Indian Aesthetics Syllabus



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Aesthetics Notes Sem 3

Indian Aesthetics

Syllabus

  1. An introduction to Indian Aesthetics and its brief historical background.

  2. Concept of beauty in ancient scriptures and their relevance in art. (Rasa + Shadanga)

  3. Elements of art – 5 schools of Indian Aesthetics


Topics to prepare for exams

  1. Introduction of Indian Aesthetics – Meaning and Origin.

  2. Rasa Theory – Meaning, Origin, Components, Types with examples.

  3. Shadanga – the Limbs of Art (All Parts with explanation and examples)

  4. Elements of Art – Five Schools of Indian Aesthetics –

  1. Alankarvada

  2. Riti Siddhanta

  3. Dhvani Siddhanta

  4. Vakrokti Siddhanta

  5. Auchityavada



  • NOTES FROM CLASS DICTATION SHOULD BE REFERRED

  • Further below are extra notes to add on to explanation/answers.


Introduction to Aesthetics

  • Aesthetics– Study of Beauty, especially Art. (Saundarya Shastra – Kala Saundarya ka Shastra)

  • Aesthetics is a philosophical study of beauty and taste.

  • Word Aesthetics comes from Greek word ‘Aisthetikos’ meaning sense of perception. (Anubhuti)

  • A study of sensory values, a study concerned with nature and appreciation of art, beauty and good taste.

  • It has been defined as the critical reflection on art, culture and nature.

The word ‘Aesthetics’ is generally, it is associated in the field of Art and used for art-appreciation and the art-experience.
It is a Greek word which means ‘sense-perception’. Anything that is given to the senses is known as ‘Aesthetics’ and later it was used in the plural as ‘Aesthetics’. In 1735, this word was for the first time formally used by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten in the sense of ‘Science of Sensitive Cognition’ in the field of Arts. Later, this Science of Art, namely, Aesthetics came to be recognized as a distinct branch of Philosophy under the head ‘Philosophy of Art’.
In the Indian context, we have simply borrowed the term ‘Aesthetics’ and broadly applied in the field of Indian Art and thus we say ‘Indian Aesthetics’ generally refers to the art-appreciation and art experience of art forms.

  • The Indian aesthetics tradition traces to the Vedic era texts of Hinduism.

  • Literature from where aesthetics and art fin mention –

  1. Aitareya Brahmana (1000 b.c.) in section 6.27 states arts are refinement of self (atma)

  2. The oldest surviving complete Sanskrit manuscript that discusses a theory of aesthetics is Natya Shastra (composed between 200 b.c. to 200 a.d.- talks about Rasa theory).

In order to understand the function of aesthetics in art, let us first survey the classification of art forms. Art forms In the Indian context, the art forms like music, dance, architecture, painting etc., are found mentioned in the earliest available works like the Vedas, Puranas, Itihasas etc. Thus, it is tedious to place historically the advent of art forms, but, we have in a span of 100 years, (18th-19th cent AD) located and arranged one of the earliest treatises dealing specifically with the art form and the mechanism of art-experience known as Natya-Shastra attributed to Sage Bharata. The period is roughly from 5th century BC to 3rd century AD. By this time, the art form is classified into three arts, namely, Poetry (Kavya), Drama (or Theatre) (Natya) and Music (Gana). We find classification of arts into 64 that includes stringing flowers, face-painting etc., but the identification of the three arts seems to enhance the study of art-experience elevating it from the physical plane to a spiritual plane. Even among these three, Bharata in the Natya-Shastra shows that the highest form of art-experience is Poetry and it can be well brought out by acting. The Natya-Shastra, deals with the three main arts and defines the art-experience as “Rasa” and provides the mechanism of what came to be known later as rasa-experience. This word ‘Rasa’ though profound, reaching beyond the sensitive cognition, however over a period of time has come to be identified with the word ‘Aesthetics’ of Western origin. Now, in the light of the three main arts, we shall survey the literary development in these three art forms. We do have much literature in the other art forms, here; we restrict to these three arts basically to understand the evolution and development of Aesthetics in the Indian context.
We shall classify the Literature on Indian Aesthetics broadly into three based on the above classification of three art forms, viz., Kavya, Natya and Gana. Firstly, we present the earliest available treatise, that is, Natya-Shastra that commonly presents Rasa, the experience of any art form and specifically the three mentioned art forms. Natya-Shastra and Its Commentaries The treatise Natya-Shastra attributed to Sage Bharata, deals with the Science of Dramaturgy and we have at least three different editions with 36, 37 and 38 chapters. Considering the 36 chapters work as the earliest, we find the description of characteristics of poetical works (Kavyalakshanam) in the 17th chapter, different types of dramas (Natakas) also known as 3 Rupakas, in the 20th chapter and music (dhruvas) in the 32nd chapter. The famous definition of Rasa in the aphoristic (sutra) form is given in the 6th chapter of Natya-Shastra. This is later referred to by the Aestheticians as ‘Rasa-Sutra’.
The available commentary to the NatyaShastra is that of Abhinavagupta (10th-11th cent. AD). The commentary is known as Natyaveda-vivritti and most popularly as Abhinavabharati. Abhinavagupta comments this treatise in the background of Pratyabhijna Shaiva system that is said to have prevailed widely in Kashmir. From this available commentary, we come to know that there had been several earlier commentators to NatyaShastra, like, Udbhata, Bhatta Lollata, Shri Shankuka, Bhattanayaka, Kirtidhara, Rahula, Shri Harsha and others. Basically the commentators differed in the interpretation of the Rasa-sutra and evolved their theories of Rasa. The other features of the commentaries are the different viewpoints on the nature of drama (rupaka), dramatic presentation (vritti), histrionics (abhinaya), and different aspects of music and poetical compositions. In the broad platform of Rasa theory developed various views on “aesthetically sound” poetic compositions.

Rasa

  • Rasa an ancient concept in Indian arts about the aesthetic flavour of any visual, literary or musical work that evokes an emotion or feeling in the reader or audience, but that cannot be described.

  • According to the Natya Shastra, the goal of arts is to empower aesthetic experience, deliver emotional Rasa.

  • Indian Aesthetic is a unique philosophical and spiritual point of view on art, architecture, poetry or literature. In Indian aesthetics, a Rasa (essence) denotes an essential mental state and is the dominant emotional theme of a work of art or the primary feeling that is evoked in the person that views, reads or hears such a work.



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