The event commenced on time at the Red Couch venue with an introductory address by Lucy Nelson followed by an extensive talk by Dr. Alka Pande (famous Indian academic and museum curator). Dr. Pande spoke about her literary safari over the years absorbing the need to explore deeper into Indian history of aesthetics with respect to the depiction of bodies to represent different cultures in the country, instead of tailing behind the western vestiges. Alka elaborated on her use of ekphrasis to cover the historical journey of sensuality in female bodies and their portrayal in Indian art. She talked about her latest book “Body Sutra” which traces the human form through art and imagination.
The famous curator spent 5 years of her life culminating the arguments for this vivid and enthralling expedition about Indian aesthetics of sensuality and form. In the most subtle manner possible she covers the chronological development of ekphrasis in the country. She rendered her perspective on the gender-fluid contemporary India and also enlightened the audience about various cultures, time period, and their approach towards the sensuality of the human body. She looked upon the framework that works behind the pre-modern body, medieval body, modern body as well as the contemporary body. Alka then emitted her expertise about various vestiges of Indian culture and dynamic approaches to a women’s body. She enlightened Lucy about the contradictory muses between western verisimilitudes and Indian version of sensuality which mainly deals with Shringar and Vilas. According to Alka, the concepts of body sutra are mainly inspired by ancient Rasa theories and Natya Shastras. In her book, she mentions about a lot of historical sculptures and monuments which depict the sensuous body of goddesses as well as other women. Her understanding of symbolism in Indian art is beautiful as she goes on to explain the Indian body where she talks about imagery portraying them with pendulous breasts, extremely cervical hips, curled flicks and Mukulas which are eyes formed in the shape of a lotus. This extremely alluring mannerism of women portrayal can be witnessed in a lot of Indian historical venues like Ajanta Caves and Khajuraho group of monuments. The nakedness portrayed in these sculptures refers to the spiritual element of society much more than the commodification aspect. She used a lot of mythological analogy to draw home her point regarding body sensuality. She talked about Arthanareshwar who symbolizes the body of Shiv Shakti, philosophies of Buddha and different portrayals of goddess Kali who is one of the fiercest goddesses in Indian mythology.
Dr. Alka explained the aesthetics of the human body and form with respect to her latest book “Body Sutra” in the most subtle manner possible, covering the details of the human body from wide-hipped, voluptuous woman that is Yakshi to her cover for the book which represents a sculpture of goddess Parvati (currently in Los Angeles county museum). This session provided extensive insight into the dynamics of body depictions and portrayals of the human form as a whole, led by the genius of Dr. Alka which paved a new platform for understanding of self and identity in respect to Indian culture.
About the Author: Abhinav Kumar is an MA in English with Communication Studies student from CHRIST ( Deemed To Be University), Bengaluru who believes in “No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world”. He is interested in sports journalism and travelogue writing. He currently writes for TheSeer.