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The Ancient Grammar of Painting

Updated: Mar 3


I will now hash out some of the critical points related to art from an ancient grammar book of painting, which was the world's first grammar book. I first read this book when I was a student at Art College, but that book was briefly recomposed only for the syllabus of fine arts and written in the Bengali language. After receiving my degree, I found that grammar book again in Bengali, translated from Sanskrit. It was all in the details. The original scripture, which was written in the Sanskrit language, described those aphorisms in two lines, -

"Rupveda Pramanani Bhavalabnnya yojonam

Saddreshang Barnikavanga Eti Chitrang Sadangakam."

[“रूपवेद प्रमाणानि भावलाब्न्या योजनम्

सद्द्रेशांग बरनिकावंगा एति चित्रांग सदंगकम।'']

It is indeed astounding how that anonymous author composed amazingly six aphorisms in only two lines with a wide-sprayed meaning! During that era, it was the typical style of writing of those ancient Aryan sags to pen down their doctrines briefly because it was tough to arrange papers vastly to write in a descriptive way. It was also a tradition to concentrate on those doctrines to discover the inner meaning of those verses.

Original Kamasutra scripture

The original Kamasutra book is still available everywhere and probably in various languages because it's a popular sex guidebook. The Chittrasadanga (Sanskrit language, meaning, - six aphorisms) is a part of that book, written by the famous sage named Batsayan in the mythological era. Few other ancient grammar books related to painting, sculpture, and Gothic art dominated in that oldest era, but, unfortunately, most of those are now lost from the world. Only a few references remain elsewhere in those books. The names of those books were Vishnudharmattor, Chittrasutra, Shilparatna, Saraswatishilpa, and more. All those books were in the Sanskrit language; however, they were motivated artists who had an intimate contribution to the temple and cave painting of South India. Those books were composed after the era of Lord Buddha, although the aphorisms and some of the critical grammar methods performed as the linguistic type grammar from the pre-Buddhist age. Therefore, we do not theoretically detect any change in the grammatical portion of the painting if we compare Hindu and Buddhist styles. Only there would be a difference in the subject matter and spiritual vision.

It is ascertained that the book Chitrasutra is the earliest one compared to other books composed in the 6th century AD. This version of this book is related to the aphorisms, composition, and equipment of painting, as well as the eminence and deterioration of a painting. Moreover, it described the concept of foreshortening! But the book Kamasutra is the world's first ancient book that described in detail the actual aphorisms of painting, and the other books mentioned above followed the Kamasutra.  In this book, the author clearly identified what art and artistic sense are, the basic level of artistic vision, and how an artist should compose a painting depending on his beliefs or experience he acquired from the surrounding nature. The author also provided a guideline for artists on what the best path to take to represent artistic impressions on canvas should be. I am surprised to see the explanation of modern painting, which is unbelievable regarding the comparison of the era. Still, without any uncertainty, it is highly acceptable in the contemporary platform for art. Moreover, in this book, the author also gave the idea of tattoos and body painting! 

Ancient Hindu monk

In India, the importance of this grammar book is still unavoidable, and the students of fine art still follow these aphorisms in their art teachers' guidance. From very far past, before the era of Lord Buddha, this concept of grammar was appraised by some ancient sages, and they composed a specific scripture after various research. Agreeing with their instruction, the grammar of painting/sculpture is carved up by six aphorisms. It has produced a complete guideline of “art” widely but has not revealed the actual generator of this grammar of painting. Merely, it has distinguished the name of a famous monk, Batsayan, who composed a unique scripture of sexual guidelines, and in that book, we have found a total description of those six aphorisms of grammar. Likewise, it is difficult to determine the actual time of writing the book “Kamasutra.” A famous art critic, Parse Brown, ascertained that it was written in the third century BC or earlier.  Batsayan confessed that he was not the actual generator of the grammar book of painting; however, he, too, was unable to define the name of the real author of those aphorisms since, as I was aforementioned, traditionally, it was in the linguistic form; Batsayan just converted those aphorisms in the written form.

Here I am repeating those names -


Meaning - The Conception of nature and its elements.



Meaning - Clear conception of symmetrical drawing, balance, and composition conforming to the sense of an artist.



Meaning – Superimposing the emotion or Expression on any object or the body language and expanding feelings.



Meaning -  Create a luminosity and expand its beauty.



Meaning - Find out the similarities ( direct or indirect ) between two separate objects.



Meaning - Techniques of using painting materials (preferably colors ) or understanding the language of color tones.

 It is famous for this name – “ CHITRA-SADRANGA.” The meaning of SADRANGA  is six parts of the body of the aphorism. 

Since that era, it has been the most acceptable and essential guideline for artists. There are many explanations regarding those aphorisms, but here I will discuss the most acceptable clarification, established by research and proved practically in the workshop. Each aphorism has versatile significances depending on the experiences; however, it must have a standard definition and estimation.

I shall pleased if my efforts can help all students and art lovers understand and enjoy a painting and inspire them to go with perfection.

In the next chapter, I'll discuss the first aphorism, RUPVEDHA. You will learn and discover some beautiful BC third-century concepts related to artistic thought and vision.

*Image Resource - Original Kamasutra Scripture By Ms. Sarah Welch


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