Among the glass and concrete of Bangkok’s Suvarnmabhumi International Airport (about which there is unflattering post just below) is a massive installation of a scene from the Ramayana. It is noticeable for its size and glitter. It is even more striking for its grace.
This is something you notice in Thailand all the time – its innate sense of Grace. Whether it is in the movements of the dancers in the small temples that dot Bangkok, in the folded hands ‘sawadee’ of the Guide who comes to pick one up at the aiport, of the lines that define the overhead concrete that carries the skytrains or the clean silhoutte of the little boat that carries you into the caves of Phang Nha, this is a country of consummate Grace and Aesthetics. I love it.
Beauty of form is something I miss a lot in today’s India. Our urban environs are cess-pits of ugliness and and even the minutest of aesthetics calls up cries of joy. But it was on a visit to Tanjavur some time ago that I discovered that India was not always like this. The 1000 year old Brihadeeswara temple there is an extraordinary creation of Grace embodied in a massive form. With a muti-tonne rock crowning its Gopuram, weight could easily have overcome Grace, but did not. The massive temple almost floats and this is architecture at its graceful best.
In fact, it is almost certain that India’s ancient civilisation had some influence on this grace that one notices in Thailand and in other parts of Indo-China. Of course, to give ourselves too much credit for this would be to miss out on the truth. The truth being that these people of the lands between India and China have somehow discovered and maintained a Grace that is one of the glories of human civilization.