Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘Preface’ of the study on the elements of Art and Architecture according to the Vishnudharmottara Purana: an ancient text whose third book deals with various artisan themes such as Architecture, Painting, Dance, Grammar, etc. Many chapters are devoted to Hindu Temple architecture and the iconography of Deities and their installation rites and ceremonies.

Since my childhood, I have remained very much fascinated towards Dance, Drama, Music and Painting. Though I do not have any formal training, I have great interest on these art forms and I love to practise those at my home. My former guide Professor Shrutidhara Chakravarty unfortunately who, because of her poor physical condition could not continue the project, knew my interest and in the very beginning of my course she introduced the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa to me. I became very much excited to do my research on this precious work as the third part of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa is totally dedicated to different Art forms. By the time I decided to work in this field, I was handed over to Professor Sudeshna Bhattacharjya by my earlier supervisor, who gave constant to continue my research on the same treatise. With discussion and deliberation with my new guide, I decided to take up my research on different Art forms and Architecture found in the third part of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa along with the modern relevance of those.

In Indian literature Purāṇas are regarded as the repository of great knowledge as those contain various aspects of knowledge. Though the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa is a great storehouse of knowledge and it is encyclopedic in nature, this work does not get much attention that it deserves. Even this work is not included in the list of eighteen Mahāpurāṇas and eighteen Upapurāṇas. Moreover, a comprehensive study on this work is still lacking. Only a few translated versions of this work have been found which cannot be considered, as I think research oriented works. The English translation of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, third part by Priyabala Shah, the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, part III Treatise on Indian Painting and Image-Making Primary Source Edition by Stella Kramrisch and a Hindi Translation of the work Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa by Sri Kapildeva Narayana are remarkable works in this regard. All these three works have their limited jurisdiction. Therefore, a humble attempt is made in this thesis to present an elaborate and detailed discussion on various art forms and architecture found in the third part of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa along with their modern relevance.

Altogether the thesis is divided into seven chapters including Introduction and Conclusion. The Introduction provides a general idea on the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa and on the aspects of the present study. The second chapter deals with the popular kind of art form called Music in the light of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa. The third chapter consists of two prominent forms of performing art viz. Drama and Dance. The fourth chapter deals with the architecture of Hindu temples of Indian Territory as found in the third part of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa. Here, a detailed account of the construction of the temples, their specialties, merits and demerits of the construction have been taken for discussion. The fifth chapter contains different varieties of paintings, their characteristics, application of different colours in painting etc. Moreover, the making of idols of various gods and goddesses, as found in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa has also been taken for discussion in this chapter. The sixth chapter discusses the art forms and architecture in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa with various dimensions. The principal theme of this chapter is to bring out the modern relevance of the art forms discussed in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa. In the seventh chapter, being based on the discussions made in the previous chapters, a concluding remark has been annexed.

It is the result of my academic pursuit for the last three years under the guidance of my revered preceptor, Prof. Sudeshna Bhattacharjya. I shall feel amply rewarded if the work could raise some interest to the readers. Lastly, I must admit that in spite of my utmost care, there may be some mistakes and shortcomings in my exposition and interpretation.

Bhagyashree Sarma


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