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"Look, This Is the Way-"

Ananda Coomaraswamy in many of his books explained the essential difference between Western and Eastern art. "One must give up looking at the art of the East with the mind and eye of the West' he urged. In ancient India many makers of chants, sculptors and poets never put their name to their work. Even when a name is connected with a work no other details are available. In this country an artist did not create a work of art deriving entirely from his own imagination. In making a piece of sculpture, say a Buddha, a Nataraja or MahishasuraMardhini, the sculptor did not tell himself 'Buddha must have been so, Nataraja while dancing must have looked so, Nataraja while dancing must have looked so, MahishasuraMardhini must have been such', etc. A sculptor would embark on a work of art bearing, in his bloodstream the imagination of his whole society and race. In the West, the artist is an individual. His feelings, fancy and imagination form the basis of his pictures and sculptures. But in India a picture, a song, a sculpture has at its root the imagination and belief of a whole community. In order to understand the works of Indian art one has to understand the feelings and beliefs of the whole of Hindu society. These works are not realistic, they are symbolic. That is, a figure of Buddha, Nataraja or Ganapati does not represent the way the artist and his contemporaries believed the deity to be. Buddha seated on the lotus does ot mean that the artist and the people of the period believed Buddha to be seated on a lotus. The lotus, the two hands, four hands, eight hands and such other details have a deeper meaning. One figure of Nataraja symbolically represents the five activities of Shiva creation of the world, protection, destruction, disappearance and salvation. The drum symbolizes the beginning of creation. The open hand assures protection. The fire in one hand symbolizes annihilation. The uplifted foot indicates salvation. The fourth hand points to the foot, which is the refuge of the soul. The burning ground is man's soul and heart. Shiva is burning all desire and illusion here.

Thus every detail of the Nataraja figure has a meaning. The sculptor alone did not determine these details. The imagination and the feelings of his whole community are bodied forth in the figure. It is not the sculptor's intention to say to those who see the figure. "This is how Nataraja looks". There is a power in the universe that created it, is protecting it, and will annihilate it; that every power will destroy man's desires and illusions and will grant him salvation - this was what the sculptor intended to convey. Towards this end he uses the disposition of hands and feet, a detail such as the drum and everything else.

Coomaraswamy was interested in Indian music also. He said, "Indian music gives the experience of a vast range of emotions. The sorrow engendered by it is tearless, joy without affectation; and the intensification of emotions is calm".

Of the history of Indian art he wrote, "In the religion of the Hindus there is no conflict or difference between beauty and the scientific outlook. In their best works, there is a unity that neither music nor literature nor any other art can separate."

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Dr. Ananda K.Coomaraswamy- He dedicated his life to the study and exposition of Indian Culture and arts
About Dr.Ananda K.Coormaraswamy
Mother And Son
Memories- Decision


"What Are Those Pictures, Mother?"
The Attraction Of India
Ethel Mary
To Ceylon
The World Of Indian Art And Culture
Rathna Devi
The Challenge Of Ignorance
Bolt From The Blue
"Very Well, My Child"
The End Of Dedicated Service
He Opened The Eyes of The West
You are Here!

"Look, This Is The Way-"

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"Look At My Work"
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