Vishnudharmottara Purana (Art and Architecture)

by Bhagyashree Sarma | 2021 | 59,457 words

This page relates ‘7(h): Connection of Sentiments with the Paintings’ 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(h): Connection of Sentiments with the Paintings

[Full title: 3.7: Different Kinds of Portrait used in Painting (citra) (h): Connection of Sentiments with the Paintings]

It has already been stated that Painting is a medium of showing the inner feelings and emotions of a painter which can strikes the inherent sentiments of connoisseur’s mind. Through a Painting, a painter is seen to express different sentiments. That is why bhāva i.e., exposition of feeling is included under the six limbs of Painting.

According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa nine kinds of sentiments are reflected through Paintings and these are termed as citrarasas in this work.

These nine kinds of citrarasas are

  1. Śṛṅgāra i.e., erotic,
  2. Hāsya i.e., humour,
  3. Karuṇa i.e., pathos,
  4. Raudra i.e., furious,
  5. Vīra i.e., heroic,
  6. Bhayānaka i.e., terrible,
  7. Adbhuta i.e., wonder,
  8. Bībhatsa i.e., odious and
  9. Śānta i.e., quietism.[1]

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the nine kāvyarasas have been associated with different types of Paintings. The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa says that in a Painting the charming dress and ornaments with splendor and luster, expresses the erotic sentiment.[2] The point to be noted here is that when a poet imagines a character, he paints that character with a justifying appearance in his mind before discovering the form. So, it can be said that the poets can be regarded as great painters. Sanskrit poets like Kālidāsa, Bhavabhuti etc. are masters in portraying characters with the power of strong and beautiful visualization. But in the context of delineation of erotic sentiment in Painting, the opinion of the Sanskrit poets are seen to be different from the viewpoint of the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa.

The Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa gives emphasis on charming and beautiful attire and ornaments in the projection of a picture of erotic sentiment which obviously points the outer appearance of a character. But on the other hand Kālidāsa, establishes the character of Śakuntalā with her ordinary attire made of barks and with ornaments of flowers in the Abhijñānaśakuntala, where the erotic sentiment is the pre dominant one. This can inspire a painter to draw the love episode of Duṣyanta and Śakuntalā to project the sentiment of love even with simple attire. In this context, the inner beauty as well as the purity of the love of Śakuntalā and Duṣyanta help the viewer to relish the sentiment of love.

According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, hāsya i.e., the sentiment of humour is reflected through the Painting of a person who is hunchback, dwarfish and somewhat deformed in appearance.[3] The Karuṇarasa i.e., the pathetic sentiment is reflected through a Painting in which a painter creates pathos on the basis of the actions projecting begging, separation, calamity, compassion etc. According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, the Roudrarasa is delineated with harshness, passion and anger in a picture. Moreover, to draw a picture which reflects Roudrarasa, the painter should paint flashing weapons and bright ornaments.[4] In a picture, Vīrarasa i.e., heroism can be reflected through the display of prowess along with a noble look of promise and firmness of the person drawn in the picture.

According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, sometimes heroism can be shown with raised eyebrows also.[5] According to the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, Bhayānakarasa can be manifested in a Painting through the portrayal of wicked or terrible looking persons engaged in crazy and violent activities.[6] It can be deduced that if a painter paints the picture of the scene of abduction of Sītā by Rāvaṇa as described in the 49th chapter of the Araṇyakāṇḍa of the Rāmāyaṇa, it would definitely reflect the sentiment of fear. The Bībhatsarasa is reflected through the Painting having places like burial site or having the terrible scene of killing.[7]

In the Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa it is said that the Adbhutarasa is manifested through the picture of submissive face of tārkṣya which is an epithet of Garuḍa[8] and it generates horripilation.[9] The Śāntarasa is depicted through the picture of the ascetic people sitting in Yogic posture or meditation.[10] A point to be noted here is that though the delineation of the Śāntarasa is not accepted in Sanskrit drama, drama being all about action, a painter can execute this sentiment very nicely in a Painting as because Painting is a steel medium of expressing the feelings. That is why Śāntarasa is seen to be included in the list of nine citrarasas. If a painter paints a picture of lord Śiva in his meditative situation as described in the 3rd canto of the Kumārasambhava, it would definitely reflect the sentiment of peace.[11]

Footnotes and references:


śṛṅgārahāsakaruṇavīraraudrabhayānakāḥ/ bībhatsādbhutaśāntāśca nava citrarasāḥ smṛtāḥ// Ibid., 3.43.1


tatra yatkāntilāvaṇyalekhāmādhuryasundaram/ vidagdhaveśābharaṇaṃ śṛṅgāre tu rase bhavet// Ibid., 3.43.2


yatkubjavāmanaprāyamīṣadvikaṭadarśanam/ vṛthā ca hastaṃ saṃkocya tatsyāddhāsyakaraṃ rase// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.43.3


pāruṣyavikṛtikrodhaviṣastyarthā na dūṣaṇam/ dīptaśastrābharaṇavatkṛtaṃ raudrarase bhavet// Ibid.,3.43.5


pratijñāgarbhaśauryādiṣvartheṣvau dāryadarśanam/ sasmayaṃ sabhrukuṭivadvīraṃ vīrarase’dbhutam// Ibid.,3.43.6


duṣṭadurdarśanonmattahiṃsravyāpārakādi yat/ tatsyādbhayānakarase prayoge citrakarmaṇaḥ// Ibid.,3.43.7


śmasānagarhitaṃ ghātakaraṇaṃ sthānadāruṇam/ yaccitraṃ citravacchreṣṭhaṃ tadvibhatsarase bhavet// Ibid.,3.43.8


Monier Monier Williams, A Sanskrit-English Dictionary, p.444


yadā vinītaromāñcacintāṃ tārkṣyamukhānatam/ pradarśayati cānyo’nyaṃ tadadbhutarasāśrayam// Viṣṇudharmottarapurāṇa, 3.43.9


yadyatsaumyākṛtidhyānadhāraṇāsanabandhanam/ tapasvijanabhūyiṣṭhaṃ tattu śānte rase bhavet// Ibid.,3.43.10


mano navadvāraniṣiddhavṛttiṃ hṛdi vyavasthāpya samādhivaśyam/ yamakṣaraṃ kṣetravido vidustamātmānamātmanyavalokayantam// Kumārasambhava, 3.50

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