Aesthetics and Preparation of Early Indian Murals (A Rare Book)

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Item Code: NAH159
Author: Sujit Narayan Sen
Language: English
Edition: 1995
ISBN: 818509487X
Pages: 286 (35 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 460 gm
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Book Description

About the Author

Sujit Narayan Sen was born in Calcuttan 1944 He graduated In Arts from St. Xavier’s College, Calcutta and obtained his Master’s in History In 1965 from Jadabpur University. He did another Master’s in Ancient Indian History and Culture with Fine Arts from Calcutta University in 1973. He Was awarded Ph.D for his thesis on early Indian murals by Jadabpur University in 1992. He completed certificate courses in Urdu and Persian languages at Ramakrishna Mission Institute of Culture, Calcutta.

He has authored a number of articles on Indian miniature paintings and a catalogue with a text on Damascene and Bidri metal crafts in the collection of the Indian Museum, Calcutta, which was published in 1983 He has delivered a number of talks on Indian arts and history In different colloquia including the Indian Museum.

He visited Singapore for two months in 1993 in connection with an exhibition on Buddha organized jointly by the Indian Museum and the Singapore National Museum The lectures on early Indian murals and arts that he delivered at Singapore National Museum and National University, Singapore were well received and a report covering an interview with him appeared in the Straits Times, Singapore on 1 December, 1993.

Besides history and arts, writing short stories in English is his leading passion.

Sen has been associated with the Art Section of the Indian Museum. Calcutta since 1968, and did a stint as keeper of the Victoria Memorial Hall. Calcutta in 1985.


My nexus with the Art Section of the Indian Museum is long. The scope of study of different branches of Indian art, with specimens at hand, needless to say, is large here. To go to the roots of an art one must needs know first its technicalities and aesthetic norms. To do so one has to delve deep into its primary and secondary sources. This I have tried to do here with regard to India’s early murals. Books on India’s mural techniques already exist, one by Asok K. Bhattacharya, the other by Jayanta Chakraborty. Their works, needless to say, have rendered my task facile, and provided important guidelines to me. I acknowledge my indebtedness to them, as I should to other indologists like Yazdani and Coomaraswamy, who are no more. Half of my work is devoted to preparation-procedure, the other half to aesthetics. I have attempted to show that they interact on each other.

I have transliterated in romanized characters many relevant slokas from our silpa sastras as well as classics in consideration of saving the reader from toils of rummaging through libraries in search of original sources. I have taken care to provide authoritative translations of the passages from silpa sastras, for example, by Coomaraswamy (Ab- hilasitartha-cintamani), Sivaramanurti (the Citrasutra of the Visnudharmoitara). Suresh Ch. Bandopadhyaya, Chanda Chakraborty and Manmohan Ghosh (Bharata’s Natyasastra) and those provided by Asok K. Bhattacharya (the Citralaksana of the Silparatna]. In one instance I have quoted an extract from the Pall work Samyutta-Nikaya, followed by its English rendering by Rhys Davis. I have also availed myself of Sivaramamurtl’s rendering of Nannecoda’s Telegu work Kumarasambhava. Asoke Chatterji Sastri’s English rendering of the Tibetan version of Nagnajit’s Tanjur Citralaksana (Sanskrit original lost) has proved to be vary helpful. In quoting the original Sanskrit texts with their translations I have tried to assess and weigh these carefully and suggested emendations (wit h due respect to the authorities) with the help of lexicons, e.g., Monier Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary, Anundoram Barooah’s English Sanskrit Dictionary, or Raja Sir Radha Kanto Deb Bahadur’s monumental Sanskrit to Sanskrit Sabdakalpadrumah. In providing the technical terms for botanical products (had to look up J.D. Hooker’s Flora of India and George Watt’s Economic Products of India.

In a number of places I have quoted passages from Sanskrit literature by Kalidasa, Banabhatta, Dandi, Asvaghosa and Syamilaka. I have provided the English renderings of these texts myself with the help of Bengali and Hindi translations by competent authorities.

Dealing with the technical aspects of our murals covered by Eight-Limbs, I have propounded my own theories regarding the terms of two major Limbs, i.e. Karsakarma and Dvicakarma.

Angularity of lines and the projected farther eye in the profile are puzzling developments that crept in medieval Indian painting. These traits can be detected in our early murals, and specially in the early phases of Ellora paintings. With the help of comparative illustrations and logic I have shown that this was most probably due to extraneous influences on Indian art coming from the direction of Asia Minor and the Middle East. On the technical side I have brought in comparison to our murals ancient Roman and Western methods enunciated in the MSS. or Theophalus (11-12th centuries) and Cennino Cennini [early 15th century). In my attempts on comparisons Kurt Herberts’ The Complete Book of Artists’ Techniques, A.P. Laurie’s Materials of the Painter’s Craft, Richard Ettinghausen’s Arab Painting and Jean Lassus’ The Early Christian and Byzantine World have been eminently helpful. I have also taken care to bring in comparisons the techniques followed by Mughal and Jain MS. painters with the techniques followed by our mural artists, and in this Moti Chandra’s Techniques of Mughal Painting and western Indian Manuscript Painting have been very much helpful.

I have own here that the famous Akbari pointed jama of Mughal painting has its genesis on the walls of Ajanta and Bagh.

Abanindranath Tagore, the doyen of Bengal Renaissance painting, drew attention to a charming passage by Yasodhara in his commentary on Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. This couplet enshrines the famous sadanga or Six-Limbs of painting. While dealing with the Section II of this book I have quoted Abanindranath in this regard while expounding the norms of Indian aesthetics in the art of painting.

The thick wash in the margins of figures in Kalighat patas is in all probability derived from our classical paintings, as we in many instances see it on the walls of Ajanta. This norm lingered on in South India very late. I suggest, the eclectic paruas of Kalighat learnt it from Southern paintings, as this norm is absent’ in the traditional para paintings of Bengal. This is not at all surprising, since we know that objects d’art were exchanged between Bombay, Madras and Bengal Presidencies during the Raj.

The murals of Ajanta, Bagh and Badami belong to India’s classical age proper. In the concluding part of Section II I have quoted a sloka from the Visnudharmottara showing that the difference in their styles could be due to different gharanas or schools (rather modes) of painting prevailing in early times. Karl Khandalawala has remarked in one place of his The Development of Style in Indian Painting that large scale paintings done on the walls of monasteries and temples were the works of artists’ guilds. I think the specialization paractised by the guilds were actually gharana works.

In 1985 I made a sojourn to Ajanta and Ellora. Standing before the threshold of a monastic hall at Ajanta an eerie vision came before my eyes. I fancied I saw big cats roaming around the place. Later on when I had the occasion to go through the pages of Mukul Dey’s My Pilgrimage to Ajanta and Bagh I awakened to the fact that what I fancied was indeed a reality when Ajanta formed a part of the domain of His Exalted Highness, the Nizam of Hyderabad.

For accomplishing my task I utilized the National Library, Asiatic Society Library and the Library of Indian Museum. I would like to offer my heartfelt thanks to the staff of these libraries for their ready cooperation. Indian Museum is my own place, and I take the opportunity to express my thanks to the Librarian Rajeswar Sarkar and his Assistant Chittaranjan Patra for their warm helping attitude. I also thank Miss Smriti Sarkar for expertly typing out my dissertation on time.

I am deeply beholden to my teacher and guide Dr. Sachindra Kumar Maity, ex-Head of the Dept. of History, Jadavpur University. Calcutta. for his paternal encouragement and affectionate guidance which have enabled me to complete the dissertation earlier than my expectation.

I crave the kind indulgence of the reader to view with a spirit of tolerance minor errors that I may have committed in course of my journey to the early murals of our land.



  Prologue 1-15
  Section One: Eight-Limbs of Painting 17-190
Chapter I. Sources of Eight Limbs of Painting 19-22
Chapter II. Crayon, Preparation of Ground and Priming 23-56
Chapter III. The First Line Drawing ( Rekhakarma) 57-63
Chapter IV. Colours (Karsakarma) 64-143
Chapter V. Shading and Modulation (vartana) 144-159
Chapter VI. Final Brushing and Finishing Touches 160-169
Chapter VII. Brush and Adamantine Medium 170-182
  Section Two: Six-Limbs of Painting 193-249
Chapter I. Six Limbs of Yasodhara Difference between Forms. 195-230
Chapter II. Proportion and Perspective. Moods. 231-240
Chapter III. Grace. Semblance. Colouring. 241-247
  Epilogue 250-259
  Key to Plates 260
  Select Bibliography 262-267
  Courtesy acknowledgement 268
  Index 269-276
  Plates - 35 nos.  


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