Art, Cosmology and the Divine | Part V

Main photo (above) is a Basohli illustration to the Gita Govinda, ‘Hail, Keshava, Hail! Ruler of Wave and Wood!’, c.1730

The penultimate part of this six-part series (Read earlier parts: Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV) in which distinguished scientist, academic and Vedic scholar Subhash Kak shows how traditional Indian art is not only aesthetically sublime, but is a reflection of the cosmos and of the Divine itself. In Part V we see how the stories of Krishna, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, reflect a harmony between materiality and spirit.

Part V: Krishna’s dance

Krishna, the divine flute player



Read this article in the LivingWise Project Digest.




Read Part I: Introduction
Read part II: General equivalences
Read Part III: Temples and Gods
Read Part IV: Churning of the ocean
Read Part VI: Indian aesthetic in an age of war

India’s Intellectuals Vs. Vedanta – a gap that needs bridging

by David Frawley

India, for centuries, has had one of the most rigorous, profound and insightful intellectual traditions in the world, the great system of Vedanta. Vedanta was the basis of the training for many of the greatest minds of India from ancient to modern times, from Krishna to Shankara to Swami Vivekananda.

Yet Vedanta is more than a mere conceptual intellectual tradition, such as we find in the West, caught in an outer view of reality, it is a way of meditative knowledge designed to lead us step-by-step beyond the mind and its opinions to a higher truth not limited by time, space or person.

Unfortunately, few Indian intellectuals today seriously study Vedanta, particularly those who claim to be modern. They prefer to imitate more popular but less profound systems of Western thought, which focus on outer sociopolitical views of life and seldom seriously examine the nature of consciousness.

If Vedanta was more commonly studied in India, the country would have significantly more depth and originality of thought, and be able to progress in a determined way on both spiritual and scientific levels.

Teachings of Vedanta

Vedanta during the colonial era was looked down upon as an otherworldly approach, regarding the world as maya or illusion that kept India backward. Yet since Einstein’s Theory of Relativity over a century ago, Vedanta has been sounding more like the cutting edge of physics, which is discovering the illusory nature of physical reality and the existence of subtler energy and information currents behind all that we see.

Vedanta is the very science of consciousness at both human and cosmic levels. It recognises consciousness as the ultimate reality and affirms its presence in all existence. Modern physicists have looked to Vedanta for understanding their proposed unitary field of consciousness behind the universe, to explain the coherence of all cosmic laws.

Vedanta is the unitary philosophy behind the practice of yoga, explaining the oneness of the individual soul with the universal consciousness that yoga aims to realise. Vedanta constitutes the yoga of knowledge, considered to be the highest of all yoga branches.

Vedanta in modern India

Vedanta was the most important philosophy that inspired and motivated the Indian Independence movement, emulated by Vivekananda, Rama Tirtha, Aurobindo, Tagore and Gandhi, among many others. It brought the country back to a dharmic sense of self-rule, not simply political independence, but the independence of the spirit and the awakening of the yogic traditions of the region.

More recently, Swami Dayananda, head of the Hindu Acharya Sabha, spread the message of Vedanta with logic, humour and penetrating insight. Prime Minister Narendra Modi honoured Dayananda as his own guru and visited Swamiji shortly before his Mahasamadhi in September, showing how much the PM respects the Vedantic teachings.

The year 2015 marked the 100th birth anniversary of Swami Chinmayananda, who taught a lucid practical Vedanta that resonated with the youth and intellectuals alike. A brilliant and inspiring movie On a Quest was made on his extraordinary life. The prime minister released a national coin in honor of Chinmayananda on the Swami’s 100th birth anniversary as part of the extensive celebrations.

The Vedantic view

Vedanta is a physics and psychology of consciousness, an inner science of self-knowing that the outer science can benefit from to arrive at a full view of the multidimensional universe in which we live.

Vedanta teaches a way of self-knowledge that does not require any beliefs. It says we must first know ourselves in order to arrive at true knowledge of anything. This requires looking beyond body and mind to the core awareness within us. Vedanta employs a strict rational approach allied with introspection, yoga and meditation to enable us to directly perceive our own consciousness that is universal in nature.

The Vedantic view is simple – the entire universe dwells within your own heart. Your true self is one with the self of all. All the powers of the universe belong to each one of us as energies of love and wisdom.

We have moved from materialist views to a high-tech view of reality as energy and information. Vedanta takes us to a yet higher level of the universe as a manifestation of consciousness.

Let us not forget our true self, which is the self-aware universe. This is the spiritual soul of India and its message of peace, happiness and unity to the world.

 This article was first published in the DailyO and has been republished here with permission.
Read also: The Bhagavad Gita – the essence of India and its profound message for the world  

Art, Cosmology and the Divine | Part III

Main photo (above) is a Basohli illustration to the Bhagavad Purana, Krishna Bringing the Parijata from Indra’s Heaven,  Tira-Sujanpur, c.1780

Continuing this six-part series (Read Part I and Part II) in which distinguished scientist, academic and Vedic scholar Subhash Kak shows how traditional Indian art is not only aesthetically sublime, but is a reflection of the cosmos and of the Divine itself. In Part III we see how ancient Hindu temples were designed to reflect the cosmos. The representation of the cosmos simultaneously at the level of the universe and the individual, was meant to facilitate the devotee’s spiritual transformation.

Part III: Temples and Gods

The temple is considered in the image of the Cosmic Purusha, on whose body is displayed all creation in its materiality and movement. Paradoxically, the space of the Purusha (Rigveda 10.90) is in the sanctuary only ten fingers wide, although he pervades the earth.

The outer cosmos is expressed in terms of various connections between the temple structure and the motions of the sun, the moon, and the planets; the inner cosmos is represented in terms of the divinity (universal consciousness) in the womb of the temple and various levels of the superstructure that correspond to the states of consciousness. The position of the gods in the Vastupurusha-mandala within the temple is a symbolic representation of the spatial projections of the cosmic Purusha in his body. There are other iconic representations of sacred space, as in the Sri Yantra where the body’s three parts – vagbhava, madhya, and mula – have recursive structures within, that represent Vedic cosmology in a unique fashion.

The prototype of the temple is the Agnikshetra, the sacred ground on which the Vedic altars are built. The Agnikshetra is an oblong or trapezoidal area on which the fire altars are built. During the ritual is installed a golden disc (rukma) with 21 knobs or hangings representing the sun with a golden image of the purusha on it. The detailed ritual includes components that would now be termed Shaivite, Vaishnava, or Shakta. In Nachiketa Agni, 21 bricks of gold are placed one top of the other in a form of shivalinga. The disk of the rukma, which is placed in the navel of the altar on a lotus leaf is in correspondence to the lotus emanating from Vishnu’s navel which holds the universe. Several bricks are named after goddesses, such as the seven krittikas.

Ganesha: elephant-headed, wise with mouse as his vehicle

The Hindu temple represents the Meru mountain, the navel of the earth. It is the representation of the cosmos both at the level of the universe and the individual, making it possible for the devotee to get inspired to achieve his own spiritual transformation. The purusha placed within the brick structure of the altar represents the consciousness principle within the individual. It is like the relic within the stupa. The threshold to the inner sanctum is represented by the figure of Ganesha (see right), who, like other divinities, symbolizes the transcendence of oppositions.

The temple construction begins with the Vastupurusha mandala, which is a yantra, mostly divided into 64 (8 × 8) or 81 (9 × 9) squares, which are the seats of 45 divinities. Brahma is at the centre, around him 12 squares represent the Adityas, and in the outer circle are 28 squares that represent the nakshatras. This mandala with its border is the place where the motions of the sun and the moon and the planets are reconciled. It is the Vastu in which the decrepit, old Chyavana of the Rigveda 1.116.10 asks his sons to put him down so that he would become young again. Chyavana is the moon and Sukanya, whom he desires, is the sun.

In the basic Vedic scheme the circle represents the earth and the square represents the heavens or the deity. But the altar or the temple, as a representation of the dynamism of the universe, requires a breaking of the symmetry of the square. As seen clearly in the agnichayana and other altar constructions, this is done in a variety of ways. Although the main altar might be square or its derivative, the overall sacred area is taken to be a departure from this shape. In particular, the temples to the goddess are drawn on a rectangular plan. In Shiva or Vishnu temples, which are square, change is represented by a play of diagonal lines. These diagonals are essentially kinetic and are therefore representative of movement and stress. They embody the time-factor in a composition.

The Hindu temple, as a conception of the astronomical frame of the universe, serves the same purpose as the Vedic altar, which reconciled the motions of the sun and the moon. The progressive complexity of the classical temple was inevitable given an attempt to bring in the cycles of the planets and other ideas of the yugas into the scheme. There was also further complexity related to the expansion of the tattvas within the temple. For example, in Shaivite temples we see the unmanifest (Shivalinga) expand into the intermediate state of manifest-unmanifest (Sadashiva), and finally into manifest (Mahesha).

The Ashtadhyayi of Panini (5th century BC) mentions images. Ordinary images were called pratikriti and the images for worship were called archa. Amongst other things we are told that a toy horse is called ashvaka. (This means that the queen who lay down with the ashvaka in the Ashvamedha did not sleep with the dead horse.) Deity images for sale were called Shivaka etc., but an archa of Shiva was just called Shiva. Patanjali mentions Shiva and Skanda deities. There is also mention of the worship of Vasudeva (Krishna). We are also told that some images could be moved and some were immoveable. Panini also says that an archa was not to be sold and that there were people (priests) who obtained their livelihood by taking care of it. They also mention temples that were called prasadas.

Complementing the tradition of the Vedic ritual was that of the munis and yogis who lived in caves and performed austerities. From this tradition arose the vihara, where the priests lived. The chaitya hall that also housed the stupa may be seen as a development out of the agnichayana tradition where within the brick structure of the altar was buried the rukma and the golden man.

The gods are the entities that hold up the inner sky of the mind. There is the single Brahman or Purusha, interpenetrating and transcending the inner and the outer universes. But the framework of the inner sky is held up by a variety of gods. The physical nature, governed by laws, is the Goddess or Shakti. If Brahma is the deity of the astral world, Shiva is that of the physical world, and Vishnu that of the causal or the moral world. They each have a consort: Brahma’s is Sarasvati, the goddess of learning and the arts; Shiva’s is Parvati, the goddess of power, energy, and intuition; Vishnu’s is Lakshmi, the goddess of good fortune.

Shiva as Ardhanarishvara (Shiva-Shakti)

The gods themselves are interconnected. Brahma’s origin is from the lotus in Vishnu’s navel. Shiva is the god who subsumes all oppositions. He is the celibate, divine yogi, who is also the perfect husband to Parvati. He brings the world to an end by his dance, but he also creates the world. He is the heart of consciousness, the lord of all beings, the divine dancer. As Ardhanarishvara, he is half Shakti; as Harihara, he is half Vishnu.

Vishnu is the all-pervader, the primal person, without beginning or end. He is also known as Narayana, with his abode is in the waters. He is Hari, the golden-garbed one (like the Sun), and his mount is Garuda, the eagle. During the periods in between dissolution and creation, he sleeps on the cosmic serpent Ananta (the endless). He wields in one of his hands the discus, Sudarshana, which represents time. His consort, Lakshmi, appeared out of the Churning of the Ocean. Periodically, he descends to earth as an avatara to battle evil. Two of the most popular of these avataras are Rama and Krishna.

Read Part I: Introduction
Read part II: General equivalences
Read Part IV: churning of the ocean
Read Part v: Krishna’s Dance
Read part vi: Indian aesthetic in an age of war

The Bhagavad Gita – the essence of India and its profound message for the world

by David Frawley

Dharma is not a matter of dogma, but of adapting our principles to what is required according to the changing needs of time, place and person in order to further the higher forces in the world.

The Bhagavad Gita remains the book that can be best described as India’s national book. For thousands of years, up to the present, the Gita has been the most popular, commonly read, widely translated and commented upon teaching from India, far beyond any competing text, of which there are many wonderful depictions in the vast literature of the region.

One cannot know India, its essence and identity, without having first examined the Gita in depth and looked into its profound instruction about life, human interactions, the secrets of human psychology, and the keys to higher consciousness. The Gita reflects all the complexity, paradox, mystery and beauty of India/Bharat, its perennial search for the eternal and infinite, yet its ability to reflect the abundance of life on all levels as well.

Sri Krishna remains the figure who best represents India’s profound yogic culture and civilisation to the world. He is known as a Divine incarnation, a yogavatara, and a sage of the highest order, who was able to teach a variety of paths to all temperaments of people, motivating humanity to achieve its highest potential. Sri Krishna has a Divine personality with an incomparable charisma that serves to inspire the Divine within all of us, yet teaches us with great clarity and precision as well.

The way forward

The genesis of the Gita on the battlefield is one of its most compelling factors. All life is a battle or a struggle between the many dualities within and around us, both in nature and in humanity, particularly the forces of dharma and adharma. Yet life is not a simple faceoff between good and evil, delineated in black and white, a moralistic clash in which the right choice of action cannot be questioned.

Life is a struggle to go forward in a maze of competing forces moving in multiple directions, carrying contrary influences. Like Arjuna at the start of the Gita, it is easier for us to not want to fight in order to avoid the pain and complications, but this is to let life pass us by and condemns us to the limitations of what we have already become.

The Bhagavad Gita shows us how to achieve the best possible in less than ideal circumstances, in the battlefield of Kurukshetra, which is among the worst and most complicated of all imaginable clashes, involving taking up arms against ones own kinsmen and gurus. Yet not to act would only allow the forces of negativity and inertia to prevail, and irreparably damage the society for long periods to come.

It is often easier to stand on the sidelines when there are no clear options without notable side effects. But life does not work that way. Pain, sorrow, disease, enmity are also challenges to the soul to grow beyond its outer limitation and discover its inner reality. If we do not face and overcome the difficulties of life, we remain weak and fail to discover the Divine within us.

Svadharma and the universal Dharma

Dharma is not a matter of dogma, but of adapting our principles to what is required according to the changing needs of time, place and person in order to further the higher forces in the world. The Bhagavad Gita teaches us our Svadharma or individual dharma. Yet this is not in modern terms a path of mere individual freedom and self-assertion. It is how we are connected to the whole, how the entire universe exists within and around us. We cannot find fulfilment at a personal level without serving our highest duty to the whole of life. The Gita shows us our individual essence but as part of the universal being that is Sri Krishna.

The Gita’s ultimate message is that there is no death. No one is truly born or dies. We are immortal in our inner Divine nature as pure consciousness. Birth and death only belong to the body and are no more than a mere change of clothes for the soul. It is not salvation we need but Self-knowledge, getting back to the core of our being that cannot be disturbed by any external forces.

The dilemma of Arjuna represents our essential challenge in life. We are all imperfect, but have the sense of a higher perfection that we can manifest with great effort. Getting Arjuna to arise within us is the key to our success in life, but it also requires that we seek the grace and guidance of Sri Krishna in his innumerable forms.

This article was first published on and has been republished here with permission.

Read also: Stress Out? Here’s 3 Lessons from the Bhagavad Gita


Art, Cosmology and the Divine | Part II

Main photo (above) is a Basohli illustration of the Gita Govinda, The South Wind Cools Itself in the Snow of the Himalayas, c.1730

Continuing this six-part series (Read Part I) in which distinguished scientist, academic and Vedic scholar Subhash Kak shows how traditional Indian art is not only aesthetically sublime, but reflects the cosmos and the Divine itself. Here we look more closely at the astronomical codes reflected in Vedic art and rituals.


Part II: General equivalences

The view that the arts belong to the domain of the sacred and that there is a connection between them is given most clearly in a famous passage in the Vishnudharmottara Purana in which the sage Markandeya instructs the King Vajra in the art of sculpture, teaching that to learn it one must first learn painting, dance, and music:

Vajra: How should I make the forms of gods so that the image may always manifest the deity?

Markandeya: He who does not know the canon of painting (citrasutram) can never know the canon of image-making (pratima lakshanam).

Vajra: Explain to me the canon of painting as one who knows the canon of painting knows the canon of image-making.

Markandeya: It is very difficult to know the canon of painting without the canon of dance (nritta shastra), for in both the world is to be represented.

Vajra: Explain to me the canon of dance and then you will speak about the canon of painting, for one who knows the practice of the canon of dance knows painting.

Markandeya: Dance is difficult to understand by one who is not acquainted with instrumental music (atodya).

Vajra: Speak about instrumental music and then you will speak about the canon of dance, because when the instrumental music is properly understood, one understands dance.

Markandeya: Without vocal music (gita) it is not possible to know instrumental music.

Vajra: Explain to me the canon of vocal music, because he, who knows the canon of vocal music, is the best of men who knows everything.

Markandeya: Vocal music is to be understood as subject to recitation that may be done in two ways, prose (gadya) and verse (padya). Verse is in many meters.

Some of the early meters range from the gayatri with 3 sections of 8 syllables (3 × 8 = 24) to anushtubh (4 × 8 = 32), viraj (4 × 10 = 40), trishtubh (4 × 11 = 44), and jagati (4 × 12 = 48). These appear to be connected to the astronomical number 360, the number of civil days in the year. There are also many other more complex meters, with a less obvious astronomical basis.

To understand the principle behind the broader equivalences of Indian art and its cosmology, it is good to begin with the fire altars of the Vedic period that were themselves designed to represent astronomical (outer) as well as inner knowledge. An assumed equivalence between the outer and the inner cosmos is central to the conception of the temple, which is why numbers such as 108 and 360 are important in its design.

The number 108 in the distance from the earth to the sun and the moon

The number 108 represents the approximate distance from the earth to the sun and the moon in sun and moon diameters, respectively. (The diameter of the sun is also 108 times the diameter of the earth, but that fact is not likely to have been known to the Vedic rishis.) The number of dance poses (karanas) given in the Natya Shastra is also 108, as is the number of beads in a rosary (japamala). The ‘distance’ between the body and the inner sun is also taken to be 108, so that the number of joinings is 107. Not surprisingly, the number of marmas in Ayurveda is 107. The total number of syllables in the Rigveda is taken to be 432,000, a number related to 108.

The number 360 is taken in the Ayurvedic texts to be the number of bones in the developing fetus, a number that fuses later into the 206 bones of the adult. The centrality of this number in Vedic ritual is stressed in the Shatapatha Brahmana.

The primary Vedic number is three, representing the tripartite division of the physical world into the earth, the atmosphere, and the sky and that of the person into the physical body, the pranas, and the inner sky.

The Vedic altars had an astronomical basis related to the reconciliation of the lunar and solar years, which mirrors the reconciliation of the female and male currents within the body and mind of the individual. The fire altars symbolized the universe and there were three types of altars representing the earth, the space and the sky. The altar for the earth was drawn as circular, whereas the sky (or heaven) altar was drawn as square.

The fire altars were surrounded by 360 enclosing stones, of these 21 were around the earth altar, 78 around the space altar and 261 around the sky altar. In other words, the earth, the space, and the sky are symbolically assigned the numbers 21, 78, and 261. Considering the earth/cosmos dichotomy, the two numbers are 21 and 339 since cosmos includes the space and the sky.

The main altar was built in five layers. The basic square shape was modified to several forms, such as falcon and turtle. These altars were built in five layers, of a thousand bricks of specified shapes. The construction of these altars required the solution to several geometric and algebraic problems.

The falcon altar

Two different kinds of bricks were used: the special and the ordinary. The total number of the special bricks used was 396, explained as 360 days of the year and the additional 36 days of the intercalary month. Two kinds of day counts: the solar day, and tithi, whose mean value is the lunar year divided into 360 parts.

Three different years were considered: (i) nakshatra, or a year of 324 days (sometimes 324 tithis) obtained by considering 12 months of 27 days each, where this 27 is the ideal number of days in a lunar month; (ii) lunar, which is a fraction more than 354 days (360 tithis); and (iii) solar, which is in excess of 365 days (between 371 and 372 tithis).

A well-known altar ritual says that altars should be constructed in a sequence of 95, with progressively increasing areas. The increase in the area, by one unit yearly, in building progressively larger fire altars is 48 tithis which is about equal to the intercalation required to make the nakshatra year in tithis equal to the solar year in tithis. But there is a residual excess which in 95 years adds up to 89 tithis; it appears that after this period such a correction was made. The 95 year cycle corresponds to the tropical year being equal to 365.24675 days. The cycles needed to harmonize various motions led to the concept of increasing periods and world ages.

The number of syllables in the Rigveda confirms the textual references that the book was to represent a symbolic altar. According to various early texts, the number of syllables in the Rigveda is 432,000, which is the number of muhurtas in forty years. In reality the syllable count is somewhat less because certain syllables are supposed to be left unspoken. The organization of the Rigveda is also according to a plan, but that is a different story told in my book, The Astronomical Code of the Rigveda.

The verse count of the Rigveda can be viewed as the number of sky days in forty years or 261 × 40 = 10,440, and the verse count of all the Vedas is 261 × 78 = 20,358.

The Brahmanas and the Shulbasutras tell us about the altar of chhandas and meters, so we would expect that the total Rigvedic hymn count of 1017 and the group count of 216 have particular significance. Owing to the pervasive tripartite ideology of the Vedic books we choose to view the hymn number as 339 × 3. The tripartite ideology refers to the consideration of time in three divisions of past, present, and future and the consideration of space in the three divisions of the northern celestial hemisphere, the plane that is at right angle to the earth’s axis, and the southern celestial hemisphere. The number 339 is simply the number of disks of the sun or the moon to measure the path across the sky: π times 108 is approximately 339. The Rigvedic code then expresses a fundamental connection between the numbers 339 and 108. The numbers 108 and 360 appear as the axis and the perimeter dimensions of the temple.

Read Part I in the series: Introduction
Read Part III: Temples and Gods
Read part IV: Churning of the ocean
Read Part V: Krishna’s Dance
Read part VI: Indian Aesthetic in an Age of War

Art, Cosmology and the Divine – a study of Indian culture | Part I

by Subhash Kak

Main photo (above) is a Basohli illustration to the Bhagavad Purana, The Birth of Krishna, early 18th c.

In this six-part series, distinguished scientist, academic and Vedic scholar Subhash Kak provides  a fascinating insight into traditional Indian art. Subhash shows how the art  forms of ancient India are not only aesthetically sublime, but a reflection of the cosmos and indeed of the Divine itself.


Part I: Introduction

The best way to understand India is through its art and the cosmology. Textbook narratives often overlook the synthesizing principles that represent the grammar of Indian culture, and they are much like the accounts of the six blind people who encountering an elephant describe it as wall, spear, snake, tree, rope, and fan, respectively.

The three notions that underlie Indian culture are that of bandhu, paradox, and yajña.

Bandhu is the binding between the outer and the inner that makes it possible to know, and this is the basis of the pervasive spirituality in India; paradox is the recognition that the bandhu must lie outside of rational system, leading to the distinction between the ‘higher’ science of consciousness and the ‘lower’, rational objective science; yajña is transformation that the individual undergoes by participating in Vedic ‘ritual’ or any other creative process. The cosmology related to this framework is that of infinity and recursion across scale and time.

Sri Yantra, which represents the universe recursively

The iconic representation of the universe as the Sri Yantra (above) shows recursion most clearly. First, the tripartite division into earth, atmosphere, and the sun, which is mirrored in the individual by the body, the breath, and the inner lamp of consciousness, is represented by three triangles. Second, within each triangle are lower hierarchical levels of two other triangles, of alternating opposing polarity that represents male and female principles. All together, this adds up to 9 triangles, which through their overlaps constitute a total of 43 small triangles. Right through the middle of this is the dot, the bindu that is Shiva, the Witness, or Consciousness. Nature evolves according to law (rta in Sanskrit), but it has a paradoxical relationship with the consciousness principle.

A north Indian temple showing recursion in its outer structural form

Art associated with this conception must communicate recursion, paradox and oppositions concerning ordinary experience of the universe. Aesthetics, as a philosophy of art, is best understood from the point of view of dhvani, which communicates, by suggestion, the universals of the outer and inner worlds.

Indian thought highlights the connections between these two worlds, and its art presents visions of the cosmos. Alongside is a picture of a north Indian temple where recursion is expressed in terms of the tower drawn to different scales on the superstructure.


Within the temple, the manifestations of the Supreme Being are as the One and its many forms. There exists in them, for example, a hierarchical order of cardinal and peripheral images in relation to the centre, a balancing or pairing of polarities, and representation of the temple as Mount Meru, the centre of the universe. The polarities represented iconographically related to female and male, asura (demon) and deva (god), left and right, body and mind, and so on. Aesthetics is alamkara shastra, that is ornamentation of the central synthesizing principle by means of the particular medium. The poet, kavi, is the inspired seer who sees the underlying vision most clearly. Dance, painting, and sculpture, just like poetry, have their canonical ideals, which are the visual equivalents of meter, rhyme, alliteration and the tropes of poetry.

The ritual is organized as sacred theatre that engages the senses to facilitate an epiphany that represents an experiential ‘rebirth’. Great art has the same capacity, and often it is a part of ritual. Not only is the temple a work of art, so is the sculpture that goes into it, and the dance and music performed in its hallways, and the paintings that hang on its walls. One can contrast this with Western conceptions. The cosmology is finite, with God separate from the individual; art is best seen in the sterile atmosphere of the museum or the gallery.

Read Part II in the series: General Equivalences
Read Part III: Temples and Gods
Read Part IV: Churning of the ocean
Read Part V: Krishna’s Dance
Read Part VI: Indian aesthetic in an age of war