Social Scientist. v 18, no. 202 (March 1990) p. 3.


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DEVANGANA DESAP

Social Dimensions of Art in Early India^

Art activity is a social process in which the artist, the work of art and the art public are interacting elements1. The social history of art explores the dynamics of the relationship between the patron/public, the artist and the work of art in the context of the social formation of a given period of history. The dynamics of this relationship changes according to the changes in the economic base of the society. The chang'e in the artistic activity could be linked, among other factors, with the changes, due to the new mode of production, in the patron class and in socio-religious institutions and ideologies, which in their turn create new requirements and fresh opportunities for the emergence of new forms and content in art2.

A preliminary requirement for the socio-historical study of Indian art, needless to say, is an acquaintance with monuments and art objects themselves as well as familiarity with chronological analyses worked out by art hi&torians and, at the same time, adequate knowledge of the social forces at work when the art under study was produced. The social history of Indian art then is an interdisciplinary study combining the areas of art historical and social historical research of the period concerned. This is a field where joint efforts of both art historians and social historians can lead to fruitful results.

Indian art historical writing today is almost emancipated from the stereotype of the superiority of Greece and from the Western standards of perspective. A lively debate is going on among art historians on the limitations of dynastic appellations to art styles with an increasing realization that the rulers influenced not so much the form as the extent of art styles. Dynastic appellation is retained by some scholars as 'convenient denomination', but 'there is now visible a shift from classification based on dynasty to one based on region'3. Indian terminology of Silpa-texts is widely used to describe monuments, and the correspondence of texts and monuments is being investigated. In this field contributions by M. A. Dhaky, P. 0. Somapura, Krishna Deva,

* Visiting Professor, Ananthacharya Indological Research Institute, Bombay.

* * Presidential Address, Section I, Ancient India, Indian History Congress, 50th Session, Gorakhpur University, 30 December 1989.



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