To propose to write a Preface to a book on Indian Art by the late Shri C. Sivaramamurti is like undertaking to gild the lily. Indian art had perhaps never seen, after Ananda Kumaraswami, an art historian of the caliber and exemplary involvement in the rasa or essence of the gamuts of that art, like sculpture, painting and bronzes, as of Sivaramamurti. His whole being was saturated with the ethos of Indian cultural heritage, of which the superb mastery over the classical Sanskrit literature was no mean a part. He wrote copiously and wrote brilliantly, striding the centuries of art creations, across the corridors of its regional inflexions and, in the process, wrote his name as well in the Hall of Fame. Sivaramamurti's main strength and technique lay in quoting close and winsome parallels. Between art creations, literature and coeval epigraphical data. In such a way that the integrated textures of the cultured society of India's past lay revealed to us at talking distance. Another flair of his - one born out of his own considerable artistic gift of painting, sketching and sculpting - was to endow his descriptions and notes with an aesthetic high point, which comes only out of an experience of the nuances of creative art. Often, he added line-drawing illustrations - many of which will be found reproduced in the book under reference here - of his own to his articles and books which have the capacity of summing up, in the few vital strokes and details he gave, the real flavour of the original and its stylistic content. It is needless to add that all this was equally the sequel at various stages to the years of curatorial and supervisory work as the Officer-in-charge and Head respectively that he had put in, first at the Government Museum, Madras, then at the Indian Museum New Delhi. His was a mind - steeped as it was in the religious lore of India from the Vedic times in a traditional kaleidoscopic pattern - which virtually participated in the bhava of all schools of art on a pan-Indian basis as if he was a contemporary witness, and his close familiarity with Tamil and Telugu alike made this even more comprehensive and diversified.
The student sand scholars of the mediaeval art of painting of the Vijayanagara and Nayaka times - the subject matter of the book under release - should be deeply grateful for this highly satisfying rendering of the highlights of the art of the period - in the realm of mural paintings. Fully realizing that this art was not suddenly born but as the end-product of several important stages of sculpture and fine arts of the time of the Satavahanas, Pallavas, Pandyas, Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Hoysalas, he has done well to cover the illuminating galaxy of these traditions as the fitting background to the study of Vijayanagara paintings. He has drawn from a wide-ranging vista of mural creations in several parts of the far-flung Vijayanagara empire and brought out the variety, grandeur, authentic familiarity with religious lore, and last but not the least, the technical competence of the artist guilds who had chosen to display them on the walls of the temples for the edifications of the worshippers and visitors, mostly drawn from common folks who were them-selves inured to those traditions for centuries. His chapterisations are practical, his wealth of data quite characteristic of his prodigious mind, and the choice selections of illustrations compiled by him truly panoramic.
Sivaramamurti, in his lifetime, always responded to the activities of young scholars and old, readily contributing an appreciative preface to their works. In the rebound, it had become my fortunate task, to add a preface to one of his own volumes-which by its very nature and the untimely demise of this great savant - is a memorial tribute of mine, as well. I should indeed thank the Publications Division, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting for having taken great pains in undertaking the work, despite several obstacles and also in having entrusted to me this enjoyable and significant task of a prefatory appreciation. The book is bound to be well received by all ardent scholars of Vijayanagara art whose nuances and grand dimensions and ramifications during and after that period in the Nayaka times have been delineated in a thorough manner, perhaps for the first time. The copious illustrations certainly form an adequately attractive and valuable part of the book and several of the centers described like Tiruppudaimarudur and Tiruvalanjuli, noticed here and there in recent times, have received their worthy recognition and historical importance, for the first time authentically in this book. Sivaramamurti's voluminous contribution to the art of India have added another lustrous gem to their composition in this work, and one of the later phases of the Mediaeval art repertory of India has been presented in all its variety, grandeur and inner spiritual resplendence. The publishers and those who helped the book through the press are to be duly congratulated for the definitive production they have brought out which will serve as a beacon-light on the Vijayanagara mural art for young scholars.
From the Jacket
It is a book which is an expression of the knowledge. Experience and personality of the author as a scholar. As a lover of art and as a museum man teaching art of his own land.
This book is sure to be well received by all ardent scholars of Vijayanagara art whose nuances and great dimensions during and after that period in the Nayaka times have been delineated in a thorough manner, perhaps for the first time.
Both laymen and scholars will find VIJAYANAGARA PAINTINGS a valuable aid to the understanding of Indian iconography.
Sri Calambur Sivaramamurti. whose sudden passing away was recently condoled widely in India and abroad was a typical product of a traditional oriental South Indian conservative extraction imbued with a significant academic equipment and apparatus of occidental analytical perceptions.
Born in 1911 to the heritage of Appayya Dikshita - the polymath of the 17th century Tamilnadu - he received his post-Graduate degree in Sanskrit, standing I Class first, from the Presidency College, Madras and was the student of the illustrious and revered Professor, Mahamahopadhyaya Dr. Pandit Kuppuswami Sastri, Vidya-Vachaspati. Showing an early flair for sketching and sculpting and a depth of knowledge in traditional Sanskrit lore, he soon inevitably gravitated towards the Government Museum, Madras, then a great center of cultural and archaeological studies under the headmanship of Dr. Gravely. One of his early outstanding works in that institution was his study of the Art of Amaravati, and many similar studies were to follow from his facile pen. Joining in a few years' time the Archacological Survey of India, as the Officer in charge of its Museum branch at Calcutta in the Indian Museum, another celebrated center of Indological studies, he was soon to be owned by his learned contemporaries. Dr. Jitendranath Banerjee, Dr. Sunitikumar Chatterjee and others. A regular stream of studies on several regional Schools of Indian Art followed, besides a well-documented treatment of Indian Epigraphy. During that period, he was deputed by the Government of India as a member of a Cultural Mission to Indonesia, and as a result emerged a masterly presentation on the Art of Borobudur, later published in France. The next obvious shift for him was to the National Museum, Delhi, which he adorned with great distinction as its Chief, for more than a decade.
A scholar of truly international renown, no major Seminar on Indian art anywhere in the world was complete without the dignified and amiable presence of Sivaramamurti. He was decorated with PADMA BHUSHAN by the Government of India. His treatment of wide-Rudriya, Sri Laksmi and Ganga to Rishis of the past, had been fundamental, original and penetrative contribution on the many-sided creative activities and integrative characteristic of the ancient Indian cultural and social fabric. Possibly his most brilliant work which he did under his Jawahar Lal Nehru Fellowship, was on NATARAJA in INDIAN ART, which attracted an UNESCO award of recognition. A copious writer and dedicated exponent of Indian regional Art schools and his own name alike, household names, in the process.
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