‘Parallels between Mahabharata and the Biennale’: Dr Vishwa Adluri

Noted academician participated in a ‘Let’s Talk’ event at KMB 2016 on Wednesday

Kochi, Feb 16: Pointing out convergences between the ongoing third edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale (KMB) and the epic Mahabharata, noted philosopher and Indologist Dr Vishwa Adluri contended that the fourth century text attributes artistic value to everything. 

“Earlier, art was classified into genres such as painting, sculpture, poetry or music. However, when everyday objects entered the gallery space or an art show, it posed the question of ‘what is art?’ While the West said art could be anything, the Mahabharata held that art was everything,” Dr Adluri said over the course of a thought-provoking lecture titled ‘Universe In Verse – Mahabharata as Contemporary Art’ at the Pavilion in Cabral Yard on Wednesday.

The discussion was hosted by Kochi Biennale Foundation (KBF) as part of its ‘Let’s Talk’ series and supported by HCL and Kiran Nadar Museum of Art. It featured expositions on the galleries of myth and memory as well as the common architecture of art, poetry and the wider universe.

Dr Adluri drew a parallel between the title of Sudarshan Shetty’s curatorial vision for KMB 2016, ‘Forming in the pupil of an eye’, and a reference in the Mahabharatha, which is told at the end of history in a forest called “a blink of an eye” with the murmurs and stirrings of the whole human universe contained within the rustlings in its text.

“In telling the Vedic idea of a sage transmitting several multiplicities through the eye, Sudarshan uses the ‘blink of an eye’ concept, which is ‘Nimisha’ when translated into Sanskrit. The whole story of Mahabharata happens in a forest named ‘Naimisha’. So we can call it the ‘Forest of a blink of an eye’. The Mahabharata is an art object in itself,” he said.

 “A verse in the epic says ‘Whatever we find here, can be found elsewhere. But what is not here can be found nowhere else’. This is a pretty dramatic statement that can be interpreted to relate the Mahabharata with an art space like the Biennale. That nothing is outside the Mahabharata is a very vital statement for art,” the philosopher said.

The author also related some of the concepts mentioned in the epic with a number of artworks featured at KMB 2016. “For example, time and universe are two concepts in the epic. Here at the Biennale, two works in particular depict these themes – Raúl Zurita’s ‘Sea of Pain’ and Aleš Šteger’s ‘The Pyramid of Exiled Poets’,” Dr Adluri said.


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