If man's goal is to experience Ananda, absolute bliss, the only way one can come close to it in one's daily life is through Rasa, the aesthetic experience. This is the philosophy that has shaped and nurtured Rashmi Poddar's entire life.
Rashmi's passion for the arts is like a fire that burns not to consume but to incandesce. She is alive to every curve, every line, every angle of the genius of the Sculptor or painter. Her fervour for the Visual Arts is so compelling that it shapes her actions and colours her thoughts. The artistic and intellectual pursuit of the Aesthetic experience is pivotal to her life.
Rashmi Poddar, former Director (Aesthetics) at the Department of Philosophy, University of Mumbai is now the Director of Jnanapravaha Mumbai (JPM). JPM, a quality driven, premier Institution, offers a neutral space for global exchange of creative Indian thought. The organizational purpose is to explore and share insights. JPM is motivated by the conviction that by providing a platform for critical thinking and intellectual rigour, it will contribute to sensitizing individuals from all walks of life in current and future generations. Set ideally amidst the art and educational precinct of South Mumbai, JPM actively pursues its goal of education of the arts through seminars, workshops, lectures and other pedagogical methods. More details can be seen on website www.jp-india.org
Rashmi was awarded a doctorate for her thesis, "Rasa and Ananda - A Visual Discovery", by the University of Mumbai in 1997. Her path-breaking methodology of viewing and understanding Indian classical art has opened up new vistas and theories in the field of art history and research.
Rashmi believes that the appreciation of Indian Art had always been found wanting because the study of its history has been restrictive. The systems employed to understand Indian art were based on the principles used to appreciate western art. But there is a fundamental flaw in this application, says Rashmi, because the Indian worldview differs from the western worldview at a very basic level.
In India, Religion is not distinct from Philosophy but interlinked with it, and the two play a vital role in the social life of the artist and the people. To ignore this factor is to miss out on the raison d'etre of the Art-Work. Scholars analyzed the period, style and genre of the Painting or Sculpture without reference to its setting as seen through the mind and eye of the artist and the period. They directed their attention to the study of the body of the art and ignored the soul.
However, the more she tried to search for ways to resolve her dilemma, the more she began to realise that there was no answer, simply because the question itself was never asked or addressed. And that was the beginning of Rashmi's Journey that led to the foundation of a new structure that will change the way Indian art is studied and understood.
In her thesis Rashmi expounds the theory that Indian art operates at three levels : the Explicit, which explains the Biography of the Painting, its School, period and Artist; the Implicit, which delves into the Allegory, Metaphor and Symbols of the works of Art; and the Suggestive, which understands the Philosophical content of that Art-work. She explores the Multi-Faceted nature of the term Rasa and explains its equation to the experience of Ananda.
It is rightly said that it is our upbringing that moulds our interests in life. From an early age Rashmi has been exposed to the world of art in all its beauty and Splendour. Her father was a Connoisseur and collector of art, especially Sculpture and Miniature Paintings. Even as children, Rashmi and her siblings were given lessons in dance, singing and painting. She was also fortunate to have married into a family that shared the same concerns and values as her own.