, hazy with darkness and devoid of life movements or energy (chetana) is inauspicious.

“Proper position, proportion and spacing; gracefulness and articulation; resemblances; increasing or decreasing (foreshortening) are the eight good qualities of a painting.”

hl66

Next:

Chitrasutra continued

Sources and References:

I gratefully acknowledge  Shri S Rajam’s sublime paintings;  And the other paintings from internet.

Line drawings from Dr. G Gnanananda’s Brahmiya Chitrakarma Sastram

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)

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

Problems of Iconometry: Comparing the Citrasūtra with the Citralakaa by Matteo Martelli

I gratefully acknowledge the illustrations from the works of Shri S Rajam

All other pictures are from internet

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2012 in Art, Chitrasutra, Natya, Vishnudharmottara

 

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The Art of Painting in Ancient India – Chitrasutra (2)

[ This is the second 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.   This article covers certain general aspects discussed in Chitrasutra text. ]

1. The Text

1.1. The Vishnudharmottara Purana or the Vishnudharmottara (as it is usually referred to) is a supplement or an appendix to the Vishnu-purana. It is generally believed to be a later insertion into Vishnu Purana. Some say , it is affiliated to the Pancharatra Agama, associated with the Vyuha doctrine. The   part three of the Vishnudharmottara gives an account, among other things, of the then – known branches, theories, methods, practices and ideals of Indian painting. The text deals not only with its religious aspects but also, and to a far greater extent, with its secular applications. It initiates the aspirant into a world of joy and delights that only the colors, forms and representation of things — seen and unseen — can bring forth.

1.2. The Vishnudharmottara asserts that it is but a compilation ; and , is an attempt to preserve the knowledge that was hidden in older sources. Sadly, all those older texts are lost to us. Vishnudharmottara is thus the earliest exhaustive treatise available to us on the theory and practice of temple construction, painting and image making in ancient India.

[Perhaps no other Indian text on art (except  the Nätyashästra)  received as much scholarly attention from art historians as did the Chitrasütra of the Vishñudharmottara Puräna. The text of Chitrasütra was first published in 1912. And, its earliest translation into English was rendered by Stella Kramrisch (1924). She also provided explanations of its art; the interpretations of the key concepts as given in the third khanda of the Chitrasütra. Kramrisch had, in the process, also discussed, in fair detail, the artistic criteria, as also their pictorial modes and conventions.

Ananda. K.  Coomaraswamy, in 1932, took a broader perspective; and, provided the explanations on the creative processes involved in ancient Indian art, in general. He described the visualization of form of the subject, by the artist, through meditative internalization, as a sort of Yoga.  It was in this light that he explained connotations of the specific idioms employed in the theories of Indian art. And, he then interpreted their  depictions , in the light of the aesthetic and iconometric injunctions  detailed under  the six limbs (shad-anga) of traditional Indian painting , as  given in the Chitrasütrasädåsya (similarity); pramäna (proportion); rüpabhedä (differentiations or typologies of form); vvarnika-bhanga (colour differentiation); bhäva (emotional disposition);and,  lävanya yojanam (gracefulness in composition) .

The efforts of these two pioneers were carried forward by scholars, such as: Priyabala Shah (1958); C. Sivaramamurti (1978); Parul Dave Mukherji (1998); and others, who provided deeper insights,   additional explanations and interpretations.

We owe all these scholars a debt of deep gratitude.  ]

1.3. Chitrasutra is that part of the Vishnudharmottara which deals with the art of painting (citraśikhaṇḍa – Khanda III, Adhyayas 35-43).  This section , which concentrates on the theory and practice  of painting , is named after its first line of Adhyaya 35.1a  : atah param pravakshyami chitrasutram tavanagha. Its compiler described it as “the legacy of the collective wisdom of the finest minds”. 

[As regards the structure of the text :

:- Adhyaya 35 considers the mythic origin of painting and the five types of males together with their differing proportions.

:- Adhyaya 36 discusses measurements and proportions of the different parts of the body and the colours and other distinguishing features of the five male types.

:- Adhyaya 37 deals with the measurements of the five types of females, hair and eye types, and the general characteristics of a Cakravartin, the supreme ruler.

:- Adhyaya 38 gives details on auspicious marks that divine images, both sculpture and painting, should  possess.

: – Adhyaya 39 treats the different postures (sthanas) for figures.

 :- Adhyaya 40 describes how to mix paints, prepare the surface, and apply the paints.

:- Adhyaya 41, of cardinal importance, defines the four types of paintings.

:- Adhyaya 42, equally significant, prescribes the manner in which a large number of beings–royalty, priests, nature and heavenly sprites, demons, wives, courtesans, attendants of vaisnava deities, warriors, merchants, and others should be depicted.

:- And, Adhyaya 43 talks about the nine Rasas in painting, strengths and defects in painting, as well as sculpture in different materials.

In closing, III.43.37, as if to underscore the unity and interdependence of the arts, states that whatever has been left unsaid about painting can be understood from the section on dance, and what is not given there can be supplied from painting.]

**

Explaining why he took up the compilation; Sage Markandeya said , he was prompted by his concern for the future generations; for their enlightenment, delight and quality of life .

He said it was his firm belief that paintings are the greatest treasures of mankind as they have the aura and power to beneficially influence the minds and lives of the viewers.

1.4. In that context Chitrasutra makes some amazing statements:

*. Great paintings are a balm on the troubled brow of mankind.

*.Of all arts, the best is chitra. It is conducive to attainments in life such as dharma-artha -kama ;  and has the virtue to liberate (emancipate) an individual from his limited confines

Kalanam Pratamam Citrm;  Dharma-Artha- Kama- Mokshadam/ Manglya Pradam Dotad gruhe yatra Pratishtitm

*. Wherever it is established- in home or elsewhere- a painting is harbinger of auspiciousness.

*. Art is the greatest treasure of mankind, far more valuable than gold or jewels.

*. 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.

*. A painting cleanses and curbs anxiety, augments future good, causes unequaled and pure delight; banishes the evils of bad dreams and pleases the household -deity. The place decorated by a picture never looks dull or empty.

1.5. The Vishnudharmottara is dated around sixth century AD, following the age of the Guptas, often described as the Golden Age of Indian Arts. It is perhaps the world’s oldest known treatise on art. However, not much is known of its author, as is the case with most Indian texts .

Vishnudharmottara follows the traditional pattern of exploring the various dimensions of a subject through conversations (Samvada) that take place between a learned Master and an ardent seeker eager to learn and understand. Chitrasutra too employs the pretext of a conversation between the sage Markandeya and king Vajra who seeks knowledge about image making (shilpa).

2. Concepts

2.1. The Chitrasutra commences with a request by king Vajra to sage Markandeya seeking knowledge about image-making.

King Vajra questions “How could one make a representation , in painting or image , of   a Supreme being who is devoid of form , smell and emotion ; and destitute of sound and touch?”. Markandeya explains ”The entire universe should be understood as the modification (vikriti) of the formless (prakriti) . The worship and meditation of the supreme is possible for an ordinary being only  when the formless is endowed with a form; and, when that form is full of significance. The best worship of the Supreme is, of course, contemplation of the formless with eyes closed and all senses subdued  in meditation.”

2.2. With that, the life in its entirety becomes a source of inspiration for artistic expressions. In another passage, Chitrasutra cites the nature that envelops the artist as the source of his inspiration. The text, therefore, mentions that, as in dance so in painting, there has to be a close relation with the world around us; and, reflection of it in as charming a manner as possible

2.3. And, as regards the skill required to express those emotions in a visible form, the text suggests that painter should take the aid of Natya, because an understanding of Natya is essential for a good painter.

Yatha nritte , tatha chitre  trailokya-anukritis smrita / drishtayas cha tatha bhava angopangani sarvasah / karas cha ye maya nritte purvokta nripasattama / ta eva chitre vijneya nrittam chitram param matam // 3.35.5-7 //

The sage then instructs that without the knowledge of music one cannot understand Natya. And, without the knowledge of Natya one can scarcely understand the technique of painting.–“He who does not know properly the rules of Chitra (painting)” declares the sage “can scarcely discern the essentials of the images (Shilpa)”.

The same teaching is put in another way too.

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 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).

All these , mean to say that  the arts of Music->Dance->painting->sculpture are inter related; and, that Music is at the base of all such fine-arts.

3. Chitra and Natya

3.1. That does not mean, the positions of the dancers have to be copied on murals or scrolls. What it meant was that the rhythm, fluidity and grace of the Natya have to be transported to painting . The Chitrasutra says “it (Natya) guides the hand of the artist, who knows how to paint figures, as if breathing, as if  the wind as blowing, as if  the fire as blazing, and,  as if the streamers as fluttering. The moving force, the vital breath, the life-movement (chetana)  are to be explicit in order to make the painting come  alive with rhythm and force of expression . The imagination, observation and the expressive force of rhythm are the essential features of painting”.

[ The Visnudharmottara Purana deals with dance, in its third segment –  chapters twenty to thirty-four. The following is an extract from The Evolution of Classical Indian Dance Literature: A Study of the Sanskritic Tradition (1989) by Dr. Mandakranta Bose, Somerville College.

In chapter twenty (the first chapter of the section) , the author follows the Natyasastra in describing the abstract dance form, nrtta; and, in defining its function as one of beautifying a dramatic presentation.

The chapter twenty deals with the appropriate places for the performance of each category, discussing aspects of the stage and the presentation of the preliminaries. The discussion includes the characteristics of actors, the four different types of abhinayas, namely – angika, vacika, sattvika and aharya, and the names of all the complicated movements necessary for the composition of a dance sequence. In addition, the author briefly touches upon the pindibandhas or group dances mentioned by Bharata and goes on to describe vrtti, pravrtti and siddh; that is – the style, the means of application and the nature of competence.

The twenty-first chapter discusses sthanas or postures while lying down, while the twenty-second deals with the sthanas assumed while sitting. The focus of these two chapters seems to be on dramatic presentation.

The twentythird chapter is devoted to postures meant for both men and women.

The twenty-fourth chapter lists the movements of the major limbs, the angas, along with the meaning attached to each of them. The major limbs, according to this text, are the head, the neck, the chest, the sides, the waist, the thighs, the shanks and the feet. In conclusion, the chapter defines the cari and the karana, the two vital and complicated movements required in dancing.

In the twenty-fifth chapter, the movements of the upangas or minor limbs are discussed, including the glances that express rasa and sthayi and vyabhicaribhavas, the movements of the pupils, eyebrows, nose, tongue and lips as well as the application of these movements.

The twenty-sixth chapter describes three types of hand-gestures, those made with one hand, those made with both-along with the meanings they can convey-and hand-gestures meant for dancing, which convey no meaning.

The twenty-seventh chapter is devoted to the explanation of different kinds of abhinaya and the costumes and decorations necessary for a performance.

The twenty-eighth chapter deals with samanyabhinaya, giving general directions for expressing different moods and responses to seeing, touching and smelling objects. Although the author designates this chapter as a discussion of samanyabhinaya, he includes citrabhinaya, that is, special presentations. In fact, this chapter is a conflation of the contents of chapters twenty-two and twenty-five of the Natyasastra and contains extensive quotations from it.

The twenty-ninth chapter describes the gatis, that is, gaits, the thirtieth discusses the nine rasas and the thirty-first the bhavas.

A new feature of the treatment of body movements that is added to the discussion of body movements appears in the thirty-second chapter, which deals with what is termed rahasyamudras, that is, hand-gestures meant for mystical and ritualistic purposes.

Continuing the discussion in the thirty-third chapter, the author lists more mudras, all meant for religious purposes, and calls them mudrahastas, and associates them with hymns to the gods and goddesses.

The thirty-fourth and final chapter on dancing is devoted to the legend of the origin of dancing. Since the work is devoted to the worship of Vishnu, it is not surprising that its author should view Vishnu as the originator  of the art of dancing]

*

The Chitrasutra recognized the value and the significance of the spatial perspective.

*.“He who paints rolling waves, darting flames, smokey streaks; fluttering banners and Apsaras floating in the sky , indicating the direction and movement of the wind, should be considered a great painter”

Taranga- Agnisikha- Dhuman ; Vijayantya -Apsara -adhikam vayu-gatya likhed yas tu vijneyas sat u chitrakrit // 3.43.28

*.“He who knows how to show the difference between a sleeping , an unconscious and a dead man ; or who can portray the visual gradations of a highland and a low land is a great artist “

Suptam cha chetanayuktam , mritam , Chaitanya-varjitam / nimnonnata-avibhagam cha yah karoti sa chitravit // 3.43.29

3.2. The Shilpa (sculpture) and Chitra (painting) are closely related to Natya (dance) in other ways  too. The rules of the iconography (prathima lakshana appear to have been derived from the Natya-shastra. The Indian sculptures are often the frozen versions or representations of the gestures and poses of dance (caaris and karanas) described in Natya-shastra. The Shilpa and chitra (just as the Natya) 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 Nrittya; and that is indicated by the term Sama.

3.3. The Natya and Shilpa shastras developed a remarkable approach to the structure of the human body; and delineated the relation between its central point ( Nabhi, the navel), the verticals and horizontals. It then coordinated them, first with the positions and movements of the principal joints of neck, pelvis, knees and ankles; and, then with the emotive states, the expressions. Based on these principles, Natya-shastra enumerated many standing and sitting positions. These, demonstrated the principles of stasis, balance, repose and perfect symmetry; And, they are of fundamental importance in Indian arts, say, dance, drama, painting or sculpture.

3.4. Another aspect of the issue is that painting as a two-dimensional form, can communicate and articulate space, distance, time and the more complex ideas in way that is easier than in sculpture. That is because , the inconvenient realities of the three dimensional existence restrict the fluidity and eloquence of the sculpture.

The argument here is , making a sculpture is infinitely harder than making a painting.

According to that; 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

4. Painting in ancient society

4.1. According to Chitrasutra, all works of art including paintings played an important role in the life of its society. The text mentions about the presence of paintings as permanent or temporary decorations on the walls of private houses, palaces and of public places. Apart from wall paintings, the floors of the rich homes and palaces were decorated with attractive patterns and designs inlaid with precious stones.

4.2. Paintings had relevance in the private lives too.The  polite education of a Nagarika  the educated urbane man of town included knowledge and skill of several arts in addition to erudition in literature, rhetoric, grammar, philosophy and allied subjects. Painting was rated high among these Vaiharika-silpas or vinoda-sthanas seats of pleasure or hobbies or arts for one’s own pleasure, enjoyment and amusement. The gentleman   of leisure and culture , painted for pleasure or in earnestness; but, of course, not for earning a living.

[Sometimes, a gentleman of leisure who had learnt the art as a leisure pastime  had to use it to earn a livelihood when bad days had fallen upon him . The Samvahaka in Mrichchakatika was one such hapless character who bemoans his lot  forced to earn a living  by practicing an art (kaleti sikshita jivikaya samvritta )… It was therefore said that , in any event, it is safer to learn some art , as it might come in handy in your lean days – who knows…!!! ]

Vatsayana describes the tasteful set up and arrangement in the room of a typical urban gentleman of pleasure who evinces interest in literature, dance, music and painting. The articles  in his room  would include  a vina   hanging from a peg on the wall (naaga-danta vasakta vina);   a painting board (chitra palakam) ; a box-full of colors and brushes (vatika tulika samgraha) ; a cup for holding liquid colors casually kept on the window sill (alekhya –varnaka-paatram) ; and, books of verses (kurantaka maala).

Nagadantavasakta vina; chitra-phalakam; vartikasamudgakah; yah kaschit pustakah ; kurantakamalascha – Kamasutra 4.10

Tatoham aasangam alekhya -varnaka-paatram  gavakshad aksipya.. Padataditaka

The courtesans too were proficient in fine arts such as music, dance, painting poetry as also in body-care techniques.  Even a calculating courtesan would madly love a talented painter, though impoverished. Somadeva’s Katha-sarit-sagara narrates number of delightful stories of such young and impetuous courtesans.

Syamilaka provides the instance of Kusumavatika , a courtesan who passionately fell in love (mahan madanon-madah) with a Chitracharya (master painter) Sivasvamin , mainly for his masterly in the art , though he was poor.

Janita evasmatsvami yathasmatsakhya kusumavatikayah chitracharyam sivasvamin prati mahan madanonmadah iti- Padataditaka

There were also Shilpini-s the court maidens in the service of the princesses. These talented Shilpini-s were well trained (prauda) painters who excelled in delicate drawing of portraits (viddha-chitra); and, they were often commissioned with the task of carrying the portraits they had drawn of their princess to distant courts to show them to the eligible princes for seeking alliance in marriage. And, sometimes such portraits – of princes and princesses –  were sent round several Royal Courts in search of  suitable alliances . The katha-sarit-sagara carries numerous such tales.

*

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.

For the gentlemen of leisure , fine arts like music , dance painting and sculpture were the source of ones’s own pleasure and amusement (vaiharika-silpa or vinodasthana). But , there were several professionals  who practiced these arts and art-forms  as a craft, the main stay of their life.

Kautilya deems it a responsibility of the state to support all such art-masters that spread knowledge among youngsters.

The play Malavikagnimitra mentions that Chitracharyas who combined the theory of the art with proficiency in dance performance were respected  and treated on par with Natyacharyas  in the kings court.

The art of  painting – chitra kala– was recognized as an essential part of the curriculum in the upbringing of children of “good families”.

Education in fine arts like music, dance and painting was considered essential for unmarried maidens of affluent families. The ancient stories are replete with instances of young lovers exchanging paintings as loving gifts.

4.3. While on the subject , I may mention that Chitrasutra  regards the Alekhyas or paintings as mangalya-lekhyas – auspicious in homes; and , it  observes:  the pictures which decorate the homes (including the residential quarters of the king- rajnaam vasagriheshu ) should display sringara, hasya and shantha rasa. Only such paintings that depict moods of laughter, fun, playfulness love and peace should be seen at homes. They should exude joy, peace and happiness; and brighten up the homes and lives of its residents.

The pictures that depict  horror; and ,  the ones that evoke fear, rage, disgust and sorrow  and cruelty ; as also those that show battle scenes, death, cremation / burial grounds, heart rendering episodes, wretchedness, glorifying evil and base motives, inauspicious themes should be forbidden and should  never be displayed at homes where children dwell.

Further, the text mentions that the pictures which show a bull with its horns immersed in the sea; men with ugly features or those fighting or inflicted with sorrow due to death or injury; as also the pictures of war, burning grounds as being inauspicious and not suitable for display at homes.

But, the text says, the pictures of all types of depictions and rasas could be displayed at court-halls, public halls,  galleries and temples.

[ Sringara, hasya, shantakhya lekhaniya griheshu te // parasesha na kartavya kadachid api kasyachit / devavesmani kartavya rasas sarve nripalaye / rajavesmani no karya rajnaam vasagriheshu te , sabhave’smasu kartavya rajnam sarvarasa grihe, varjayitva sabham rajno devavesma tathiva cha / yuddha-smashana-karuna-mrita-dukkha-aarthakutsitan / amangalyamscha na likhet kadachid api vesmasu // ]

photo16Gopalas returning Home

4.4. Icons were generally classified into four categories: as those painted on the wall, canvass, paper, wall or pot (chitraja) ; as those molded in clay or any other material like sandal paste or rice flour (lepeja, mrinmayi, or paishti); as those cast in metal (pakaja, lohaja, dhatuja); and carved in stone, wood or precious stones (sastrotkirana, sailaja, daaravi or rathnaja). Early icons were made in clay or carved wood; and such images were painted over.

Hallow figures (sushira) of gods, demons, yakshas, horses, elephants, etc, were placed on the verandas of houses , on stages and in public squares etc. as pieces of decoration . Such hallow images were usually made of clay, cloth, wood or leather .

Paintings were classified  as those drawn on the ground – like rangoli, floor decorations etc (bhumika); those on the wall-like murals and frescoes (bhitthi); and portrait (bhava chitra).The first two were fixed (achala) and the third was portable

4.5. The patas (poster or banner like paintings) were commonly displayed in public squares. It is mentioned, such paintings were employed as a means and a method of communicating with the towns people. The messages displayed picturesquely on the patas could be understood by all – lettered and unlettered alike.

The art, thus, entertained , educated and enlivened common people.

5. Art Appreciation

5.1. As regards the deities depicted in art, it is explained; in the Indian tradition a deity is a Bimba the reflection or Prathima , the image of god, but not the god itself. Bimba is reflection, like the reflection of the distant moon in a tranquil pool. That reflection is not the moon ; but, it is a suggestion (prathima) of the moon. In other words, a deity is a personification of a sublime  idea, a conception or his/her mental image of god, translated to a form in lines, color, stone, metal , wood or whatever ; but, it is not the god itself.

The Chitrasutra says, those qualities that we admire in a divine being are within us. And,  when we respond to those images brought to us in art, we awaken those finer aspects that are latent in us. When we are filled by that grace, there is no space left for base desires and pain; we have become that deity.

5.2. When we view sunrise or a great work of art, Chitrasutra says, we experience beauty (ananda) as we let dissolve our identities and attachments; and, become one with the object of beauty. It is a moment that bestows on us the grace that underlies the whole creation. Art, it said, is a liberating experience.

[ Dr. Harsha V. Dehejia  in his The Advaita of Art writes :

The concept of Artha also appears in the theories of Art-appreciation. There, the understanding of art is said to be through two distinctive processes – Sakshartha, the direct visual appreciation of the art-work; and, Paroksharta, delving into its inner or hidden meaning. The one concerns the appreciation of the appealing form (rupa) of the art object (vastu); and, the other, the enjoyment of the emotion or the essence (rasa) of its aesthetic principle (guna vishesha). Artha, in the context of art, is, thus, essentially the objective and property of art-work; as also the proper, deep subjective aesthetic art-experience.

In the traditions of Indian art, the artist uses artistic forms and techniques to embody an idea, a vision; and, it is the cultured, understanding viewer (sah-hrudaya), aesthete (rasika) that partakes that vision.

It is said; an art-object for a connoisseur is not only a source of beauty; but is also an invitation to explore and enjoy the reason (Artha) of that beauty. Thus, Artha is the dynamic process of art-experience that bridges the art-object and the connoisseur.

A work of art  is not a mere inert object; but, it is so rich in meaning (Artha) that  it is capable of evoking manifold emotions and transforming the aesthete.]

 

6. Elements of painting

6.1. While discussing the elements of a painting, the Chitrasutra says “ The masters praise the rekha‘s –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 colors appeals  to common folks. The artists, therefore, should take great care to ensure that the painting is appreciated by everyone”.

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

Talking about lines, Chitrasutra favors graceful, steady, smooth and free flowing lines; but not the crooked and uneven lines. It was said; while the free flowing, continuous, smooth and graceful line are soothing to the eyes (Rekha-nivesotra yad ekadharah), the broken lines offend the eyes. A good painting must be graceful, free of crooked lines.

idam cha paurandram avaimi karma Rekha-nivesstra yad eka-dharah // karma parinata-rekha mamsalair anga-bhangair laghur api likhiteyam drisyate purna-murtih 

The text appears to hold the view; while delineation, shading, ornamentation and coloring are the decorative aspects (visual) of a painting, the rekha, the lines that articulate the forms are its real substance.

Its Masters valued the effects best captured by least number of lines. Simplicity of expression symbolized the maturity of the artist. The artist and the art critics appreciated the best effect in a picture captured by the minimum of lines composing the figure. In the Viddhasalabhanjika , there occurs a remark of the vidushaka  (court jester) that the painting looks complete with even a minimum of drawing : api laghu likhiteyam drisyate purnamurtih

Incidentally, the main characteristics of the Ajanta paintings are the use of free flowing lines for delineating beautiful figures and their delicate inner feelings; together with use of shading different parts of the body to produce three dimensional effects in the images. The other was the use of proper colors at times contrasting and at times matching to create magical effects. These were precisely the principles that Chitrasutra emphasized.

6.2. The text says  in another context, when a learned and skilled artist paints with golden 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.

6.3. The elements that contribute to help a picture to attract  a spectator are merits like delicacy  of line , sweetness of execution , symmetry , likeness to the original , foreshortening , suitable background , spirited and life-like deportment of the figure and so forth ; and, the  defects that  repel the viewer  are like : coarseness of line work , weak and vague drawing , lack of symmetry , color-muddling , inappropriate pose, lack of emotion, vacant look in the figure , smudgy execution, life-less portrayal , disproportionate limbs , disheveled hair and so on

Durbalyam, sthula rekhatvam , avibhaktatvam  eva cha / varnanam sankaras, chatra chitradoshah , prakirtitah / sthanam pramanam bhulambho madhuratvam vibhaktata / sadrisyam kshayavriddhi cha gunastakam idam smritam / sthanahinam gatarasam sunya drishtimalimasam / chetanarahityam yat syat tad astakam prakirtitam // lasativa cha bhulambo slishyativa tata nripa / hasativa cha madhuryam sajiva iva drisyate//sasvasa iva yachchitram tachchitram subhalakshanam/ hinangamalinam sunyam baddha-vyadhibhayakulaih // vrittam prakirnakesaischa sumangalyair vivarjitam / pratitam cha likhed dhiman napratitam kathanchana // 3.43.17-23

6.4.  The renowned scholar Sri C. Sivaramamurti , quoting another Shilpa text Upamiti-bhava prapancha-katha  mentions : For a critical appraisal of a picture  of excellent drawing composed of fine lines, the brush strokes of which are almost imperceptible under a delicate coat of bright color , it is essential to project an excellent treatment of an illusion of relief on a flat surface , technically styled chiaroscuro , appropriate ornamentation , systematical representation of limbs composing an ideal body , a proper shading of the figures by a mode of stippling and a proper  representation of emotion in the heart by an expression of it in the eyes , are all essential factors that go to make a good picture.

Tatas samarpito bandhulayasam dviputasamvartitas chitrapatah , pravighatya cha nirupito harikumarena /  yavad drishtam alikhitam ekapute suvibhakto ujjvalena varnakramena nimnonnata avibhagena samuchhitena bhushanakalaapena suvibhaktha avayava archanayati vilakshanaya bindu vartinya abhinava Sneha rasotsukatyaya parasparam harshotphulla-abaddha-dristikam samruddha-prema-ati bhanduraikataya-alanghita-chittanivesam vidyadharam -mithunakam iti , //  Upamiti-bhava prapancha-katha

These qualities, while composing a picture, essentially, stress the importance of the virtues of the purity of line-work; arrangement of ornamentation; appropriate manipulation of color; and, clarity in the expression of emotions. It is said; the emotion is the most significant aspect of a painting, the true depiction of which sets apart a Master from the rest

Abhihitam anena aho ranjitoham anena chitrarara-kaushalena , tatha – atra suvishuddha rekha . saghatadi bhushanani , uchitkrama varnavichchhittih pari-sphuto bhava-atishayah – iti / dushkaram cha chitre bhava-aradhanam / tad eva chabhimatam ati-vidagdhanam / tasya chaatra prakashah paripusto drishyate // Upamiti-bhava prapancha-katha 

The master-stroke of the painter, which makes great art distinctive; and which, independent of color and line, adds vitality to the picture is praised by scholars and connoisseurs

6.5. It is said; a great painter tries to represent the ideal. As for the faults that meet his eyes, he ignores them and presents only the good things in life.  Thus, it is in his power to better  the world we live in  , at least in his picture.

Whatever that is not beautiful can be made  to look different in painting ( yad yat sadhu na chitre tat tad anyata syat kriyate )

*

The Guna (merits) and the Dosha (blemishes), the proper portrayal of Rasas, emotions, suggestive imports, styles of execution are all elaborated in  the Chitrasutra, the standard text on the principles of painting in ancient India.

The text at various places airs its clear opinions on what it considers auspicious (good) and “bad “pictures. To put some of these in a summary form :

*.Sweetness, variety, spaciousness of the background (bhulamba) that is proportionate to the position (sthana) of the figure, resemblance to what is seen in nature and minute and delicate execution are the good aspects of a chitra.

*.A painting drawn with care pleasing to the eye, thought out with great intelligence and ingenuity and remarkable by its execution, beauty and charm and refined taste and such other qualities yield great joy and delight.

*.Chitrasutra mentions: proper position, proportion and spacing; gracefulness and articulation; resemblances; increasing or decreasing (foreshortening) as the eight good qualities of a painting.

*.A picture in which all aspects are drawn in acceptable forms in their proper positions, in proper time is excellent.

*.A painting without proper position, devoid of appropriate rasa, blank look, hazy with darkness and devoid of life movements or energy (chetana) is inauspicious.

*.Weakness or thickness of delineation, want of articulation, improper juxtaposition of colors are said to be defects of painting.

*. In a picture one should carefully avoid placing one figure in front of another.

*.A painter who does not know how to show the difference between a sleeping and a dead man or who cannot portray the visual gradations of a highland and a low land is no artist at all.

*. A picture shaded only in some parts and other parts remaining un-shaded is bad (adhama)

*. Representation of human figures with too thick lips, too big eyes and testicles and unrestrained movement are defects.

[There was even a down-to-earth or rather a harsh discussion on what is ‘good’ and what is ‘beauty’ in a painting.

Nilakanta Dikshita (Ca. 16th-17th century) , known for his wit and quick repartee , in his Vairagya-shataka poses a mute question: ‘What is beauty?’. He says there cannot be a single definitive answer to that question; as it differs from person to person. And, at times, what one appreciates and adores as ‘beautiful’, the others might find it utterly ridiculous.  At the end, the question remains unresolved.:

‘A dog delights in the curl of the bitch’s tail; the pig finds joy in the rotund belly of the sow; the monkey jumps with great excitement at the sight of his mate’s toothy chuckle; a donkey can hardly restrain itself when drawn by the loud bray of his sweetheart; and, a human male goes agog bursting into song and dance at sight of lumps of flesh on a woman’s chest.

What is called ‘beauty’ is not in the thing; but, is in the feeling that it evokes. Each one rushes after his own sense of beauty – Loko bhinna ruchihi.

[ Svanah pucchanchala-kutilatam; sukurah kukshiposham ; kisa danta-prakatana-vidhim; gardhabha ruksha gosham. . ! ; martyah vakshassvaya -thum api cha strishu dristva  ramante tat saundaryam kim iti phalitam tattadajnanato anyat ..]

There are varied sorts of people who inhabit the earth. Among them are countless who are devoid of education, not to talk of aesthetic sensibilities, who are incapable of appreciating art. Only a few, cultured connoisseurs (sah-hrudaya, rasika) freed from prejudices are blessed with the gift of true art appreciation. An artist intensely desires his work to be appreciated.  In their such anxiety, some eagerly offer their creation or handiwork (hastochchyam) to the view of royal connoisseurs  and wealthy patrons with deep humility. But, sadly , mere wealth does not guarantee true appreciation of art.

But, at the same time, the painter too has his own favorite among his creations. Thus, there is a wide range even among art-lovers.

*

Further, the concept of what is beautiful, what is appealing and what is appropriate , also depends on each ones taste , on her/his cultural and intellectual background. Rudrabhatta, in his Srngaratilaka (3), describes a scene where a group of forest-dwelling hunters, along with their women folk , stray into an abandoned palace, whose king had fled following his defeat. As the hunter-folk wander through the deserted rooms in the building, they come upon murals painted on its walls. As they gaze at the paintings, they are surprised, amused ; and, break into uncontrollable laughter. Each points out to the other in the group, the details in the painting; and, criticize the dim-witted painters. The women poke fun, ridicule and laugh heartily at the paintings, till their eyes are wet  with tears .

“ I wonder , how could this dumb wit show pearl-strands as jewels on the breasts of these good-looking women, instead of adorning them with Gunja beads; and, why did he put lotus flowers on their delicate ears, instead of peacock feathers. Strange are the ways of men ….!!”

tyaktvā guñjaphalāni mauktikamayī bhūṣā staneṣv āhitā strīṇāṃ kaṣṭam idaṃ kṛtaṃ sarasijaṃ karṇe na barhicchadam / itthaṃ nātha tavāridhāmni śavarair ālokya citrasthitiṃ bāspārdrīkṛtalocanaiḥ  sphuṭaravaṃ dāraiḥ samaṃ hasyate // ST_3.3b // ]

6.6. Chitrasutra cautions against  inconvenient painting stance or a bad seat;  sloppiness and bad temper ; thirst and absentmindedness – as such distractions might affect the quality of the painting.

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

6.7. Vishnudharmottara regards art creation  (Chitra-yoga) almost as worship of the divine. It asks the artist to approach his task with reverence. While preparing to paint the deities, it advises the artist to be restrained; wear proper apparel; offer salutations to his Guru, to his elders;  to contemplate on their Dhyana-slokas; sit, facing East, in a serene attitude of peace and joy in his heart; and, commence his task with diligence and great devotion.

Chitra-yoga viseshena svetavasa yatatmavan / brahmanam pujayitva tu svati vachya pranamya cha / pramukho devata-adhyayi chitra-karma samacharet – 3.40;11.13

6.8. Chitrasutra also mentions six limbs (anga) of painting as: rupa-bheda (variety of form); pramana (proportion); Bhava (infusion of emotions); lavanya-yojanam (creation of luster and having rainbow colors that appear to move and change as the angle at which they are seen change); sadreya (portrayal of likeness); and varnika-bhanga (color mixing and brushwork to produce the desired effect)

Roopabhedah pramanani bhava-lavanya-yojanam | Sadrishyam varnakabhangam iti chitram shadakam ||

(i). Rupa-bheda consists in the knowledge of special characteristics of things – natural or man-made. Say, the differences in appearances among many types of men , women or natural objects or other subject matter of the painting.

(ii). Pramana: correct spatial perception of the objects painted and maintaining a sense of harmony, balance and a sense of proportion within the figure and also in its relation to other figures; and to the painting as a whole. The sense of proportion also extended to the way major figures are depicted by placing at the center and surrounding them with lesser figures in smaller size symbolizing their status Vis a Vis the main figure. The Indian artists were guided more by the proportions than by absolute measurements. The proportions were often symbolic and suggestive.

(iii). Bhava: consists in drawing out the inner world of the subject; to help it express its inner feelings. 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) are employed to bring out the Bhava. In narrative paintings, the depiction of dramatic effects and reactions of the characters from frame to frame demands special skill.

Since colour 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..

(iv). Lavanya –yojanam: Creation of grace, beauty, charm, tenderness and illuminating the painting and the hearts of the viewer. It aims to uplift and brighten the mood of the figures, the viewers and the surroundings.

(v). Sadrushya: Achieving credible resemblance to objects of the world around and to the persons. The resemblances are not mere general but extend to details too. And ,

(vi). Varnika-bhanga : Artistic manner of improvising color combinations, tones and shades. It also involves delicate and skillful use of brushes and other aids. It represents the maturity of the artist’s techniques and fruitfulness of his experience.

Auchitya, the most appropriate expression of a theme, as either in poetry or in art, is a very relevant aspect of any creative activity. The painters took special care to adhere to the basic principles of that factor. It was said; a thing in its right place is beautiful; and, in a wrong place, it is just ugly. A piece of precious diamond that has fallen into one’s eye is nothing but a speck of dust that has to hurriedly removed.

The merit of a painting is enhanced or diminished by arrangement of figures and the background in a picture appropriately; avoiding ill-advised depictions.

7. Types of presentations

7.1. The first requisite for a painting 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).

The paintings were executed on various surfaces: wall paintings (bitthi), pictures on board (phalaka), on canvas (pata), on scrolls (dussa-pata) and on palm leaf- manuscripts (patra). The last mentioned, i.e. the scrolls were often in the shape of lengthy rolls facilitating continuous representations. The Chitrasutra instructed that the surface chosen should suit the purpose of the proposed painting; and, in any case, it should be smooth and well coated (anointed). That would help achieve a better presentation of the painting.

7.2. As regards the shapes of the boards and scrolls, Chitrasutra mentions four types: sathya – realistic pictures in oblong frames; vainika – lyrical or imaginative pictures in square frames; naagara -pictures of citizens in round frames; and misra –  mixed types.

Sage Markandeya says (41.1-5): Painting is said to be of four kinds: (1) true to life (Satya);  (2) of the lute player (Vainika); (3) of the city  or  of common man (Nagara) ; and,  (4) mixed (Misra). I am now, going to speak about their characteristics.

satyam ca Vainikam caiva nagaram misram eva ca / citram caturvidham proktam tasya vaksyami lakshanam//41.1//

:- a painting which bears resemblance (Sadrishya) to the things on earth with their proper proportions in terms of their height, their volume (gatra), appearance etc., is the “true to life or naturalistic” (sathya) category of painting. The resemblance should not be mere general; but, it should extend to details, such as all parts of the tree, creeper, mountains or the animals.[ Dr. Sivaramamurti interprets Satya as : “portraying some object of the world that it intends to represent.”]

:- a painting that is rich in details, in display of postures and maintaining strict proportions; and when placed in a well finished square format   is called Vainika. It obviously is the delight of the connoisseurs. [In certain editions , the term daisikam is inserted in place of Vainikam, to suggest  resembling (sadrsya) provincial or local  characteristics.]

 :-  the Nagara which depicts common folks,  is round , with well developed limbs , with scanty garlands and ornaments. ( It could also mean urban, in contrast to daisikam

:- and, Oh ! The best of men, the Misra derives its name from being composed of the other three categories.

The text again cautions that an artist should not aim to copy.  He may depict the resemblance but, more importantly, he should aim to bring out the essence or the soul of the object.

7.3. The concern of the artist should not be to just faithfully reproduce the forms around him. The Chitrasutra was referring to what is now termed as the “photographic reproduction”. It suggested; 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 Chitrasutra suggested to him to look beyond “The phenomenal world of separated beings and objects that blind the reality beyond”.

Next:

 Chitrasutra continued

 

Sources and References:

Greatfully acknowledge  Shri S Rajam’s sublime paintings

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)

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

Technique of painting prescribed in ancient Indian Texts

The Painter in Ancient India by  Dr. C. Sivaramamurti

I gratefully acknowledge the illustrations of Shri S Rajam

 

 
 

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