Sponsored By: Infinity Foundation

Abhinavagupta and the Synthesis of Indian Culture

Infinity Foundation sponsored new book project titled:
Abhinavagupta and the Synthesis of Indian Culture
by Sunthar Visuvalingam, PhD

Executive Summary

This international online collaborative publishing project, under the direction of Dr. Sunthar Visuvalingam (‘Scholar’), aims to disseminate in the English language the work and thought of Abhinavagupta, the 11th century Hindu mystic, philosopher, musicologist, aesthetician, critic and commentator to a world-wide audience of scholars in the humanities, scientists, and educated laymen. Essays presenting, analyzing, critiquing and clarifying Abhinava’s work will be edited and posted online to serve as the basis for continuing discussion in related egroups of its significance to post-modern thought. Though comprising mostly of studies by trained Indologists, the ultimate aim is to explore the internal coherence of Abhinava’s worldview and establish its interconnectedness with the surrounding Indian culture. By extracting the essential concepts from the historical idiosyncrasies of the Indian context, the surrounding discussion should help make his insights further accessible directly to contemporary scientists, philosophers, artists, spiritual seekers, students of comparative religion and an educated lay public, who might otherwise be not interested in Indian traditions and culture per se. It’s also hoped that this online co-production will provide a self-questioning mirror to modern Indians intent on rediscovering, understanding and appreciating their own heritage.


My 1984 Ph.D. in Sanskrit/Philosophy from the Banaras Hindu University (BHU, Varanasi, India) was on Abhinavagupta’s Conception of Humor: Its Resonances in Sanskrit Drama, Poetry, Hindu Mythology and Spiritual Praxis(several chapters of which have been published by the Infinity Foundation at its Mandala site). I was subsequently UGC (University Grants Commission) Research Associate at the Dept. Philosophy. I’ve studied the Kashmir Shaiva texts in the original, with a teacher immersed in the tradition, and played a key role in the 2 conferences organized around Abhinavagupta at BHU, e.g., identifying and corresponding with (especially foreign) Indologists who subsequently participated in the conference. The publications of my wife, Dr. Elizabeth Chalier-Visuvalingam, on the divinity Bhairava are also indebted to my theoretical work and I’ve been deeply involved with her original field-work in India and Nepal. I also have a strong background in Western thought. Having lived for about 15 years in India, and also in Europe and the United States, and with knowledge of several European languages, I’m well positioned to facilitate fruitful collaboration between still tradition-minded Indian and often skeptical Western scholars, two communities that seem to be drifting apart due to mutual misperceptions. My last 7 years professional experience in computer publishing (both commercial and academic), culminating in research into (web) publishing technology and knowledge management, also allows me to bring these skills, networks and efficiencies into such a collaborative humanities project. See attached curriculum vitae.

First Phase – Synthesis of Indian Aesthetics

The core of the publication project will be to edit and make available online all the papers that were presented at the 2 conferences – international and national – on Abhinavagupta held at the Musicology Department of the Banaras Hindu University (Varanasi, India) in 1981 & 1982 respectively. The late Prof. Premlata Sharma (Head of Dept.) took the initiative and received funding from the University Grants Commission (New Delhi) and the Indira Gandhi National Center for Arts to organize the conferences. I was subsequently entrusted with the publication of these papers as three separate volumes on Aesthetics (see appendix for an incomplete list), Philosophy and Religion. Some of the original papers have already been published elsewhere (but may be reposted) and I would also like to invite other scholars to submit fresh papers. Funding from the Infinity Foundation will allow me to spare several hours each week pursuing the necessary correspondence and performing the editorial chores needed to get all the existing papers dealing with Aesthetics online. Since the papers are to be critiqued, discussed and revised online, much time will also be spent moderating the conversations. A Yahoo! egroup on Abhinavagupta is already functioning.

The papers listed below (under Aesthetics) will be cross-posted both at my own web-site (http://www.svAbhinava.com), where they’ll be tied into my other related personal researches on Abhinavagupta, Indian culture and comparative religion (e.g., my Ph.D. thesis on his conception of humor), and also on an Infinity Foundation site created specifically for this project. These papers will provide a greater focus for the discussions on the accompanying online forum, and by inviting critique from non-Indologists (e.g., a paper on Abhinava’s conception of humor would be subjected to reviews by psychologists, sociologists, etc., specializing in current humor research). The aim is to have a critical mass of representative papers on Aesthetics available by late 2002, with preliminary online discussions, to justify a conference around the volume, and subsequent publication of the proceedings (separate funding will be requested at the appropriate time for the conference and book publication). Preferably, the Infinity Foundation could itself assume responsibility for publishing the volumes as an ongoing series, with spin-offs as journal articles that are more accessible to interested laymen. Several contributors have already been contacted, and have agreed to help promote the project in various ways. While completing this first phase, I will also be laying the ground work for subsequent volumes down the road on Philosophy and Religion.

Appendix – Essays to be published as a volume on Aesthetics

The list below (incomplete) is based on the papers that I already have and that have been promised. Some of the papers that were presented years ago may have to be dropped (if there are problems with permissions) and others would be added from new contributors working in the relevant areas. The requested funding will cover the Aesthetics ‘volume’ only, with the understanding that Sunthar Visuvalingam will submit at least 10 critically edited and reviewed essays on Aesthetics in publishable form for a collective volume, along with rights from the authors for Infinity Foundation to disseminate them also in electronic form and on the Web. The final set of essays submitted my be different from those listed below that are illustrative of the range covered.



  • Abhinavagupta’s Contribution to the Solution of some problems in Indian Musicology – Thakur Jaidev Singh
  • Chordophones in Abhinavabhâratî
  • Abhinavagupta, Augustine, Time and MusicPoetics
  • Abhinava on Aesthetic Rapture (camatkâra)
  • The Role of Humor (hâsya) in Love Poetry (srngâra) – Sunthar Visuvalingam
  • Abhinavagupta on Phonetic Texture (Sabdaguna)
  • Abhinavagupta and Samuel Taylor Coleridge
  • Abhinavagupta and T.S. Elliott: a Comparative Study of Aesthetics
  • Linguistic categories and Aesthetic categories in the Dhvani theory
  • Vakrokti and Dhvani: Controversies about theory of Poetry in Indian Tradition – Bimal Krishna Matilal
  • Some Problems in Translating from Sanskrit
  • Abhinavagupta’s Integral View of Aesthetic Concepts
  • Lacan and suggestion (dhvani)
  • Toward a cognitive science of poetics: Anandavardhana, Abhinavagupta, and the theory of literature


  • Bharata and the Fine Art of Mixing Structures
  • Abhinavagupta’s approach to dharmi
  • Abhinavabhâratî: some Pearls from its fourth chapter (treatment of Karanas and Angahâras)
  • Abhinavagupta’s treatment of the Monologue Play (bhâna) – S. S. Janaki
  • Abhinavagupta, exegetist and connoisseur of theatrical practice: the “pseudo-play” (nâtyâyita)
  • Abhinavagupta’s treatment of the elements of the Gentle Dance (lâsyânga)
  • Wit and Linguistic Ambiguity: Abhinava’s treatment of the elements of the “riddle play” (vîthyangas) – Sunthar Visuvalingam
  • Abhinavagupta’s aesthetics as a speculative paradigm: with a translation of “The Section on sântarasa from the Nâtyasâstra of Bharatamuni” (based on a re-edition of the text)
  • Abhinava’s Bisociative Conception of Humor and the Hâsyâbhâsa of the laughing Vidûshaka – Sunthar Visuvalingam
  • Ethnocentrism and the very idea of literary theory
  • Octavio Paz and Abhinavagupta