Sadanga or the six limbs on which Indian art and painting rests


India has been rich in the history of art and culture since time immemorial. Art in the Indian subcontinent began in the Ice Age (Upper Palaeolithic) between 40,000 and 14,000 years ago. Later the Harappans expressed themselves through rich paintings on pottery and sculptures. The tradition of painting in India started from prehistoric times to contemporary works of today, it has come a long way and has matured beautifully.

Who can deny the charm of the paintings of the Ajanta caves, the works of the great Indian painter Raja Ravi Varma, whose contribution to Indian art can never be overlooked.

India of the 1st century BCE saw the development of the ‘sadanga’ or the six limbs of painting, which are still considered the dominant principle of the art today. Although there are not many sources to substantiate this point, historians often differ on this, but the Shadanga is believed to have been propounded by Vatsyayana for his book Kamasutra.

Its six limbs or anga are as follows-

  • Roopbheda
  • Pramanani
  • Bhava
  • Lavanya Yojanam.
  • Sadrisyam
  • Varnakabhangam

Roopbheda – The knowledge of looks and appearances.


‘Rupa’ reaches out to the outer shape or size of the subject. In addition to the mental, perception is also central. On the other hand, there is a difference in the approach of ‘Bheda’. In other words, in order to create a painting, an artist must have expertise with respect to the different styles of painting. He has to recognise how existence is not the same as death. Both have their individual characteristics and sublime.

‘Distortion’ enables an artist to see and depict things as they appear. Of course, this knowledge cannot depend solely on the power of vision. Experience is as important as the former.

Pramanani or Certification – accuracy and precision of measurement and composition.

art and painting

This precept is ruled via way of means of certain laws, which gives to us the capacity to show the correctness of our assumption and depiction. `Pramamani’ teaches us the precise dimension, percentage and distance of subjects. It additionally affords perception into the structural anatomy of objects.

For example, if a person asks you ‘how blue is the sky’, one of these dimensions can be meaningless. We can not in all likelihood paint across a piece of paper a few inches across. Oceans cannot be painted in a few wavy strokes of the brush. A feel of proportion needs to be imbibed in measuring the ‘blueness’ of the sky and the intensity of the water with inside the ocean.

Bhava: the Feelings and the Form.

`Bhava’ means a feeling, a purpose or a thought. This component of artwork is represented inside the shape of emotions expressed with the aid of using the subject. In fact, in a total lifeless depiction, that is the handiest component that may convey an experience of existence and passion. You can consider paintings as a vessel packed with water. It will continue to be stable as long as something like a wind pushes it to form waves. Emotion is sort of a gust of wind – it offers the essential momentum to the portrayal.

Lavanya Yojanaam – The blending of grace into an artistic representation.

Bharat Mata Painting by Abanindranath tagore
Bharat Mata painting by Abanindranath Tagore (1905)


Your illustration should be beautiful in its creative quality. The Proof is for tight proportions, and expressions are for conveying movement. But, Lavanya plans to control the over-expression of both. It aims to carry forward the experience of Vaibhav in a dignified and prepared manner.

Famous artist from West Bengal Abanindranath Tagore defines Lavanya Yojana as a ‘loving mother’ who also takes care of the rules of parenting of her child. We can also consider the object to be a spherical pearl without its lustre.

Sadrisyam or Resemblance.

This is probably the most difficult task of painting. Sadrisyam refers to the degree of which an artist is imaginative and like a presentation or subject. It’s also a way of showing equality.

Why do poets often compare a woman’s hair to that of a snake? Why is a lovely lady called ‘Chandramukhi’? Why are his lips like rose petals and eyes like a deer? Well, it is an analogy within the literal sense. Of course, artists cannot replace a woman’s hair with a snake or her face with a moon. The example should come from his creative way of painting.

Varnakabhangam – An artistic way of making use of the brush and colours.

The word translates to the manner in which a topic is being drawn and colored. So, obviously, there might be use of brushes and pigments. This precept makes a speciality of the artist`s understanding of the manner strokes are being applied to the canvas.

Here is a completely thrilling piece of mythology, in which Lord Shiva tells his spouse Parvati about the understanding of Varnas. He says, “Everything is in vain—repetition of mantras and rosaries, penance and devotion, till one acquires the understanding of the varnas—the proper significance of the letters and the sharpness and fineness of the figures.”

In fact, you may tremble, or absolutely practice meaningless strokes in your canvas, till you discover ways to use the brush properly. While all five principles above can be mastered only through perception, you can never learn Varnabhagam without some real, practical practice.

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