Jan Van Alphen Belgian Indologist, graduate of Ghent University, 1976. Post-graduated in Mumbai on 'Natya Shastra'. After anthropological research with the Gonds of Bastar (Madhya Pradesh) in the late 1970s, he became a Scientific Assistant at the Royal Museums for Art and History in Brussels. The last twenty years he has been with the Ethnographic Museum of Antwerp, first as Curator of the Asia Department, and since 1995 as General Director. He teaches Indian Art at the India Study Centre of the University of Antwerp and at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts. He has organized several exhibitions on Indian and Buddhist topics. Some of his accompanying catalogues have become much appreciated works, such as Oriental Medicine in 1995 (published in 7 languages). Steps to Liberation, 2500 years of Jain Art and Religion in 2000, Buddhist sculpture from the Grottoes of Longmen, China in 2001 and Cast for Eternity, Indian and Tibetan Bronzes in 2005.
Chandreyi Basu Writes about patronage and cross-cultural interaction in ancient Indian art. Her research focuses on the early northwest Indian region of Mathura and Gandhara during Kushan rule. She is the author of Displaying Many Faces: Art and Gandharan Identity (2004), a catalogue of a private collection of Gandharan art. As Assistant Professor Art History at St. Lawrence University in northern New York State, she teaches courses that introduce undergraduate students to South Asian art, Buddhist art, European art from prehistory to the Middle Ages, and women's issues in art.
Vidya Dehejia Barbara Stoler Miller Professor of Indian Art at Columbia University in New York. She was previously Chef Curator, Deputy Director and Acting Director of the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. She has published widely in the field of Indian Art, and her recent books include: The Sensuous and the Sacred: Chola Bronzes from India (2002), India Through the Lens: Photography 1840-1911 (2000), and Devi, the Great Goddess: Female Divinity in South Asian Art.
Devangana Desai Art historian and author of Khajuraho - Monumental Legacy (2000), The Religious Imagery of Khajuraho (1996), Erotic Sculpture of India - A Socio-Cultural Study (1985), and over seventy papers on various aspects of Ancient Indian Art. Dr. Desai is General Editor of the Monumental Legacy Series on the World Heritage Sites in India being published by OUP. She is also Editor of the Journal of the Asiatic Society, Mumbai, and is currently doing a research project - based on the images available in museums - for Franco-Indian Research in Mumbai on the Lost Temples of Khajuraho.
Debala Mitra A scholar of great distinction, retired as Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India. She has authored several books, monographs and research papers on different aspects of archaeology. Renowned for her seminal writings on Buddhist art, iconography and architecture, Debala Mitra has worked on numismatics and epigraphy, as well as temple architecture. Her excavations of the Buddhist site at Ratnagiri, Orissa, the results of which are published in two volumes, are examples of exactitude and scholarship of a very high order, as is the publication on Buddhist Monuments and a monograph on Telkupi in West Bengal. She has also carried out extensive archaeological explorations at sites such as Tilaurakot and Kodan, and in the Nepal Terai.
R. Nagaswamy Historian of Indian Art, with archaeological training from the Archaeological Survey of India, his fields of specialization encompass temple arts, archaeology, numismatics, ancient law and society, epigraphy, classical music and dance, and South East Asian Art. His contributions to many catalogues have been of a specialized nature and he authored Masterpieces of Early south Indian Bronzes, (1983). Of the several books he has written, his most recent is on the art and religion of the Bhairavas. He was Curator for Art and Archaeology at the Government Museum in Madras and Director of Archaeology in Tamil Nadu from 1966 to 1988. He has also been Vice Chancellor of the Kanchipuram University and Visiting Professor of Indian Art and Aesthetics at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.
Pria Devi As a writer, Pria Devi's concern with Indian social and cultural history, and particularly with its arts and material culture, has led to her association with exhibitions for the Barbican Centre, the Royal College of Arts, the Japan folk Crafts Museum and the Smithsonian Institute, among others. While doing her M. A. in Literature and civilization in New York, she was exposed both to the American Avant-garde and to work at the Islamic Department of the Metropolitan Museum. She is presently completing a monograph on an Indian modernist painter, and will return to research the ritual and ceremonial jewels of South India. Tejas is her fourth collaboration with Ranesh Ray.
Ranesh Ray Consultant on architecture, design and conservation, and presently a Member of the Indian Government Central Advisory Board for Culture, Ray has curated and designed major international and national exhibitions and museums for the Government of India and trusts on subjects such as concepts of space in traditional pre-industrial societies, Tibetan Buddhist religious art, craft and craft movements, tribal communities, art - including retrospectives of senior contemporary artists - and eminent personalities. He has prepared documents on World Heritage Sites in India and on major policy matters concerning the preservation of antiquities and built heritage in the country. He is deeply and actively involved in the conservation of cultural heritage, and is working closely with the Archaeological Survey of India and the Ministry of Culture on various aspects of preserving and conserving India's heritage sites.
Kapila Vatsyayan Kapila Vatsyayan is internationally acknowledged for her multidisciplinary and multidimensional work as artist, dancer, author, academic, institution builder, administrator and policy maker. She has conceptualized path breaking exhibitions on abstract concepts like Kham, Akasa (space), Kala (time), Prakriti (primal elements), Rta (chaos and order) and, now, Tejas. She is the author of over fifteen research publications, all exploring and unfolding the intricate inter-webbing of domains, disciplines and dimensions. In public life, she has held many distinguished positions, such as Secretary of the Department of Arts of the Ministry of Human Resources Development, and President of the India International Centre. A recipient of many national and international awards, Vatsysyan is currently also a member of the Executive Board of UNESCO.
Culture is the most Basic distinguishing factor between continents, countries or regions. A perfect example is India - Asiatic and Oriental in the truest sense, and a sub-continent in its own right. The country's absolute uniqueness derives from the fact that it is one of the world's most ancient civilizations, constantly enriched and infinitely diversified over the course of centuries. The huge ethnic and linguistic variety, the multitude of religions, the democratization of political institutions, economic development on a global scale and relentless social progress have thrust India to the front rank of nations, at least where the future of the human race is concerned, thanks to the exemplary national cohesion of such a polymorphous society.
This culture, at once unique and varied, ancestral and modern, forms the underlying thread of Festival India at the Centre for fine Arts, Brussels, incorporating all forms of expression from mainstream traditional to state-of-the-art contemporary. Festival India is a multi-disciplinary event, with the exhibition Tejas-Eternal Energy. 1,500 Years of Indian Art as one of the jewels in its crown.
Festivalgoers will discover Bollywood cinema celebrated side by side with the classical dance-drama known as Kathakali, of ritual origin but now recognised by UNESCO as a world cultural heritage. They can enjoy virtuoso singers and the sound of the sitar, examine miniatures depicting the legendary love story of Nala and Damayanti, witness the Bharata natyam, the oldest epic dance-form of southern India, or drop in on interviews and recitations by Nobel laureate V. S. Naipaul. Packed with interest, kaleidoscopic in its colour, range of formats and vibrancy, this festival delves to the heart of the timeless subcontinent, capturing the best of old and new. This is multicultural India with its innumerable centres of thought and creativity.
Based on choice items from numerous museums and archaeological sites, the Tejas exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts will employ some 200 works to reveal the eternal and innovative energy, both artistic and cultural, informing the history of the subcontinent. The exhibition nominally covers the period from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE, though it also acknowledges the dynamic spread of Indian culture well beyond the latte date, which carried the values of this fertile Civilisation down to the present day. This remarkable exhibition may be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the general public to experience not only the artistic wonders and treasures of a nation once again on the verge of becoming a world power, but also the spirit that has guided it towards this impending resurgence.
We owe the initiative for Festival India to His Excellency R. M. Abhyankar, then Indian Ambassador to Brussels. In this initial phase, we were also able to count on the invaluable assistance of specialist consultant Mme. Gira Gratier-Shroff, who kindly opened so many doors for us. Later, his Excellency Dipak Chatterjee, the incoming ambassador, Mr. Ashok Sajjanhar, Deputy Chief of Mission and Mr. Puneet R. Kundal, First Secretary, all made commendable efforts to ensure that the project took off under the best conditions.
The active participation of His Excellency Patrick De Beyter, ambassador of Belgium to India, and his press/culture adviser Philippe Falisse, proved immensely useful in contacts with the Indian counterparts.
We are particularly grateful for the unstinting support of India's Minister of Culture, Mrs. Ambika Soni.
Kapila Vatsyayan, Advisor of the Festival India program, has generously shared her extensive knowledge of all aspects of Indian art; her long experience of the art world, both in India and internationally, ensured that we got set off on the right foot.
There was an excellent rapport between the two curators: Jan Van Alphen, director of the Etnographic museum, Antwerp, and Ranesh Ray from India. The Indian Curator, Ranesh Ray, and his team conducted a brilliant and complex logistic exercise; no less than 30 museums and archaeological sites were visited and prospected. Some were also visited together with Jan Van Alphen. Ranesh Ray is responsible for the development of the exhibition content, the exhibition design including films and sound, as well as for the coordination of the catalogue. We would like to mention the extraordinary work done by Ms. Pria Devi, who has written the entire text for the exhibition and who has collaborated on the editing of the catalogue.
The sculptural exhibits exhibits are not all from museum collections. Several come in fact directly from archaeology sites where they have rarely been seen.
All the artifacts were assembled at the National Museum of New Delhi, whose staff undertook to coordinate the project. Our deepest appreciation goes to their Director-General, A. K. V. S. Reddy, Exhibition Director R. S. Chauhan and to E. Dawson and S. K. Singh for their excellent work and the enthusiasm with which they approached the project from the start.
We take this opportunity to express our profound and real gratitude to all the above-mentioned and their collaborators for initiating, designing and staging the project.
Back of the Book
Sacred Art in India from the last half-millennium BCE into the first millennium CE is unexpectedly dynamic. This, largely, is the theme of Tejas.
In the process of imaging the creative Energy of the universe - 'Tejas' in Sanskrit - an evolving visual language of plant, animal and human symbols emerges, which leads to multiple definitions of the divine. This is the focus of Tejas. Eternal Energy. 1500 Years of Indian Art.
The book opens on motifs and symbols of water cosmology, the old gods and the avataras. It moves into the making of shrines and temples, their underlying symbology, and the making community. The many meanings of Tejas further reflect in the images of Jainism, Buddhism, Vaishnavism, Shaivism, Shaktism and ultimately of Surya, the sun.
Tejas. Eternal Energy. 1500 Years of Indian Art reconstitutes this epic narrative, in particular through the development of sculpture in bronze, stone and terracotta from the 3rd century BCE to the 12th century CE. The book is illustrated with an extraordinary selection of nearly two hundred of the most beautiful sculptures from the collections of Indian Museums and sites of the Archaeological Survey of India.
The exhibition is structured around certain core ideas of the Indian Traditional world view which have found expression through time in the dynamic, vibrant and spectacularly diverse range of multiple forms of creativity in an evolving visual language. Visible over exterior and interior surfaces of architectural creations, in natural and manmade caves and shelters and as powerful freestanding entities all over the country, these sculpted figurative and non-figurative forms are both a resultant and embodiment of Tejas. Nearly 200 of them are exhibited. Chosen from various museums and archaeological sites in India, these works span a period of 1500 years from the 3rd century BCE.
Identifying and sourcing exhibits for tejas was a challenging task. The process related to both content and design. The selection was based on the significance that each exhibit would communicate through its placement - alone, and in juxtaposition with others in the unfolding of such a charged theme.
Tejas attempts to communicate the multiple dimensions of its core theme through a sequence of viewing spaces in which the exhibits are contextually related. Each exhibit focuses on the representation of a principle or an idea, each idea being representative of a dynamic system of which it is part. The systems interconnect. Collectively, they form the theme of the space. The multiple meanings behind the exhibits and theme-spaces are reflected in their deliberate positioning and grouping. One space flows into the next with an added dimension and shift in content, expanding and unfolding the theme in unidirectional movement.
The viewer's 'journey' ends at the beginning, forming a circuit. Commencing from the essence of the germ of Creation - Tejas, through the emergence and multiplicity of pulsating forms, the unfurling of symbolic meanings, the expressions of inner and outer Tejas - it culminates in the essence of the singular source of light, heat and energy - of life -Tejas: the Sun. Alongside runs a background of history, connections, ideas, state formation - and the makers, in consonance with the theme. The varying gallery spaces of the Bozar were ideal for the installation.
The spatial design integrates the elements of specially composed sound and text - both poetic allusion culled from primary textual source material and more detailed researched information encompassing related streams. Incorporated, too, it film, the captures in motion traditional systems for the making of images in South and East India, and what these symbolize. The exhibition may be viewed at many levels.
Arising out of the conceptual core of the exhibition, the symbol of the exhibition derives from the Surya Mandala to encapsulate both the essence of Tejas and of the exhibition itself. Solar power is simultaneously visualized diagrammatically as a Mandala and also as being at the centre of the cosmic map of circling planets. The makers of images use this cosmic map to empower all religious images through a ritual of their pedestals.
Collecting for the exhibition not only necessitated traversing periods and chronologies, and an interaction of disciplines, but also a journey through a range of spiritual, natural and cultural landscapes, for a clearer perception of the invisible qualities that emanate from these creations, it was essential to experience these landscapes. Now, often remote in vast silent spaces as archaeological remains, there are empty sites such as those at Ratnagiri and Sanghol, once vital and strategically located settlements. There are some, where the rapid processes of urbanization have not yet taken over as, for example, at Aihole, Sanchi, Udayagiri and Deogarh, and others barely discernible as once great ancient centres of workshops of high art such as Mathura and Patna. However, some centres till survive, though far fewer, of traditional bronze casting in the South, stemming from the time of the imperial Cholas, and workshops of traditional stone sculpting. Each exhibit, a metaphor, was one part of an architectural system that represented a still larger system. This was also an inseparable part of a living environment, created and shaped by living tradition - a dynamic force in the lives of the people. Tejas was to be perceived in this totality.
The images on view are largely of stone, some of bronze and a few early terracottas. The enormous range of India's geological wealth is reflected in the stone images, a clue to their provenance, and often to their period and style.
Broadly, the regions of mid-North and Central India are marked by sandstone. Eastern India is characterized by basalt, sandstone and limestone, and southward along the Eastern Ghats by khondalite, charnockite and schists. In the deserts of West India are located reservoirs of marble and sandstone. To the west, in the great Deccan Plateau, lies the dark basalt, Moving southwards from the Deccan Plateau are the granite gneisses, charnockites, sandstone and limestone.
Not all stones yield easily to the tools of the Shilpi - the sculptor. Some require far greater effort at workmanship and different vocabularies of expression emerge. Some acquire high polish. It is in the dexterous handling of these materials, making them appear seemingly pliable, that the consummate skill of the shilpi or rupakara is seen, more clearly evident while viewing similar subjects but from different regions. Over centuries, the makers in their time and region skillfully transformed this wide variety of seemingly intractable material into fluid, pulsating commonly understood symbolic forms or pictorial script, and integrated them into the overall architectural and structural concept. Each region, each dynast developed a characteristic style through continually and dynamically evolving forms of expression, finding fully flowering at different periods in time. These underlying commonalities, divergences, exceptions and individual expressions may be glimpsed in the exhibition.
What constitutes the "finest examples"? at one level it is what a manifestation of creation represents and how it is represented, viewed in its context as well as what period it was made in and where, and the material it is made of. At another level, it is the perception of that luminosity within that gives it its breath. Each exhibit on display is unique, each an individual masterpiece of creation. The attempt was made to cover the most significant periods in history and locations which exemplify the great centres of art, consequently the museums in which they are presently housed. The vast reservoir of cultural wealth in Indian museums in sheer numbers remains unsurpassed. It is from these that the images on view have been identified. In a brief period with, what we hoped, a certain inner clarity - though always remaining open to the unexpected, 30 museums and archaeological sites were visited and scanned for Tejas. Many of the exhibits on view have not travelled before, and there are some from location off the beaten track that few have seen.
From the State Museum in Bhubaneshwar and the Archaeological Museum in Ratnagiri are those of the period of the Somavamsi, largely from 9th IInd century CE. The Central Indian museums of the Archaeological Survey of India at Sanchi, Bijamandal, Gwalior and Khajuraho, and the State Museums at Bhopal and Gwalior (Gujri Mahal), collectively encompass a range of exhibits from Ist century CE Sunga to examples of 7th century post-Gupta, 9th century and on of Paramara and Pratibara rule, and 10th-11th century of the Chandella period. From Gujarat, the Akota bronzes of the Baroda Museum and Picture Gallery in Vadodara, span the Maitraka, Gurjara and Pratihara periods from 6th-9th century. From the Archaeological Museum in Amaravati, are the 2nd century CE Satavabana exhibits of the Mahastupa, and from the State Archaeological Museum in Alampur are those of the 7th-8th century Chalukyas. Palava and Chola exhibits of the 9th-11th century, as well as of the Rashtrakuta and Hoysala-Kakatiya periods spanning 10th-12th century, are from the Government Museum in Chennai. Hoysala-Kakatiya periods spanning 10th-12th century, are from the Government Museum in Chennai. From the State Museumk in Hyderabad are also displayed examples of the Kakatiya period.
From the museums of the Bangalore circle of the Archaeological Survey of India are exhibits from six site museums at Bagali, Narasamangala, Kambadahalli, Nuggihalli, Nilagunda and Kamalapur. The examples cover the 8th-10th century Ganga, the 12th century Chalukya of Kalyana, and 12th-15th century Hoysala and Vijayanagara dynasties, the National Museum in New Delhi provides a cross-section of periods and places
apart from the Sunga, Kushan, Gupta and Pala/Pala-Sena periods mentioned earlier, and exhibits from the Pratihara Chabaman, Chandella, Pallava, Chola and vijayanagara Periods. From a range of works at Bharat Kala Bhavan in Varanasi, are exhibits from 3rd century BCE Maurya, the 2nd century Kushan (Gandhara) and the 11th century Pala and Pratihara dynasties.
Additionally, full-scale reproductions were made of subjects that are an immovable part of archaeological sites, carved into life out of the rock face. These include the Varaha avatara, Gupta, 4th century CE from Udaygiri, Madhya Pradesh, Vishnu Anantashayi, Gupta, c5th century, from the Dasavatara temple Deogarh; Vishnu seated on Shesha, 6th century, Early Chalukya, Badami Cave III, the ceiling slab of a coiled Naga, 6th century, Early Chalukya, Badami Cave I, and of the Narasimha, 7th century, Early Chalukya, from Badami Cave III.
Inevitably, an exhibition encompassing a subject as vast and deep as this would have greatly benefited from the inclusion of yet other exhibits. However, due to their fragility, restrictions on travel and in some cases to their sheer mass and weight, they have been excluded, it was a mammoth task to physically coordinate, crate and transport the exhibits from the museums they were housed in to the galleries of the Bozar. It may be pertinent to add that this is the largest exhibition of antiquities drawn from State museums that India ha ever sent out, and its uniqueness perhaps lies in the fact that all the exhibits are from India.
While the concept and structuring of the exhibition along with images of the exhibits, and researched texts by Pria Devi form one part of the catalogu, we felt the need to elaborate on particular related areas fro detailed coverage from those who have experienced the fields in scholastic depth for added perspective, keeping in view the exhibition subject, significant periods in history, and regions from which exhibits have been sourced. The publication includes scholars of such eminence as Jan Van Alphen, Chandreyi Basu, Vidya Dehejia, Devangana Desai, Debala Mitra and R. Nagaswamy.
Kapila Vatsyayan, a scholar as eminent as she is profound, advisor to the exhibition, and who suggested the conceptual sequence, introduces Tejas.
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