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Summit Meru 2003

Shekhar Shastri
07/01/2003

Summit Meru 2003

Creating Sacred Space: Architecture, Dance and Sculpture

Design Principles in the Classical Arts of India

We all have seen and felt the perceptible magnificence of the Taj Mahal or the Brihadisvara Temple of Tanjavur, and wondered at the overpowering presence in such spaces. What is it that transforms an ordinary visitor for those moments? Is it by design, or simply a coincidence? Is this sacred presence limited to temples and palaces? The fact that the perceiver of that uplifting experience was you, it should be possible to invoke such a space wherever you are. If so, is it possible to consciously bring that quality into the privacy of our own homes or workplaces?

Classical Indian texts mention of a precise science and grammar of designing, building, and using ‘Space’. The theme of Summit Meru 2003 is Creating Sacred Space and we propose to hold a series of lectures and performances exploring Sacred Space as in architecture, dance and sculpture. . We look at “Creative space as the inner life of reflection and the outer life of movement and action.” The objective of this series of lectures aims to help in understanding the notion of creative space and its interplay from three traditions of arts and culture of India. We will present three scholars cum practitioners from India to speak on the following topics:

1. Vaastu Shastra: Architecture for Harmonious Living The central goal of architecture is to create buildings, which provide space in which the individual could grow harmoniously with her own self-expression and self-development. Space thus allows for a “subtle center of experience.” Ancient Indian texts of Vaastu Shastra describe the art of creating spaces that were indeed ritual space, sacred space and or secular space. But in each case the emphasis was to provide and aid in the multi-dimensional journey and growth of the individual.

Dr. Sashikala Ananth is India's most renowned teacher of Vaastu Shastra. She is considered an expert on Design, Space Clearing Techniques and Rituals. She is the author of Vaastu, the Classical Indian Science of Design and also holds a degree in Architecture. She has been working with this knowledge for more than twenty years, including intensive study of the classical texts, working with artisan communities and her own work as a Temple Designer and Vaastu Practitioner. Her film on the tradition of the Shilpi or sculptor, called "The Living Tradition - A Shilpi Speaks" won a national award in India. Sashikala has produced several books on Vaastu, Yoga Management, and texts on iconometry. At present she works on incorporating the Vaastu Shastra's into modern dwellings along with her work as an international teacher of Indian Philosophy.

2. Classical Indian Dance : Invoking Sacred Space: Dance is architecture in complete abstraction, it is created with no physical materials, yet is a living example of creating sacred space where the aesthetic can be experienced. Dance is living sculpture and the dancer is the creator of sacred space in both temporal and spatial contexts. Ms. Leela Samson is one of India's most dynamic and technically brilliant exponents of the Bharatanatyam style of Indian classical dance. Leela is an outstanding representative of Kalakshetra, the famed institute for the classical arts founded by the late Rukmini Devi Arundale in Chennai. She has authored several articles and a book, ‘Rhythm in Joy’.

3. Temple Architecture: Sacred Sculpture Temples in India are supposed to be representations of the inner and outer cosmology, since within the microcosm of the Human, exists the possibility of experiencing the complete macrocosm. Temples are constructed in a manner that leads the visitor from a physical plane to the subtle core of their existence. In and around temples, one finds many levels of sculptures which can appear overwhelming as well as intriguing as to their purpose and meaning. Khajuraho temples in Central India make an interesting case study because of their intricate and ‘Erotic’ sculptures. Why should a sacred space such a temple be adorned with erotica? Dr. Devangana Desai has studied these temples and the secret behind these sculptures for a few decades and written numerous books and articles on the subject.

In this workshop Dr. Desai, an art historian and leading expert on the Khajuraho temples, will focus on the tradition of how sacred spaces are concretized in temple buildings. In her three lectures - "Art and Architecture of Indian Temples", "Temples and Sculpture of Khajuraho" and "Beyond the Erotic at Khajuraho" - Dr. Devangana Desai will highlight how buildings can be representations of the inner and outer cosmology. Dr. Desai has written numerous books on Temple Art, Mother Goddess, Ramayana Scenes in Sculpture and Buddhist Bronzes.

These programs will be held at Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, MA and The National Heritage Museum in Lexington, MA.

For more information on Summit Meru 2003, please visit us on the Web at: www.merufoundation.org.

Shekhar Shastri is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Meru Education Foundation, a non-profit organization based in Lexington, MA.



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