Divine Art

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Item Code: IDC391
Author: Dr Shashibala
Publisher: Roli Books
Language: English
Edition: 2007
ISBN: 9788174363213
Pages: 144 (Illustrated Throughout In Color)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 10.3” X 8.7”
Fully insured
Fully insured
Shipped to 153 countries
Shipped to 153 countries
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More than 1M+ customers worldwide
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100% Made in India
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23 years in business
Book Description

From The Jacket

Religions of the world have inspired divine art forms, embracing the deepest insights and highest aspirations of mankind. This book charts the origin and evolution of these divine art forms and aims to understand the deeper, spiritual psychology of human being inspired forms as diverse as writing, music, dance, drama, painting sculpture and architecture. Some early manifestations of divine art included the illustration of religious of divine art included the illustration of religious lore, epics and ballads on papyrus, palm fronds and parchment. Divine art also inspired dance forms such as the tsam and the noh. Architecture too reached its highest forms of magnificence as man tried to invoke and appease the gods.

In this age of consumerism and materialism, divine art not only instils in us feelings of love and compassion but also helps us transcend our suffering. This book comes as a source of hope and elucidation that divinity holds us together.


About The Author

Dr. Shashibala, a research professor at the international Academy of Indian Culture, New Delhi, specializes in the art and culture of Asian countries. She also teaches the history of Japanese and South Asian art at the National Museum, Delhi. She has written the widely acclaimed book, Buddhist Art, published by Roli Books and has contributed extensively to prestigious art journals and magazines both abroad and in India.



Religions of the world have inspired divine art forms embracing the philosophical and metaphysical perceptions of people, their deepest insights and highest aspirations. Visionary in nature and produced by an artist’s highest level of consciousness, divine art gives from to the intangible.

In this age of consumerism and materialism, divine art instils feelings of love and compassion, alleviating mental suffering. It cleanses the darkness of ignorance and arrogance. Unlike commercial art, it connects the modern world with the peaceful sphere of wisdom, spiritualism and ethical values. The term ‘divine art’ appeals to emotions; it is a pleasure in itself, a source of happiness and perennial inspiration. The ultimate goal of its creation is transcendence of humanity.

However, the artist is never completely able to represent philosophical truths through his art forms, because nature in its immensity is often overwhelming. Divine art represents universal truths, convictions and beliefs, rooted in the minds of the people and accepted as truth itself.

Nature itself is a creative artist whose beauty changes every moment and whose moods can be appreciated in different seasons and in varying forms at different places. Nature fills colors and gives life to this world, manifesting itself as an architect of immeasurable talent, producing forms in numerous hues and shades. New lines and shapes infuse the world every day. Beauty is its ultimate expression – seeking perfection in myriad forms and combinations.

Most of the world religions have influenced the art of painting, sculpture and architecture through construction and decoration of buildings dedicated to the divine. The beauty of such places has been emphasised as an element of great importance for a religious experience. Adornment of walls with paintings plays a fundamental role in portraying the lives and deeds of the divine, to benefit those who seek instruction from them. Temples stand as marked-out spaces to contemplate the ultimate realities of life. The divine structures contain a meaning, function and symbolism.

Astounding images of the divine were sculpted in metal, clay, stone, or wood to be enshrined and venerated. They symbolised the inexpressible spiritual qualities in the language of art expressing sublimity, grace and excellence, assimilating within such expressions the concepts of superhuman and supernatural energy, power and vision. The polytheistic worlds of the Greeks, Hindus and Buddhists have their own ‘secretly potent pantheon of dreams’. Their worlds invented metaphors, concepts and categories of thought. There is no law of revelation, and no constraints of the monocentric supreme.

In Greece, gods represent the ideal perfection of human beauty, while in Buddhism and Hinduism divine representations are based on dhyana, a process of inner efforts to control the movement of mind culminating in Samadhi. Thus, the divine is created from ‘non-from’. Gods and goddesses enshrined in the temples as life itself. Divine images are not deliberately created as works of art. They enshrine devotion and dedication. The artists are skilful and well versed in philosophy, and they have a vision to create an inspiring effect and convey the message to the devotee. They follow the rules prescribed by the texts on iconography as guides.

Sacred literatures are the purest voice of the creator, reflecting the roots, the life, and the vision of the people. They contain worlds of wisdom and, hence, are objects of adoration. They have always been written in the best possible manner using the best available material. Hundreds of thousands of texts strewn in museum and monasteries were scribed, calligraphed or xylographed, illustrated or carry the divine word to the people.

Man shared his vision and his creative and aesthetics skills to decorate the interiors as well as exteriors of places of worship. Stained glasswork in the churches paid tribute to the glory of the outside, as the refulgence of the sun entered the divine interiors illuminating them with resplendent rays. It was actually identified with the prophets, the doctors of the church, or the holy scriptures – in short, with all that enlightens the faithful and shields them from evil. The glass windows in the church are holy scriptures that keeps out the wind and the rain, that is, all things hurtful, but transmit the light of the true sun, that is God, into the hearts of the faithful.

The feeling of extraordinary delight evoked by divine art is imbued with an element of transcendence; it is beyond personal joys and emotions. In India dance has been the enlivening moments of the absolute. It is poetry in motion combining worship, drama, play and art. Dance is integral to life, to passion, and to creation. Lord Shiva as Nataraja is the lord of dance. Angels dance on the heavenly musical instruments played by the apsaras, as painted in the mandalas in China and Japan.

Strolling minstrels perform the duty of transmitting the tenets of philosophy in an easy-to-understand manner to the unenlightened. Their art is known for its power of convincing the audience of the basic principles and precepts conveyed by them. They have the power to please and enrapture the audience while narrating stories in a loud and overwhelming voice, which vibrates through the mind and palpitates the heart. They try to make their language as attractive as possible, while being easily understandable. Normally, their narrations are a combination of poetry and prose.

Votive and liturgical objects are offering made of fee will, or are required during rituals and ceremonies. They are made from stone, metal, clay, wood and bamboo, and even grass, skins, butter and horns. Use of incense, rosary, candle and flowers is widely popularly and often used by devotees in different religions. Prayer wheels and offering banners are often seen as Buddhist devotional objects.

Divine art objects embrace philosophical developments and carious spheres of human activity – from the common to the elite. The forms may be serene or strong, but they fascinate the human mind by virtue of being part of a universal message. They portray a positive vision and offer spiritual delight.




  Introduction 7
  The First Inspiration Nature 15
  The Art of Writing Scriptures 29
  Dance, Music and Drama: Performing for The Gods 51
  Decoration and Illustration: Divinity Immortalised 73
  Strolling Minstrels: Socio-Cultural Reformers 113
  Votive and Liturgical Objects: Divine Metaphors 121

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