Art, Obscenity, Philosophy, Poetry and freedom of expression.

Pablo Picasso, a renowned artist said,

Art is never chaste. It ought to be forbidden to ignorant innocents, never allowed into contact with those not sufficiently prepared.

Yes, art is dangerous. Where it is chaste, it is not art.”

Art, to every artist, is a vehicle for personal expression. An aesthetic work of art has the vigour to connect to an individual sensory, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. With a 5000-year-old culture, Indian Art has been rich in its tapestry of ancient heritage right from the medieval times to the contemporary art adorned today with each painting having a story to narrate.

Eroticism in Art in India:

Ancient Indian art has been never devoid of eroticism where sex worship and graphical representation of the union between man and woman has been a recurring feature. The sculpture on the earliest temples of ‘Mithuna’ image or the erotic couple in Bhubeneshwar, Konarak and Puri in Orissa (150-1250 AD); Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh (900-1050 AD); Limbojimata temple at Delmel, Mehsana (10th Century AD); Kupgallu Hill, Bellary, Madras; and Nilkantha temple at Sunak near Baroda to name a few. These and many other figures are taken as cult figures in which rituals related to Kanya and Kumari worship for progeny gained deep roots in early century A.D. Even the very concept of ‘Lingam’ of the God Shiva resting in the centre of the Yoni, is in a way representation of the act of creation, the union of Prakriti and Purusua. The ultimate essence of a work of ancient Indian erotic art has been religious in character and can be enunciated as a state of heightened delight or ananda, the kind of bliss that can be experienced only by the spirit.

Today Indian art is confidently coming of age. Every form of stylistic expression in the visual arts, from naturalism to abstract expressionism derives its power from the artist’s emotional connection to his perceptual reality. The Nude in contemporary art, a perennial art subject, considered to be the greatest challenges in art has still not lost its charm and focuses on how the human form has been re-interpreted by the emerging and influential artists today. The paintbrush has become a powerful tool of expression as the pen is for some, and has thus occasionally come under the line of fire for having crossed the ‘Lakshman Rekha’ and for plunging into the forbidden, which is called ‘obscene’, ‘vulgar’, ‘depraving’, ‘prurient’ and ‘immoral’.

No doubt this form of art is a reflection of a very alluring concept of beauty and there is certainly something more to it than pearly ‘flesh’  but what needs to be determined is which art falls under the latter category.

(extracted from a judgement of Delhi High Court speaking through SK Kaul, J.)

My question is would the same standard be not applied on philosophy or writing? Is the same criterion applied on poetry? If not. Why?

Added on 5th September 2015:

Told you so. A poet has been convicted by Supreme Court for writing a poem on Gandhi. The full judgement of Supreme Court convicting poet (Devidas Ramachandra Tuljapurkar) for obscenity is here.

5 thoughts on “Art, Obscenity, Philosophy, Poetry and freedom of expression.

  1. Hmmm. Very thoughtful. The visual arts have never spoken to me like they have to you, to many friends, and to my wife. I often feel left out. I have probably put all my “eggs in one basket” (i.e. words) and have nothing left over for the rest of the world. The body, and of course “the body”, are very interesting to me and you pose interesting questions. The pull of Eros is just fascinating and so damn compelling. (Note: I read somewhere that “The female is the groined archway to the infinite.”) I’m going to read this again and delve into Indian art, perhaps with the help of my wife who is an artist herself. Thanks, as always.


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