From the Jacket
The volume of the Project of History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization aim to discover the central aspects of India’s heritage and present them in an interrelated manner. In spite of their unitary look, these volumes recognize the difference between the areas of material civilization and those of identical culture. The Project is not being executed by a single group of thinkers, methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. Rather, contributors are made by different scholars of diverse ideological persuasions and methodological approaches. The Project is marked by what may be called ‘methodological pluralism’. In spite in its primarily historical character, this project, both in its conceptualization and execution, has been shaped by scholars drawn from different discipline. It is the first time that an endeavour of such unique and comprehensive character has been undertaken to study critically a major world civilization.
History of art, unlike that of science, is not an accumulation of facts. It comprises and overlappings cutting across the linearity of time. Based on this discourse as also forms of creativity in the Indian tradition in terms of both the perennial and the ephemeral aspects of aesthetic experience.
The essays form groups dialing with (a) core concepts which permeate the discourse on aesthetic theories, and having ramifications in many other disciplines and domains; (b) The Rasa theory in the framework of classical philosophical traditions of Vedanta, Mimamsa, Samkhya, and Kashmir Saivism, and (c) the comprehension of the foundational concepts of aesthetic theory, namely, Rasa and Dhvani from the perspectives of Indian thought traditions addressing also music, dance and the visual arts. There is no clear-cut demarcation between the four groups of essays though in their own framework they illustrate a transition from the discourse (sastra) to practice (prayoga) i.e., from theorizing on the nature of aesthetic experience to the process of concretizing it into forms of music, dance, architecture, and painting.
The contributions highlight the fact that the history of Indian aesthetic tradition comprises various textual and performing traditions that have flourished in the Indian subcontinent. What we have is not a single history but multiple histories based on various philosophical and methodological approaches adopted by art historians. Some of these histories pertain to the technical details of a given art form, and some with the changes that have occurred in the evolution and development these forms. While some historical accounts focus on the relevant biographical details of the artists, some art histories focus on the social, cultural, and even the economic conditions of civilization that determine the nature of an art form.
Considering the multi-dimensional and multi-level complexities of Indian civilization and culture, the contributions to this volume have investigated into a number of factors which are directly and indirectly relevant for comprehending the complexities of the Indian aesthetic tradition.
D.P. Chattopadhyaya studied, researched on law, philosophy and history and taught at various Universities in india, Asia, Europe and USA from 1954 to 1994. Founder-Chairman of the Indian Council of Philosophical Research (1981-1900) and President-cum-Chairman of the Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla (1984-1991). Chattopadhyaya is currently the Project Director of the multidisciplinary ninety-six volume (PHISPC) and Chairman of the Centre for Studies in Civilizations (CSC). Among his thirty five publications, of which he has authored eighteen and edited seventeen, are Individuals and Societies (1967), Individuals and Worlds (1976), Sri Aurobindo and Karl Marx (1988), Anthropology and Historiography of Science (1990), Induction, Probability and Skepticism (1991), Sociology, Ideology and Utopia (1997), Societies, Cultures and Ideologies (2000), Interdisciplinary Studies in Science, Society, Value and Civilizational Dialogue (2002) and Philosophy of Science, Phenomenology and Other Essays (2003). He has also held high public offices, namely, of Union cabinet minister and state governor. He is a Life Member of the Russian Academy of Science and a Member of the International Institute of Philosophy, Paris.
Kapila Vatsyayan recognized internationally for her outstanding work in the diverse fields of Culture and the Arts. Spearheaded policy framework for programmers of art history, education, Sanskrit, Buddhist and Pali Studies. Responsible for establishing many cultural and educational institutions, such as the Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies. Has been actively involved in and has initiated many conservation programmes. She was the architect of the conceptual plan of the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, which was recognized by the national and international community for its outstanding multi-disciplinary work. Author of over 15 books and many research papers and monographs, some specifically on environment, Indian myth and ecology. Amongst her publications, Classical Indian Dance in Literature and the Arts; and the Square and the Circle of the Indian arts are internationally acknowledged as pioneering path-breaking works of critical scholarship. Editor of many volumes on primary texts on fundamental concepts, such as concept of space (Akasha), of time (kaal), of Panchabootha (Prakrit); of primary elements (Rth), Chaos and Order. Thought her writings as also the exhibitions that she has conceptualized and the volumes she for evolving new paradigms for understanding of cultures, particularly those of India and Asia.
That even after the tragic and sudden demise of Professor S.S. Barlingay who had conceptualized and planned Aesthetic Theories and Forms in Indian Tradition this PHISPC Volume stands published is a tribute to all those who in spite of the vicissitudes, contributed in very many ways to bring out this scholarly work. My debts therefore are extra-ordinary and mere words can but be only a formality that cannot adequately express my gratitude. Words and language have their limitations that cannot match upto feelings and therefore acknowledgements always remain insufficient.
The contribution of Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan has been a gesture of rare scholarly commitment and grace. Notwithstanding her myriad preoccupations she agreed to be an HONORARY FELLOW to see the volume through. Wherever she felt the gaps she helped the structure of the Volume with her own scholarly papers. Her meticulous editing, advice and learned observations were invaluable.
Professor Shared Despande took up the unfinished task of his teacher and colleague late Professor S.S. Barlingay in identifying the contributors and assisting in structuring the volume. In spite of his numerous academic commitments the volume had his dedicated attention.
The patience of the scholars who have contributed to the Volume has been exemplary. Their responses to our requests for updating their papers or making changes were always willing and informed. My very special thanks to all of them.
I must put on record my special word of deep appreciation for all my colleagues at the PHISPC who persevered with the nitty gritty of putting together the volume and getting the papers in shape for publication. Shri Surojit Banerjee, our production adviser with his sharp technical insights, along with my colleague (Ms.) A.K. Anand at the PHISPC diligently worked through the editing and technical production. But for her sustained and erudite labour of high quality this book could not have seen the light of day. Shri Vas Lakhanpal gave willing assistance in many ways, Shri C.L. Jose competently took charge of secretarial work. It would be less than fair if I do not specially mention our typesetters M/s. Mindways Design and Digigrafics for their technical cooperation.
It is understandable that man, shaped by Nature, would like to know Nature. The human ways of knowing Nature are evidently diverse, theoretical and practical, scientific and technological, artistic and spiritual. This complexity has, on scrutiny, been found to be neither exhaustive nor exclusive. The complexity of physical nature, life-world and, particularly, human mind is so enormous that it is futile to follow a single method for comprehending all the aspects of the world in which we are situated.
One need not feel bewildered by the variety and complexity of the worldly phenomena. After all, both from traditional wisdom and our daily experience, we know that our own nature in not quite alien to the structure of the world. Positively speaking, the elements and forces that are out there in the world are also present in our body-mind complex, enabling us to adjust ourselves to our environment. Not only the natural conditions but also the social conditions of life have instructive similarities between them. This is not to underrate in any way the difference between the human ways of life all over distinctness of production-related tradition, history and culture.
Three broad approaches are discernible in the works on historiography of civilization, comprising science and technology, art and architecture, social sciences and institutions. Firstly, some writers are primarily interested in discovering the general laws which govern all civilizations spread over different continents. They tend to underplay what they call the noisy local events of the external world and peculiarities of different languages, literatures and histories. Their accent is on the unity of Nature, the unity of science and the unity of mankind. The second group of writers, unlike the generalist or transcendentalist ones, attach primary importance to the distinctiveness of every culture. To these writers human freedom and creativity are extremely important and basic in character. Social institutions and the cultural articulations of human consciousness, they argue, are bound to be expressive of the concerned people’ consciousness. By implication they tend to reject concepts like archetypal consciousness, universal mind and providential history. There is a third group of writers who offer a composite picture of civilizations, drawing elements both from their local and common characteristics. Every culture has its local roots and peculiarities. At the same time, it is pointed out that due to demographic migration and immigration over centuries an element of compositeness emerges almost in every culture. When, due to a natural calamity or political exigencies people move from one part of the world to another, they carry with them, among other things, their language, cultural inheritance and their ways of living.
In the light of the above facts, it is not all surprising that comparative anthropologists and philologists are intrigued by the striking similarity between different language families and the rites, rituals and myths of different peoples. Speculative philosophers of history, heavily relying on the findings of epigraphy, ethnography, archaeology and theology, try to show in very general terms that the particulars and universals of culture are ‘essentially’ or ‘secretly’ interrelated. The spiritual aspects of culture like dance and music, beliefs pertaining to life, death and duties, on analysis, are found to be mediated by the material forms of life like weather forecasting, food production, urbanization and invention of script. The transition from the oral culture to the written one was made possible because of the masterly of symbols and rules of measurement. Speech precedes grammar, poetry prosody. All these show how the ‘matters’ and ‘forms’ of life are so subtly interwoven.
The PHISPC publications on History of Science, Philosophy and Culture in Indian Civilization, in spite of their unitary look, do recognize the differences between the areas of material civilization and those of ideational culture. It is not a work of a single author. Nor is it being executed by a group of thinkers and writers who are methodologically uniform or ideologically identical in their commitments. In conceiving the Project we have interacted with, and been influenced by, the writings and views of many Indian and non-Indian thinkers.
The attempted unity of this Project lies in its aim and inspiration. We have in India many scholarly works written by Indians on different aspects of our civilization and culture. Right from the pre-Christian era to our own time, India has drawn the attention of various countries of Asia, Europe and Africa. Some of these writings are objective and informative and many others are based on insufficient information and hearsay, and therefore not quite reliable, but they have their own value. Quality and view-points keep on changing not only because of the adequacy and inadequacy of evidence but also, and perhaps more so, because of the bias and prejudice, religious and political conviction, of the writers.
Besides, it is to be remembered that history, like Nature, is not an open to be read alike by all. The past is mainly enclosed and only partially disclosed. History is, reasons why some historians themselves think that it is a form of literature or art. However, it does not mean that historical construction is ‘anarchic’ and arbitrary. Certainly, imagination plays an important role in it.
But its character is basically dependent upon the questions which the historian raises and wants to understand or answer in terms of the ideas and actions of human beings in the past ages. In a way, history, somewhat like the natural sciences, is engaged in answering questions and in exploring relationships of cause and effect between events and developments across time. While in the natural sciences, the scientist poses questions about nature in the form of hypotheses, expecting to elicit authoritative answers to such questions, the historian studies the past, for the sake of understanding it for its own and partly also the light which the past throws upon the present, and the possibilities which it opens up for moulding of future. But the difference between the two approaches must not be lost sight of. The scientist is primarily interested in discovering laws and framing theories, in terms of which different events and processes can be connected and anticipated. Hs interest in the conditions or circumstances attending the concerned events is secondary. Therefore, scientific laws turn out to be basically abstract and easily expressible in terms of mathematical language. In contrast, the historian’s main interest centres round the specific events, human ideas and actions, not general laws. So, the historian, unlike the scientist, is obliged to pay primary attention to the circumstances of the events he wants to study. Consequently, history, like most other humanistic disciplines, is concrete and particularist. This is not to deny the obvious truth that historical events and processes consisting of human ideas and actions show some trend or other and weave some pattern or another. If these trends and patterns were not there at all in history, the study of history as a branch of knowledge would not have been profitable or instructive. But one must recognize that historical trends and patterns, unlike scientific laws and theories, are not general or purported to be universal in their scope.
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