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C. Sivaramamurti

AN EARLY DOCUMENT OF INDIAN ART: THE CITRALAKSANA
By Nagnajit . Translated and introduced by Dr. B.N. Goswami & Dr. A.L. Dahmen Dallapicolla 
Manohar Publications, New Delhi, 1976, Price Not Stated

VOLUME II NUMBER 3 May-June 1977

Laufer’s German version of the Citralaksana has no doubt been long known to the world of connoisseurs of Indian art. Coomaraswamy, Masson Oursel, Kramrisch and other great writers have indeed used this important document which was recovered from Tibetan, the Sanskrit original having been lost quite long ago. Yet effective use of this text has not been possible for all these years even after the German version was made available over sixty years ago. Scholars in the field of Indian art can not therefore adequately thank the authors of this English version which at once makes the text also available for effective use. This Citralaksana is an early text to be distinguished from Srikumara's Citralaksana, a chapter of his Silparatna, a sixteenth century work on Indian art from Kerala. This earlier text of Citralaksana appears rather out of context in the Tibetan Tanjur, though the latter is an integrated part of the larger text, the whole of which is on art. It is fortunate, again, that all possibility of confusion of these two texts has been made impossible by the almost simul­taneous appearance of a translation of this late text by Dr. Asok K. Bhattacharya. Though quoted in Bhattotpala's commentary on the Brhatsamhita, Citra­laksana has remained obscure as the Sanskrit original was lost and the German translation could not reach a larger group of scholars unacquainted with the language. The present edition has there­fore come as a boon to shed light on notions of Indian art in the early stages of its historical development. An impor­tant element here is the version of the tradition of the origin of Citra or painting. The story of infusing life into a picture drawn is a vital element in folk tales as in a folk version of the Ramayana where Surpanakha draws and infuses life into Ravana's portrait to spite Sita, though she could not succeed beyond embarras­sing her, as Ramarajya or the rule of Rama could put down all evil. The story here is of a dead drahman boy brought back to life from a handsome picture drawn by the righteous king who fought and overcame even Yama and almost embarrassed the celestials into coercing Brahma to infuse life into that first ever drawn picture. The king later effectively learnt the distinguishing features of Citra, the measurements principally. The text of Citralaksana is mainly on the measurements ...


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