Rediscovery of India’s art 

DOORDARSHAN SERIES OF 26 FILMS ON ‘THE SCULPTURE OF INDIA'

 

Pioneering art historian, photographer and film-maker Benoy K Behl, Associate Director

Latika Gupta and Assistant Cameraman Gopal Prajapati have made a path-breaking 

shooting tour of over 80,000 kms. They have shot Indian art for a series of 26 documentaries on “The Sculpture of India”. This follows upon the recent acclaimed series of 26 documentaries on “The Paintings of India”. The Limca Book of Records has awarded a National Record to Benoy K Behl for having traveled and photographed more of India than anyone else.

 

They have been shooting at temples and cave-temples all over India, including remote places. A daunting task! often there are only dirt tracks which they have to drive over. Sometimes, they go on horseback in remote mountainous regions.  In their travels in India, they have been waking up between 2.30 am and 4 am and traveling an average of 250 kms per day. 

 

The philosophy of India is its most important contribution to world culture. Indian art enshrines this philosophy, this view of the world. 

 

It is the purpose of this series of documentaries to bring together the images of India’s sublime sculpture, in monuments and housed in museums and art collections around the world and in all corners of India; to present it with sensitivity and deep understanding; and to place this noble art of India in its true position in the sculpture of the world. 

 

 In the past 3 years, photographic exhibitions of Behl‘s work have been received with great enthusiasm in 24 countries around the world and in India. Some exhibitions are on permanent display in Japan, China and Mongolia, as well as one on 9 months display in U.S.A. The exhibitions have been inaugurated by a Prime Minister, Ministers of various countries, Archbishops, Ambassadors and High Commissioners.

 

A Journey of over 80,000 Kms

These 26 films take us on an enthralling journey of 5,000 years, from the time of the Indus Valley civilization in the 4th and 3rd millenniums BC till the 17th century; from the Himalayas to Kanyakumari and from Gujarat to Arunachal Pradesh. The films will unfold the story of the development of the art of sculpture in India and along with it the cultural history of the country. 

Sculptures have being shot at monuments in every corner of India and in museums all over the country and around the world. Authorities and experts on Indian art and sculpture are being interviewed both in India and at universities and museums in other countries. The camera takes us to historic monuments and landscapes all over this vast country. 

The series has been produced, directed, written and photographed by Benoy K Behl who is an eminent authority on Indian art. It is made for Doordarshan who had made a major and lasting contribution to the awareness of Indian art and Indian cultural history. 

 

The Peace of the Sprit

 

The art of India is valuable to mankind today as it is deeply rooted in the philosophic vision of this land; a vision which takes us far from the confusion and clamour of the material world, to a peaceful sanctuary, where we may look within. An inner vision which opens our minds and hearts to a great treasure, to the bliss and the peace of the spirit.

 

The art of India goes far beyond a depiction of mere physical reality. The artist has deep beliefs in the intrinsic unity and harmony of the whole of creation and he sees the material reality around him to be a reflection of the glory of God. 

 

For the sculptor, the stone before him contains the image and it is for him to but remove the outward aspects and to release that which is inherently there.

 

The creation of art in India has been a process of meditation; a process of a life lived in worship and discovery. The creation of the beauty of form is for the sculptor a joyous rediscovery each time of the glory and beauty of the whole of creation. 

 

The ancient Indian treatise on the making of images, the Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara Purana, gives a very noble purpose to art. It states that images which are made with the understanding of the harmony of life are immensely beneficial for the viewer. Thus, it states that art is the greatest treasure of mankind

 

The sculpture of India is naturalistic in a vastly different manner from that art which attempts to portray only the transitory shapes of the objects of the world. Here naturalism is the expression of that sense which moves beneath the surface of objects, that inner being of trees, animals and people; the spirit which moves the whole of creation

 

In India’s philosophy of aesthetics, it is believed that the ecstasy on seeing the beauty of nature and the finest art is akin to Brahmananda or the final joy of salvation itself. In that moment we are transported, and within us we feel the kinship of the whole of creation. Thus, the purpose of creating and of experiencing the beauty of art is understood as the most sublime in Indian thought.

 

The Purpose of Early Indian Art

The early art of India is a valuable record of the thoughts and the vision of one of the most ancient civilizations in the world.

This ancient art brings before us a view of the world which sees a great harmony in the whole of creation. It sees the same which is in each of us, in the animals, the flowers, the trees, the leaves and even the breeze which moves the leaves. All that there is, is seen to be a reflection of the One.

The phenomenal world of separated beings and objects seen around us is an illusion, perceived and brought to us by our senses. Absorbed in this, we are blinded to the reality beyond.

The primary illusion is the perception of ourselves as individual entities, which leads us on a path of egoic existence.  The high purpose in life is to seek reintegration with the One, to perceive ourselves as part of the beauty of divinity.

Our experience of beauty, when we respond to a sunrise or to a great work of art, is seen to be a moment when we perceive the grace which underlies the whole of creation.  The moment of the aesthetic experience is stated in Indian thought to be “akin to Brahmananda”, or the final ecstasy of salvation itself. The Chitrasutra of the Vishnudharmottara Purana, which was penned out of earlier oral traditions in the 5th century AD, is perhaps the oldest known treatise on art in the world. It states that art is the greatest treasure of mankind, far more valuable than gold or jewels.

There are no gods in the early philosophic vision of India. There are deities: deities who are the personifications of concepts and qualities. The qualities are within us. When we respond to these deities brought to us in art, we awaken those fine aspects within us. When we are filled by that grace, there is no space left for base desires and pain: we have become that deity.

For about a thousand years in early times, vast quantities of art were produced in India. Deities, mythical creatures, animals, plants, trees, forms in which these beings were combined were made, as also common men and women. Yet this art did not depict the kings who patronized the art. Nor was the name of the artist mentioned. According to the Chitrasutra, personalities are too unimportant to be depicted in art. The purpose of art is a noble one, to show the eternal beyond the ephemeral.

Images from material life are very often seen in Indian art. The achievement of knowledge is likened to a victory. We see images of deities trampling the demons of ignorance. However the demons smile as they are vanquished. In this world, where all is seen as part of a cosmic harmony, there is no anguish finally.

What survives today of the early art of India is only a small fraction of what would have been created. Yet it consists of such vast numbers of monuments and sculpture that it staggers the mind.