Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Base notes - Reflections on beauty as an element of aesthetics - Shanta Serbjeet Singh

Some months ago I was in Chennai.  I was heading for a cultural program in a city auditorium.  Suddenly, the car that I was travelling in braked, the busy traffic ahead of us slowed down.  Then it started to re-align, following the directions of the young man standing in the middle of road, waving his hands, directing the traffic to the left and right of the central obstruction.  And what could that be, I wondered, since I could see no truck or bus or an identifiable road block.   But soon I noticed what it was that the young man was ‘protecting’--   a huge kolam being drawn in the middle of the road, its abstract circular design being deftly filled in with rice flour and organic colours.  A group of women were bent over the pattern,  saris tucked knee-high, hands busy  giving final touches to the design.  A narrow swathe of tarmaced road on either side was being left free, to let people to go about their daily business.
But for those involved in this ritual of making art on a busy, city road, this was what the  business of life was all about.  It was an expression of an individual’s inner need to make art, a process that begins alone but becomes true for all those who are engaged in it, even  for those of us who were just looking. Suddenly it was a common endeavour, for an auspicious purpose, to mark the annual festival that night of the Kapaleeswarar temple, towering over the scene at a stone’s throw distance, offering a tryst with both beauty and art as we all chose to perceive it.  For me it was a validation of the classical core of Indian aesthetics, satyam, shivam, sundaram, that which is truthful, that which is auspicious and that which is beautiful. 

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