Shringara: The Faces Of Indian Beauty

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Item Code: NAE166
Publisher: Rupa Publication Pvt. Ltd.
Author: Alka Pande
Edition: 2011
ISBN: 978812917564
Pages: 226
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 11.5 inch X 9.0 inch
Weight 1.40 kg
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Book Description
About the book

Shringara is a metaphor of love in its various expressions including the spiritual dimension. Shringara is equally an aesthetic that explores the pleasure of being the lover and exuberance for the beloved, who is also manifestly the divine. Shringara journeys as the king of rasas through forms that bind the ancient to the modern. The book presents a multidisciplinary interpretation through poetry, painting, architecture, visual arts and brings alive the joy of beauty. Adorned with illustrations, myriad representations that seek to capture the essence of the rasa, Shringara will take you into the known and the unknown.

About the Author

Alka Pande trained as an art historian and has written prolifically on Indology and Art History. She is the author of several books with a special interest in gender and sexuality; her PhD thesis was on the theme of Ardhanarisvara. She has written extensively on erotic Indian Literature and art as well.

She was awarded the Chevalier dans I ordre des Art et des Lettres in 2006 by the French government. In 2009, she received the Australian Asia Council Special Award. Alka Pande is an independent curator and is currently working as an art consultant for India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. She lives in New Delhi with her husband and daughter.


Love is the first born loftier than the gods the fathers and men. You, o love are the eldest of all altogether mighty. To you we pay homage. Grater than the breadth of earth and heaven or of waters and fire you O love are the eldest of all altogether mighty. To you we pay homage. In many a from of goodness o love you show your face grant that these may penetrate within our hearts send elsewhere all malice. As an art historian, I am often asked to define beauty in a word, phrase, or even as a concept. I see beauty essentially as a value connected to the perception of different affirmative aspects of human emotionality. When we perceive something that is in harmony with nature and generates feelings of joy, fulfilment and pleasure within us, we describe it as being beautiful.

The concept of beauty and aesthetics are both part of the European tradition. The closest parallels in the Indian lexicon are shringara and saundarya. Their ambit lies in the untranslatable—the slippage that occurs when shringara is translated into beauty. In fact this hook belongs more to the domain of that slippage, the spaces between the concepts of beauty, shringara and its further dimension, saundarya. Many-layered Meanings.

Beauty, in its quintessential sense, is innate rather than created. It is to he discovered, rather than ornamented, and possessed rather than sculpted. Its appeal is different when seen through the eyes of the samajika (lay person) and the rasikam (trained aesthete). The lay person derives a visual delight, while the aesthete moves beyond the sensual beauty of the subject to an uaner, subjective and private perception, rendering the concept more philosophical. Saunda.’a is this half-received and half-perceived phenomenon. Through the dual realms of shringara and saundarya, I discovered that the concepts and traditions of Indian aesthetics and beauty were like an onion: for every layer peeled, another notion waited to be unfolded, and yet another lay beneath.

The notions of Indian beauty have been drawn from Sunddarya shastra, a compendium of the ideas of philosophers, poets, aesthericians, dancers, musicians, religious texts, secular texts and the Puranas. At the base of the pyramid is Natasyashastra in which is embodied the first written canvas of the performance and appreciation of beauty or the shringara rasa, also known as the rasaraja or the king of all rasas.

The notion of beauty defies any attempt at limited and compartmentalized generalization. All over the world, at different times in human history, the idea of beauty has meant different things to different people, whether it he in terms of aesthetic experience, concepts of diviuity, perceptions of nature or physical form.

Beyond Definition

The concept of ‘beauty’ has never been an absolute and it will never he for there are so many manifestations, so many ways of perceiving it, so many definitions, so many notions. The most immediate is physical beauty the outer image that pleases in its very appearance and is easy to behold since it boasts perfect proportions. The human form provided the most universal inspiration for the depiction of perfect physical beauty. The Greek poets idolized it, painters painted it, sculptors sculpted it, philosophers pondered over it, and the bards sang of it. In the Indian context, physical beauty was always linked to nature. For instance, a maiden with beautiful eyes was referred to as kamal nayan (lotus-eyed) and flowing black hair was compared to ark monsoon clouds.

Experiencing beauty involves extending its landscape to include the performing arts, the senses, the fragrances, and the ambience that the viewer experiences and derives joy from.

Ways of Perceiving Beauty

There are myriad ways in which one can experience and appreciate beauty;

Beauty through participation is of the highest 3rder, since this is beauty beyond utility. The creation and celebration of beauty through subjects of beauty is an integral part of the Indian psyche. ‘Whether it is adornment of :he body or the dwelling, or making beautiful subjects of daily use—there is a vibrant connection between the maker, the object itself and the users of these objects. From the Indian point of view, the very act of creating something new, integrating the beautiful in daily living, is an evocation of Vishvakarma, the Divine Architect.

Beatuy through ritual establishes a correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm, between the world of humans and that of the gods, between chaos and order.


Natyashastra The Beginnings3
Navarasa The Emnodiment of Flavour19
Shirngara The Rasaraja King of Rasas29
Kama The Erotic45
Kavya Beauty in Verse61
Chitra Lines of Pleasure83
Shilpa Shastra Adornment in Stone101
Sangeet Food For The Soul119
Nritya Joy In Rhytm135
Salah Shringara Adorning The Body149
Shringara In Living Culture163
Shringara From The Ancient To The Modern173
Photo credits192
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