About the Author:
The Vastusutra Upanisad, ascribed to Rsi Pippalada of Prasna Upanisad, is the first known Atharvavedic text on image-making. The book contains a critical edition of the text, an English translation and copious notes elucidating its meaning. Its chapters are devoted to a discussion of the following subjects: stones, compositional diagram, carving, disposition of the parts of the image, the basic emotions connected with images, and the total composition of the image panel. The text deals with the basic symbolism of the compositional diagram, the micro-macrocosmic correspondences in sacred images, the derivation of the original anthropomorphic image from the symbolic pillar of sacrifice and the application of aesthetic experience of rasa and bhava to image-making. The metaphysical question of the origin of form and its importance for the attainment of spiritual realization or moksa is central to the text. A glossary of technical terms forms a useful part of the book.
This fourth edition has been completely revised. The book is an important addition to the scarce literature of authentic texts on Vastu / Silpa.
About the Author:
ALICE BONER (1889 - 1981) studied painting and sculpture, and worked as a sculptor in France and Switzerland. During the thirties, she visited India and studied Indian religious and artistic traditions. In 1962 her magnificent work on Indian art entitled Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture was published (2nd ed. Delhi 1990). Her other important works in collaboration with Pandit S.R. Sarma include: Silpaprakasa (Brill, Leiden, 1966) and New Light on the Sun Temple of Konarka (with R.P. Das, Chaukhamba, Varanasi, 1972). She received an honorary doctorate from the University of Zurich, and in 1974 she was awarded the Padmabhushan by the President of India.
PANDIT SADASIVA RATH SARMA (died in 1989 ) was associated with the Jagannath Sanskrit University, Puri, and attached to the Jagannath Temple. A master of Indian traditional arts, he was a collaborator of Dr. Alice Boner in her work on Orissan Silpasastra. He was awarded the title of Kalakosaratnakara by the Kamakoti Pitha of Kanchipuram and received Padmashri by the Government of India for his outstanding work in the field of the religious and artistic traditions of Orissa.
DR. BETTINA BAUMER (born in 1940 in Austria) has been working in Varanasi since 1967 as a scholar in Indology and Indian arts. At present she is Director of Research, Alice Boner Institute Varanasi and Visiting Professor in Vienna University, former senior research fellow, Harvard University, and associated with Utkal University, Bhubaneswar. Her main fields of research are Silpasastra of Orissa, Kashmir Saivism, aesthetics and interreligious studies. She has edited 3 volumes of Kalatattvakosa, A Lexicon of Fundamental Concepts of the Indian Arts (Vol.1, 1988; Vol.II, 1992; Vol.II, 1996), Silparatnakosa (Delhi 1994), Mysticism in Saivism and Christianity (New Delhi 1997) and is the author of several books and research articles in English and German.
After long studies and meditations before the sculptures in the cave temples of Ellora, Alice Boner discovered on her own what she called Principles of Composition in Hindu Sculpture.} For many years she had tried to find in the Silpasastras, the authoritative texts on temple architecture and sculpture, confirmation of her insight. First she came across the Silpa Prakasa, also published by EJ. Brill, Leiden (1966). Thereupon she struck on the Vastusutra Upanisad which at the same time confirmed and substantiated her proper in- tuition. It was her deep perception of the archetypal language of Form? Which helped her to understand this important text even in the corrupt form of the manuscripts which had at first come to light. When finally a better manuscript was found by Pandit Sadasiva Rath Sarma, a Devanagari transcript had to be prepared and the critical work on the text had to start again. But Alice Boner soon fell ill and had to leave India in 1978, never to return again. At that time, she entrusted me with the revision of the text and translation, including the critical and exegetical notes. Even during her illness, Alice Boner and I worked together on the text, and till the last weeks of her life she gave me precious advice. It was her great desire to see this text published A the culmination of her work and thought on fundamental principles of Indian art. In April 1981, I could only convey to her the news that the manuscript had been completed and handed over to the publisher. A few days later she passed away.
Pandit Sadasiva Rath Sarma has given us invaluable assistance in deciphering the meaning of the text in the light of his traditional knowledge. He has also provided the line drawings as illustrations.
After the first publication of this text in 1982 and its reprint in 1986, general interest in the principles and practice of form in the Indian traditions of architecture, sculpture and other visual arts has increased tremendously. Not only art—historians and indologists, but also modern architects and artists, as well as the general public, are now keenly aware of the need to go back to the origins and insights of this almost unbroken tradition, so that we don’t lose our roots and fall prey to the superficial imitation endemic in modern culture. Therefore the texts describing the principles and practice of form, namely the so—called Silpa- and Vastusastras, are no longer of merely historical and scholarly interest, they also concern our daily lives; it may be the way we deal with the environment, the space in which we live and the objects of use and beauty, not to mention the sacred which has been mostly governed by the rules of tradition.
Due to this interest and research in the held of Silpa— and Vastusastra some additional texts have been published in the last 14 years.3 Unfortunately, the market has also been flooded with a lot of cheap literature on Vastu/Silpa, promising success in all worldly and super worldly matters if one adheres to the principles of Vastu described therein. Hence the need is that much greater for authentic texts and translations.
In light of all the hitherto known Silpasastras, the Vastusutra Upanisad still stands out as an extraordinary text. This has been recognized by eminent art-historians like Dr RN. Misra: "The Vastu- sutra Upanisad is important for many reasons, but most significantly in that it uncovers a lost tradition even as it offers the sastric basis of compositional diagrams of sculpture as well as their artisanal connections as were in practice…” He also relates the text to the large context of Indian literature, aesthetics and art traditions. The uniqueness of the text lies in the fact that it is concerned with fundamental (and therefore universal) principles of form (rupa) in the larger context of a tradition in harmony with cosmic and divine forces (adhibhuta and adhidaiva), and their relation to the human body and mind (adhyatma).
In her Introduction to the first edition of the Vastusutra Upanisad, Alice Boner elaborates on the content and special significance of this text. However, while revising the text, I was struck by some interesting points which were not clearly noticed in the first edition.
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the Third Revised Edition by Bettina Baumer
List of Illustrations
List of Manuscripts
Introduction by Alice Boner
The Position of the Vastusutra Upanisad in the Atharvavedic Literature by Dipak Bhattacharya
Vastusutra Upanisad : English Translation Chapter I : The Six Branches of Art Chapter II : Compositional Diagram Chapter III : Carving Chapter IV : Disposition of the Parts of the Image. Chapter V : The Inner Sense of Form Chapter VI : Integration of the Composition
Critical and Exegetical Notes
Vastusutra Upanisad : Sanskrit Text Prapathaka I : Satsilpavicarah Prapathaka II : Khilapanjarajnanam Prapathaka III : Sailabhedanam Prapathaka IV : Angaprayogah Prapathaka V : Rupabhavanabodhah Prapathaka VI : Sambandhaprabodhanam
List of Sutras