The Concept of The Beautiful in Sanskrit Literature

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Item Code: NAH195
Author: V. Raghavan
Language: Sanskrit Text with English Translation
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788185170367
Pages: 150
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 7 inch x 5 inch
Weight 210 gm
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Book Description

About the Author


Dr. V. Raghavan (1908-79) He joined the Sanskrit Department of the University of Madras in 1935 and since then was engaged on the New Catalogus Catalogurum project; was the professor and Head of the Department during 1955-68


Fellow of the Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial Fund, 1969-70.


Received the Kane Gold Medal for Sanskrit and indological research from Asiatic Society, Bombay, 1953.


Received the Sahitya Akademi Prize for the best book on Sanskrit Research (Bhoja’s Srngara Prakasa), 1966; Elected Fellow of Sangeet Natak Akademi, 1964; and of the Sahitya Akademi (posthumously in 1979).


Received the Padma Bhushan from the President of India, 1962.


Member of the Sanskrit Commission of the Government of India, 1956 and of the Central Sanskrit Board since inception; Honorary Member, Ecole Francaise d’Extreme Orient and the Academy of Sciences, Vienna; Awarded Gold Medal and Diploma by the Noble Order of St. Martin, Vienna 1967; Elected President, International Association of Sanskrit Studies, 1973.




It is a pleasure to accede to Dr. S.S. Janaki’s request that I should write a Foreword to the late Prof. V. Raghavan’s lectures on The Concept of the Beautiful in Sanskrit Literature, originally delivered under the Dewan Bahadur Krishnaswami Rao Foundation at the Madras University on 27 and 28 February 1962. While I do not claim any deep knowledge of Sanskrit or of aesthetics, I too have been intrigued and held in fascination by the phenomenon of Beauty (in fact, my booklet On Beauty was published as early as 1945, three years after Prof. P.N. Srinivasachari’s The Philosophy of the Beautiful) ; and, besides, being exact contemporaries, I was privileged to know and enjoy the friendship of Prof. Raghavan from the early thirties to the time of his sudden passing in 1979. These were inducements enough to make me overcome my initial reluctance and agree to contribute this Foreword.


It is likely that Prof. Raghavan left these lectures unpublished because he had hoped to revise, and perhaps enlarge them. His Concepts of Alankara Sastra appeared in 1942, his study of Bhoja’s Srngaraprakasa won the Sahitya Akademi award in 1966, and he presented a learned paper on Sri Aurobindo’s Aesthetics at the Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary National Seminar in 1972. Dr. Raghavan was always full of the subject, and his dual allegiance to Sanskrit literature and Karnatak music (notably as exemplified in Tyagaraja) constantly provoked lively speculation on the concept of Beauty and the impact of the Beautiful on seasoned human sensibility. Further, Raghavan was widely read in Western aesthetics from Plato, Aristotle, Plotinus and Longinus to modem thinkers and critics like Ruskin, Lascelles Abercrombie, Jacques Maritain and Benedetto Croce. Had Prof. Raghavan found the time to turn his two lectures into a structured monograph with all the weight of his learning and experiential knowledge, he would doubtless have given us almost a definitive monograph on the subject. But that was not to be. Even so, these two lectures constitute an excellent historical and critical overview of the tantalising subjects of his choice.


Although the concept of’ ‘the Beautiful as such” did not, according to Max Muller, exist for the Hindu mind, Beauty in Nature and life as also in Art and poetry has never failed to tease human thought, and sensibility regarding its nature and potency. Prof. Raghavan takes a quick view of the Vedas, Brahmanas, Upanisads, the Epics, the Gita, the Puranas and the later philosophical literature, and shows how at no time the Beautiful - variously referred to as rupa, Sri, Laksmi, sobha. kalyana, bhadra, carutva, camatkara, saundarya, and so on - with its gradations of emphasis and understanding, has failed to make its presence felt in Sanskrit literature. The beautiful has at all times struck the viewer with a native glow, an efflorescent splendour, at times even the sheer delight of existence. The beautiful is also the good ; and beauty is truth, and truth beauty.


Just as, in Western aesthetics, the key concepts are mimesis, katharsis and the sublime, in Sanskrit the parallel terms are rasa, dhvani, and for want of the right word, the ultimate Raso vai sah, the outleap of ecstatic beauty and delight. Not the mere mass or raw-stuff or life-force, but the essence, the reality behind the appearance, the Beauty behind the Beast.


Mimesis is not mimicry, but seizing what’s significant, the quintessence. Thus omnipresent Reality or sat-cit-ananda is verily ‘goodness-truth- delight’. The Ananda-aspect, says Raghavan, “may be identified with Beauty”, for “blissfulness cannot be dissociated from Beauty”. It is also clear that the perception and enjoyment of Beauty is as difficult as the creation of beauty in Art or poetry. It is the reverse and obverse of the same aesthetic activity, and hence the artist and the connoisseur, the poet and the sahrdaya, are as it were a two-in-one power and personality.


The problem of ‘enjoyment’ of poetry, even of poetic tragedy, raises the question: “Can there be pleasure in pain, delight in disorder, or beauty in Sita’s sorrows in Asoka-vana?” Aristotle answers the query with his theory of Katharsis. But what is Katharsis ? It is not the therapy of purging or purification. Rather it is the facing, mastering and beyonding the impact of pain. Dhvani, like Katharsis, is the process of reverberant transformation of the seeming actual into the transcendental Real. What seemed foul is now seen to be fair, and death itself loses its sting.


Preface to the First Edition


The Kuppuswami Sastri Research Institute is indeed happy and privileged to bring out this monograph on Sanskrit aesthetics by Dr. V. Raghavan, the doyen among Sanskritists. He is well known in India and outside for his pioneering and many-faceted contributions to Sanskrit literature and criticism and Indian Culture. According to his guru Prof. Kuppuswami Sastri, Dr. Raghavan was “a well informed Sanskrit scholar of conspicuous ability”. Prof. Daniel H.H. Ingalls, the most complete and classical Sanskritist associated with the prestigious Harvard University in the United States for a long time, admired Dr. Raghavan’s combination of the “precision of a traditional Indian Sanskritist with a breadth of encyclopaedic knowledge”.


“The Concept of the Beautiful in Sanskrit Literature” was the subject of Dr. Raghavan’s lectures at Madras and Berkeley, California in the sixties. The subject of Indian aesthetics is yet to be built up by research work in Gita, Nary-a, Silpa and Citra and coordinating it with the useful related material in Alankara Sastra. Dr. Raghavan was a unique scholar equally proficient in all these fields. Hence his research as contained in these lectures is yet original, relevant and useful. Unfortunately it could not be published during his lifetime. The Institute is thankful to the family of late Dr. V. Raghavan, especially Mrs. Sarada Raghavan, for making the draft of these lectures available for publication by the Institute.


I cannot adequately thank the senior most critic- poet and versatile scholar Prof. K.R. Srinivasa Iyengar, for his valuable Foreword.


The academic staff of the Institute - Ms. V. Kameswari, Mr. K.S. Balasubramanian and Mr. T.V. Vasudeva, have assisted me in checking some original sources in Sanskrit and English, as also in the proof-reading.


Amongst his many-sided Sanskritic activities, Dr. Raghavan reared during his life-time the Institute named after his guru, with much care and against great odds. As a former student of him and also as one closely associated with his varied contributions, I am particularly delighted that the Institute has been able to bring out his valuable publication under its aegis. Thanks are due to the Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, for providing the necessary financial assistance.


M/s. Anantheshwara Print Packs are to be thanked for their neat printing.


Prof. Kuppuswami Sastri and the founders of the Institute stood for high ideals in life and academic pursuits. The Institute was also founded and nourished with great dedication in memory of the great master. The Government of India has from 1983 recognised the Institute as an Ideal Research Institution (Adarsh Sodh Samstha). It is hoped that with more private resources and patronage, it will grow from strength to strength and enrich the literary and cultural life of the Sanskritic and Indological world in India and abroad.




Preface to The Revised Edition




Preface to The First Edition




The Concept of the Beautiful In Sanskrit Literature


Study on Indian Aesthetics


Essentials of Beauty - Diverse Ideas


Sahitya-vidya, Sarvaparsada


Vedic Words denoting Beauty


Sri in RV and later Sanskrit Literature


Tvastr as Creator, Procreator and Artist


Beauty of Speech


Rsi, Kavi and Poetic Medium


Aesthetic Concepts in Brahmanas


Spirituality and Singing Saman


The Upanisads on Rasa


Absolute Beauty is Brahman


Aesthetic significance of Samakaras


Harmony of Karna with Dharma and Moksa


‘Beauty is Truth, Truth Beauty’


Bhagavan and Beauty


Bhagavad Gita on Beauty


Gita on Perfect Karma


Aesthetic Ideas in Vedanta


Anirvacaniyatva of Art-Reality


Aesthetic Relish and Spiritual Bliss


Art as Play (Lila)


Kashmirian Saivite Aesthetes


Arts and Saiva Tantras


Arts and Sakta Tantras


Aesthetics of the Bhagavatas


Artistic activity and Spirituality


Nadopasana and Liberation


Natya & Alafikara Sastras and Aesthetics


Bharata’s Natya-Sastra


Anukara or Imitation in Art


Anuvyavasaya in Dramatic Art


The Rasa Sutra


Alankara, Beauty and Truth


Poesy and Intuition


Growth of Ideas in Alankara Sastra


Importance of Suggestion


Aesthetic Perception and Suggestion


Aesthetics of Rasa and Painting


Aucitya and ‘Characteristic’




Rasa – Monism


Rasa realisation is Self-realisation


Rasa Synthesis


Rasa - Experience in Tragedy


Satvika - ahankara of Bhoja


Beauty, Art and Nature


Beauty and Art


Concept of Pratibha


Beauty in Svabhavokti


Artist, Connoisseur and Rasa


Imagination - Creative and Reflective


Brahmasvada and Kavyasvada


‘Art for Art’s Sake’


Rasa and Beauty


Educative elements in Kavya


Pure aesthetic is truth prurient


Art, Pleasure and Education


Holistic view in Sanskrit Aesthetics


General Index



Sample Pages

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