The aesthetic trajectory


Sheldon Pollock follows the evolution of the concept of ‘rasa’ from the stage to the page

Sheldon Pollock has done pioneering work in the field of Sanskrit studies, and the book under review alongside his magnum opus The Language of Gods in the World of Men is part of a series on Historical Sourcebooks in Classical Indian Thought. In fact, a brief review like this might not do full justice to the scope and range of A Rasa Reader: Classical Indian Aesthetics. Six chapters, densely packed with text, translation, commentary and explications (including several previously unavailable in reliable translations) prefaced by an erudite introduction tracking the various issues relating to the conceptual framework of rasa, its avatars, extensions and exclusions, make this work unique and a collector’s item. The reader gets a brilliant compendium of comparative aesthetic scholarship in elegant prose. The book is taxing for the non-initiate but a feast for any discerning student of Indian aesthetics.

What is rasa? When was it actually formulated, and in what context? How did it assume such significance in the contexts of aesthetic debates? For several years, albeit such discussions had been fairly common in Indian academic circles, scholars have always felt a severe lacuna when it came to tracing the history of the concept in comprehensive terms. Read more