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Six Limbs of Art

Principles (Shadang) Or Six Limbs of Indian Art

The six limbs of Art or the theory of Indian painting is first mentioned in the Kamasutra of Vatsyayana. Six Limbs of Art were composed in B.C. 600-200. Further, Yashodhar Pandit, a resident of Jaipur criticized it in the 11th century and presented the theory of these ancient paintings in one verse:

“Roopbheda: Pramanani, Bhav, Lavanya,

Sadrashya, Varnika Bhang, Iti Chitra Shadangakam.

According to this stanza, the six limbs or theories of the painting are as follows: –

  • Form,
  • Proportion,
  • Expression,
  • Gracefulness in Composition,
  • Simulation,
  • Color Composition

(Also Read This Article in Hindi – चित्रकला के सिद्धांत )

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six limbs of art


The form is one of the six limbs of art. It means different types of forms or shapes. It has the secrets and differences of the forms. For example- a form of living and dead, of different angles & Different shapes like round, oval with many colors, hard, soft, rough smooth, etc.

In addition to this, there are 16 types of forms in the Mahabharata’s Shanti-Parva. But these are the external (physical) types of forms.

six limbs of art in hindi

Infect, there are mysterious distinctions of the form in which an artist should have to be an expert. Therefore, only with torn clothes, one cannot show that this lady is a maid, not a poor’s beloved. Hence, In Vishnu-dharmottara Purana, four types of pictures have been described:

  • Truth 
  • Venic
  • Nagar
  • Mishra

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In this theory of limbs, Proportion has described body composition according to the appropriate ratio of organs. Indian scholars have mentioned five types of forms. However, they have given their measurement as follows:

  • Baal (Boy): Five Taal, like – Gopal
  • Kumar: Eight Taal, like Waman
  • Human: Ten Taal, such as Arjun, Pandava, Ram, Krishna
  • Horrible: Twelve Taal, like – Bhairav, Heyagri, twelve

Baal (Boy): Five Taal, like – Gopal

Kumar: Eight Taal, like Waman

Human: Ten Taal, such as Arjun, Pandava, Ram, Krishna

Horrible: Twelve Taal, like – Bhairav, Heyagri, twelve

Monsters: Sixteen Taal, like Ravana, Kumbkarn

However, the word Taal is used as a unit for measurement. Apart from this, Angul(Finger) proportion is also considered or used. This is a simple fact of Proportion. But the use of these measurements depends on the logic of an artist. The artist should also measure it repeatedly from his Rational Power.

Expression in Six Limbs of Art

six limbs of art in hindi

The main purpose of composing a painting is an emotional attachment. These two things are basically the same. Any emotional attachments or sudden feeling occurs in the mind after watching a work of art. This is called feeling. An expression is the soul of a picture. Accordingly, it has two following bases:

  • Expression of the creator whom he wishes to show in the picture
  • The expressions occur in the heart of the viewer by watching the picture.

Thus, we can see the expressions through the eyes in the picture. But some feelings are not concerned only with the vision. Hence, an Artist has to experience to develop for those expressions to show. Consequently, other techniques or remedies have to be used to show the feeling.

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Gracefulness in Composition (Lavanya Yojnam)

This limb is an important principle of painting. According to this, the image or artwork should be elegant with the expression. As the limb of proportion gives the direction to artwork, this limb of Lavanya Yojnam makes it more excellent. As we discover earlier the expression denotes an inner sense of beauty, while Lavanya Yojnam is a symbol of external beauty. If there is any shortfall after emotion, form, or proportion, sometimes it can be fulfilled by applying it.

Simulation (saradshya)

In this part of the limbs, Simulation is actually to copy (Sadrashya). In Indian painting, Sadrshya is considered as the main Vaastu. That is why this is described in this way:

Chitre saradshya-karanam pradhan parikirtatam.

-Chitra Sutra

In summary, just copying is not enough, and getting the reflection is not enough. Similarly, the meaning of this theory here is the importance of the objects. So the objective related to the subject matter is also important. For example, if you want to visualize the river, it is considered to depict fish, turtles, grasshoppers, lotus, trees, and birds. Accordingly, in Indian art, this quality of simulation for the human body has been discovered in the natural abstracts which are as follows: –

  • Eye: Lotus Leaf, Lotus Bud, like Deer, like a Bird or Fish Like
  • Ears: Like the wings of a vulture,
  • Nose: Like sesame flowers or parrots,
  • Nostrils: Like beans,
  • Lip: Like the flowering of the beans or beans,
  • Soles: Like Neem leaves or bow,
  • Fingers of hands: Like beans of beans or Chamba buds,
  • Male waist: Like a lion,
  • Woman’s waist: Like Damru
  • Thighs: Like the elephant trunk

Color Composition in Six Limbs of Art

The last principle-the color composition tells us the perfect and suitable use of color. It tells us the mixing and the use of color with the importance of tools. This principle explains to us where and how to apply color with Tulika (brush). In conclusion, the above five Limbs are useless. Particularly, it does not have a sense of an artist doesn’t know about this theory of color combination.

The painter should have the knowledge of Varnika-Bhang (Color Combination) and should take full care of it. Therefore it is very necessary for a painter to have control over his Tulika (brush).


In this way, an attempt has been made to recite six Siddhantas (Principles) of Indian painting. So, art lovers should take care of them when they make artworks. However, there are no definite rules; neither an artist should follow any certain rules. Even though considering art as a spiritual practice in Indian culture, these principles are presented just like guidance. Ultimately, all artists should continue to carry out efforts and practice regularly to develop their style of art.

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12 thoughts on “Six Limbs of Art”

  1. Mr Mueen, thank you for the very brief but very educative vedio explanation. can you please also tell about 16 roop bheda wrt mahabharat that you mentioned?. Also you spoke about 4types of roopa bheda as per vishnu dharmotara purana, satya, nagar, vaneek and mishra. Can you please elaborate?. Also I would like to know more about the list of sadrushya that you shared. I am doing research on school art education + shadaang. Hence shared the query as above.

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  5. Monica Rathore

    I really appreciate that you explained it very well, it’s really helpful matter for my MA exam🙏 do you have any you tube channel

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