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Foundations of Indian Aesthetics

Foundations of Indian Aesthetics
Item Code: IHJ099
Author: Vidya Niwas Misra
Publisher: Shubhi Publications
Edition: 2008
ISBN: 9788182901391
Pages: 158 (Illustrated Throughout In B/W)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details: 9.3 inch X 6.3 inch
From the Jacket

Presenting an analysis of the basic aspects of aesthetics this volume systematically expounds important concepts from the Indian thought system. Presenting a lucid account of the Indian world view the volume explains the dynamics of literary appreciation. The comprehensive perspective offered by this volume covers the notions of Beauty. Vak, Rasa, Sahridaya and Bhakti. Using illustrations from life and literature, grammar, philosophy and literary theory. Originally presented as lectures at Indian institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS) by the author the chapters provide an experiential Journey into the vast field of Indian aesthetics. The volume serves as an introduction to Indian aesthetics. It would prove an immensely useful reference for the students of literary theory, and of literature and aesthetics, and should stimulate interest in Indian thought.

Late Dr. Vidya Nivas Misra was a renowned multi-disciplinary savant, spanning with ease various fields of traditional and modern knowledge. He was born on January 14th, 1926 in pakardiha, district Gorakhpur.

Prof. Misra was Director of K.M. Hindi Institute, Agra (1977-1986), Vice Chancellor of Kashi Vidyapeeth and Sampooranand Sanskrit Vishwa Vidyalaya and Chief Editor of Nav Bharat Times. He taught Sanskrit and Linguistics at Universities in Gorakhpur, Varanasi, Berkely, and Seattle. He has been honoured with several awards and distinctions including Padma Bhushan, Padma Shree, Moorti Devi Award of Bharatiya Jnanpith, Shankar Puraskar of K.K. Birla Foundation, Bharat Bharti Samman, Visva Bharti Samman by Uttar Pradesh Sanskrit Akademy, Maharashtra Bharati Samman, Fellowship-the highest honour of Sahitya Akademi, to name a few.

Dr. Misra has published over eighty books of criticism, language and linguistics, eassays and poetry including The Descriptive Technique of Panini (Mouton), Follow the Note of Flute (Sahitya Akademi), Environment and Creativity (Sahitya Akademi), Modern India Thought, The creat Indian Mind. He was nominated by the President to Rajya Sabha in 2003.


The present book is an outcome of a long standing request of Indian Institute of Advanced Studies, Shimla, to deliver lectures on some aspects of Indian aesthetic theories and on some aspects of ‘The Rasa theory’. I, being a student of Sanskrit literature in its entirety, have tried to deduced my own premises from literature itself more than from the works on Poetics. So, some of the ideas may appear to be deviations from traditional assumptions of Rasa theory, but I have tried to link them with Shastric references as far as possible. I have been talking and writing about this subject continuously for four decades. I have also tried to combine those sundry perceptions into a cohesive form. I am not very confident of my English so I have taken the help of two young teachers of English, Dr. Anju Dhadda Misra who is senior lecturer in the Department of English, Kanoria P.G. College, Jaipur and Sunanda Mongia, senior lecturer in the department of English, M.G. Kashi Vidyapith, Varanasi. It is deep regard and affection for me that has made them bring this whole into press copy. I can only bless them. I am also beholden to Dr. G.C. Pandey who insired and impelled me to deliver these lectures. A part of these lectures was presented at a seminar on Rasa at IIAS. The whole book is thus an expansion of that seed. The summary of my argument has been given at the end and there is an appendix on Bhakti Rasa which, I think, is very relevant to the whole discussion on the Indian aesthetic perception. In fact Bhakti Rasa is a transcendence over the older theory of Rasa and gives an idea of the dynamism of Indian thought. I also owe my gratitude to some esteemed friends some of whom are no more. To name them all would be difficult for they are so many but the persons with whom I had discussed and gained from the discussions are late Shri S.H. Vatsyayan, Prof. A.K. Ramanujan, Shri R.C. Dwivedi, Prof. Chen (University of California), Premlata Sharma, Shri Thakur Jaidev Singh, Prof. V.K. Gokak and Shri Krishna Murty.

Other friends who have shared their valuable insights with me are Aiyappa Panikkar, Kapila Vatsyayan, Kamlesh Dutt Tripathy, Prof. Narashimaiah, Prof. U.R. Anantamurthy and Prof. Indranath Choudhury amongst many others.

Finally, I will fail in my duty if I do not thank Prof. V.C. Srivastava, Director, IIAS and all other friends present in the audience.

Introductory Note by the Editor

Right up to his sudden death in February 2005, Professor Vidya Niwas Misra was in the midst of literary and cultural activities. He left several unpublished manuscript. The present collection of essays, Foundations of Indian Aesthetics is one of them. The essays are about a theme which is centrally important to the study and interpretation of art and literature. The essays help to illuminate many aspects of Indian aesthetics and provide a sympathetic account of the same. There is liveliness in the essays which ignites enlightening discussion.

Through numerous writings reflecting his deep and profound knowledge of Indian thought and insights into the living tradition as a participant Professor Misra had earned an important place in the academia. Trained in the tradition of Indian and Western scholarship he was deeply involved in the deliberations pertaining to philosophy, culture, literature and language. As a person he was a keen observer of life. Having an open mind and vast experience of cultural interaction he was also a part of a living tradition. His passion for learning and cultural dialogue earned the respect of scholars of Sanskrit, Hindi literature, art, cultural studies and Indian philosophy. He was always keen to travel and visit new places. This offered him exposure to the lives in not only various parts of India but in many Asian, European and north American countries. He was a great exponent of Indian culture and thought. A dedicated teacher he was also an effective speaker and an active participant in the academic and cultural dialogues. He was actively associated with many important cultural institutions of India and continued to contribute to their growth and development.

The ideas presented in the essays by Professor Misra have grown over a long duration and have been shared at various literary forums. They illustrate his personal experiences and profound understanding and interpretation of Indian literary tradition and life. He has deliberated on various issues pertaining to the Indian aesthetics from an insider’s point of view. The cosmic and experiential world view of interconnectedness emphasizing relative, dynamic and transcendental world is a recurring theme in these essays. His analysis of the key aspects of Indian aesthetics is refreshing and combines Shastra, Loka and personal experience (Anubhava). The concern is with capturing the rhythms of experience which run as an undercurrent throughout the essays. The theme of harmony in life and the inner self and experiencing art as transformation and refinement of self have received considerable emphasis.

Professor Misra has touched and presented new analyses which will be evident from the pages of this book. He notes that it is participation rather than consummation that characterizes the purpose of art. It is an integral part of life which forms a continuum. As he notes the central theme in India is to recognize that ‘we are a part of a larger existence and in order to become the whole we have to offer ourselves to the universal existence’. He begins with an analysis of the Indian world view and then explains Ragabodha and Rasanubhuti (the experience of rasa and beauty), Vak, Rasa, and beauty), Vak, rasa, and Dhvani (suggestion). He has drawn attention to the diverse meanings of Sahitya and relates it to Sakhya meaning ‘to stand by each other’. According him ‘Sakhya does not destroy the individuality of each. It only implies togetherness without seeking anything in return’. He offers a detailed study of Vak legends in Brahmana literature. To him ‘a creative work is born only though us instead of. Thus coming together is central to the literary creativity. While analyzing discursive language and poetic language Professor Misra offers the analysis of different layers of meanings. His analysis of Sahridaya and Sahridayata is rich, refreshing and insightful. The nature of experience of Rasa and analysis of Bhakti rasa in particular offer a new perspective.

The book is an important and timely intervention in the scene of literary theory. It poses questions to the globalizing and totalizing intellectual trends of our times which threaten to marginalize the Indian ways of life and thought. It shows alternative possibilities formulating a vision for dealing with cultural challenges of our times. Often provocative sometimes going to extremes the ideas are concerned with freeing Indian mind from the shackles of Western dominance and point toward svaraj in ideas.

I am grateful to Sri Sanjay Arya, of Shubhi Publications who has taken interest in bringing out the volume in a short period of time. The manuscript was arranged by me and care. Was taken to maintain its quality of presentation. However, I do ask for readers’ indulgence for any shortcomings.


Preface 3
Introductory note by the Editor 6
The essential ancient Indian view of life 9
Man, Nature and the Poet 23
Poetry, thought and the concept of beauty 33
Conceptual premises of Indian Aeshetics: Vak and Rasa 41
Sahitya and Vak: Literature and Logos 57
Vak legends in the Brahmana literature 75
Discursive language and poetic language 87
Sahridaya 91
Sahridayata: Communion and Communication 97
Sahridaya and aesthetic reception 107
The rising of Rasa 117
A theory of Rasa 123
Rasa The essence of all art 135
Foundations of Indian aesthetics - A Unified Theory 145
The aesthetic experience of Bhakti Rasa 151

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