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Aesthetic of Ancient Indian Sculptures

The Aesthetics of Ancient Indian Sculptures

Whenever I visit the cultural heritages of our nation, I get immensely mesmerized by the impeccable beauty of the architecture of ancient Indian temples and the sculptures engraved on the temple and cave walls. It's the consistent technical brilliance, a compelling aesthetic sensibility, and an unsurpassed recognition of the spiritual dimension that urges me to delve deeper into the very subject of recognizing, understanding and conceptualizing the India's artistic tradition. Over the ages, Indian sculptors had carved remarkable sculptures out of the sandstone simply using chisel and hammer. The Indian artistic tradition is above all a sacred one,

and in both Hindu and Buddhist texts there are declarations that the making of images leads to heaven. These intentionally repetitive images fulfill their spiritual goals by expressing, through multiple forms, the unknowable qualities of the divinities they represent. I have encountered an imposing array of sculptures ranging from the beatific to the erotic and horrific, in mood and from the colossal to the miniature, in size. Together with works of absorbing spirituality, I've identified those of innocent sensuousness. But, the unity of the sculptor's vision never seemed to be disrupted by the great variances in scale. The holistic beauty of those meticulously etched figures makes me wonder about the whopping wisdom of those artists and makes me fall for them instantly.

I often stiffen my sinews to decipher how they might have envisaged the anthropomorphic figures for their much-venerated gods and goddesses based on their reading of different "shashtras", "puranas" (myths) & legends and how they might have instilled their innermost feeling into the those evocative sculptures. Whenever I look at these artworks, I really do feel the keen sense of rhapsody, bliss, devotion, poignance, asceticism and sensuality even in the disintegrated remnants of the monumental sculptures.

There were innumerable stereotypes and prejudices that persisted through the centuries, creating an entirely negative view of the idea of Indian art in the Western Imagination. A hostile intellectual environment predominantly guided by a glaring hellenocentric attitude stood in the way of unprejudiced aesthetic appreciation of Indian art until the twentieth century when a fundamental change in Western intellectual attitudes led to a greater appreciation of non-Western and primitive art & the advent of modern art furthered altered artistic perception. Modern artists, notably Auguste Rodin, were moved by the inherent beauty of Indian sculpture and it is evident in his impressive exaltation of the Nataraja (The Lord of the Dance) when Rodin extols, it is the “perfect expression of rhythmic movement in the world. What many people cannot see — the unknown depths, the core of life. There is grace in elegance, but beyond grace there is perfection."

We generally take the posture and gesture of Nataraja icon for granted. But it just boggles my mind to imagine how the unknown artist could have contextualized this image with an iconography so imposing in both cosmic and psychological ways that it has triggered multiple interpretations. To me, It is one of the most complex sculptures which represents the human body as divine and sensuous.

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