Friday, July 15, 2011

Western world have suffered from many of the same biases and prejudices that have infected analyses of Indian philosophy and culture.

Every culture must find a way to grasp the horns of polar opposites – male/female, good/bad, sky/earth, birth/death – which epitomize so much of the human condition. Additive cultures, like Egypt and India, accept these contradictions as imperfectly perceived parts of a greater unity. 

Unlike the Western religions, which have little philosophical content and belief in the "One God" is mandatory, many of India's ancient religions were not religions in the narrow sense in which religion is construed today. India's early Buddhists were predominantly atheists, the early Jains were agnostic, and within the broad umbrella of Hinduism, there was space for considerable philosophical variety. In the Upanishads, god is described in an extremely abstract and metaphysical way. The philosophical content is essentially secular and spiritual ideas emerge from debate and speculation - not immortal revelations that cannot be challenged or modified with time. In the Nyaya-Sutras, the overwhelming focus is on rational and scientific thinking and analysis, on human understanding of natural phenomenon and physical processes occurring in nature. 
This rich tradition of philosophy - both rational and spiritual - found it's way into Indian art and architecture as well. Stupas and temples incorporated a profound symbolic language based on visual representations of all the important philosophical concepts. These included the Chakra - the revolving wheel of time which symbolized the cyclical rhythms of the cosmos;  the Padma - or the lotus symbol which embodied the prime symbol of creation - of the universal creative force that springs from the bosom of the earth; the Ananta (represented as a snake) symbolized  water - the most important life-giving force and the infinite ocean from which all life emerged, got differentiated and then got re-merged and redissolved; the Swastika - representing the four-fold aspects of creation and motion; the Purnakalasa - or the overflowing flower pot - a symbol of creativity and prosperity; the Kalpalata and Kalpavriksha -  the wish-fulfillment creeper or tree that were also symbols of imagination and creativity; Gavaska - sometimes understood to be the third eye; Mriga - or deer - symbolic of erotic desire and beauty; and lingam and yoni - the male and female fertility symbols. 
Rules were also evolved to provide additional symbolic content through hand gestures (mudra) of sculptured deities.  Deities were sometimes given multiple arms to signify energy or power or to suggest movement and as symbolic of the celestial dance.  Different arm positions embodied different virtues such as wisdom, strength, generosity, kindness and caring. Multiple arms could thus be used to  signify multiple virtues. 
Western analysts have often had difficulty understanding the complex cultural and philosophical systems that gave birth to India's artistic tradition. For many, Indian sculptural panels appeared to be nothing more than a random collection of strange or arbitrary juxtapositions of  primitive beliefs and superstitions. This is not to say that Indian spirituality was always free from superstition or arbitrary constructs, but in the best of the sculptural panels, there was a conscious and knowledgeable attempt to convey powerful philosophical ideas. 

Once Indian painting is freed from externally imposed standards, and the motivations of the Indian artist are better understood - a whole new world of visual delight can open up. From the quixotic 15th C illustrations of  Jain texts in Gujarat to the deeply expressive miniatures of Malwa, one can move on to the colorful whimsy of 16th C Mewar, the striking elegance of the Kishangarh school, and the refined beauty of later Kangra miniatures. One can appreciate  the earnest lyricism of the Orissa palm-leaf miniatures, the decorous elan of the Bundelkhand wall paintings, the bold and dark colors of  Lepakshi, and the vivacious renditions in the palaces and temples of Madurai, Thanjavur and Ramanathapuram. In all these varied traditions of Indian painting, an important element that infused Indian painting with charm and vivacity was the folk idiom that unabashedly found it's way in the art of the regional kingdoms who were less infected by formal Mughal tastes.

When the European world began to experience a renaissance in the realm of art and sculpture, exactly the opposite processes were at work in India. After the renaissance, much of the new patronage for European sculpture came from the urban areas, and this is why European sculptors infused their creations with an urbane  sophistication. The strong shadow of Islamic prudery prevented such a development from taking place in India. The great wealth of  Indian sculpture was created during Europe's Christian era, in a society where the divide between the city and the countryside had not yet sharpened as much. This is why so much of Indian sculpture retains such a strong link to nature and seems less urbane and cosmopolitan, and hence less meritorious to the Western eye. 

The Ashok Art Gallery is internationally known for one of its most important holdings: more than 2000 major works by the world's most significant Artists.Over the past years, as Ashok Art Gallery has become a major centre for contemporary visual art, the Gallery has built a strong collection of contemporary work of different artists, we became a sponsor of the STANDUP-SPEAKOUT Artshow, Organized by Art Of Living Foundation and United Nations.Organized an International Contenmporary Art Exhibition including artists from USA, The Nederlands, Pakistan and India.We have also participated at Art Expo India 2008, 09 Mumbai and India Art Summit 2008 New Delhi.


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Cool Administrator said...

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Pallavi Malhotra said...

Amazing Blog! Worth reading it.
The Indian thinkers of antiquity viewed philosophy as a practical necessity that needed to be cultivated in order to understand how life can best be led. Have a look on India Handicrafts to know more about paintings and hand made items.