Friday, June 24, 2022

Kama Kala by Mulk Raj Anand

Kama Kala by Mulk Raj Anand

Kama Kala 


Mulk Raj Anand


Kama Kala. Some Notes on the Philosophical Basis of Hindu Erotic Sculpture.

Geneva: Nagel Publishers, (1962). 45 pp. + 58 pp. Illus. with 85 color & b/w plates (16 tipped-in).

Mulk Raj Anand (1905 - 2004), Indian novelist and art critic, is considered a founder of the English-language Indian novel.




 Some time ago a pioneer American critic of Indian art wrote, deploring the fact that while many of the sculptures of Konarak were masterpieces, they could not, for obvious reasons, be published to the world. This apologetic utterance may have been forced by a tradition which has passed, in Europe and America, from the period of ungovemed greed to the period of good intentions. 

Dr. Allex Comfort has brilliantly described this phenomenon: "The terroristic god of Vktorianism is gone, but he has left his footprints in the minds of a whole generation of parents and the obsessional traits of their children. Ritualistic cleanliness has replaced the older squalor!" 

The outer concern for health and discipline, according to most enlightened medical opinion, generally betokens an insecurity of the inner life, expressed in psychosomatic disorder, obsessional and depressive patterns. in bee inadequacy and delinquency. 

This delinquency, whether it may be of the minor forms, recognised by the law, or the more dangerous types, which lead b aggression by the desire for domination over others, is essentially a sign of prematurity or of the survival of barbarism. 

If the Mad Hatters tea party”, which is our present world society, is sadistic at every step, both overtly and covertly, it is because masochism becomes the main attribute of citizenship under barbarism. A code of morals drawn up by, and for, nomadic tribes, in a patriarchal society, has received accretions from Christian and other monastical orders .and exercises vigilant control on our lives, ready to detect and punish, through the policeman, normal human impulses, even when the primitive codes have ceased to find acceptance or belief among enlightened men. 

The name of such a society is death, not life! Its symbols are the concentration camp, the conscript and the hydrogen bomb.

Now, in the agrarian and pastoral forms of Indian civilisation and culture, love, in all its spiritual and sexual connotations, was frankly accepted and clothed in the beautiful imagery of exalted poetry, in words, colours and stones. The life-principle was worshipped through the subtle doctrines of the Hindu (Kaula) (noble) cult as well as through magical beliefs, rituals and practices, intended to release the unconscious through the play function of sex. 

The “One” supreme God, Brahman, had according to legend split himself into the “many”, through desire. And the “many” sought to become “one” through the same desire. 

The union of male andfemale thus became the ymbol,from the earliest times, for the union of all forces, and the pleasure of the body in mating became, under accepted religious and social forms, linked with the sanctity of procreation, and an end in itself The concept of original sin and sexual secretiveness never famed any part of the intense phases of Indian culture.

There were, undoubtedly bad periods of regression and suicidal fury, when patriarchal puritanism sought to control society. Also, certain decadent farms flourished in periods of regression. 

But, by and large, he dominant impression which Hindu and Buddhist civilizations give vs is of a tender humanism, in touch with the natural forces of impulse and ideat and aware of all those sensibilities which go to make the full, rich life of man into the poetry of existence rather than the nenovs prose of endemic variety. 

Thus it was that , in Indian plastic arts, the human form became the expression of the sculptor's vision of the life force. The abstract values of religion were always realized in the concrete imagery of the human body, exaggerated and dramatized to the supernatural proportions of gods and goddesses, but instinct with the sap of life. And, in the imagery of the yakshas, nymphs, fauns, dryads, celestial dancers, demigods and urges the inner tensions of nature are rendered with conviction and mastery. 

In such an atmosphere, it is not surprising that the Mithuna (loving) couples abound, from the earliest cave temples though the mediaeval period down till the 18th century, as the very consecration of the drama of sex energy, flowing in myriads of forms. And, almost always, they are caned without any suggestion of pornography, but with the utmost tenderness and sensuous beauty. 

Until recently some of the European attics have, for one reason or another, denied the essential values of Indian sculpture. For instance, the late Mr. Roger Fry said in Air Last Lectures: ''Hindu art is singular in thus combining an extraordinary control offree plastic movement with a marked indifference to the structural mechanism. The Hindu artist's imagination is jo enthralled by his feeling for the undulating and yielding movements of the body as a whole, and his feeling for the surface quality of the flesh replaces all his emphasis on these aspects, to the exclusion of that fundamental structure which occupied the other great schools of plastic design." 

As my friend Mr. Rudy von Leyden has suggested: “ This statement mistakes the effect for the cause.  Indian plastic art has an extraordinary capacity to imagine the surging forces of life in the inanimate matter of reck. The expanding forces are held, so to speak, by the surface that gives and contains like the skin of a fruit or even the skin of human flesh. There is no special preoccupation with the surface quality of flesh (as a matter of fact, the ancient sculptor may have ignored that quality by plastering and painting the surface) but rather a preoccupation with the essence of life which determines the surface and its swelling contour " 

Similarly, the objections of critics like Fry to the mithuna sculptures as introducing "irrelevant" interest into carving to distract the attention from the purpose of a work of art, cannot any longer be sustained. For many of the younger critics of Indian art in Europe themselves reject the desiccating effects of the previous generations of puritanism. 

It is with a view to presenting the actual data of human form in Indian sculpture, particularly of the kind which has so far evoked the wrath of puritans, that I hate put forward the beautiful plates of four talented photographers, Raymond Bumier, Sunil Jaheh, Moti Ram Jain and DM, Sahiar. The photoprints will by themselves, I hope, reproduce the plastic qualities, inherent in this kind of sculpture, in bold relief. But I have added a tentative exposition of the philosophical and religious basis of Hindu erotic art, which may explain the inner basis of this art. 

I have been encouraged by many friends to put out this essay and I wish to record my appreciation of their generous criticism. I must mention the help I have received from Dr. Hermann Goetz,, Dr, Stella Kramnik and Mr. George Keyt in my various studies. My publisher, Dr. Louis Nagelt showed immense patience in the production of the book. And the two friends, who have been my companions in recent wanderings among books and physical sites, will find my gratitude acknowledged in the dedication.


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