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Indian Art

Karl Khandalwala

By Vidya Dehejia
Publication Division, 1978, Rs. 40.00

VOLUME III NUMBER 4 January/February 1979

Vidya Dehejia who has published two important books, Early Buddhist Rock Temples (1972) and Early Stone Temples of Orissa 91978), is a dedicated scholar of Indian art. But in the present publication she steps down from the high pedestal of specialized scholarship to perform what is a very important task, that of interesting the man in the street in our great heritage. She has set about it in the right way. There has been a realization that if Indian art is to be introduced to beginners in the form of a text book on history from Mohenjadaro to the Taj Mahal, it will be just another case of cramming dates and events learnt in the senior classes of school and forgotten even before entering college, with the added risk of engendering an aversion for the subject so taught in young readers. The author has therefore chosen thirteen varied themes and written brief and simply-worded essays thereon, each one illustrated so that there are as many as seventy-two monochrome reproductions in the book. It is now coming to be re­cognized that the visual method of impart­ing knowledge cannot be bettered. A lecture by itself may fail to hold the at­tention of the audience but the same ­lecture with sides may prove quite fascina­ting. The author has mentioned a few differing view-points held by writers on Indian art but has avoided the pitfall of entering into a controversy. Perhaps to Vidya Dehejia, and others of our class the date of the great Kushan emperor, Kani­shka, would provide a veritable battle­ground but what does it matter to the lay reader whether Kanishka began his reign in 78 A.D. or 128 A.D. or 144 A.D. Some years ago a great seminar was held on Kanishha's date and many eminent scho­lars participated but to quote Ornar Khayyam, no one came out of the seminar any wiser than when he went in. But to know what Kanishha achieved, be it in the first or in the second century A.D, is indeed important. The very variety of the themes dealt with helps to maintain interest and their choice enables a lay reader to have a bird's eye view of some notable facets of Indian art with a sense of enjoyment. The review­er's approach to the book was to become a senior form school boy again with Vidya as the teacher ...

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