Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that is concerned with the nature of art and the criteria of artistic judgment. It deals with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty.
The word Aesthetic derives from the Greek aisthetikos, meaning “of sense perception.”.Aesthetics may be defined narrowly as the theory of beauty, or more broadly as that together with the philosophy of art.And scientifically it can be defined as the study of sensory or sensori-emotional values, sometimes called judgments of sentiment and taste.According to some modern thinkers like Immanuel Kant, F. W. Schelling, Benedetto Croce, and Ernst Cassirer have emphasized the creative and symbolic aspects of art.
Indian art mainly stresses on inducing special spiritual or philosophical states in the audience, or representation can be done symbolically. According to Kapila Vatsyayan, “Classical Indian architecture, sculpture, painting, literature (kāvya), music, and dancing evolved their own rules conditioned by their respective media, but they shared with one another not only the underlying spiritual beliefs of the Indian religio-philosophic mind, but also the procedures by which the relationships of the symbol and the spiritual states were worked out in detail.”
In the Pan Indian philosophic thought the term ‘Satyam Shivam Sundaram’ is another name for the concept of the Supreme. ‘Sat’ is the truth value, ‘Shiv’ is the good value & ‘Sundaram’ is the beauty value. Man through his ‘Srabana’ or education, ‘Manana’ or experience and conceptualization and ‘Sadhana’ or practice, through different stages of life (Asramas) comes to form and realize the idea of these three values to develop a value system. This Value-system helps us to develop two basic ideas 1) that of ‘Daksha’ or the adept/expert and 2) of Mahana/Parama or the Absolute and thus to judge anything in this universe in the light of these two measures, known as ‘Adarsha’. A person who has mastered great amounts of knowledge of the grammars, rules, & language of an art-form are adepts (Daksha), whereas those who have worked through the whole system and journeyed ahead of these to become a law unto themselves is called a Mahana. Individuals idea of ‘Daksha’ and ‘Mahana’ is relative to one’s development of the concept of ‘Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram.’ For example, Tagore’s idea of these two concepts should be way above any common man’s and many perceive Tagore as a ‘Mahana’ Artist in the realm of literature. This concept of Satyam-Shivam-Sundaram, a kind of Value Theory is the cornerstone of Indian Aesthetics.
Indian drama and literature are mainly concerned with the term ‘Bhava’ or the state of mind and rasa referring generally as the concept of aesthetic flavour, or an essential element of any work of art that can only be suggested, not described or crafted into the work by the writer and relished by a ‘sensitive spectator’ or sahṛdaya or one with positive taste and mind. Poets like Kalidasa were attentive to rasa, which blossomed into a fully developed aesthetic system. Even in contemporary India the term rasa denoting “flavor” or “essence” is used colloquially to describe the aesthetic experiences in films.
The theory of rasa is attributed to Bharata, a sage-priest who may have lived about ad 500. It was developed by the rhetorician and philosopher Abhinavagupta (c. ad 1000), who applied it to all varieties of theatre and poetry. The principal human feelings, according to Bharata, are delight, laughter, sorrow, anger, energy, fear, disgust, heroism, and astonishment, all of which may be recast in contemplative form as the various rasas: erotic, comic, pathetic, furious, heroic, terrible, odious, marvelous, and quietistic. These rasas comprise the components of aesthetic experience. The power to taste ‘rasa’ is a reward for merit in some previous existence.
Rasa, according to traditional definition, is thus the aesthetic experience of an artistically engendered emotions. At the level of the mundane or empirical Rasa cannot be experienced because it belongs to the world of art. Life provides the raw material, and actual experiences are the springboard for the artist, whose creation is unique and unlike anything in real life. Yet, like emotions in real life, aesthetic emotion too needs a cause. It too expresses itself through different shades of reactions, and it is built up through different shades of the dominant mood. There is a crucial difference, however, between actual emotion and the aesthetic one: while the cause and effects of worldly emotions are personal, thc aesthetic mood suggests the universal through stylized depiction. An important point to be noted is that rasasvada or the tasting of an aesthetic mood, is always pleasurable, regardless of the emotion portrayed. Therefore rasa is one, or ekarasa. The nine variants are based on the human responses to a situation.
The Natyashastra presents the aesthetic concepts of rasas and their associated bhavas in Chapters Six and Seven respectively, which appear to be independent of the work as a whole. Eight rasas and associated bhāvas are named and their enjoyment is likened to savoring a meal: rasa is the enjoyment of flavors that arise from the proper preparation of ingredients and the quality of ingredients. What rasa actually is, in a theoretical sense, is not discussed and given the Nātyashāstra’s pithy wording it is unlikely the exact understanding of the original author(s) will be known.
Abhinavagupta brought rasa theory to its most successful part in his separate commentaries on the Dhvanyaloka, the Dhvanyaloka-locana (translated by Ingalls, Masson and Patwardhan, 1992) and the Abhinavabharati, his commentary on the Nātyashāstra, portions of which are translated by Gnoli and Masson and Patwardhan. Abhinavagupta offers for the first time a technical definition of rasa which is the universal bliss of the Self or Atman colored by the emotional tone of a drama. Shānta-rasa functions as an equal member of the set of rasas but is simultaneously distinct being the most clear form of aesthetic bliss. Abhinavagupta likens it to the string of a jewelled necklace; while it may not be the most appealing for most people, it is the string that gives form to the necklace, allowing the jewels of the other eight rasas to be relished. Relishing the rasas and particularly shānta-rasa is hinted as being as-good-as but never-equal-to the bliss of Self-realization experienced by yogis. According to Ahhinava Gupta, who combined the best of aesthetics and philosophy within the Kashmir Shaivist framework, even though there is at times an objective consciousness, there is also a state of complete self-forgetfulness, since the subject is fully merged and absorbed in the objective factor. One who experiences this is infused with the throbbing pulsation of a mysterious and marvelous kind of enjoyment, which is uninterrupted, ceaseless, and replete with a feeling of sanety. I his is how Abhinava describes cbaznatkra, or wonder.
The nature of aesthetic experience has been pursued within the framework of recognized schools of philosophic thought, leading to a view that the state of being which art experiences evoked was a state akin to that of spiritual realization (Brahmãiumda sabodarah). The experience is not a phenomenal happening or a perception induced by cognitive processes operating in the empirical context, but one in which the mind finds full repose. The beautiful is the experiencing of any mental process at its most intense point.
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