An Introduction to Indian Art and Culture – 3

There was a super-abundant vitality and vigour in her richness of creation in this age. Kingdoms and empires flourish, trade, systems of politics and administration, communities and social orders, laws and codes for every area of life, medicine, astronomy, mathematics and the sciences, poetry, drama and the arts thrive, palaces, monuments and  temples built…..she creates and creates and is not satisfied with her creation, there was hardly any period of inertia or rest in her history of more than three thousand millenia. [Indeed, if she was deficient in anything, it was in the recording of her history! A very large part of what she had discovered was never written down and a large part of what was written has since been lost.] She is not confined to her borders, she expands too outside, her ships cross the oceans and her wealth brims over to Egypt and Rome, the traces of her arts and epics are found in the sands of  Mesopotamia, her religions conquer China and Japan, the sayings of the Upanishads and Buddhists are reechoed on the lips of Christ.

In this classical age, her chief impulse was that of order and arrangement, but an order and arrangement based on the inner law and truth of each activity and always with the possibility of faithful practice on a practical level. It was (predominantly) an age of the Dharma and Shastra.

Indian culture placed an extraordinary importance on the Spirit but this does not mean that it did not care for the human life or its hopes, aspirations and satisfactions. Matter, mind, life are valuable not for their own sakes but because they are powers of the spirit. This does not mean that it did not concede any reality to life or to human existence. On the contrary, this view is much more inspiring and enobling to the effort of man, since it increases its significance a thousand-fold. The life of the body has an immense significance if it is felt to be instinct with the workings of the Spirit. Human life is no unworthy existence; it is said in the Puranas, that even the gods in heaven desire it. It it because of the vast potentials that exist in human beings. He is seen as an eternal, inextinguishable, dynamic spark and portion of the Divine, capable of developing his nature and powers of the mind (through its thought and illuminations), heart (through its power of unlimited love), ethical nature (through its hunger for the universal Good), aesthetic nature (through its seeking after beauty and delights), will and drive, and soul (through its capacity for unendless calm, peace, wideness and joy)  to become a power greater than what he is now, to become consciously one with the Supreme, to become one with others, one with all beings. Immortality, freedom and Divinity are within his grasp. This then has been the high aim of this culture and to this end, the thinkers of the society, built a double system, unique in its kind, to base the life of the individual in a social frame – four Varnas and the four Asramas – four graded classes of society and four successive stages of a developing human life. The system took the natural life of man, and while allowing it sufficient variety and freedom of movement and allowing for its satisfactions also subjected it to a law, a Dharma, a code of conduct.

contd..

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