Odyssey of aesthetics

Akriti to Sanskriti
By Harsha V. Dehejia
Niyogi Books
Rs 2,500, pp. 150

In explicating the essence of Akriti to Sanskriti: The Journey of Indian Forms, Harsha V. Dahejia provides us with a disarmingly understated masterwork of profound reflection and metaphysical distillation. Through images, paintings and art works on all mediums, the author reflects an inclusiveness, and a visual construction with a definition of Akriti.
Hints of stillness and the beauty of form all come together to unravel an odyssey. Contour and colour shape a host of essays that dwell on Shruti, Smriti, Drishti and Akriti. ‘Adorning the Earth’ is a brilliant chapter which brings back memories of a great book called Painted Prayers by the historian Stephen Huyler. But it is this chapter that holds the essence of artistic outpourings in textured surfaces infused with earthiness and natural pigments, inscribed with folk symbols and characters mirroring the aesthetics of what we perceive.
Some chapters probe the hidden symbolic elements. We see a sojourn that combines the confluence of the cosmogram, the sacred realms. In succinct ways these chapters are a catalyst for meditation, visualisation and initiation.
Purusha to Manusha is a chapter of great elegance. It presents man as the avatar of the earth as well as the cosmos. The journey from Purusha to Manusha becomes an omniscient yet fractured map of a lucid journey — the floating elements, the dancer’s eyes and mouth — that leap forwards and backwards in time as a symbolism to alternate existence. In this treatise we see man’s infinite dimensionality projected as spiritual architecture, art and ritual.
Nature abounds in the very term Akriti, it emerges as a construct of dual refinement, it is as much an intellectual vessel of scholarship as well as a pragmatic intensity of artwork because it addresses the architecture and forms of the natural and spiritual worlds on both intensely cerebral and purely aesthetic levels.
Carving, symbolic lexicon, and poetry were seamlessly incorporated into vessels, pillars, mural walls and sculptures crafted as religious objects and received as cultural icons. Fascinating in intent were the design parameters of these intensely sophisticated creations, controlling proportion and size, dictating construction methods — all through the lens of interpreting ritual specifications, seductive shapes, humble aspects of life, and organic phenomena.
Yet for all its anachronous modernity of materials, this book proves amply that nature has been distilled to its essence in the carving of a sculpture and impressed with maximalist strokes. And poetry can wax and wane in natural rhythms with mottled bronze or stone texture.



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