Indian Aesthetics

JPM’s year-long postgraduate course in Indian Aesthetics (IA) is an ambitious, five thousand-year sweep of the field that delves deep into art history, archaeology, architecture, anthropology, literature, philosophy and visual culture to build an aesthetic and critical methodology to unpack Indian art. 

IA encompasses premodern, modern, and contemporary forms, as well as popular and folk traditions, to map the most significant areas of Indian aesthetics over roughly 5000 years. Indic philosophical systems and their transformations underpin the course, which starts by introducing students to principles of classical Indian aesthetics, the Sanskritic theories of Rasa and Dhvani, as well as the relations between form and content that generate artistic meaning.

Though the course uses art historical records and material remains, the aim is to uncover discursive meaning rather than just primary or explicit and secondary or implied understandings of texts and objects. Course scholars present current research and practice in the field, ensuring relevance and evolution of thought. Chronology and style are not emphasised as much as questions of “Why?” and “To what effect?”, which motivate the pedagogy.

After an archaeological and anthropological exploration of the Harappan civilisation, India’s finest scholars proceed to elucidate Buddhist art, its iconography and world view, through the earliest material remains and extant texts. Foundational notions of Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha, and the beginnings of narrative representation and cosmology traverse the realms of orthodox Theravada to complex Vajrayana. The course moves to an elaboration of Jain philosophy and art, recreating the biographies of the Jinas and the Jain cosmos through painted, sculpted, and textual images as well as the visual aesthetics of temples, both structural and excavated, providing a comprehensive understanding of this world view. 

Several lectures offer a thorough examination of the origin and lives of deities such as Shiva, Vishnu and Devi, moored  in the Vedic, Brahmanical and Puranic traditions. Examined through a wide range of seminal architectural, sculptural and other visual forms, the course ensures that students are familiarised with existing debates in the literature, addressing the problematics of theory, method, and practice as well as the contentious definition of masterpieces. Temple architecture and its readings include an analysis of the placement of icons and their esoteric meaning, exemplifying how ritual and iconography are often at the fulcrum of philosophical systems. Subsequent lectures relate the concept of Shakti to the Agamas and Tantras, texts often couched in a purposeful and mysterious language, to explicate the relationship between macrocosm and microcosm. Concepts such as Nada, Bindu  Kundalini Yoga, to name a few, are addressed.

The course then enters the world of Islamic aesthetics and takes a close look at the manifold artistic and architectural forms that were born of the intermingling of people, cultures and artistic traditions from the twelfth century onwards. Central themes include the centrality of the Word and Book, the difficulties of figural representation, descriptions of paradisical imagery, and the relationship between poetry and illustrations, such as in the so-called Sufi romances.

At this juncture, the focus shifts to painting across several genres, treating the hoary tradition of mural painting evidenced in the Ajanta caves, early Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts, and manuscripts produced with the introduction of paper and the veritable explosion of the Art of the Book. Both geographical space and historical time inhabit the realms of the indigenous Chaurapanchashika and Jain miniatures. The syncretic quality of the triadical Sultanate-Mughal-Deccan and its tremendous impact on “Rajput Painting” create a veritable  tapestry of a magical world, a key focus of this part of the course. The lasting impact of the Bhakti traditions, of the written word, which led to the creation of magnificent illustrated manuscripts and genre paintings such as Ragamala and Barahamasa are explored with care.

The Western aesthetic of the sublime, romantic and picturesque is considered through the work of European artists who created an archive of painting portraits, monuments and landscapes primarily for western consumption. We examine the response of Company artists to this new colonial appetite and type. The philosophical and critical backdrop of this colonial encounter is offered through a study of Edward Said’s concept of “Orientalism” as well as an examination of the aesthetic theories of Tagore and Aurobindo. Course lectures foray into printmaking during this period and take a close look at popular forms such as Kalighat paintings, wall murals of Shekhawati, and other modes of popular creativity. The course also examines the colonial interstices through formal analysis and critical theory, as exemplified in the understanding of the effect of technologies of mechanical reproduction on art production and consumption. The concluding lectures map nineteenth and twentieth century Indian architecture, where the stamp of coloniality is prominent, and move into the present with a brief encounter with the fields of modern and contemporary Indian art. The formidable sweep of the course exposes students to the diversity, richness, and incredible breadth of Indian aesthetics in its glorious multiplicity.

Reading is an important part of the course. Course Scholars have prepared synopses of their lectures and selected Required Reading for each session; this material is available on our online learning management portal, JPM Think.

Lecture Schedule

28 July 2018
1) Orientation
2) Classical Indian Aesthetics – Its Principles
- Dr. Rashmi Poddar

04 August 2018
History of Indian Aesthetics and its Theories
Abhinavagupta – His Yoga & Aesthetic Concerns
- Dr. Veena Londhe

11 August 2018
1) Form - Rhythm, Harmony, Iconometry, Materiality Line, Colour, Proportion
- Dr. Rashmi Poddar

17 August 2018
1) The Basics of Academic Writing 1
- Ms. Jaya Kanoria

18 August 2018
1) Content & Meaning – Subject Matter Iconography, Iconology Dhvani, Symbolism
- Dr. Rashmi Poddar

25 August 2018
1) Political-Cultural Background of India Harappan Civilisation
- Dr. Shereen Ratnagar

31 August 2018
1) The Basics of Academic Writing 2
- Ms. Jaya Kanoria

01 September 2018
1) Rasa Theory Content of Art Aesthetic Experience
- Dr. Rashmi Poddar


Karuna Rasa and Shanta Rasa – Compassion and Equanimity as Paradigms in Buddhism

08 September 2018
1) Buddha – Life, Events, and the 3 Bodies:  Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Nirmanakaya Dhamma – Early Buddhist Philosophy: The Noble Truths, Doctrine of Dependent Origination Sangha – Tripitakas and the Development of Viharas to Mahaviharas
- Dr. Supriya Rai

15 September 2018
1) Aniconic and Iconic: The Development of the Buddha Image and The Notions of Kingship and Sovereignty
2) The World of Compassion: Mahayana, Bodhisattvas and Prajnaparamita
- Dr. Leela Wood

22 September 2018
Vajrayana – The Tantric Arm of Buddhism:
1) Understanding Buddhist Tantra and its Practice in the Indo-Tibetan Sphere
2) Vajrayana: Text, Ritual and Architecture in the Political Sphere
- Ms. Swati Chemburkar


The Primacy of Vira Rasa or Heroic Forbearance in Jaina Thought

29 September 2018 - 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm
1) Jainism:  Philosophy and Art
2) Cave Architecture of the Victorious Ones
3) The Beginning: Rishabhnath As the Initiator of Change
4) Vir – The Hero as the Model of Ascetic: Krishna – Balarama as Prototype
- Dr. Viraj Shah

06 October 2018 - 12:00 noon to 5:00 pm
1) Nagas and Yakshas: Incorporating Human/Non-Human Heroes from Folk Fabric
2) The Great Hero: Vardhamana The Mahavira
3) Conquerors of Senses: Heroes of the Non-Material World
- Dr. Viraj Shah


Temple – Hallowed Space And Time

12 October 2018 - Friday 6 to 8 pm
1) Acculturation and Hybrid typologies for Worship in Bengal - From the 18th century to the Present
- Dr. Kamalika Bose

13 October  2018
1) From Bengal to Gujarat: Unexplored Dimensions in Jain Architecture and Aesthetics
a) Between Archaeology and Active Worship: Understanding Jain Architecture in Bengal
b) Between Defense and Faith: The Design of Medieval Jain Temples in Ahmedabad
- Dr. Kamalika Bose

20 October 2018
1) Evolution and Morphology of the Hindu Temple
- Dr. Pushkar Sohoni

27 October 2018
1) Maratha Temples
- Dr. Pushkar Sohoni

03 November 2018
1) Devi – Cosmic Charm of Vatsalya and Raudra  Origin, Legends, Icons, Sacred Spaces and Places
- Dr. Rashmi Poddar


17 November 2018
1) RudraShiva – The Erotic Ascetic Origin, Legends, Icons, Sacred Spaces and Places
- Dr. Kirit Mankodi


Aesthetics of Tantra – Expanding Consciousness

24 November 2018
1) Shakti
2) Agamas & Tantras – The New Mystic Revelations and the Mechanisms of a Novel Order
3) Nada and Bindu – Primal Seeds of Sound, Space & Energy: Emanation of Mantras and Yantras
4) Kundalini Yoga: The Released and Soaring Dormant Energy: Chakras as Points of Contact
- Dr. Rashmi Poddar

01 December 2018
1) Vishnu – The Encompassing Sustainer Origin, Legends, Icons, Sacred Spaces and Places
- Dr. Kirit Mankodi


Islamic Aesthetics:  In Praise of Aj’aib, The Wondrous

08 December 2018
1) The Endless Inventiveness of Islamic Art: Paradisiacal Imagery and Ornamentation as Forms of Expression Celebrating the Splendour and Beauty of Allah’s Creation 
2) Sufism- Mystical Path in Islam and its Expression in Art
- Ms. Smita Dalvi

15 December 2018
1) Architecture and Design as Manifestations of Faith and Environmental Quest for Beauty:
a)  Indo-Islamic Architecture – Sophisticated Urbanism
b)  Syncretic Themes in Indo-Islamic Architecture- A Case of Unique Absorption and Integration of Disparate Cultural Forms and Tradition
 - Ms. Smita Dalvi



The Poetics of Painting

19 January 2019
1) The Imperial Library of the Great Mughal: The Myriad Worlds of Biographic Pageantry, Realistic Portraiture and the Concern for Naturalism
2) The Eloquence of Illustrated Narratives in the Mughal Ateliers: Benchmarkers of Refinement and Sophistication
3) Sub-Imperial or Provincial Mughal: The Search, The Context
- Ms. Roda Ahluwalia

02 February 2019
1) The Sultans of the Deccan and their Artists: Scanning the Heights of Fantasy with a Direct Gaze and Rare Sensitivity
2) Lyrical Visions from the Hills – Pahari Painting and its Masters
- Ms. Roda Ahluwalia

09 February 2019
1) Ajanta Murals and Chitrasutra of the Vishnu Dharmottara Purana
- Dr. Leela Wood

16 February 2019
1) Collection of Leaves – The Dignity of Measured Rhythmic Tread in Early Jain and Buddhist Manuscripts
2) The Courtly Bibliographic Tradition in the Sultanate Period:
a) Timurid and Persian Links.
b) The Indigenous Chaurapanchashika
- Dr. Leela Wood


Krishna Shringara The Many Manifestations and Meanings of Krishna’s Love

23 February 2019
1) Origins of the Amorous – From Gathasaptashati to Tamil Bhakti Poetry to Gita Govinda
2) In Braj Country with Vallabhacharya, Narsimha Mehta and Chaitanya
- Dr. Harsha Dehejia

02 March 2019
1) Texts and Genre Paintings in Bhashas and Popular Art – Rasikapriya, Barahamasa and Ragamala
2)  Centres of Devotion – Temples at Nathadwara, Pandharpur and Puri
- Dr. Harsha Dehejia


The Interplay of Colonialism and Nationalism

09 March 2019
1) Introduction to Print Making: Early Archaeology in India – Ferguson & Curzon
- Dr. Pheroza Godrej


Modern and Contemporary Architectural Practices


16 MARCH 2019

1) Colonial Modernity, Nationalism and Everyday Space                                          

- Dr. Himanshu Burte


23 MARCH 2019

1) The Spaces of Postcolonial Modernities         

- Dr. Himanshu Burte


The Interplay of Colonialism and Nationalism


30 MARCH 2019

1) Dark Art History

a) Gadhegals: Punishing men by degrading women

b) The Grotesque in Indian Art                                         

- Dr. Kurush Dalal


13 APRIL 2019

1) Indian Aesthetics in the Early 20th century – The art and thought of Rabindranath Tagore

2) The Art of Nandalal Bose – A Vision for a New Nation      

- Dr. Jaya Kanoria & Mr. Robin Dean    


20 APRIL 2019

1) Orientalism                      

- Mr. Rohit Goel


27 APRIL 2019

1) Monument of Modernity: The Colonial Market Hall                                   

- Dr. Pushkar Sohoni         

Timing: 1.30 - 5.30 pm

EligibilityGraduation Degree

Admission Requirements: 

  • A copy of your last degree certificate
  • Your CV
  • Two passport-sized photographs


01 Jul 2018 - 30 Apr 2019


Rs. 35,000
(PG Diploma)
Rs. 25,000
(PG Certificate)

Registrations Closed