Arts and Culture
Beauty remains the most powerful authority in the regime of aesthetics and cultural history in India and South Asia. It is the authority of the beauty that still defines the making and unmaking of art scholarships. Beginning from Bharata, artists and scholars have used various terms for beauty. Bharata calls it shobha, Vamana terms it saundarya, for Jagannatha, it was ramaniya, and for the Bhakti saints, beauty was madhurya. While the nature and meaning of beauty changed over the time, the authority of beauty was rarely challenged. S.S. Barlingay (2006) has argued that beauty is not a single concept, but a family of concepts in Indian aesthetics (2006). Despite these differences, the notion of beauty remains overpowering. The notion of beauty is viewed from the object of beauty, but what does happen when one tries to understand it from the object of ugliness—what it discards in its own formation.
With the focus on the formation of the other—grotesque and ugliness, this paper aims to understand the authority of beauty in relation to the representation of folk heroes and deities of the subaltern communities in the Indian state of Bihar. The paper with a specific focus on two local cults, Chuharmal (Folk hero) and Maiya (Mother deity) will examine the authority of beauty that has been transforming their representations. Working on the intersections of art, aesthetics and anthropology, this paper aims to bring the marginalisation of local and regional performing arts traditions in India, South Asia and beyond.