Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala: A Selection brings out the vast expanse of the noted Indologist's concerns and critical insights on a range of subjects such as Vedic studies, Panini, Puranas, Archaeology, Museology, Folklore and other seminal motifs of Indian arts. Kapila Vatsyayan, the Editor, has taken pains to sift the material from the voluminous writings in English of her guru. She has also edited a volume based on the writings of V, S. Agrawala in Hindi, which was published by the Sahitya Akademi in 2012. The two editions complement each other.
The first section in this volume includes V. S. Agrawala's seminal writings on the Vedas: his interpretation of some of the key verses (mantras) is extraordinary. Section two comprises essays on Panini. Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala is considered one of the most prominent scholars of Panini, not only as a grammarian but as someone who has looked at the Ashtadhyayi as a mountain of information on the cultural landscape and the material culture of India. The essays on Matsya Purana and Vamana Purana bring out his uncanny insights into the symbolic significance of the narratives in these Puranas.
Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala looked at all aspects of the Indian traditions as a whole. The section on Art gives an idea of his critical appreciation relating to Indian art, especially the Indian visual arts. Some of the other sections in the volume are on his writings on Emblems and Symbols, Museums and Exhibitions; Folklore; and on Bana's Harshacharita.
This volume will give a glimpse of the extraordinary scholarship of this multifaceted personality to a younger generation. The volume also carries, as Afterword, Vatsyayan's keynote address to a seminar in 2004 to mark the centenary of Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala, organised by the Banaras Hindu University. This will be of immense value to the study of the great Indologist's life and writings.
Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala (Born: 7th August 1904, Khairagaon, Ghaziabad - Died: 27th July 1966) - Noted exponent of the writings in Sanskrit and Hindi on the Vedas, Puranas, Religion, History, Art and Archaeology. Scholar in different languages. One of the pioneers of the Museum movement in India and associated from the very beginning of his career with the Museum services of the country. Served for about two decades as in-charge of the museums at Mathura, Lucknow and New Delhi and was Head of the Museums Branch, Archaeological Survey of India, for a number of years. Has made important contributions to the National Museum, Delhi and Bharat Kala Bhavan (Kashi Hindu Vishwavidyalaya). Dr. Radhakumar Mukerjee was his guide for his Ph.D. thesis 'Panini as a Source of Indian History'. Founder and member of many cultural institutions.
Author of 87 books in Hindi and English. To mention a few important ones: Gupta Art; The Heritage of Indian Art; India as Known to Panini; Mathura Railing Pillars; Notes on Mahabharata; Markndeya Purana, Prithvi-Puthra; Bharat-Savitri; and Kala and Samskriti.
Kapila Vatsyayan Internationally recognized for her outstanding work in the diverse fields of Culture and the Arts. Author of more than 15 books including path-breaking works such as Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts and The Square and the Circle of the Indian Arts, as also Bharata-the Natyasastra. Has explored the many dimensions of the poem Gita Govinda; published six monographs.
Editor of two major volumes for the IGNCA - Concepts of Space and Concepts of Time, besides being General Editor of Kalatattvakosa and Kalamulasastra Series.
Also edited The Cultural Heritage of India, Vol. VII and co-edited Aesthetic Theories and Forms in Indian Tradition.
Was a student of Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala. Taught at the Universities of Delhi, Banaras, Philadelphia, California (Santa Cruz). Received D.Litt. (Honoris Causa) from several universities in India and abroad.
Was Secretary, Departments of Art and Culture, Government of India. Founder Academic Director, IGNCA; President, India International Centre; Member, Executive Committee of UNESCO; and nominated member of the Rajya Sabha.
Recipient of several awards and honours.
This is the second volume of the selected works of the great scholar Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala. The first volume is a selection of his writings in Hindi. Both the volumes are complementary to each other. The sequence of the articles has also followed an identical structure. The Hindi volume begins with the essays on the Vedas, entitled 'Ved Vidya'. The English volume, too, begins with Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala's seminal writing on the Vedas. It represents the writing of a ripened, mature Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala, who has churned and re-churned the Vedic sources. His interpretation of some of the key verses (mantras) is extraordinary. Particular attention is invited to the Foreword to the book entitled Rajovada by Mahamahopadhyaya Vidyavachaspati Pt. Madhusudan Ojha. And also to his expositions of the Asvina Sukta of the Rgveda hymn 1.34. This interpretation of the great hymn, Nasadiya Sukta, is most penetrating, and has been commented upon by scholars for centuries. The hymn has also been a subject of analysis and interpretation in recent critical discourse. Dr. Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala's interpretation of Ashtamurti Siva comes almost as a culmination where he links the Vedic exegesis to the conception of the eight forms of Siva.
Section two comprises his essays written much earlier on Panini, He has been acknowledged as one of the most prominent scholars of Panini, not only as a grammarian but as someone who has looked at the Ashtadhyayi as a mountain of information on the cultural landscape and material culture of India. His book entitled India as known to Pdnini is a milestone. Essays from this book have been 'selected, as also other essays which he wrote on the subject, and which appeared in different journals from time to time. In addition, Dr. Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala was a great authority on numismatics and some crucial essays on the subject have been included here as well.
The third section comprises articles written on the Puranas, Section three of the Hindi volume is entitled Pauranik and Section four of the Hindi volume comprises the Introduction to the Markandeya Purana. In the English volume it was important to place before a contemporary audience his analysis of the Vamana Purana and his preface to the Matsya Purana. There are some uncanny insights into the symbolic significance of the narratives in these Puranas.
Dr. Agrawala looked at all aspects of the Indian tradition as a whole. He began his career as an Archaeologist and Curator of the Mathura Museum. He has written on the sculptures in the Mathura Museum and his Introduction on Mathura Railing Pillars has energised scholars for over half a century. A few articles have been chosen from his writing on Mathura and Gupta Art. The sub-section on Art draws attention to Dr Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala's engagement with myth, legend and motif. In the Hindi volume we have included an essay Purna-Kumbha in the section on Veda. Here an examination has been made of motifs such as the Kalpavrksa.
Sub-section III gives an idea of his critical insights relating to Indian art and especially, the Indian Visual Arts. These articles exemplify his ability to analyse material culture no less than text.
Dr Agrawala was one of the first persons involved in the presentation of Indian art beyond India. He was chiefly responsible for the exhibition of Indian Art and Architecture held in London in 1947-48. The three articles selected here have historical significance and value today for those who are interested in the study of the historiography of exhibitions of Indian Art abroad. Dr Agrawala was one of the first to draw attention to Asiatic Art in the museums of Europe, a topic that has recently engaged younger scholars. His comments on Four Great Events in the Life of an Object, appearing in his work Museum Studies (A Collection of Papers on Museum Methods and Ideals), is a forerunner in the consideration of the journey of a single work from discovery to presentation and publication. This anticipates by decades discussions in the museological and historical world. In his own words,
'Four Great Events in the Life of an Object :
Coupled with the following they make up the Noble Eight-Fold Path of a curator's work :
4. Educational Activities
Please remember that the Museum is a culture-disseminating national activity.'
Section eight is on 'Folklore'. Essays included here concern primarily folk cults and festivals. They correspond to the section called 'Kala' in the Hindi volume; the two complement each other.
Finally, it has sometimes been forgotten that it was Dr Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala who was largely responsible for the inclusion of the chakra in our national flag. His monograph, entitled Chakra-Dhvaja: the Wheel Flag of India, is a lucid account of the identification of the symbol and its significance as emblem in the flag.
Section nine deals with his introduction to Harshacharita. Dr. Agrawala had written a brilliant account on the time of Harsha based on Banabhatta's biography. For me this has been a challenging task to select material from the writings of such a multifaceted author/scholar of his generation. I had mentioned something of his formative years as also commented upon his scholarship in my Keynote Address on Prof. Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala in the book Satvatarchana-Vasudeva Sharan Agrawala Centenary Volume (published by the Department of History of Art and Tourism Management, Banaras Hindu University, Varanasi edited by Prof. Maruti Nandan Prasad Tiwari and Prof. Deena Bandhu Pandey). I consider that the keynote address, included as an appendix, was relevant to the study of Dr. V.S. Agrawala's life and writings. I had delivered this keynote address during the National Seminar on Professor VS. Agrawala and His Contributions to Indian Art and Culture held from 28th to 30th November, 2004. This was organized by the Department of History of Art and Tourism Management, Banaras Hindu University. This essay outlines significant events of his personal life, and intellectual growth. It attempts to trace the history of a grammarian and archaeologist, numismatic and curator, to become an extraordinary interpreter of the Vedas and Puranas as also critical analyser of myths and symbols. His contribution to the understanding of Indian art and culture has been monumental.
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