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Indian and Sinhalese Art and Archae Ology


INDIAN AND SINHALESE ART AND ARCHAE OLOGY. Indian religion and ritual exist in two forms, known to Indians as the Vedic and the Agamic traditions, but more often designated by western scholars as respectively Aryan and Brahmanical, and Dravidian (Southern) and popular. Vedic (Aryan) religion consisted in a worship of the great powers of nature by means of hymns and sacrifices (yajila), without any use of temples or images, or any devotional cult properly so to be described. On the other hand, the much older and quantita tively predominant element of the population worshipped local and tutelary deities, powers of nature conceived as personal be ings; these deities included the Yaksas (genii, tree-spirits, sources of life and abundance), Nagas (dragons, spirits of springs and lakes), and innumerable goddesses of fecundity or disease, the aktis of later Hinduism. To this Agamic tradition belonged an elaborate cosmology, many myths, the doctrines of reincarnation and acts (sannsdra and karma), the practice of asceticism (sannyasa) and ecstatic meditation (yoga), which appear only late in Vedic literature.

Significance and Character.—The indigenous divinities were worshipped with devotion (bhakti) as personal beings, with a ritual (pujd, a non-Aryan word referring to the anointment of sacred objects) which included offerings of flowers, food, lights and incense; and for this ritual images and temples, though of impermanent materials, wood and clay, must have been in use from a very early period.

The Vedic culture is gradually penetrated by indigenous be lief and closes with the reactionary teachings of the Upaniaads and Buddhism, where yajua is discounted, pfljd not considered, the goal is Release, the means is Knowledge. Meanwhile there was developing a higher and inclusive devotional theism, in which the indigenous deities are fused with those of the Vedas, and in terpreted in the light of philosophic and psychological specula tion. The great system (see HINnvrsM) thus built up, sanctioned on the one hand by scripture and on the other by popular belief, became a truly national vehicle of thought; Hindu theology and myth, in verbal and visual expression, provided means of state ment for all that was felt and thought about the soul of man and the nature of the universe. At the same time, new divinities came into being, amongst others the Buddha himself ; for the prevail ing tendency involved in iconolatry, cult and ritual even such systems as those of Buddhism and Jainism which had originated as purely psychological and ascetic disciplines.

For some centuries before and after the beginning of the Christian era the dominant mode of creative thought was theo logical; and we must realize that all the arts were governed by a great enthusiasm like that of the cathedral builders of mediaeval Europe, and in all enduring aspects and in their greatest splendour, in the service of the churches, upon whose endowment and adorn ment was lavished enormous wealth.

Long after the first creative impulses had been crystallised in the mediaeval period, there can still be traced successive de velopments of thought and feeling, modifications and elaborations of the older iconography, with the result that India, despite the destruction wrought by Mohammedan invaders, is even to-day covered with magnificent temples and a wealth of sculpture in which the spiritual and material history of two millenniums are visibly recorded. Further, the same initial impulses, translated to other lands and moulded by the imagination of other races, Pyu, Thai, Khmer, Malay and Polynesian, created other and scarcely less significant and varied cycles of art in Further India and Indonesia, and influenced profoundly the spiritual and ar tistic development of Central Asia, China, Korea and Japan.

Thus Indian art is essentially a hieratic art devoted to the exposition of the personality and acts of deities, and providing for their service. Authoritative texts declare that the making of images of deities leads to heaven, not the making of likenesses of men ; that only that which accords with the canons is beau tiful in the eyes of the discerning, not that which pleases indi vidual fancy.

Hieratic Art.—But while Indian works evoke aesthetic ex periences when beheld by alien eyes, Indian and European art are not identical in kind ; the intention is different. Nor is there identity of method. In its main development, sculpture and architecture, Indian art was not produced with a view to aesthetic experience, nor even regarded as "art." Images, in particular, were not regarded as works of art but as means (sddhanii) of edi fication.

An image is a piece of apparatus

(yantra) employed in per sonal devotions, the object of which is an identification in con sciousness of worshipper and deity. In the words of a well-known text, the deity can only be worshipped (in spirit and in truth) in so far as the worshipper becomes the deity. For this spiritual exercise yantras of two kinds are employed, one purely geo metrical and linear, the other three-dimensional and more or less anthropomorphic or theriomorphic. Both types are alike in kind; both are equally externalisations of mental visions evoked in dhydna with a view to samddhi.

The obtaining of this mental visualisation (which is more es sential than its material realisation) is a process of yoga.

Such a visualisation differs from those present in normal vision: it is more vivid; it fills the whole field of view; all parts are equally and simultaneously present ; the relation of these parts is not organic, nor on the other hand accidental, but ideally de termined ; such an image can only represent a condition of being, or to use a more strictly Indian term, a type of activity.

Such an image is not a memory image, which is the foundation of all realistic art, inasmuch as time passes between the moment of vision and that of execution.

Indian and Sinhalese Art and Archae Ology

What may at first sight look like the observation of nature at Amaravati or Ajanta, is simply the most vital and the most felt part of Indian art, where the worshipper attains the most com plete samadhi, the artist is most completely and literally identi fied with his subject. Critically examined, this art reveals no knowledge of anatomy, but rather a deep understanding of life, of emotion, and of the language of gesture, long codified in the Natya Sastra. (See DANCE, India.) Nor are its themes con fined to those set forth in terms of human life; side by side with these are dogmatic and mythological forms unparalleled in nature.

Narrative and Decorative Art.

A part of Indian art is secular. There exist, beside the cult image, both narrative arts, and an Industrial Art, or Arts and Crafts. The narrative art such as is used to illustrate Jatakas or the Epics or the Krsna legend is not hieratic to the same degree as the cult image, but a dramatic presentation comparable to the stage. It is neverthe less governed by principles similar to those which determine the nature of the cult image : the use of formulae is general, and the part of the spectator quite distinct from that of mere perception. A typical peculiarity of Indian (and in general Oriental) art is the kind of perspective known as vertical projection, whereby the landscape is presented as seen from a height, so that the horizon almost reaches the upper edge of the frame ; the planes are differ entiated in the sense that an object or figure behind another is represented as above it, while the atmosphere, apparently reduced to the narrow space remaining above the horizon, is really brought forward to embrace the whole representation together with the spectator.

Although in Sanskrit literature we hear much of portraits of individuals recognized as likenesses, these are invariably drawn from memory, in the absence of the model, so far at least as the actual references inform us.

Further, Indian art reveals nothing like genre. The nude, for example, while sometimes represented with a frankness discon certing to European eyes, is never studied or treated for its own sake, as in European art, and only appears as symbolism or narra Live may require. In the same way landscape is never represented for its own sake.

Thus the narrative art of India is of the same kind as the purely hieratic art. All true pattern is of this kind; this is especially evident in its repetitive character and in a mathematical rather than organic relation of the parts. Accordingly, the industrial and "decorative" arts in India cannot be sharply divided from the "higher" arts. In both, design and formula, rather than imita tive shapes, are found; definite meanings are present in both, for Oriental ornament is never originally without, and very rarely loses, a precise significance, and is never "merely" decorative.

A Theory of leauty.

India developed as a means of literary criticism a theory of aesthetic experience of considerable im portance in the history of aesthetic theory.

A work of art is a statement informed by flavour (rasa) ; there are nine such flavours, the Erotic, Heroic, Odious, Furious, Terri ble, Humorous, Wondrous, Pathetic and Peaceful. The com ponent elements of a work of art (physical stimulants of aesthetic experience) are Determinants (vibhava, theme, etc.), Consequents (anubhdva, deliberate actions), Moods (bhava, thirty-three transient, e.g., joy, impatience, and nine permanent, viz., the nine rasas listed above), and Involuntary Emotional Conditions (sattvabhdva).

Aesthetic experience (raseisvadana) is the tasting of rasa, and depends mainly on the innate and acquired sensibility of the spectator (rasika). To appreciate the art of India from the stand point of life it must be studied not only from this point of view as form, but also as meaning and with reference to use.

The Artist.

A general term covering both sculpture, reliefs and painting is citra; this word can also be used in a more re stricted sense with reference to painting only. Silpa is the prac tical activity of the craftsman, rather than "art" in a modern sense. The artist or craftsman is designated as silpin, sthapati, karmdra, rupa-kdra, citra-kara, etc. The higher craftsmen prac tise many arts; an architect, for example, will also be a sculptor, bronze founder and goldsmith. On the other hand workers in iron, weavers, potters and the like are restricted to a single craft. No artist is solely a designer, like a modern architect ; the Indian architect is, during the greater part of his life, a manual worker.

In the Indian idea, the "artist." the silpin, is not a peculiar in dividual with a special gift for experience, but simply a trained man meeting a general demand. His vocation is hereditary, and he receives his education in the workshop. Genius is not an in dividual achievement, but the quality of the society at any given period; in the works of a single school, therefore, practically the same degree of vitality appears everywhere, and the work manship of individuals is only to be distinguished by varying degrees of skill. In these circumstances it is only natural that the names of craftsmen are not in fact recorded even on the most magnificent works, with a few accidental exceptions; the sequence of styles and of increased or decreased vitality reveals the po litical and spiritual history not of individuals but of societies.

Palaeolithic and Neolithic.

Rough chipped stone imple ments have been found abundantly in Southern India. But a great gap, ethnic and cultural, seems to separate them from those of the Neolithic period. Neolithic implements, both chipped and polished, some antedating and some coeval with the knowledge of copper, have been found all over India. They exhibit a great variety of forms, including pygmy types. Most of the forms are identical with those of Western Asia and Europe; but a peculiar chisel-shaped, high-shouldered Celt is found in Chota Nagpur, Assam, and more abundantly in Burma, Indo-China and the Ma lay Peninsula (see FURTHER INDIA). Indian culture must have had a continuous history from prehistoric times; this must be borne in mind in a discussion of the earlier history of Indian religion and art, especially in connection with the beginnings of sculpture and design.

Prehistoric Painting.

Primitive ruddle paintings have been found in natural caves in various parts of north central India, and have been regarded by some authors as of Neolithic or even Palaeolithic date. Those from the Mirzapur District in the Vin dhya hills, include a representation of a rhinoceros hunt. This animal is now extinct, but may have survived as late as the six teenth century. The hunters are shown with barbed spears, sug gesting certain of the ancient Indian copper weapons.

Cave paintings from the Hoshangabad District are said to in clude representations of a giraffe. Those from the Kaimur range (fig. 2) show stag hunts. Those from Singanpur include an ani mal rather like a kangaroo ; and also some representations of a horse and of deer which present an extraordinary resemblance even in details to the Palaeolithic paintings of Cogul in Spain.

The literature of the subject is cited by Herbert Kuhn (see Bibliography), who discusses the Singanpur examples and their re semblance to Spanish drawings. Those from Hoshangabad are referred to in the Annual Report of the Archaeological Survey of India, 1917-18, Pt. I, p. 25. Southern India.—In Southern India the Neolithic culture may have lasted until the middle of the first millennium B.C. The south until then had been fairly effectively isolated from the north by the natural barrier of the Vindhyas and the jungles of central India. We find no copper age, but iron directly replaces stone— presumably as the result of intercourse with the then mixed culture of the north, perhaps about Soo B.C. The southern pre historic antiquities include very numerous slab-built dolmens, and abundant pottery; amongst the last are oblong, short-legged sar cophagi very similar to those found near Baghdad. The use of coracles is another feature characteristic equally of Southern India and the Euphrates valley. No remains of such a highly developed culture as that of the Indus valley have been found; but it is beyond doubt that the South was already highly civilised centuries before the beginning of the Christian era.

Chalcolithic: Indus Valley Culture.

Excavations at Har appa in the Panjab and Mohenjo-Daro in Sind have revealed the existence of ancient city sites belonging to a chalcolithic culture, i.e., one in which both stone and copper implements were in use. Of three superimposed cities at Mohenjo-Daro the youngest may be dated about 270o B.C., the earliest about 330o B.c. The Harappa site has remains of the same period, and below these are still older strata.

The buildings are of well-burnt brick. Sculptures in alabaster and marble include a painted figure of a man, and a much finer bearded head wearing what looks like a wrought metal skull cap decorated in imitation of hair (fig. 3) ; in terracotta, figurines of a nude goddess with an elaborate headdress, girdle, and the body ornament (channavira) teristic of later Indian art ; in racotta and in faience, admirable figures of animals, including the bull, rhinoceros, dog and cock. All these are sculptures in the round. But the most abundant and not the least remarkable works of art are the square seals of faience or ivory, which bear in relief . figures of animals, usually a bull, elephant or eros, with a cult object, apparently a wicker crib or manger, and pictographic signs, partly related to early Sumerian forms and even more similar to pre-Sumerian forms found at Kish, but so far undecipherable. Some scholars believe that the later Indian Brahmi (Sanskrit) script has been developed from this early pictographic type. One seal bears a seated cross-legged figure tended by snake-hooded Nagas, as in much later, Buddhist, art ; another a sacred tree (the pippala, Ficus religiose, later known as a symbol of various deities, particularly the Buddha) with a horned dragon projecting from the trunk (cf. Ward, Seal Cylin ders of Western Asia, fig. 710) ; another a row of men bearing totem standards like those of predynastic Egypt. One earlier seal from Harappa represents a tiger hunt.

Amongst personal ornaments are finely wrought gold, silver, and copper gilt jewellery, chank and carnelian beads, faience bangles. Other metals known included tin and lead, but not iron ; some utensils and ornaments are made of bronze. India has no bronze age properly so-called but the alloy is found already at this early date and has remained in use to a limited extent ever since, though most of the so called Indian bronzes are really of cast copper. A copper model of a hooded two-wheeled cart ob tained from the lower strata at Harappa is evidence of the very early use of wheeled vehicles. Few weapons have been found.

The pottery is wheel-made, and includes painted types ; the shapes are varied, but types with handles are rare. The painted designs are usually in black on a dark red slip and consist of advanced geometrical patterns, foliar motifs, and occasional fig ures of animals. The dark red and black ware has been found abundantly at Nal in Baluchistan, associated with copper imple ments, also on the Waziristan frontier and in Sistan. The style bears some relation to that of Anau and of Susa II.

When the Indus culture was flourishing the valley was better watered and more wooded than now. The same culture, perhaps in more provincial forms, may have extended to other parts of northern India, over an area reaching from Baluchistan to Kathiawar and through Rajputana to the Ganges valley, as in dicated by the Gungeria hoard and other finds of copper and neolithic implements.

The Indus valley civilisation and culture show close resem blances on the one hand with those of early Sumer and Babylonia (especially with the proto- or pre-Sumerian of Kish), and on the other with that of historic India. Apart from these archaeological evidences, there has gradually accumulated a mass of evidence tending to show that the early Indian and Mesopotamian cul tures represent cognate developments. This applies especially to considerations derived from a study of the history of design (par ticularly in connection with the animal style and architecture), and to the analogies between Babylonian mythology and cult and those of the Dravidian (Agamic) tradition in India, such as the use of the same formulae in representing mountains, clouds and water; the motif of animals with long necks interlaced, and of heraldic and fabulous animals generally; the representation on Babylonian seals of dragons with serpentine bodies and human busts, like Indian Nagas ; the cult of the waters connected with the symbol of the flowing vase in Babylonia and the brimming gold and silver, iron needles, bedsteads, thrones, turbans, jewel lery, earthenware, round and square huts, and storied buildings, and wheeled vehicles. Some or all of these arts may have been known to them before they entered India; but probably the use of bricks, and certainly everything connected with maritime or purely Indian products (chank, ivory, cotton, pearls, indigenous dyestuff s, etc.) they must have found in India for the first time. The sulva Sutras show a knowledge of principles now known as those of dynamic symmetry. Vedic culture shows little or no evi dence of Babylonian or Semitic connections.

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