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The Kala Kosa investigates the intellectual traditions in their dimensions of multi-layers and multi-disciplines.  As a research and publication division it endeavours to place the arts within the integral framework of a cultural system, combining the textual with the oral, the visual with the aural, and theory with practice.

The Indian arts, both in theory (sastra) and practice (prayoga), are branches of a single unified living tree of Indian culture. They are sustained by, and in turn nurture, other dimensions of life.  The world-view has crystallised in some fundamental concepts, which reflect the understanding of the cosmos, of space and time, of the centre and periphery, of the part and the whole, of body, senses and the mind. An interdisciplinary approach is the first pre-requisite to interlink the sciences (Ganita, Jyotisa, Ayurveda, etc.) with philosophy and with the various branches of the arts.  The Kala Kosa division is committed to exploring these fundamental concepts, as they reflect a holistic vision characteristic of the Indian world-view, but whose survival is today threatened by limitations of narrow specialisation. So far, most research has been done in single disciplines or within limited historical periods, but serious investigation into the interrelatedness of all these fields has been greatly lacking.  While this insularity and compartmentalization of knowledge was conditioned by the manner of development in the field of the natural sciences in the 19th century, modern physics, biology and medicine have already questioned the purely linear approach. Thus, IGNCA's approach as based on the recognition of interrelatedness between areas and subjects, is fully supported by the latest insights and theories of the scientific community.

Keeping this in view, the Kala Kosa Division works toward identifying primary concepts, fundamental to the Indian world-view, which have permeated all disciplines and dimensions of life, bringing to light primary textual source material hitherto unknown, unpublished or inaccessible both in the original language as also translation, and placing before future generation the works of the savants who have been pioneers in giving direction and light for comprehending the artistic traditions through a holistic vision, cross-cultural context, and multi-disciplinary methodology. Around 175 titles have been published under three publication series viz.Kalātattvakośa,  Kalāmūlaśāstra, Kalāsamālocana


Publication Series

Varanasi Regional Centre

Database of Kalātattvakośa Terms (Reference cards)

View Video Clip:

  • VEDIC CHANTING A Project on Safeguard and Support of The Masterpieces of Intangible Heritage of Humanity   i.e. Our Oral Tradition and Ritualistic Practices
 I. Kalatattvakosa

The first project of the Kala Kosa is a lexicon of fundamental concepts of the Indian arts.  In consultation with various scholars a list of about 250 terms of concepts has been prepared.  The criteria for selecting these terms were based on a survey of their pervasiveness as also their interdisciplinary nature, i.e. terms occurring in several Sastras as well as in the arts have been selected, whereas those limited to a particular field were excluded.  The evolution of a concept from its most abstract level to concrete fields of the arts is explored.  Each concept is investigated through several disciplines and primary texts.  Its extension and radiation in several fields are traced.  For example, the most abstract metaphysical concept, such as Brahmana, has penetrated the concrete fields of the arts, as Brahmasutra, Brahmasthana in the context of architecture, sculpture or theatre. The concept of centrality and pervasiveness is basic, as is the principle of verticality.  Through such analysis, an etymological development and historical continuity as well as a horizontal interdisciplinary interrelatedness can be discovered.  The terms have been grouped according to certain broad logical or semantic categories.

The method adopted for the lexicon is based on sifting primary source material in Sanskrit, Prakrit and Pali.  Major texts are perused, quotations relevant to the particular terms are extracted. These quotations are written on cards in Sanskrit (both in Devanagari and Roman characters) with English translation, giving the shades of meaning as well as contextual notes and/or the relevant commentary.

Alongwith the major terms, cognate terms are also included, as well as compounds, synonyms, etc.  The quotations are related to the definition of a concept, its first occurrence, important usages, sub-division, etc.  Several thousand cards from various Sastras have been collected.  A computerised database is being developed on the basis of the cards; the uploading of about 55,000/- cards on computer is underway.

The articles on the terms, written on the basis of the cards, do not claim to give a complete history of the concept, which would not be possible at the present stage of indological research. However, they can show the stages through which a concept has travelled, from the Vedas with their ramifications in the speculative, physical, ritual and mythological/narrative fields, from Buddhist and Jain sources, through Vedangas or ancient sciences,  the various Sastras, Puranas, Tantras, Darsanas, etc. till its crystallisation in the different arts.  The relation between the conceptual background and the manifestation in the arts remains the main focus of the articles.  The arts occupy an intermediate position and hence mediate between metaphysics and physics, between spirituality and science; e.g., a stupa or temple represents a whole metaphysical conception, and at the same time its building requires the technical science of architecture and engineering.  An interdisciplinary approach is thus indispensable.

The Tantric dictum: Sarvam Sarvatmakam, everything is related to the totality (or: every detail is related to the whole), serves as a kind of magic key to unravel these concepts. As for possible schemes of interpretation, which may be obvious or implicit, the Indian tradition itself offers sufficient categories.  The various schemes of two or three levels of understanding reality can be applied here: the Vedic division in adhibhuta (physical), adhidaiva (divine) and adhyatma (human, spiritual); the pervasive conception of the three dimensions of sthula (gross, physical), suksma (subtle, psychic) and para (transcendent); the differentiation in the manifest and the unmanifest (vyakta, avyakta and vyaktavyakta), and others serve as a hermeneutical basis.  Depending on the context, the starting point may be physical/scientific or metaphysical/conceptual, but other dimensions are not excluded. Unidimensional or one-sided interpretations are eschewed.

The articles are being written by a group of scholars in close consultation, so that the approach remains consistent. As in the case of any glossary or dictionary, cross references and indices facilitate the usage. Six volumes of the Kalatattvakosa have been released thus far as follows:

Volume-1 On Pervasive terms - Vyapti comprises articles on the terms of Brahman, Purusa, Atman, Sarira, Prana, Bija, Laksana and Silpa.

Volume-2 On Space and Time - Desa/Kala includes sixteen seminal terms: Bindu, Nabhi, Cakra, Ksetra, Loka, Desa, Kala, Ksana, Krama, Sandhi, Sutra, Tala, Mana, Laya, Sunya and Purna.

Volume-3 On Primal Elements- Mahabhuta consists of terms: Prakrti, Bhuta Mahabhuta, Akasa, Vayu, Agni, Jyotis/Tejas/Prakasa, Ap, Prthivi/Bhumi.

Volume-4 The Manifestation of Nature - Srsti Vistara contains the seminal terms which are complementary to the primal elements (Mahabhuta). The terms are: Indriya, Drvya, Dhatu, Guna/Dosa, Adhibhuta/Adhidaiva/Adhyatma, Sthula/Suksma/Para, Srsti/Sthiti/Samhara

Volume-5 On Form / Shape - Akara / Akrti has ten terms: Rekha, Akara-Akrti, Rupa-Pratirupa, Sakala-Niskala, Arca, Murti, Pratima-Pratikrti, Vigraha, Bandha-Prabandha, Prasada.

Volume-VI On Appearance/Symbolic Form - Abhasa contains articles on the terms: Abhasa, Sadrsya-Sarupya, Anukarana/Anukrti/Anukirtana, Chaya, Bimba-Pratibimba, Linga, Pada, Vrtti-Riti.

II. Kalamulasastra

The second ongoing and long range programme consists of the publication of annotated texts and translations of fundamental texts relating to the Indian arts ranging from architecture, sculpture, painting to music, dance, theatre and along with their scientific and technical commentaries.  This programme is conceived as a series of 108 texts with original translation with glossaries and pictorial illustrations.  Scholars both from India and abroad are involved in this task.  The procedure adopted is to assign each text to one or more specialists in the concerned field. They are supplied with all the printed and manuscript material and have access to the databases of Kala Nidhi. Multi-lingual word processor is used for perfect transliteration. Each volume contains a critical introduction, a note on the critical apparatus utilized, a historical placement of the author, the critically edited text with variant readings, a translation in English, annotations, a glossary of technical terms, a verse index, bibliography, illustrations and photographs. In this programme 28 texts in 61 volumes have already been published; another 20 texts are in the process of preparation. Through the publication of fundamental texts with translation under this series the IGNCA has already facilitated the scholarly community with the source material o arts in general as also on specific arts viz. Architecture, Sculpture, Music and Dance etc.

III. Kalasamalocana

While the Kalamulasastra programme forms research and publication of primary texts, the Kalasamalocana programme relates to publications on interpretation and analysis of secondary material.  These are considered to be classics of art criticism.  The series is made up of volumes of critical texts and editions of works of eminent scholars who have dwelt upon the fundamental concepts, identified perennial sources and created bridges of communication by juxtaposing diverse traditions.  Their work is of contemporary relevance and validity as they are engaged in search for roots and for a comprehensive perception.  These significant works of scholarship are often inaccessible as they are either out of print or do not have translations in English. In the Kalasamalocana series, the IGNCA has attempted to bring to light these invaluable contributions through modestly-priced publications.  The programme has been initiated by a series of re-edited reprints and translations of a select number of authors and works.

Another emphasis in the Kalasamalocana programme is on the publishing of Selected Letters of illustrious scholars who have made a pioneering contribution to different fields of study.  While their works reflect their scholarship, their personal notings help in determining the thought-process behind it.  They reveal the inner being of the scholars, their influences, and their theories and ideologies.  The letters published so far are those of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Romain Rolland, Hazari Prasad Dwivedi (in Hindi) and Benarasidas Chaturvedi (in Hindi in 2 volumes). About 55 volumes under this series have been published.

Ananda Coomaraswamy Series

Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1877-1947) is amongst the writers who have been path-finders in perception and scholarship across cultures. His illuminating writings have brought the East and West together in a meaningful dialogue. His penetrating attention to the mind and soul of India's civilization provided a model for generations of Asian and Western scholars. His contribution to the study of Indian art and culture is invaluable. His books, covering a wide range of topics and disciplines, reflect his unique scholarship. The series presents complete works of this illustrious scholar in thematically arranged and re-edited volumes. Out of a corpus of nearly 35 books, 17 have been published by the Centre.

Audio-Visual Documentation of the Recitation Techniques of Vedic Texts

The Vedas have been held as the earliest known knowledge-based compilation of humankind. A tradition, essentially oral in nature, followed to preserve and transmit these to the succeeding generations; it continues till date. All existing traditional experts of Vedic learning recite their respective branch of the Vedas daily. Owing to various historical, social, financial, religious and cultural reasons, this oldest living oral tradition of ours faces extinction risk. The Vedic scholars, reduced to numbers, are finding it difficult to keep the tradition alive on their own. It is to be noted that out of 1131 recensions only 10 survive in unbroken chanting traditions. This vital issue forms the very basis of our cultural heritage, and hence, the Ministry of Culture was approached with the proposal ‘Safeguard and Support of Masterpieces of Intangible Heritage of Humanity’, i.e. the oral tradition and ritualistic practices related to the Vedas, for a sympathetic consideration. The proposal got the approval of the Ministry. As a result, extensive documentation has been initiated under the programme. The Division already has 250 hours of audio-video documentation of different recensions of the Vedas, viz. Sakala and Kaushitaki of the Rgveda; Kanva, Madhyandina and Taittiriya of the Yajurveda; Kauthuma, Jaiminiya and Ranayaniya of the Samaveda and Paippalada of the Atharvaveda.

View Video clip of VEDIC CHANTING A Project on Safeguard and Support of The Masterpieces of
Intangible Heritage of Humanity   i.e. Our Oral Tradition and Ritualistic Practices


Narivada: Gender, Culture & Civilization Network

Narivada Newsletter - Issue No.2, January 2007

The IGNCA views women’s contribution to art and culture as an integral part of its endeavor. Narivada: Gender, Culture & Civilization Network was launched in 2002 to create a space for discourse on women’s culture, which is airbrushed from history, marginalized or distorted by misperception of history. The aim of Narivada Programme is to recover lost and suppressed voices of women; revision and contextualize women’s cultural resources and traditional knowledge systems as an integral element of gender studies; and to emphasize and re-assess the key role women have played in the creation, preservation and transmission of our cultural heritage.

Since its inception in 2002, Narivada has carried out research on two of its in-house projects. Kala Aur Katha, Women’s Art & Expression in Mithila brought together fifty women artists from villages of Madhubani district belonging to all social classes (Brahman, Kayastha, Dusadh) on the occasion of the Madhu-Shravani Parva, (15 July-7 August 2006), the festival dedicated to snake deities during the monsoon season. An integrated documentation on the fifteen narratives, songs and rituals associated with the festival were recorded at the workshop. In the second workshop on the theme Gunvati Nari, the women expressed their mythical and historical role models who have made impact on their lives. As a result of these two workshops a research document is proposed in the form of a book with contributions from leading scholars and renowned authors.

The second project Imaarat: Women Patrons of Delhi: From Razia Sultan to Mubarak Begum (ca. 1240-1823 A.D.) is envisaged as an inquiry into looking at women’s subjects as active historical agents. It recognizes and acknowledges the role models women have played in creation and evolution of material culture such as temples, forts, dargahs; the landscape of piety such as gardens, groves, avenues, lakes, wells, ghats, rest-houses, palaces etc. Under this project 44 monuments have been identified, hitherto neglected and unrecognized. The visual documentation is explained by a wide range of authoritative articles by well-known scholars. An exhibition and an illustrated catalogue on the findings are proposed. A third research programme entitled: A Women’s Delhi from Purani Dilli to New Delhi (Ca. 1870-1950) focused on women’s contribution to the culture of Delhi. The documentation covers the contribution of Delhi-based women in the area of visual and performative arts such as music, literature, crafts, photography, films, journalism, dance and drama, social welfare, law, education and spirituality, as well as women who made a significant contribution to the freedom movement.

A unique first of its kind programme entitled Research in Textual Studies and Women’s literature in Sanskrit from 3000 BC to 2000 AD was introduced in Kalakosa and concerned with publication of annotated text and translation of fundamental sources in Sanskrit. In view of the authentic research in Sanskrit literature carried out by Kalakosa, the Narivada introduced the Vidhushi Project on Women’s writings in Sanskrit, which endeavors to reevaluate the neglected and suppressed voices of women in Sanskrit literature. Under the Vidhushi Project the Narivada had organized two workshops to reclaim the voices of Vedic Rishikas and women’s writings in Sanskrit from 3000 BC to 2000 AD. An important aim of this project is to set aside stereotype myths and prejudices often put forward about women in India.

Apart from these in-house projects the Narivada has launched a number of collaborative projects with Women Studies Research Centres in India. Under this three research studies have been completed in collaboration with Women Studies Research Centre, University of Calcutta: Three Undiscovered Women Painters from West Bengal (Chitranibha Chowdhury and Kamala Roychowdhury) by Chilka Ghose; A Photographic Essay by Women in Brahmo Samaj by Konkana Sengupta; and Stitching Dreams, Creating Livelihood – A Study on Kantha Embroidery by Women by Dr. Rituparna Basu. A study on Women and Culture of Rice in the Musahar Community is being carried out by the Deshkal Society, New Delhi. Research Centre of Women Studies, SNDT University, Mumbai has also undertaken research work on alternative healing practices of women.

Narivada has been deeply engaged in promoting original studies in under research areas, such as, Gender and Knowledge System in the North East, a study conducted by Dr. Alka Saikia focusing on new epistemologies; Ethnicity and Livelihood Studies record personal histories of a selective number of women tribal artists from Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra by charting out patterns of growth and creativity; Recovery of Oral Histories of Women particularly pertaining to Women and Nationalism and personal histories of women from marginal groups. Two studies have so far been completed i.e. Painted Identities: Conversation with Three Women Tribal Artists from Madhya Pradesh by Indira Mukherjee and A Passion for Freedom: The Story of Kisanin Jaggi Devi by Deepti Priya Mehrotra (published).

Narivada has brought out the following seven CD-ROM’s on the following themes: A Dialogue with Women Priestess of Lepchas (A film by Bappa Ray); The Journey of Bhikkunis (A film by Bappa Ray); Brahmavadinis: The First Women’s Gurukul in India; Recollection of a Satyagrahi (A film by Kalpana Subramaniam); The Mirasans of Punjab: Born to Sing (A film by Shika Jhingan); Seeking Moksha: The Vaishnavis of Vrindaban; Gram Banglar Nadir Moner Kotha, Bengali Folk Songs by Women (Audio CD).

Narivada has also brought out a set of five individual papers. Eight books on selective themes from the above research are in the process of being published. As a part of its ongoing programmes Narivada organizes lectures by eminent scholars from the field of Gender and Culture and presents innovative exhibitions related to women’s contribution to culture.

Narivada is actively involved in dialogue and debates with student community in various colleges of Delhi to introduce and sensitize them to the positive role that women’s culture can play in promoting women’s empowerment.  

More detail on Narivada


Area Studies

Research on Area Studies comprises projects on (i) Eurasia, (ii) East Asia, and (iii) South-East Asia. These programmes are designed to create resources for advanced research in the culture, art and history of these regions and also sponsor research leading to publication.

(i) Eurasian Area Studies programme is still at a nebulous stage though it has started a wide range of expanding research programmes and projects, some of which are already completed or nearing completion. The programme aims at covering Mongolia, Central and West Asia, Iran, Turkey, and certain surrounding regions extending up to the Arab and Turkish world. A common current of thought process seems to reverberate all over and the thrust is determined not so much by the geographical boundaries or proximities as much as by the intensity of mutual contacts, close relations and common cultural heritage, and brisk exchanges of ideas, men and commodities through the ages. The area is defined through extensive possibilities of relevant research.

Beginning with an international seminar Cities, Roads and Caravan Sarais- An Emblem of Relations through the Ages - India, Central Asia and Turkey held at IGNCA in 2008, along with an exhibition (prepared with the gifted material by the five Central Asian States) the IGNCA decided upon a well thought out 14-point programme which was and is being followed. Being an art and culture studies Centre, the IGNCA is set upon building a vast collection of artefacts, ethnic objects, visual and performing arts resources, acquisition of valuable paintings, pieces of rarities, the works done and the translation of the material produced on each others’ countries, organising bilateral seminars, joint Buddhist studies, the Indian Diaspora in Central Asian states, the impact of Indian culture, the traces of which are too apparent and the vice versa. With this view, four international seminars (Indo-Iranian, with a week long cultural programme; Indo Mongolian; Indo-West Asian and Indo-Turkish International Seminars) are scheduled for the year 2010. The publication programme, both in house and outside its purview, is also continuing. The proceedings of the above seminar are being edited. The first in the series of already published works is on the exchanges in the sphere of architecture. One book of Indo-Turkish Architecture is only recently published. Another work Architecture-A symbol of Cultural Cohesion-A Pictorial Survey and the other The Mongol Rule in Central Asia 13th - 14th Centuries are both ready for press and may be released at the time of the seminar. Several projects are going to be launched with Central and West Asia. One MoU has been signed in June 2008 with Kyrgyzstan Archaeological Academy and plans for joint studies of Buddhist sites are being considered. The MoU signed with Iran Culture House, New Delhi in February 2009 was followed by the proposal for an MoU from Tehran National Academy of Arts, Iran. An Indo-Kazakhstan Cultural Forum too is being opened for collaborative researches and Indo-Turcology studies programme with Kokshetau University, Kazakhstan are in the pipeline. An Indo-Turkish major research programme on architecture and fine arts is also in the process. The plans to prepare cultural corners of each country in the Art Gallery are also being pursued. Many more plans are being made to extend the areas of researches. The Eurasian Area Studies programme is also exploring the possibility of joint projects with certain Arabian and African universities, with the former in the sphere of medicine, astronomy, music and cultural contacts and the latter focussing on researches on African Diaspora in India and their active political role in Indian states through the ages. Besides, the idea of an Indo-Portuguese project is also in the offing. These joint academic ventures are being planned to be pursues in a big way with these countries.

(ii) East Asia programme has been collaborating between India and the world with a view to commemorate our close historical and cultural relation since 1998. The unit has been successfully implementing cultural and historical exchanges in the sphere of architecture with many academic institutions in China including Dunhuang Academy, Peking University, Kucha Research Institute, Institute of Longman Caves, Taiyuan Normal University, Chinese Academy of Arts, Institute of Archaeology and in Korean Foundation, Korea and International Dunhuang Project, London as well. The main focus is on Buddhist art, especially in China and other part of the globe. The EAP unit has organized many seminars and exhibitions on the relations between India and China. Cave Art of India and China (1991), India and China looking at each other (1995), The Recent Archaeological Discoveries in Xinjiang (1996) and Documentation of Central Asian Antiquities (2000), Art Relics of Afganistan (2001), Xuanzang and Silk Route (2003), Mudra (2003), and History of The Central Asian Collections in Institutions Worldwide (2008) are some of the seminars held under the programme. It has brought out many publications such as Dunhuang Art: Through the eyes of Duan Wenjie, In the Footsteps of Xuanzang:Tan yun-shan and India, Xuanzang and Silk Route so far and has taken the initiative to further cultural exchange programmes by signing an MoU with the Xinjiang Kucha Caves Research Institute at Kizil Caves, Xinjiang, Chin

More Detail on East Asia Programme > Central Asian Programme

India & The World Publication series


(iii) South-East Asia study deals with India’s classical cultural relations with Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar. A core collection of research materials (books, microfiches, microfilms, slides and other) have been built up on these countries for IGNCA’s reference library. Besides, the programme is responsible for exchange of research materials and scholars. Recently, the art styles of various ancient temples of the Bali (Indonesia) have been documented. Additionally, the programme also focuses on the study of the classical art and culture of these regions of Asia devoting considerable attention to Buddhism and its other sister sects and conducting studies on the classical literature based on Indian epics: the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. Periodical organization of the Conferences, Seminars, exhibitions and scholarly discussion in the shape of lecture has also been a focus area.



Inhouse Lecture held
  • Lecture on "Indian Culture and the Asian World: Cultural Linkage and Interactions" by Sri Kishore Kumar Tripathy. Dr. Bachchan Kumar will chair the session on 30th August 2012

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