Shadanga - Indian Aesthetics.

“Roop-BhedaPramananiBhavaLavanya -Yojnam

SadradhyamVarnika-Bhanga, ItichitraSadangkam”


The meaning of this shaloka is as follow; Roop-Bheda (distinction of form), Pramanani (proportion), Bhava and Lavanya-Yojanam(the infusion of emotion and grace), Sadradhyam (likeness or verisimilitude), Varnika-bhanga(division of colour) [11]. For a person who is going to create something as a painting or sculpture should have knowledge of form, Proportion, Expression, Aesthetic Scheme, Similitude and Color scheme. The present researcher studied the lotus motif and its application in the ornamentation of Mughal buildings according to the six limbs of Indian painting. During the time of Mughal the craftsmen and painters did not have the modern theory of art; it may be possible that they had the knowledge of old theory of Indian paintings. Here the present researcher studied the lotus form according to the rules of old Indian aesthetic theory of “Shadanga” (six limbs of Indian painting) as follow:


A. Roopa-Bheda (Knowledge of Form or Form Impact)


Roopa means shape or form and Bheda means mystery. In the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata sixteen types of forms have been mentioned as, small, long, thin and angular etc. There are several types of forms but they are different from each other due to their chief characteristics. The forms can be perceived by eye and soul. However, they can be judged by their individuality. First of all it is the eye that sees the Roopa but after that it is introduced to the soul. Roop is an intrinsic natural beauty of visual appearance and it is brought out by skillful manipulation of line or modulation of color which effects Bheda, differentiation of form.


  1. Roop-Bheda

  2. Pramanani

  3. Bhava

  4. Lavanya -Yojnam

  5. Sadradhyam

  6. Varnika-Bhanga


The Mughal artisans knew about roopas a visual as well as mental aspect of form with different attributes. Herewith they also knew what they should use to depict the place which they decorate. Frequently they used lotus motifs according to the lotus position and placement where they wanted to place it in many ways i.e. bud shape, full bloomed lotus form and inverted lotus form and so on. In the decoration lotus buds have been used by Mughal artisans on the spandrel of arches as a garland. These above statements reveal that Mughal artisans were keen observers of Roopa Bheda.


B. Pramana (Proportion)


In Indian art, “measurement and proportion are indispensable for strength and beauty, and measurement is considered the soul of all arts” [13].Pramana means correct knowledge of the proportion of different forms. Pramana gives us strong theory of proportion and measurement with logical calculation. There should be harmonious division in the composition and measurement of the form drawn. Prama does not detect measurement of nearness and distance only but it also gives the basic information as to how much exposure of a thing will make it beautiful. It denotes that Pramana is not an estimation of mathematics but our inherent consciousness which includes our inner and outer world also. The more we use it the more it will be sharpened. If we stop its use it will lose its sharpness. During the Mughal period, craftsmen had keen vision and awareness about Pramana. They used lotus form as a chief decorative and enchanted creative aspect with full awareness of where it should be placed and what should be the size. Therefore, they didn’t cover whole dome with lotus form, they used it according to right measurement. Another example of this is the arches. The craftsmen used lotus motifs on both sides of arches but in a proper size. It is quite appreciable that they depicted lotus in same size on each arch. We can get evidences of right proportion in Mughal monuments.


III. Bhava (Expression)


Beauty and grace cannot be imparted to the image by any cut and dried rule. It must come from the heart of the artist and sculptor [14]. Bhava is the representation of sentimental grace in posture and is the action of feeling of form. The expression of sentiments has been taken as one of the most important things in painting. Our eyes see the emotions and the same are expressed by graceful distortion of face. But the deepest expressions of the same are felt by heart only. Thus showing of disposition or posture only is not enough in a painting.

The Bhava is an expression of inner sensation which comes naturally through visual representation of object. We can easily see the overt expression of sentiment by our eyes, but only heart can feel its covert form. It is invisible action of visible condition which creates inner delight to the spectator. In Indian theory of art Bhava is the essential aspect of artifacts. For instance, Ajanta paintings became famous in the world only because of the beauty of expression of Bhava in them [15]. The craftsmen at the time of Mughals had their limitations to express any feeling; they could not use any human figure to express the inner meaning. By observing their work we can say that they did great research about the motifs which they wanted to use to express something. These artisans were very much fascinated by Lotus motifs because apart from having natural beauty it also has a symbolic significance. That’s why lotus motif had been adopted by Mughal artisans with its symbolic and spiritual image. For Mughal artisans it was a medium of expressing the universal feeling and emotion through its visual image. Lotus flower has a great potential to arouse several emotions in a single figure which makes it valuable as a decoration element. For example, to show peace they used its inverted form on the top of the dome of a building structure and to express the feeling of victory they used it in full bloom form at frieze of facade at Buland Darwaza at Fatehpur Sikri [Fig.3]. Thus it can be concluded that the craftsmen used lotus flower to express the secret meaning and inner pleasure in the absence of human and animal figures.


IV. Lavanya-Yojnam (Aesthetic Scheme)


Lavanya-Yojnam enhances the beauty and grace of artifacts. The painting will look monotonous if beauty or grace is not there. Shri Avanindra Nath Tagore has elaborated the Lavanya-Yojnam in his "Six Limbs of Indian Painting."“Bhava is the expression of inner beauty and lavanya is the making manifest of the outer beauty by adding grace and charm to it. Lavanya-Yojnam gives gleam to beauty” [16].

As the food without salt is tasteless, in the same way a painting is tasteless without Lavanya-Yojnam. But as the improper use of salt makes a meal bitter and tasteless in the same way the un-proportionate Lavanya could not make a good painting, so only balanced Lavanya-Yojnam should he there in a painting or work of art. Mughal art and architecture is well recognized for its attractive designs and unique style. In this context, lotus has been used as a divine symbol from ancient time which displays different aspects of life as well as grace through its visual image. It can be said that despite knowing the existence of lotus in mythology, it has been adopted by Mughals emperors as an element of design and decoration in Mughal paintings, art and architecture. It may be in the fitness of things to say that the Mughal artisans wanted to present more and more through a small image. That’s why they depicted lotus in both simple and complex forms in attractive and aesthetic manner. Figures are given below to justify the role of Lavanya-Yojna in the architectural decoration of Fatehpur Sikri; in one picture the façade without the ornamentation looks dull and empty. Artisans added the lotus motifs into this to add beauty and Harmony and to generate visual interest among the viewers.


V. Sadradhyam (Similitude)


According to Avanindra Nath Tagore, to express the Bhava of any form with the help of any other form is the function of Sadradhyam [17]. Sadradhyam means the ascertainment or determination of the real form or resemblance or similarity in form and ideas. The painting should be clear. If lotus is painted it should look like lotus and not like any other flower. In the decoration of Mughal buildings the artisans created an effect of beauty and sometimes they depicted the lotus motif in highly stylized way. This stylization created confusion in understanding the lotus motif. When they used lotus in Indian style it looked like a lotus but when they used it in Persian or Chinese style it lost its originality. The reason behind this may be that this form came from Persia and China, and their craftsmen were not aware of this flower’s form or they had never seen this flower earlier [Fig.5]. There is one more reason behind this, in Islamic religion the artist could not depict anything in natural way so they used this flower in this way and also they had no knowledge of the theory of Indian cannons so they were free to use any form in their own way.


VI. Varnika-Bhanga (Color Scheme)


The combination of two words Varnika and Bhanga is called Varnika-Bhanga which conveys the knowledge of color scheme. It means the use of color in an artistic style for creating an aesthetic sense. There should be appropriate color scheme to express the idea and atmosphere in a painting. Opposite or wrong colors should not be used otherwise the painting will be unattractive. For this the painter should be versatile and dexterous in the application of color. He should have keen knowledge about color and the ways to handle it. He should have the knowledge of what color scheme can make a definite atmosphere lively. Each and every color has its own intensity and identity which reflect the prominent mood of human behavior. Varnika-Bhangahas been placed in the last of limbs of Indian painting so that after the completion of a picture the colors may in properly added. It is written in. During the time of Mughals, The craftsmen had great knowledge of the color but they were also bound by the limitation of material. Red sandstone was the largest medium of ornamentation in Mughal buildings and they chose lotus as the best element because they didn’t have to color it and according to Chitrasutra that a painter should try to make a painting only in one color it is also “considered to be focused on primary colors obtained as pure or unmixed and not the three basic colours from which all other shades can be produced” [18]. So, the lotus forms are carved in red sand stone on a large scale. But sometimes artisans worked in other techniques too, such as inlay, painted murals and stucco [Fig.6], but in these other methods they followed the proper color scheme as per rule of Sastras.


VII. Conclusion

On the basis of this study it can be concluded that artisans under the Akbar worked on the imperial architecture with the application of six limbs of Indian art. These six canons have a vital place in art and aesthetics because these increase beauty, grace and quality of artifacts which is the basic requirement of an object. The artisans who were employed by the Akbar had inherited these un-broken traditions and these undoubtedly became fundamental lines of guidance for them. They initiated lotus motif in an expressive manner through Fatehpur Sikri monuments. No wonder that there is no record of any new canons in the grand and exquisitely superb Mughal architecture. They did not need any new perception and canons. Such canons had already been evolved and perfected. Akbar gave them the necessary propulsive inspiration; they only revived and revitalized the old principles.