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Classical Arts, The


Classical Arts, The refer to different artistic and literary skills mentioned in the ramayana, mahabharata, Kamasutra, Vakyapadiya, Kalavilasa, Dashakumaracharita, Saubhagyabhaskara etc, as well as in some commentaries on the Bhagavatapurana. The list of arts is various and ranges from singing to the art of causing someone's death. Bhaskar Roy's Saubhagyabhaskara, for example, mentions maran, an occult rite to kill someone, as an art. Theft too is described as an art. The arts mentioned in Shukranitisara include caring for a boy, the art of holding power, athletics, swimming, climbing trees, writing the letters of different languages, charity, repaying of charity, returning good deeds, etc. There are varying opinions about the number of arts as well as what these arts are, in fact. Even Kshemendra, who mentions 64 arts in Chapter 4 of Kalavilasa, mentions 100 in Chapter 10. Nevertheless, the number of arts generally accepted is 64, as this figure is also mentioned in Vatsyayan's Kamasutra.

The 64 arts are generally categorised as follows:

1. gita or singing; 2. vadya or instrumental music; 3. nritya or dance; 4. elekhya or painting; 5. vishesakachchhedya or tilak painting; 6. tandula-kusumavali-vikara or floor painting with rice paste; 7. puspastarana or the art of making the nuptial bed; 8. dashanavasanabgaraga or enhancing the beauty of teeth, dress and body; 9. manibhumikakarma or making floors and courtyards with precious stones; 10. shayanarachana or making beds in accordance with the time, season, taste and situation; 11. udakavadya or the art of making music with seven bowls of water; 12. udakaghata or water sport;' 13. chitrayoga or inflicting misfortune on others; 14. malyagranthana or making flower garlands; 15. shekharakapidayojana or making headgear; 16. nepathyaprayoga or the art of theatrical make-up etc; 17. karnapatrabhabga or making earrings with ivory and conch; 18. gandhayukti or perfumery; 19. bhusanayojana or the art of wearing ornaments; 20. aindrajala or magic; 21. kauchumarayoga or the art of beautification; 22. hastalaghava or the ability to work quickly; 23. vichitra-shakayusa-bhaksya-vikarakriya or the culinary art; 24. suchivanakarma or needlework; 25. sutrakrida or the art of threading needles, a kind of sport; 26. vinadamarukavadya or the art of playing string and percussion instruments; 27. prahelika or the art of composing poems with concealed meanings; 28. pratimala or the art of persuasion or argument; 29. durvachakayoga or the art of using language that is not easy to understand; 30. pustakavachana or the art of reading a book sonorously; 31. natakakhyayika darshana or knowledge of drama; 32. kavyasamasyapurana or the art of composing a poem taking the cue from a word or line; 33. pattikavetravayana or basket weaving with cane strips; 34. taksakarma or twisting yarn into thread; 35. taksana or chiseling beds or chairs; 36. vastuvidya or architecture; 37. rupyaratnapariksa or the knowledge of testing the purity of gold and' gems; 38. dhatuvada or the technique of purifying metals; 39. maniragakarajvana or the knowledge of precious stones; 40. vrksayurvedayoga or planting of trees, their aintenance and' treatment; 41. mesa-kukkuta-lavaka-yuddhavidhi or teaching rams, cocks etc the art of fighting; 42. shuka-sarika-pralapana or the art of teaching parrots and mynahs the language of human beings; 43. utsadana-sangvahana-keshamardana-kaushala or techniques of massage; 44. aksaramustikakathana or shorthand writing; 45. mlechchhitavikalpa or the technique of conveying secret messages; 46. deshabhasavijvana or the knowledge of different languages; 47. puspashakatika or the art of sending flower messages; 48. nimittajvana or coded language; 49. yantramatrka or the knowledge of mechanical instruments; 50. dharanamatrka or the ability to remember whatever one hears; 51. sangpathya or the art of reading a previously unread book; 52. manasi or psychology; 53. kavyakriya or the art of composing poetry; 54. abhidhanakosa or the art of knowing the different meanings of words; 55. chhandojvana or the knowledge of rhymes and metres; 56. kriyakalpa or the knowledge of poetry and rhetoric; 57. chhalitakayoga or writing under a pseudonym; 58. vastragopana or the sartorial art; 59. dyutavishesa or the art of playing cards; 60. akarsakrida or the art of gambling; 61. valakridanaka or the art of making balls for children's games; 62. vainayikividya or the art of taming wild animals and teaching them' games; 63. vaijayikividya or the technique of winning, and 64. vaiyamikividya or physical exercise.

According to the Kamasutra, it is essential to practice all the 64 arts for a full life. According to Kavindracharyasuchipatra (c 1650), the library of Sarvavidyavisharad Kavindracharya had separate books on each of the 64 arts.

The concept of what constitutes an art has undergone considerable change. Today, in addition to singing, music, dancing, painting, writing, the art of sculpture and creative photography would be included. At the same time, some of the arts of classical times such as the art of wearing ornaments would be a matter of personal taste, while the art of making a nuptial bed would be a concern for florists and flower shops. Much of what was considered art is more familiar as folk art, for example the art of tandula-kusumavali-vikara, which is known in Bengal now as the art of alpana. [Md. Masud Parvez]