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Get Acquainted With Some Interesting Facts Before You Buy Indian Art

According to the cantos of Shilpashastra, the ancient text on Indian sculptures and painting styles, an image must be pleasing enough to provoke the thoughts of the spectator. This test of an ideal art made by Indian Shilpacharayas (art teachers) and sculpture has set high standards for any Indian art to become an ideal art.

This characteristic of Indian image making makes it different from others. Sukraniti, the famous art teacher of ancient times, was of the view that the image should be power and initialize the yogic energy. A person should go in deep contemplation after looking at a painting. For attaining this, a painter or artist should be calm and composed. His meditative state should reflect in his paintings.

He was of the view that one can’t know the real purpose and idea behind a painting or an icon because meditation is the only way through which one can know that. Watching the painting would also be of no use.

The kaleidoscope of Indian sculpture and art is readily integrated with the inherent perception of other subjects and platforms. Each one is closely related to one another. Vishnudharmottara Purana is an ancient text on Indian art and sculpture. It throws some light on how ancient knowledge of art was disseminated and theorized. It reveals that one who doesn’t know about the limitations and rules of Chitra i.e. the art of making a painting, can never decode and understand the art of image-making.

Similarly, one can’t understand the intricacies involved in ‘PratimaLakshana’ i.e. the art of making a sculpture without properly understanding the essence of dance and painting is a worthless exercise. It is just like a puppet without a soul that acts upon the initiation of others suspended on a string.

Thus, for getting acquainted with the science behind the art of Pratima-Lakshana, one must know the canons of Chitra (the art of painting), Nritya (the art of dancing), Sangeet (the art of music), and Gyana (the art of acquiring different knowledge). It is imperative for a Shilpi or a sculptor to have deep knowledge of other arts and subjects to increase the scope of his perspective of things and to broaden his creativity.

Etymologically, the word sculpture is known by the word ‘silpa’ in Sanskrit which means to create. There are many ancient texts and piece of literature known as ShilpaShastras or Shilpa texts which enumerate about the art of sculpture-making. The design of Hindu temples and relating architectural designs are closely convoluted with the Hindu rituals. Agamas are the texts which are known for working like a manual having directions and instructions for performing the rites in a particular form during worship. These religious mandates are different for Hindus, Jainas, and Buddhists.

If we talk about Hinduism, then it has myriad texts known by distinct names like Upanishads, Puranas, etc. which serve different purposes depicting the glories of deities like Shiva, Vishnu, and Shakti. Three schools of Hindu metaphysical thought are based on these deities namely, Shaiva, Vaishnava, Sakta respectively.

These texts are filled with detailed iconography of the human manifestation of these deities. Their minutest details are captures by ancient artists in these iconographies like the seating position, the different gestures of hands, standing posture, the paraphernalia they hold in their hands like different weapons for the destruction of evil or flowers which have some symbolical relation with these deities, various animals which are said to have been their vehicles, the hand dress which is adorned by them, jewelry they wear, and many such details. Keep these in mind next time you buy Indian art.

It is very exciting to know that there are ample amounts of these types of texts which clear the mist surrounding the ancient art of painting and sculpture in India. Their names are mentioned in other texts also. But, as the coin has two faces, this also comes with the repercussion of its own. It is disturbing to know that they are nowhere found in their complete forms. Although some of the chapters which had instructions regarding the exact measurement and proportion of hands to other things are not found.

Important parts which have sustained the throes of time are preserved now in manuscript libraries like-

  • Oriental Gayakvad Library in Baroda
  • Oriental Library, Mysore
  • Tanjavur Saraswati Mahal Library

These libraries have put their serious efforts into compiling the information which they had in bits from the original or preserved authentic microfilm of this act. These texts are in old Sanskrit or Grantha Lipi which poses another type of challenge. So, it is difficult to bring them in comprehensible form.

India is having a beautiful and rich past in terms of culture. So, be proud of picking an indigenous artwork next time you go to buy Indian art.

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