Indian Aesthetics: Precedents and Present Identity Formation
This paper briefly traces the rich heritage of Indian Aesthetics, having its canonical beginnings in Bharata’s NatyaShastra (c. 300 A.D.) – a Sanskrit treatise of Hindu Dramaturgy. It highlights the navarasa-s (nine emotions) in the Indian context and discusses the theories of rasa (aesthetic emotion) and dhvani (suggestion). The paper establishes the highly interdisciplinary nature of Indian Aesthetics encompassing the six major art forms – fine art, sculpture, literature, music, drama and architecture. It makes a strong case for a new re-birth of Indian Aesthetics as handed down from mythological heritage, in the form of elaborate commentary and critical appreciation of the aesthetic experience as a whole, both at an individual cognition level and a community identity level. India is an inclusive culture which has imbibed and internalized several cultural influences over history (Persian, Muslim and European colonization). Present day India is the melting point of varied vernacular, linguistic and religious influences and milieus. A cross-cultural assimilation of contemporary vernacular expressions (pictorial icons, images, signs and symbols) from the different historical eras of India, as well as the different states and regions of India is needed today. A structured study of the different elements of art, in the light of visual iconography, symbolism and meaning is attempted in this paper. Finally, we suggest a systematic framework for the understanding of an Aesthetic Identity formation that can be called truly Bharatiya (Indian) in the contemporary social and cultural context.
Keywords: Indian Aesthetics, Cultural Identity Formation, Vernacular Artistic Expression, Visual Iconography
Prof. Joydeep Dutta
Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture & Regional Planning, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur