Demystifying tantra

PASSIONATE T. Vinod on tantra art  

Tantric art has always fascinated people. T. Vinod, a practitioner of this art, gave a discourse on the philosophy of tantra art at Kashi Art Gallery

What you see is what you get. Well, it's not as simple as that when it comes to Tantra art, for you get much more than what you see. Going beyond the evident, beyond seeing and believing is the complex philosophy of Tantra that left the handful of keen listeners to a discourse, `When Gods Awaken', by Tantra practitioner T. Vinod with hundreds of questions and hundreds of answers. But what it really did was awaken the fire among them, the fire to understand this complex philosophy and its seemingly simple geometric expression on canvas. Vinod, practitioner of Tantra art and philosophy along with three other artists, Sreekumar A.S, S. Madhu and Joshi Joseph worked on a canvas at the Kashi Art Gallery last week. The discourse that followed the art workshop explained the translation of Tantra philosophy in art.On the surface of these complex, deep beliefs the translations in art are the colourful geometric shapes, each signifying an element, a mood, a movement, a union and the eventual balance.

The bindu

The final equilibrium amidst this chaos of the cosmos is really the case in point: the `bindu'. That is the centre, which in the final painting is lost, camouflaged by the ever-widening circle, triangles (trikonas), six-corner motif (Star figure: shutkone) depicting the movement in the cosmos. The inverted triangles simplistically imply the male female union, which is the basis of life. It is symbolic of the creation and the destruction, aesthetically expressed in sculpture (shiva-sakthi), in painting (Ardhanaereeshwar) and through triangles in Tantra art. "In art Tantra creates a language, just like mudras in Natya (dance), colours in painting, forms in sculpture, ragas in music and talas in rhythm," says Vinod, explaining the usage of motifs. "It is a language to communicate. The whole idea of Tantra is not to deny anything but to go beyond the experience, even a sexual experience. People find it difficult to transcend this. You might sing or dance to experience ultimate fulfilment and that's where Tantric art comes in. It helps to transcend an experience. Tantric motifs are only a suggestion or an idea," says Vinod. He cites an example that a lotus need not be created pictorially but it can be expressed symbolically. Thus motifs in tantra art are loaded with meaning.

Number 9

The number nine comprising of the five senses and the four `bodhas', the mind, intelligence, memory and the ego are represented in Tantra art. " Nine is the universal number and is important in Tantra. The upward triangle represents the male and the downward the female. It's from this male female union that the `bindu' or point emerges. The circle around this geometric construction is the ever-widening cosmic circle. And amidst the cosmic chaos is the balance in nature where past, present and future too fuse into a whole. Colours have a significant usage. Red stands for fire, blue and black represent earth, yellow for the sky. Triangles also stand for fire, square is symbolic of the earth, circle is the sky and bindu the ultimate point in the universe. The whole Tantra art iconology rests on these principles, explained very briefly. "Tantra philosophy will liberate people. It will make free," said Vinod who practices it. He learnt the system of traditional mural art from Mammiyoor Krishnan Aasan and is now recreating the lost 17th century murals of Madurai Meenakshi Temple, for the past 10 years. PRIYADARSSHINI SHARMA