Body Sutra traces the human form through art, imagination

Alka Pande is a recipient of the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government.

Curator and writer Dr Alka Pande would rather not categorise her new book into a genre, least of all as a coffee table book. “It’s not only meant to be seen but has to be read diligently,” says Dr Pande, whose book Body Sutra was released in the Capital on Thursday. The book, which traces the human form through art and imagination, looks at the different ways in which the body has been represented over the years.

“It was an idea from publisher Ravi Singh. For the last 12 years, I’ve dedicated myself to Indian art and architecture. So he suggested I look at a book on the Indian body,” says Pande, who has received the Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters by the French government, the Australia-India Council Special Award, and several other awards.

The book runs on the central theme that body is always central to Indian literature. Dr Pande spent nearly five years in researching and writing the book and has worked at the evolution of the body starting from the ‘Shivling’ to what the contemporary photographers are now clicking.

The book, which the author has dedicated to her mother, draws from the canonical Shilpa Shastras, where the idealised body becomes more corporeal, and goes on to attain a classical perfection in the Gupta Age, when the sensuous and the sacred came together.

“I have made it easier for the reader as I have moved in a chronological fashion, having divided the book into premodern, medieval and contemporary. And every section is neatly divided into prose and pictures,” says Dr Pande. The book traces the shifting patterns of the representation of the body through 5,000 years of history and gives an extraordinary insight into India’s pluralistic and diverse culture. Calling it as an offering of “gratitude to my mother”, Dr Pande has weaved together poetry, prose and over 200 stunning images for a creation that is definitely a collector’s item.