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Frames of Creative Expression

Parul Pandya Dhar

By M.A. Dhaky
D.K. Printworld, New Delhi & American Institute of Indian Studies, 2005, pp. xix 490, Rs. 3600.00


M.A. Dhaky, known to the world of architectural historians as a major contributor to and editor of the Encyclopaedia of Indian Temple Architecture volumes continues to generate significant texts on art history. As in much of his earlier works, The Indian Temple Traceries reinforces the centrality of the art object and the language of artistic manifestation in art historical studies. This compactly written volume lays bare the subject of jala (traceries) in ancient and medieval Indian architecture, and also brings within its purview, the repertoire of Islamic screens and Gothic traceries.   Dhaky commences by locating the subject of traceries in a wider, more universal spatial and temporal context, and with remarkable clarity, comments upon the dynamics of this archi-tectural element with the intent, aesthetics, form, function, material, and style of the building of which the tracery forms an integral part. The field for an exposition of the jala as an architectural device having thus been laid, Dhaky embarks upon an incisive terminological and semantic interpretation of the term jala in textual traditions. He follows it up with the core as also the most technical portion of the book—an analysis of the jala in sastric and other textual traditions, and its relationship to extant material. He spans the range of text and practice to arrive at 16 broad classifications. Here the pan-Indian repertoire of jalas is juxtaposed with notices in primary texts such as Saiva Agamas, Saiva Kriya-granthas, Vaishnava Vaikhanasagamas, Jaina Samhita, and Vastusastras, several of them as yet unpublished. The classified categories thus arrived at are then understood in terms of their art historical development, in the process bringing to the fore formalistic, stylistic, aesthetic, functional, regional, creedal, as also socio-cultural factors.   The reader is struck as much by the logic of the theoretical constructs within which these jalas were created as also by the spaces for creative expression, which the sastric framework offers to the artist. By viewing holistically the processes of artistic creation, aesthetics, form, and function, the book also brings to the fore the unique nature of alankara (ornament) in Indian art. The manner in which the inner dynamics of artistic expression respond to various external stimuli is brilliantly yet subtly explicated by him. His methodology quite clearly evolves from an intimate familiarity with his material, rather than from any extraneous superimposition of theoretical constructs in an appliqué-like fashion. Early in the twentieth century, it ...

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