A month-long study circle was organised by AuroBharati and AuroSrishti to closely study and reflect on an important writing of Sri Aurobindo, titled ‘National Value of Art.’ The key driving focus behind this study circle was to identify some of the conceptual and pedagogical principles which can serve as the guiding light for AuroSrishti, a project by Sri Aurobindo Society which aspires to become a Center for Integral Arts, Design and Aesthetics through Learning and Practice. The study circle was made open for other art and design enthusiasts interested in sincerely and closely studying this specific text of Sri Aurobindo. The group was kept small so as to enable deeper discussion, sharing and reflection.
The study circle was facilitated by Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor, AuroBharati. Sumedha Garg from AuroSrishti organised the online meetings and took care of all other logistics. She was supported by the AuroSrishti team members - Rahul Bhattacharya and Chetana Deorah. Two other art enthusiasts, Dr. Kiran Sood and Ms. Jahnvi Mehta also joined the study circle. The final composition of the study group made the whole experience richer and refreshing as each member brought in unique academic, professional, and creative perspectives from their respective backgrounds ranging from art history, art, design, art curation, education, college administration, research, writing and more. This allowed everyone to share and learn from each other during the four online sessions.
Sri Aurobindo’s text which has 6 sub-sections was read in 4 parts. Participants were informed about the reading well ahead so that everyone came prepared for the online reflection session. Each session began with a silent concentration to invoke the Divine Mother’s presence followed by a mantra chanting by Dr. Mehra. She then opened the session by highlighting a few key points from the assigned reading. Participants were invited to share their understandings or perspectives on what was presented.
Throughout the sessions, emphasis was given to explore and appreciate the important role of arts in individual and collective development and the psychological evolutionary march of humanity. The spiritual basis of Indian art was also emphasised in comparison with the Greek view of art and aesthetics. Time was also spent on identifying the implications of what we were studying in educational contexts, and how to bring in some of the key ideas in pedagogical and curricular innovations in schools and colleges.
Several interesting examples came up during the discussions which actually helped illustrate some of the main points from Sri Aurobindo’s essay. This made the learning experience more living and richer for everyone. In a couple of sessions, Rahul Bhattacharya showed several pertinent images from Indian and Western artistic traditions to demonstrate some of the points Sri Aurobindo makes in the essay. At several points references to the spiritual basis of Indian aesthetic tradition and contemporary discourse in Indian art history were brought in which made the study experience wider and deeper for all participants.
Several key ideas from Sri Aurobindo’s essay were specifically highlighted by Dr. Mehra for consideration of the AuroSrishti team as they begin their work on developing the pedagogy and designing activities and programmes for young students and aspiring artists and designers. During the last session, an interest was expressed to organise more such study circles focusing on topics related to Indian art history and Indian aesthetics in the light of Sri Aurobindo.