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Indian aesthetics

Updated on March 17, 2012

History and Evolution of Indian Aesthetics

Indian aesthetics begins with Bharata who wrote the book Natyasasthra in 2nd century BC. Natyasasthra discusses the writing, performances and enjoyment of drama at length. The foundation stone of Indian aesthetics is the maxim β€œ Vibhava,anubhava, vyabhicari samyogad rasanishpathi”. After Bharata there was no growth or development in aethetics till the 6th cen AD. In 6th cen two prominent aestheticians contributed two different books belonging to the same school of thought. Their contribution was collected and published by the name Kavyalamkara. The contributers Bhamaha and Bhatta Lollata and their school of thought is known as Alamkarams. They believed that literature and art are beautiful and please the minds of people

The 7th cen AD Sankuka, Dandin produced the book Kavyadaras. Dandin and Sankuka believed that literature is good and enjoyed because it is useful. Literature teaches and refines according to them. They also believed that literature should have certain properties(gunas) therefore their school of thought is known as the Guna School.

In the 8th cen a prominent theoritician called Vamana came out with a book Kvayalankarasuthravrti. Vamana proposed the theory that peotry is a skillfl expression. He also believed that it is the particular way of expression that makes a piece of utterence a piece of literature. The theories of Vaman regarding the structure of literature can be equated with the modern literary theory proposed by Russian structuralist school in the 19th cent. In Indian aesthetics the theory of Vamana is known as theory of Riti.

Anandavardhana came out with a theory called Dhvani in his book Dhvanyaloka, the world of sounds. This book published in 9th cen chased to the Indian perspective of poetry completely. Dhvani theory is a modern psychological theory as its focus of enjoyment turns from the poem to the mind of the reader. He says that, β€œthe beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.” The enjoyment of the poem takes place in the mind of capable reader who can interact properly with the words, symblos, metaphors and ideas of the poem.

In the 11th cen Indian aesthetics reached its culmination of growth and development. Abinavagupta gave a new interpretation and explanation to Rasa theory in his book Abhinavabharati. He also wrote another book called Locana. Abhinavagupta dominated the scene of Indian aesthetics for a long time and revived the Rasa theory originally proposed by Bharata. His psychological approach to Rasa theory and explanations based on Bhavas where easily understood by other scholars.

Kshemendra who wrote the book Aucityavicaracarca was the other prominent aesthetician of 11th cen. He proposed the theory of Aucitya or sense of proprity which is mainly considered with the literary conventions, social conventions and the vastu or structure of the poem.

The most modern among the theories was the theory was the theory of Vakrokti proposed by Kuntaka. Theory of Vakrokti can be equated with the stylistics of late 20th cen western criticism. Vakrokti deals with the literary work in its competeness beginning with sounds and syllables and ending with narrative techniques.

In the 12th cen Mammada wrote the book Kavyaprakasam. The book does not postulate any theory; it merely summarises the history and development of Indian aesthetics. Viswanatha published the book Sahityadarpana in the 14th cen and Jagannatha Pandit wrote the book Rasagangadhara in the 17th cen. Political instability led to the Mughal invasion as well as the western colonization put an end to further development of Indian aesthetic


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    • Sandeep Dhikale profile image

      Sandeep Dhikale 3 years ago from Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

      I am student of Indian aesthetics & find this article very useful and simple.