Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Delight of Senses: The Indian Way of Seeing It

Excerpt from: Delight of Senses: The Indian Way of Seeing It
(A Discourse on Indian Theory of Rasa in Relation to Visual Arts)

Senses delight all and have delighted always, but Indian theorists were perhaps the earliest to perceive the delight of senses as the essence of being - a phenomenon of mind sublimating spiritually. Athenians realized the role of emotions but it was confined to mere sorrow - pathos, which, Plato thought, weakened the reason. He hence recommended poets to be dispelled from the Ideal State - the state of his utopian vision, as poets, by rousing emotions, incapacitated its citizens. Aristotle, his best known disciple, defended poets and tragic sentiment. He contended that tragic sentiment, when imitated in a dramatic performance or into a medium, only purged viewer's mind, and with his mind purged of sorrow - pathos, which weakened him, the viewer emerged stronger.

Who was right, Plato or Aristotle, is not the issue here. What matters is the fact that their deliberation did not extend to man's entire world of emotions....As today, this early world too did not so much fear hatred, revenge or violence, or their public expression, as it feared love. It was different with Indian mind. The emotional worlds of its arts and literature also comprised sorrow - pathos, and the Buddhist thought centered primarily on sorrow, which illness, old age, and death bred, but in the broader perception of Indian mind, love and the delight that love inspired, not sorrow, formed the axis at least of its creative endeavor. Even Buddhism did not bar sensuousness in its imagery and art perception. Read more at

This article by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.

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