Body Sutra by Alka Pande appeared on my Twitter timeline when I had just returned from a temple tour, learning how they create sculptures out of stone. On the same trip, I got to see some exquisite Chola bronzes in the temples being worshipped as Utsav Murtis. So, when I saw the lovely Devi in bronze on the cover, I was tempted to have the book in my hands.
I think I was aware that I may be overestimating the book, but there lies the power of a great cover. An ancient bronze sitting in a pitch-black cover is beauty in as classic a form as possible. So, I had the book in my hands in a few days and as soon as I opened the package carrying it, it got a spot at the top of my reading table.
Body Sutra can be interpreted in so many ways. Indian history, art, and literature are full of stories, sculptures, paintings and works celebrating the body – both real and ideal. Any author would have a tough time choosing the bits to write about. Picking up one of the above itself would be an ocean to explore. The cover image gave me the impression that the author potentially going to explore the metal sculptures.
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I flipped through the book and I was totally lost in the brilliant images – they are a melange of stone sculptures, metal sculptures, wood carvings, miniature paintings from across India and even some manuscript folios and modern paintings. I also admire the unnamed photographers who captured them so well with such clarity.
It is a sheer delight to look at them, however, the accompanying details are not so easy to find. When I look at an ancient piece of art, I want to know what it is, which region and period it belongs to as soon as possible. This helps me mentally travel to the time and space it belongs to. Unfortunately, in this book, you have to flip to the last pages to see this information in the fine print.
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The text and the images really have no co-relation in the book. Since I had to review this book, I did read the text, but it seems the author and her team writing this book we’re working on the assumption that who is going to read when there are such stunning images to admire. There is hardly any correlation between what is written and the image on the page.
Buy Body Sutra Tracing the human form through art & imagination by Alka Pande at Amazon
The book is divided into two sections – Body and Art & Body and Literature. Each of this is further divided into Ancient, Medieval, Modern and Contemporary India. Beyond this, I have never read a more haphazardly written book. I could not make a head and tail of what the team of authors wants to say. There is a hell lot of repetition. Especially when it comes to describing the body.
There is a list of literature mentioned in the arts section. Then there is another list in the literature section. There is no rationale of why did the author choose to share the books or poetry works mentioned in this list. In the second section, the focus moves to feminism and LGBT movement, and the author chooses to mention a list of contemporary authors who are usually found at Litfest circuits.
Each author gets a few lines, half of which are picked from the author bio. The other half an excerpt from one of their works. Now, if you know the author and their work, it is like a listing you read. If you do not know them, it hardly tells you anything about their work. I could find so many factual errors in the book, but then it is a half-heartedly written book.
The book has obviously been written by a team. You can see the difference in style of writing. I have been wanting to read many books by the author, as they all had very inviting titles and covers. But now I think I would not be so easily enticed.
Overall, if you can totally ignore the writing and just focus on the images, you can enjoy the book.