Published in Rooplekha, Vol.XXI, No.1, 1949-50, 11-16
The fundamental theme of Indian sculpture was religion which often sought relief in elementary sensualism. The tendency was instinctive on account of excitable forms in which were embodied contemporary constructions of the deities. The lines which embraced Curves and rhythmic flow were not free from this susceptibility. Apparently they were designed to be so but the achieved result aimed at a sublimation that would lend service to an ideal. It was devotion distinct from satisfaction of elementary emotions. Naturally, a compromise between this objective and the instinctive urge that contributed to the total effect had to be adjusted. The attempt stood the test and lent service to the cause. God conceived within was visualised in a concrete Form. He was approachable through sensuality. The idealized human form was made object of worship.
The intensity of the urge pressed for an immediate expression in realizing itself in outward action. It had enough strength to pull down massive rocks as if without any effort. The forms of the dream hidden within tool: shape to ?t in with the objective. The hewn out objects identified themselves with forms of flesh and blood. They were made to live an -immortal life and live today to inspire awe in the minds of modem sculptors who have yet to learn as to how the impenetrable rocks were chipped of bit by bit to produce an effect of throbbing lite in lifeless stones.
There was no automatic device of a pointing machine that gave certainty to enlarge a small sketch to a colossal structure, no electric Chisel to minimise labour, nor a studio where light could be adjusted to study relative values of planes. But they were done and how, baffles all imagination. The only solution we can guess at was the indefatigable zeal to work and determination to achieve what grew in the creative mind. Sincerity reinforced by keen observation was the keynote of the expression and the expression relied on vast experience built up, on knowledge gained out of failures. This is the clue that reveals the secret of the masters.
The ?nished surface of the completed figures bears no trace of the tremendous labour that was involved in producing the effect. The strain was concealed and art of concealment developed into a science which made simplicity a possible aspiration.
In short, what appeared to be simple was an elusive record of great complications. The quality was acquired through SADHANA, a hard struggle and neither a gift of coincidence nor the result of e pursuit of a leisurely hobby.
The Sadhana was directed to ful?ll the expectations of a preconceived design entirely free from the pollution introduced by perverted intellectual activities in the realm of art. What the Sadhana conceived and its pursuit realized was a thing to be worshipped. The gain was assured because there was no unwarranted intrusion of don’ts preferred by elements of morals hanging dubiously in the balance of relative values. The protectors of good conduct had no other business than remain mere spectators and lodge solemn protests in the court of their consciousness where conviction is kept ever ready to deliver judgment in favor of self-decided ?nality. The aim leads to nowhere except to reserve a vicious speculation unsuited to purity of expression.
The vital momentum of creative energy as has explained was not confined to India alone but the psychological influence was felt whatever efforts have been directed to the sphere of our concern that is expression through forms of art. Instances would not be wanting if we contact sculpture left behind by Greeks, Romans, Assyrians, Egyptians and many other countries that rose to great heights of civilization. The evolution of the motifs of religion or social aspects of life as illustrated in flat or round would go to substantiate the fact that elementary emotions were the vital force that prompted the artists to create. The trend is pre-historic and the same motivating elements have lived thousands of years to dominate the mind of the supreme animal, the man, who thinks and is endowed with imagination, the range of whose activity is limitless.
As such, we can rely on the fact that art stood for an expression, pure and simple, which was committed to meet the demands of certain patterns that satisfied the objective of the subject matter and the mental focus of the executive agent. The expressions released through patterns therefore had nothing to do with the motives of morals which are liable to suit convenience of individual, time, conventions, etc.
Let us now proceed to see the great forces at world, in their own elements. Let us go back six or seven hundred years behind our times between the years 1200 and 1280 D. and plunge deep into the depths of the buried past to rediscover the land of dreams where great creative minds grew to immeasurable heights to bestow blessings on a raptured world and restore appreciation of beauty in place of thoughts contaminated by ugliness.
We are now at Konark, a place in Orissa. We are facing the temple dedicated to the Lord Surya, the source of life and knowledge. In this everlasting storehouse of beauty the dreams of the remote past present themselves as if they happened yesterday. The memory of by gone days is refreshed by the contact of great creations. The environment vibrates to be in tune with the responding cords of the heart. We see the mighty sculptors pressing their skill to fulfill the mission of their dream of creation and posterity. The veil of vagueness has been removed and vivid forms are perceptible now. The dream has conic to reality with all the grandeur that was concealed in the mind.
A complete boulder with extensive area has been hewn out. The surface which was once barren and plain is now abode of God. The glamour of Heaven as our myth could extend has been displayed in exuberance of wealth through forms of beauty.
There is the chariot of the Lord. The wheels on which the body of the chariot rests seem to be ready to move. What is required is only release from inertia to maize it mobile.
There again is the majestic elephant, standing in repose, it breathes. The massive muscles and bones in stone show distinct signs of "movements, one feels scared at the presence of the gigantic frame, but as curiosity grows to appreciate better, the fear created at ?rst sight dwindles away to restore calm and joy. You feel that the power which could crush you to atoms stands as a symbol of beauty. The fear has been elevated to love, love for the beautiful. As you move on, assertive and self-directed introduction comes from the horse with the warrior marching along with him. At once your attention is rivetted on the colossal achievement; you gaze in astonishment at the unimaginable feat of craftsmanship. The accomplishment is a revelation which put all other attempts of animal studies of the worldintoinsignificance.
Even Greek sculptures of this magnificent creature have failed to come anywhere near the standard of the Konark horse. The rock-cut form in this particular specimen is a personification of vigour, most befitting characteristics of an animal that must face death and defy its power. The balance of the composition is undisturbed by efficiency of imitation. Knowledge of form and proportion required for artistic and stand on a base far above the successful achievement of the dead accuracy of anatomy. It is a monumental erected to the challenge the onslaughts of time, it is a monument erected to challenge the onslaughts of time, it is an achievement that baffles all calculations to conclude as to how everything got adjusted in perfect harmony. We instinctively ourselves question: could it have been the work of a man.
We leave alone these concrete forms of dreams to rest in peace, and begin our search afresh towards further south, the land of unique architecture of the Dravidas, the home of superb bronze shrines and magni?cent Gopurams.
Let us contact Nataraja first. This is the image that immortalised the fleeting movements of dancing and rhythm of lines in violent action. This is the image on which Rodin, the world's greatest sculptor of modern age, was lost in ecstasy to record his adoration. It is made of bronze, solid, yet simple by the magic touch of the sthapati of the south. It is understood Chola Kings claim its birth in the land they ruled. Let it be whatever it may. Our concern is not the date or the king.
We pause for a while to meditate on the theme that made a still object encroach successfully in to the sphere of constant movement. The theme is that of dance of destruction. Obviously it is, since no other idea can safely associate in a place where destruction is raging beyond human control.
As long gage bewilders the sight, mind is concentrated on the steady ascent of the raga, may be Malkosh or Hindol, which is being played behind the veil of time buried under the past. The whirl of the dance has almost reached the point of ecstasy. The vibration of Mridanga has assumed the magnitude of roaring thunder, the Damaru on the uplifted indicating time, the time for the somma to come. At last the lightning struck, the dancing came to a sudden standstill. The mental vision came back to reality again. But we are confounded to observe that the stillness of the bronze is still in continuous motion. It must be so as it had been dancing since its birth.
Published in Rooplekha, Vol.XXI, No.1, 1949-50, 11-16