The Kalatattvakosa Volume III is third in the series of the IGNCA programme of multi-disciplinary lexicon of fundamental concepts of the Indian tradition. In this volume seminal terms of Primal Elements-the Mahabhuta have been included. The terms have been scanned through a very wide spectrum of texts drawn from the fields of metaphysics to science and the arts. The essays enable the reader to comprehend the multi-layered meanings of the concepts in different contexts. This volume contains the terms : prakrti, bhuta-mahabhuta, akasa, vayu, agni, jyotis/tejas/Prakasa, ap, prthivi/bhumi.
Bettina Baumer, a renowned scholar on Kashmir Saivism and Silpasastra, has edited the volume. Besides the editor, other contributors include : K. A. Jacobsen, P. S. Filliozat, S. C. Chakrabarti, S. Chattopadhyay, L. M. Singh, Frits Staal, S. Gupta Gombrich and P. L. Sharma. Kapila Vatsyayan is the General Editor of the series.
IMPORTANT REVIEWS "The project Kalatattvakosa is ambitious: it aims at replacing the major categories of Indian aesthetics and arts in their environment of Indian ness
The non-specialist who has no access to the Sanskrit encyclopedias and texts will find here easily a mine of useful quotations and the means of situating the aesthetic and artistic concepts in a general context." - Gerard Colas, CNRS, PARIS (Art Asistiques, Vol. XLV., 1990)
It is, in fact, a concerted efforts to change the face of Indian art history by providing an easier access to the intricacies of Sanskrit aesthetic terminology." - Michael Brand Australian National Gallery (South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Vol. 12(2), 1989)
"The scholarship of the volume is impeccable. The range of quoted references is formidable and illuminating. For this alone the volume would be invaluable. It does also establish beyond any doubt the binding unity of spiritual experiences and underlying artistic conceptualization in the traditional arts of India." - Peter Malekin, Durham (Temenos: A review devoted to the Arts of the Imagination, No. 11, 1990)
"The artistically got up and neatly printed book is of seminal importance and a veritable intellectual treat to lovers of Indian culture and will serve as an indispensable work of reference to all students of Indian Arts. The work indeed fulfills a long felt want and Indologists all the world over would keenly look forward to the publication of further volumes in the same series." - Krishna Deva (J. I. S. O. A., Vol. XVIII & XIX, 1989-91)
"This is a very important reference and source book that any serious scholar would need to consult frequently." - N. Ramanathan (Sruti, 1994)
General Editor's Note:
It is after an inescapable gap of four years that Volume III of the Kalatattvakosa is being published. The intervening years preoccupied the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts with the theme of the Primal Elements (Mahabhutas) on many levels and in many dimensions. The discourse was carried through as in the case of Space (Akasa) and Time (Kala), through the fundamental sciences - principally astrophysics, astronomy and microbiology; the philosopher schools of Brahmanical, Jaina, Buddhist, Islamic, Christian and Judaic thought; civilizations - Greek, Chinese, Meso-American and Indian; the wisdom traditions of the indigenous groups - the Santhals, the Apatanis, the Todas, the Australian aborigines, the Brazilian and the African. Through a series of five Seminars*, each interlocked, the fundamental concerns of humanity a the most sophisticated level of abstraction and the permeating level of life-function and life-meaning was shared. The dialogical and the relational were the tools of perception and insight into the four of five primal elements which have enveloped the universe and are crucial for the survival of humanity.
The IGNCA has endeavoured to perceive, see and look at the universals through the telescope and the microscope; hear and listen through the textual and oral; smell through the in breath and out breath of the living traditions; taste through the experience of the creative artist; and feel and move through the still symbols and imageries of frozen stone and the dynamic image of kinetic movement. All this was attempted through the mult-media presentation on Prakrti (Harmony with Nature), the performances of the Langas, the paintings of Santokbha, the story of the clay pot in the hands of the potter.
The Kalatattvakosa Volume III is integral to this larger and extensive enterprise of an inter-disciplinary and cross-cultural dialogue around unifying themes of perennial value. Here our microscope is through the lens of textual traditions restricted largely to the Sanskrit, Pali and Prakrit sources. An indepth investigation into primary sources of these traditions is an essential prerequisite for any meaningful comparative work.
The terms included in the Kalatattvakosa Volume III and Volume IV (to follow soon) all revolve the concept of the Mahabhutas in all streams of Indian thought on Vedic, Pauranic, Buddhist and Jaina, in disciplines ranging from Ayurveda to metaphysics, astronomy, philosophy, politics and the arts. Even a cursory perusal of the contents of this Volume, as also of the preceding two Kalatattvakosa Volumes I and II make it amply clear that each concept was explored at its most physical and material and metaphysical and spiritual levels. The method of exploration was both embodiment and disembodiment of the concept. The triad of the adhyatmika (spiritual), adhidaivika (divine) and adhibhautika (physical) was near universal, as was the movement from the subtle to the gross (suksma to sthula) and the multi-dimensionality and multi-directionality of space and time. Multi-layering and a systems approach of establishing correspondence was a natural and necessary concomitant. This will be evident in the articles of each of the three Volumes. Only a superficial reader will see these as either overlaps or repetitions. The interpenetration of levels of meaning within a concept and between concepts has the fineness of a sharp needle and the fluidity of a drop of water or oil or an absorbent surface. These articles have attempted the difficult task of identifying the process of threading the needle and the expansion of the point, the drop the bindu, and thus the essence of the concept in many if not all domains. Materiality and non-materiality of the over-arching concept of Prakrti begins the Volume. The primal elements from the subtlest (akasa) to the apparently grossest (prthivi) are investigated, each with its integrity and its interpenetration into the others. Mutuality of pairs emerges, and as that of water and fire, water and earth, fire, wind, etc., to develop into a mighty system of ecological balance based on interdependence of matter and non-matter; man-nature; physical and psychical; active and passive; the outer and inner; the senses, mind, intellect and consciousness at micro and macro levels. The terms included in Volume IV, viz. Indriya, dravya, dhatu, guna, adhibhuta/adhidaiva/adhyatma, sthula/suksma, srsti/sthiti/pralaya will hopefully unfold the system even more clearly.
The structure, method and treatment have been again outlined by the Editor - Dr. Bettina Baumer who has competently and painstakingly completed this work. I thank her and especially so as this will be the last of the three volumes under her editorship.
I take this opportunity once again to pay my sincerest tribute to Tarkatirtha Laksman Shastri Joshi a visionary giant of this century, who made it possible for us to have courage to embark upon the arduous path of identifying two hundred fifty terms (trees) of the great and verderous forest of concepts of the Indian tradition.
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