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Abacus: A slab forming the top of the capital of a column. Either cushion or round shaped.

Abhayamudra: ‘Abhaya’ – Secure; ‘Mudra’ – gestures. Gesture of hand assuring security. Generally the right hand palm is in view. The fingers point upward. The right palm is at the right shoulder level facing the beholder. It is seen in Buddhist art. 

Abhisandhita: A woman who ignores her lover’s devotion but misses him when he is away. 

Abhisarika: A woman who goes to meet her lover secretively without caring for the dangers she might meet. 

Abstract: The experience of the abstract presupposes in the artist a particular mental or spiritual attitude, which is fundamentally the same for all branches of the visual arts. Only the means of expression differ, and the nature of the experience is of a particular kind, often expressible equally well in drawing, painting, or sculpture, though in some cases limited to one of the three modes of expression. In this respect abstract art has not altered the traditional situation. 

Abstract Expressionism: A blanket term for the various non-figurative trends in painting in the 1940s, 50s and 60s, in which expression and meaning are conveyed solely by color, form and manner of painting. 

Abstraction: Avoidance of any naturalistic depiction, to the point of complete renunciation of figurative representation. 

Achaemenid: An Ancient Persian Dynasty (c. 550 BC- 331 BC). The name is derived from the traditional founder Achaemenes. Its capital Persepolis had beautifully constructed and decorated palaces. In 516 BC when Emperor Darius invaded India, Indo-Iraninan contacts were established. Achaemenian influence is seen in Mauryan sculpture. In 330 BC Alexander the Great defeated Darius III, the last Emperor, and subdued the Persian Empire. 

Acharya: Spiritual mentor of a temple or a family priest. A form of address like the Christian ‘Reverend Father’ 

Acrylic paint Emulsion paint, formed by adding pigment to acrylic resin.  

Action Painting: A manner of painting in which, without a preliminary sketch, the paint is brushed, dripped or slung on to the canvas, which is sometimes lying on the floor. The pictorial structure is the result of an intuitively guided painting process, and of the different kinds of 'behavior' of the paint, such as random drips. 

Aerial Perspective: A perspective method, which creates depth and space through the different spatial effects of cold and warm colors. In the background blue is stressed, and red and yellow in the foreground. 

AFA: Academy of Fine Arts, Calcutta, INDIA 

Agama: Religious Texts. 

Agni: Fire. The God of Fire in the Vedas. One of the oldest and the most revered Gods. 

Ahimsa: Non-violence. It is an ethical stand taken by all major Indian religions. This is particularly true about Buddhism and Jainism. 

A. I. F. A. C. S.: All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society, New Delhi, INDIA. 

All-Over Painting: A painting style in which the canvas is covered with an unfocussed structure of paint and form. The term is usually applied to Jackson Pollock's Action Paintings.   

Alla Prima: A method of painting in which the picture is painted without a sketch setting out the composition (underpainting), and carried out in a single layer of paint. The heyday of alla prima painting was impressionism. The Impressionists used the so-called alla prima oil technique, which can be executed only with the most consistently behaved tube oil colors.  

Allegory: Illustration of an abstract concept (freedom, justice, etc.), often in the form of a personification. 

Amalaka: An Indian fruit rich in Vitamin C, popular for its medicinal value. In Indian architecture, an ornamental feature at the top of a temple resembling the fruit. It is shaped as a ribbed cushion. 

Amaltas: Flower of Cassia fistula or laburnum. Laburnums bear elongated clusters of pendulous yellow flowers. This motif is sometimes used for decorating temple walls. 

Ambika Yakshi: A semi-divine female attendant of Neminatha the 22nd Tirthankara (Jaina prophet). 

Amrita: Ambrosia. Literally means deathless.It is a magic potion that gives eternal life. It also means elixir of life. In Indian mythology during the churning of the sea, visha (poison) and Amrita came out. Shiva drank the poison and stored it in his Adam’s apple. This is why he is called Nilakantha, one who has a blue Adam’s apple. 

Analin: Baked gypsum 

Ananta: Endless, infinite. The primeval snake, Shesha (King of serpents). Also Vishnu, the God who preserves. 

Anantashayana: Vishnu, the God who preserves, resting in a reclining position on the primeval snake, Shesha, in the cosmic ocean. 

Andhakasuravadha Murti: Sculptures depicting Shiva, the destroyer, killing Andhakasura, a demon. 

Anjalimudra: The hand pose of salutation. In this hand gesture, the two hands are folded leaving a hollow between them. The hands thus folded, rest on the chest and are held parallel to the ground. It has another variation in which both hands are held above the head. The heels of the palm are touching, the fingers and thumbs spread outward and upward. 

Antarala: indoors and out of sight. The vestibule of the inner sanctuary. 

Anti-Art: 'Non-artistic' form of expression deliberately rebelling against artistic tradition. Anti-art originated in Dadaism, and reappeared in the Happening and Fluxus movement of the Neo-Dadaists in the 1960s.

Antique: A term for Greek and Roman antiquity. Begins ca. 2000 BC ends ca 500 AD. The Antique was particularly important as a source of inspiration for the artists of the Renaissance and Neoclassicism.

Antiscope: A copying instrument working on the principles of the Epidiascope, but with greater precision, also called a Bell Optican.  

Apsara: In mythology they are beautiful female celestial dancers. They dance before the gods in heaven to entertain. They have been depicted in temple carvings. 

Aquatint: A technique of intaglio printing using copper plates. 

Aranya: Jungle or forest. 

Aranyaka: Part of the ancient religious texts included in the Vedas. 

Arcadia: Greek landscape which because of its purity and beauty, came to represent virtue, insouciance and happiness in literature and art in the Modern Age.  

Ardhanarishwara: a god who is half–man and half-woman. In sculpture the icons show Shiva united to his consort or feminine energy as a single person. 

Art Nouveau: German term for a stylistic movement around 1900. A linear, ornamental, decorative, formal language characterizes it. 

Art For Art's Sake: Art that is free of moral, political, philosophical or social claims, and made simply for its own sake. 

Artist: One who practices art. 

Aryan: An ancient people who spoke an Indo-European language. They came to India in the second millennium B.C. They composed the Vedas in an archaic form of one of those languages. This Vedic language was later revised and transformed into Sanskrit. 

Ashoka: Emperor (273-232 BC)—‘Ashoka the Great’, grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire. He expanded and consolidated it. After the battle of Kalinga (around 265 BC), he was horrified by the bloodshed and violence. As a result he converted to Buddhism. He sent missionaries abroad to preach non-violence and goodwill among men. H.G. Wells acknowledges him as the greatest benevolent despot of all times. 

Ashtadhyayi:  Composed in the end of 4th Century BC by the famous Sanskrit grammarian Panini. An extremely erudite work which served as the basis for later works on grammar and linguistics. 

Assemblage: A relief-like painting, in which everyday objects are incorporated, generally unaltered, as part of the composition. K. Schwitters made the first assemblages in the 1910s. 

Asura: Demons In Indian mythology they constantly try to usurp the gods from heaven. Some say that Asuras are Assyrians. Before the Aryans migrated to India in the 2nd millennium BC, they had lived in Iran. It was long before Cyrus the Great defeated Assyrians and formed the Persian Empire. The Aryans had formed the kingdom of Mittani in the hills of North Iran. The kingdom was constantly at war with the Assyrians. The Indian myths refer to this racial memory.  

Atman: It is the individuality of a person—Soul. The counterpart of Atman is Brahman. If atman means individual self or soul, then Brahman means the World -Soul. It is the all-embracing Soul principle. It is both immanent and transcendental. 

Attribute: The sign (either an object or a particular action) used to characterize or identify a figure. 

Automatism: A spontaneous technique of painting and writing an artistic expression applied without rational control, moral or aesthetic considerations, used by the Surrealists and the artists of Abstract Expressionism. 

Avant-Garde: Artistic groups of artistic statements that are ahead of their time, point beyond what already exists and anticipate future trends. 

Avadana: A heroic deed. In Buddhist tradition they are the stories that are considered edifying. 

Avalokiteshwara: ‘The on-looking lord’, depicted in Indian sculpture holding a lotus.  

Avatara: (avataara)—Incarnation. God comes down in an earthly form. Among the Vaishnava sect, it is believed that there are ten incarnations of Vishnu. They are Matsya (Fish), Kurma (Tortoise), Varaha (Boar), Vamana (Dwarf), Narasimha (Lion-headed Man) Parashurama, Rama, Balarama, Buddha, and Kalki. According to the ‘Gita’, an Avatara comes down when the world is submerged in sin. He kills the wicked and establishes the righteous. The only other major religion to believe in the Avatara is Christianity. Jesus Christ is the one and only Avatara according to them.

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