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Revisiting Coomaraswamy for our times

Op-Ed

Revisiting Coomaraswamy for our times

Kaul, Mayank Mansingh

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 First Published, November 2007, Craft Revival Trust

‘The painters of our visions – the makers of our songs – the builders of our houses – the weavers of our garments, these all are touchstone that can turn to gold for us both past and present, if we will it so…They can show to us the significance of little things, the wonder of what is always going on. They tell us that we are what we are …because of the dolls on our childhood games, because of the rivers that we worship as divinities, because of the beauty of women, and the splendid indifference of men to danger and to death’1 Ananda Coomaraswamy is today remembered as a historian and philosopher of Indian art, where he spent most of his life interpreting Indian culture to the west. His writings on Indian art and aesthetics remain extremely relevant today - not only for a deep insight into Indian history, but as a starting point and reference for India’s future; where we may chose to take India in the present world. ‘Each race contributes something essential to the world’s civilization in the course of its own self-expression and self-realisation. The character built up in solving its own problems…is itself a gift which each offers to the world…’ wrote Coomaraswamy in 1917. 2 It is worth noting how an insight into the art of India gave him an understanding of the enormous wealth of Indian civilization and its culture – how the land had shaped, resolved, though...

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