Aesthetics – Vedic and Classical

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

The Vedic Rßis of yore knew that the world of Nature, like God, was formless and hence devoid of Beauty. In order that it may be loved and appreciated, and even worshipped, they gave Nature a form and that form was the female form. Thus the Vedas describe Nature in lovely terms. The Vedas say that women are, by nature, blessed with beauty. They also point out the beauty added to the goodness by their hair-style, garments, and ornaments (Kēśa, vasana, ĀbharaÐa. See for instance, Jyāyēva patyā uśati suvāsā Rg-Vēda X.71.4).

There are descriptions of hair-styles. There are references to ornaments made of gold and silver. These have a rare, vēdāntic base. Beauty has a way of attracting the beholder’s attention wherever it is found. This is but natural. In later literature, Beauty is said to give rise to transcendental Bliss: RamaÐīyatā ca lōkōttarāhlāda-janaka jñāna-gocaratā (Rasa-Gaïgādhara I.1) Hence the Vedas tell God: You are a wonderful Truth.” The word “Wonderful” occurs in many places. We speak of God as TRUTH. We also speak of God as BEAUTY:

Satyaì, Śivaì, Sundaraì”

The Vēdas speak of the sacrificial altar as having four hair buns.

It is thus customary for devotees and poets to speak of God on an aesthetic basis and in aesthetic terms: “Kaviì kavīnāì…”

In God VißÐu’s incarnation as K®ßÐa, Beauty plays a dominant role. Rukmini fell in love with K®ßÐa because he was handsome. In the Rāsalīlā, the Gōpikās say that they were attracted to K®ßÐa by his beauty. Divinity that is invoked by questions, sacrificial offerings or Māntric meditations can also be invoked through beauty.

Since time immemorial, aesthetics has been having (has had) a history of creating a feeling for Beauty in literature, divine images, temple or individual houses, palaces and so forth. Decorating the images of gods creates a sense of Beauty in our hearts. In Tirupathi, for instance, it is the Beauty of the well-ornamented God that puts the devotee in an ecstatic and devout mood.

In Classical Indian literature, Beauty is inseparable from poetry:

Pratīyamānam punar-anyad-ēva vastv-asti vāÐīßu mahākavīnāì |
Yat-tat-prasiddhāvayavātiriktaì vibhāti lāvaÐyaì-ivāïganāsu ||

There is something, which appears to be totally different from the articulated words of great poets and it shines like the grace which transcends the beauty of each and every famous limb of the physical frames of lovely women.