15 Feb Understanding the Essence of Ancient Indian Paintings
In India, art has always been seen as the deepest expression of man’s devotion. Art has always been considered as an artist’s offering to the Lord. For the artist, his work is his dharm – the fulfillment of his duty in life. With such a sublime purpose of paintings, the act of their creation becomes divine. Regardless of the fact whether an artist creates Ganesha paintings or some other religious paintings, the ancient treatise on painting guides the artist to approach his work with an attitude of worship. He has to cleanse his mind and heart and instill in his work a joyous sense of peace. Artists devote themselves to this theme. Creating art issadhna for such artists. And, sadhna is not merely a joyous enterprise; it is a spiritual enterprise. Therefore, artists go for it with a devout heart and his heart of devotion is the very spirit of Indian art – regardless of the fact whether it is painting or sculpture.
In Buddhist thought, the worshipers were to meditate on paintings and sculptures of divinities until they absorbed their qualities. The task of the painter was to make his painting with deep devotion and meditative care to present the true aspects of divinity. These were not mere paintings upon the walls of monasteries or temples, but were the deities themselves. The ancient caves of Ajanta and others were painted by guilds of artists. For the guilds, their duty was to paint. They knew no barriers of religion or creed. The same artists painted Buddhist caves, spellbinding Ganesha paintings in Hindu temples and even the walls of Mughal palaces. In these skills, the knowledge of painting, of life and dharam was passed on from father to son through the centuries. For artists, the creation of work of art was not limited to a picture or an image. It was a larger issue that related itself to life and a spiritual realization of power that governs the universe. Instead of personal achievement and amassing wealth, they created paintings for the benefit of mankind.
The painter in ancient India was anonymous. He did not write his name on his paintings. He saw himself as the inheritor of great tradition of the collective understanding of the finest minds over all the centuries before him. He accepted this great legacy with humility and reverence. He was not seeking individual glory or satisfaction of personal vanity.
In the Indian vision, art is a great shared experience between the artist and the viewer. While the artist creates his work with the deepest emotion, the viewer too must prepare himself to be a sensitive and worthy receiver. The art of India does not ask you to be knowledgeable of the technicalities of the medium to be able to appreciate its beauty and quality. Instead, there is a concept of a receiver, whose mind and heart are tuned to be ready and willing to accept the message of the artist. It is believed in ancient Indian thought that the capacity to feel beauty to taste ‘Ras’ cannot be acquired by study. It is through deep personal development that one acquires the capacity to experience the joy of beauty.
The process of art is seen as a fundamental and important experience in society. It is the expression and sharing of the finest thought of mankind. The Indian vision of art accepts all the pain of life, yet always sees a deep and true meaning in everything – a vision in which there is no despair, where beauty is sought and found in every aspect of the world. Every being, every object is seen as a manifestation of the supreme power. Every object is seen to be a celebration of all creation.This is the deep essence of truth which the art of India brings over the centuries. It is this eternal wisdom which is yet again experienced and lived in the mind of the artists to be shared as a living experience with the viewer. The soul of man is seen as always pinning to be reunited with the Lord from where it came. The artist paints the great harmony of the whole of creation which is after all only a reflection of divine glory. In the eternal dance of creation, the Lord and the soul which finds for him are only two aspects of the same and this is what artists portray through the Radha-Krishna paintings, Ganesha paintings and other religious paintings.