Art is a product of the senses, literature of the mind. Together they make up a civilisation. If Hindu civilisation is the richest, it is because the Hindus were wise to let the senses and mind free.
All forms of arts?music, dance, drama, painting, sculpture, poetry, architecture?are to Hindus different languages for the worship of the divine. And since they were offered to their deities to propitiate them, they must be the best. This is why the Hindus were able to maintain the quality of their arts and crafts for millennia. But once they were commercialised, they lost the quality for ever.
Art and literature are intended to purge the soul of its passions and lead men to a vision of the eternal. If a society is judged by its arts and literature. India has much to show, for they reflected the vitality or the Hindu race.
The Ramayana talks of chitrashalas. Every royal palace had its chitrashala. Shows how important arts and crafts were in the life of the Hindus.
And yet with the advent of Islam, the chitrashalas disappeared. The invaders destroyed not only the chitrashalas but also most of India'sarts.
True, the Mughuls revived some of the arts. But Aurangzeb is reportedly to have destroyed many paintings by his own hand. In the opinion of historian Vincent Smith (see ?Akbar the Great Mughul) India painting of the nine centuries of Muslim rule perished at the hands of the invaders, and had it not been for Abul Faizal'sexpress testimony, we would not have even known that India was famous for its arts and crafts.
In The History of Indian and Eastern Architecture Dr Fergusson writes that the earliest specimen of temple architecture is to be found in Orissa. It was known for its minute details so that they were more worthy of the deity. The Orissa style is known for its central vimana (chariot) and minor vimanas. Khajuraho provides the best example of this style.
The Dravidian architecture came out of the Buddhist architectural style. The earliest Dravidian examples were excavated, not built. The edifice of Ellora belongs to the Dravidian style. Ellora is an extensive pit of 270ft by 150ft. The Brhadeeshvara temple (Tanjore) resembles the Ziggurat of the Sumerians.
Ajanta was, by far, the most celebrated site for arts in India. It had hardly any peer in the realm of world art. And if one were to consider the artistic quality of the mural tradition of Ajanta, there is nothing to overshadow Ajanta. Ajanta was a centre of pilgrimage as also a trading centre. People came from as far away as China, Central Asia and the Mediterranean. They made huge donations to Ajanta. In fact, there was a Greeco-Roman settlement near Ajanta.
The Chaitya Griha, for example, contains the Jataka stories. This was a further attraction. Lawrence Binyon, a leading authority on Asian art, observes that all Chinese and Japanese art were influenced by Ajanta. No wonder, UNSCO declared Ajanta as ?World habitat.? And yet independent India did not think of reviving the glory of Ajanta, but concentrated all its resources on the renovation of the Taj Mahal.
The art of fresco painting reached its peak perfection in Ajanta. It was never surpassed anywhere else. Here, religious piety fused with architecture, sculpture and painting into a happy harmony.
Ajanta was rediscovered by a British soldier in 1819. It provided a veritable museum of varied artistic and architectural styles.
Are we Hindus proud of these monuments? Yes and no. But most of us remain ignorant about them. Jagmohan, once Culture and Tourism Minister, writes: ?I was rather depressed by the conditions prevailing around Ajanta.?
There is an explanation for this. Our secular masters see nothing wrong in lavishing funds for the maintenance and renovation of Taj Mahal, but Ajanta is a Hindu/Buddhist work of art. To revive its glory is revivalism. In short, communalism!