ŚILPA ŚĀSTRA exactly means the Science of Shilpa (Arts and Crafts). It is an ancient umbrella term for numerous Vedic Literature that describe arts, crafts, and their design rules, principles and standards. In the context of temple design, Shilpa Shastras were manuals for sculpture and Vedic Infographics, prescribing among other things, the extent of a sculptured figure, composition, principles, meaning, as well as rules of architecture.
Vāstu Śāstra – “Science of Architecture” is a traditional Vedic system of architecture originating in India. Vastu Vidya – the broader knowledge about architecture and design theories from the Ancient Sages describe principles of design, layout, measurements, ground preparation, space arrangement, and spatial geometry. Shilpa and Vastu Shastras are related, Shilpa Shastras deal with arts and crafts such as forming Statues, Icons, Stone Murals, Painting, Carpentry, Pottery, Jewelry, Dying, Textiles and others. Vastu Shastras deal with Building Architecture – Building Houses, Forts, Temples, Apartments, Village and Town Layout, etc.
Shilpa and Vastu Shastras is discussed in Agamas, Puranas and Vastu Shastra where it is linked to the mythology of Vishvakarma. Shilpa Shastras include chapters on paintings, both miniature and large. For example, Narada Shilpa Shastra dedicates chapters 66 and 71 to painting, while Saraswati Shilpa Shastra describes various types of Chitra (Full painting), Ardhachitra (Sketch work), Chitrabhasa (Communication through Painting), Varna Samskara (Preparation of Colors).
Acharya Viśvákarma is the characterization of ultimate reality and deity of the creative power. He is believed to be one of the ancient architect or engineer who created and skilled building of ancient monuments, architectures in Vedas. According to the Rigveda It/He is considered to be the architect, divine engineer of universe from before the advent of time. Vishwakarma is the presiding deity of all craftsmen and architects, Son of Brahma; he is the divine draftsman of the whole universe.
Among the many traditions (PARAMPARA) inherited in India, the tradition of Vishwakarma (The Sculptors and Architects) is unique. The principles , rules , measurements , proportions as also the aspects of expression of the deities to be sculpted are described in SHILPASASTRA, NATYASASTRA and various other texts; and all of which are in Sanskrit. The scholars who could read those texts knew next to nothing about sculpture. While, the Shilpis who actually carved the images had no knowledge of Sanskrit or access to the texts; and therefore could not know the texts or interpret the shlokas. This dichotomy was bridged by the generations of Shilpis who through experience learnt the craft, imbibed its principles and concepts; and passed them on to their succeeding generations and to their disciples.
VISHWAKARMA’S ARCHITECTURAL WONDERS:
Vedic Literatures is full of Vishwakarma’s many architectural wonders. Through the four ‘YUGAS‘, he had built several towns and palaces for the gods. In “SATYA YUGA“, he built the SWARG LOKE, or heaven, the abode of the gods and demigods where Lord Indra rules. Vishwakarma then built the ‘SONE KI LANKA‘ in “TRETA YUGA“, the city of DWARKA in “Dwapar yuga”, and HASTINAPUR and INDRAPRASTHA in the “Kali yuga”.
Acharya Nagnajit is King of Kosala Kingdom Mentioned in various Historic Literatures. He is also one of the eighteen authors on architecture this King was born from a portion of an ASURA called IṣUPĀDA.
Painting is introduced in CITRALAKSANA of “Nagnajit‟ and “Vishnudharmottara Purana‟ with the narration of a myth that reinforces the deeds of traditional authorities such a Vishnu, “VISHWAKARMA” and “NAGNAJIT‟. According to the Vedic philosophical thought, arts and crafts have a divine origin. The divine origin of painting is explained in the texts through the narration of 2 main myths which recognize “VISHNU‟, “VISHWAKARMA‟ and “NAGNAJIT‟ as the main authorities in this field. The myth narrated in “CHITRALAKSANA‟ is of prime importance. It proclaims Brahma as the supreme power who gave birth to the precepts of painting and then encourages King “Nagnajit‟ to paint the first picture into the world of living. According to the conversation between Brahma and King “NAGNAJIT‟ as narrated in “CHITRALAKSANA‟, “first of all the Vedas and the performance of offerings came into this world. In order to raise a place for worship, one must paint pictures. For this reason painting is counted as Vedas”. “Vishwakarma‟ shared with “Nagnajit‟ his wealth of knowledge regarding paintings. He also emphasized which objects and means are beautiful and the means of ornamentation and beautification of paintings.
The CHITRASUTRA in the “VISHNUDHARMOTTARA” is the one standard and the most valuable text in India which deals with the classifications of Pictures, Painting Materials, Merits and Defects. It is the oldest text on paintings which has been retained today. The origin of painting is attributed to the sage “Narayana” who created “Urvashi‟, the beautiful celestial nymph, by drawing a beautiful figure on his thigh. This explains the origin of drawing. “Narayana” taught this to “Vishwakarma‟, who successfully interpreted the entire theme of the universe by imitating in painting. “VISHNUDHARMOTTARA” Purana and CHITRALAKSHANA, former is available in Sanskrit while the only surviving copies of latter are in English and German. These Vedic treatises discuss the following aspects of a Painting: Measurement, Proportions, Perspective Of The Viewer, Mudra, Emotions, And Rasa (Meaning). Such an approach of Ancient Paintings, make Shilpa Shastra not only canonical textual sources but also a means to transmit knowledge and spiritual themes.