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Kalātattvakośa Series

General Editor : Kapila Vatsyayan




Kalātattvakośa is a lexicon of fundamental concepts of the Indian arts. In consultation with various scholars a list of about 250 terms of concepts has been prepared. The criteria for selecting these terms were based on a survey of their pervasiveness as also their interdisciplinary nature. The terms limited to a particular field were excluded.


Panel Discussion Programme on Kalatattvakosa Series : A Lexicon of Fundamental Concepts of the Indian Arts (21st March 2016)

The evolution of a concept from its most abstract level to concrete fields of the arts is explored. Each concept is investigated through several disciplines and primary texts. Its extension and radiation in several fields are traced.

For example, the most abstract metaphysical concept, such as Brāhmaṇa, has penetrated the concrete fields of the arts, as Brahmasūtra, Brahmasthāna in the context of architecture, sculpture or theatre.

The concept of centrality and pervasiveness is basic, as is the principle of verticality. Through such analysis, both an etymological development and historical continuity as well as a horizontal interdisciplinary interrelatedness can be discovered. The terms have been grouped according to certain broad logical or semantic categories.

The method adopted for the lexicon is based on sifting primary source material in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali. Major texts are perused, quotations relevant to the particular terms are extracted. These quotations are written on cards in Sanskrit (both in Devanagari and Roman Characters) with English translation, giving the shades of meaning as well as contextual notes and/or the relevant commentary. Along with the major terms, cognate terms are also included, as well as compounds, synonyms, etc. The quotations are related to the definition of a concept, its first occurrence, important usages, sub-division, etc. Several thousand cards from various Sastras have been collected. A computerised database is being developed on the basis of the cards.

The articles on the terms, written on the basis of the cards, do not claim to give a complete history of the concept, which would not be possible at the present stage of indological research.However, they can show the stages through which a concept has travelled, from the Vedas with their ramifications in the speculative, physical, ritual and mythological/narrative fields, from Buddhist and Jain sources, through Vedāṅgas or ancient sciences, the various Śāstras, Purānas, Tantras, Darśanas etc. till its crystallisation in the different arts. The relation between the conceptual background and the manifestation in the arts will be the main focus of the articles. The arts occupy an intermediate position and hence mediate between metaphysics and physics, between spirituality and science; e.g., a stupa or temple represents a whole metaphysical conception, and at the same time its building required the technical science of architecture and engineering. An interdisciplinary approach is thus indispensable.

The Tāntric dictum: Sarvam Sarvātmakam, everything is related to the totality (or every detail is related to the whole), serves as a kind of magic key to unravel these concepts. As for possible schemes of interpretation, which may be obvious or implicit, the Indian tradition itself offers sufficient categories. The various schemes of two or three levels of understanding reality can be applied here: the Vedic division in Ādhibhūta (physical), Ādhidaiva (divine) and Ādhyātma (human, spiritual); the pervasive conception of the three dimensions of Sthūla (gross, physical), Sūkṣma (subtle, psychic) and Parā (transcendent); the differentiation in the manifest and the unmanifest (Vyakta, Avyakta and Vyaktāvyakta), and others serve as a hermeneutical basis. Depending on the context, the starting point may be physical/scientific or metaphysical / conceptual, but other dimensions are not excluded. Unidimensional or one-sided interpretations are eschewed.

The articles are being written by a group of scholars in close consultation, so that the approach remains consistent. As in the case of any glossary or dictionary, cross references and indices facilitate the usage. Six volumes of the Kalātattvakośa have been released thus far as follows:

Volume-I On Pervasive Terms - Vyāpti comprises articles on the terms of Brāhmaṇa, Puruṣa, Ātman, Śarīra, Prāṇa, Bīja, Lakṣana and Śilpa.

Volume-II On Space and Time - Deśa-kāla includes sixteen seminal terms Bindu, Nābhi, Cakra, Kṣetra, Loka, Deśa, Kāla, Kṣaa, Krama, Saṅdhi, Sūtra, Tāla, Māna, Laya, śūnya and pūrṇa.

Volume-III On Primal Elements - Mahābhūta consists of terms Prakṛti, Bhūta - Mahābhūta, Ākāśa, Vāyu, Agni, Jyotis/Tejas/Prakāśa, Āpaḥ, Pṛthivī/Bhūmi.

Volume-IV On Manifestation of Nature - Sṛśṭi-Vistāra contains the seminal terms Indriya, Dravya, Dhātu, Guṇa, Doṣa, Adhibhūta, Adhidaiva, Adhyātma, Sthūla, Sūkṣma, Sṛṣti, Saṁhāra, which are complementary to the primal elements (Mahābhūta).

Volume-V On Form / Shape -  Ākāra / Ākṛti has ten terms Rekhā, Ākāra, Ākṛti, Rūpa-Pratirūpa, Sakala-Nikala, Arcā, Mūrti, Pratimā - Pratikṛti, Vigraha, Bandha-Prabandha, Prāsāda.

Volume-VI On Appearance / Symbolic Form - Ābhāsa contains articles on the terms Ābhāsa, Sādṛśya-Sārūpys, Anukaraṇa, Anukṛti, Anukīrtana, Chāya,  Liṅga, Pāda, Vṛtti, Rīti.

Kalātattvakośa Volume

Terms of Concepts

Primary Text Covered

Varanasi Regional Centre

Database of Kalātattvakośa Terms (Reference Cards)

Kalātattvakośa Terms

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