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The Lord of the Heart: Abhinavagupta's Aesthetics and Kashmir Śaivism

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image of Religion and the Arts

Indian aesthetics owes much to the genius of Abhinavagupta (fl. c. 950–1025), whose aesthetic theory combined elements of Tantric exegesis, philosophy, poetics, musicology, and mysticism. His aesthetics is also based on the cosmology of the Śaivagamas, as shown in the benedictory verses to his commentary on the Nātyaśāstra, Abhinava Bhāratī, where he invokes Śiva in the form of the cosmic and human elements (tattva). Abhinavagupta also uses the similes of the world drama and world picture to show the interconnectedness of theology and the arts, since Śiva is the Divine artist. Moreover, the doctrine that "everything is connected with everything else" provides a basis for an understanding of art in which even a fragment can reflect the beauty of the whole. Aesthetics also assumes the freedom of the artist to create, as well as the joy that emanates from a work of art—a joy directly connected with spiritual bliss.

Affiliations: 1: Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, India


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