The Cosmocentric World View

B.N. Saraswati, S.C. Malik and Madhu Khanna, (Eds.)

Art – The Integral Vision: A Festschrift felicitating Kapila Vatsyayan. Delhi: D.K. Printworld, 1994, pp.xv.336, 27 colour, 76b/w photographs. Rs. 1500/-

The uniting principle of this book is embodied in the title itself: “Art – The Integral Vision”. The title of this volume in felicitation of Kapila Vatsyayan aptly sums up the totally absorbing proposition of the interdependence and interrelatedness of the arts. To elucidate this vision has been a lifelong endeavour of Kapila Vatsyayan – a vision which culminated in her setting up in 1985 the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts in new Delhi. Her seminal work The Square and the Circle of the Indian Arts, 1983, opened exploratory vistas and goaded art-historians to rediscover the multiple levels of meanings and symbols underlying artistic creation in the world of Indian arts.

The twenty-six essays collected in this volume are by eminent scholars, most of whom have had longtime associationship with her adventure of ideas. Their disciplines range from art to art-history, archaeology to anthropology, and philosophy to computer sciences—in itself a telling tribute to the integral approach which seeks to discover linkages that exist within the arts and across cultures.

David Park links the art of drawing and painting with sciences through his mathematical understanding of space, while John C. Masselos uses Indian miniature paintings to illustrate that events of varied time and space embrace a variety of philosophical concepts. John Mckin Malville reveals the religious symbolism behind the multi-layered design of the Vijayanagar empire. His deep understanding of astrophysical space reinforces the lost harmony between sacred geometry and secular patterns in artistic manifestations. An interesting study of Madhu Khanna shows the constant occurrence of circle, square and concentric mandalas in post-meditative paintings of young children across the globe, while T.S. Maxwell traces the vision of Purusa (Cosmic Man) and Visvarupa (Cosmic Form) into ancient times to elucidate the multi-layered fabric of the Hindu universe. Essay contributions of Irene T. Winter, Kathleen Raine, Peter Malakin and Andre Scrima dwell on East-west cross-cultural comparisons and move towards recognising the universality of art.

This volume is a befitting tribute to one of India’s most original thinkers endowed with a rare intuitive understanding of its cultural heritage, art and philosophy. The contents of these essays will be of interest to all serious scholars of cultural history, religion, philosophy and cosmology.

– Neena Ranjan


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