Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘7(f): Personification Created by Painting in Portrait’ 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.

7(f): Personification Created by Painting in Portrait

[Full title: 3.7: Different Kinds of Portrait used in Painting (citra) (f): Personification Created by Painting in Portrait]

Personification is one of the most popular and frequently used techniques among the artist through which an object or an abstract idea is portrayed as a living being. Sanskrit literature bears a bundle of example of personification portrayed by different poets. In Sanskrit, the figure of speech called Samāsokti is used to denote the ways of personification.[1] In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the technique of personification is seen to be used in the context of Painting also. The rules of representing the pictures of some non living things through personification are nicely described in this work. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, rivers are shown in a picture through human forms along with their vehicles, bent knees and carrying some pitchers filled with water.[2] It reminds of the conversation of the rivers Tamasā and Muralā in the third act of the Uttararāmacarita. Similarly, islands, mountains, oceans, seas can also be personified. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa the Mountains should have hands in the form of peaks.[3]

In the Kumārasambhava, the Himālaya is personified as the lord of mountain[4] and the father of Pārvatī.[5] But in the Kumārasambhava, the peaks of mountain Himālaya are not described as the hands of the mountain as said in the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the oceans should be personified and the picture of the ocean should contain a jewel-vessel and should be shown partially with the signs of weapon in hands.[6]

Footnotes and references:


samāsoktiḥ samairyatra kāryaliṅgaviśeṣaṇaiḥ/ vyavahārasamāropaḥ prastute’nyasya vastunaḥ/ Sāhityadarpaṇa, 10.56


saritāṃ saśarīrāṇāṃ vāhanāni pradarśayet/ pūrṇakumbhakarāḥ kāryāstathā nāmitajānavaḥ/ Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.42.51


…….rājaṃstathā śikharapāṇayaḥ/ Ibid., 3.42.53


astyuttarasyāṃ diśi devatātmā himālayo nāma nagādhirājaḥ/ Kumārasambhava, 1.1


athāvamānena pituḥ prayuktā dakṣasya kanyā bhavapūrvapatnī/ satī satī yogavisṛṣṭadehā tāṃ janmane śailavadhūṃ prapede// Ibid., 1.21


ratnapātrakarāḥ kāryāḥ sāgarā manujottama/ samudrāṇāṃ prabhāsthāne salilaṃ tu pradarśayet/ āyudhānāṃ ca taccihnaṃ kiñcinmūrdhani darśayet// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.42.53-54

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