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Image Management, a science and an art as old as Indian Culture

Popular belief says that Image Management is a novel concept. Nothing’s farther from the truth. It also says that the concept has been imported from the West. That isn’t true either.

It is time to correct this belief since such notions carry with them several associated misrepresentations that delay our acceptance of a very practical and useful domain. In doing so, such mistaken beliefs prevent us from taking the benefit of Image Management to enhance our lives.

Truth is, Image Management is neither a new age philosophy nor has it been imported from the West.

It is part of the ancient Hindu culture, now part of the mythology. It has been viewed as a kala, an art form in itself and a necessary one at that. Represented in the form of 64 kalas, it is as old as the times of Lord Krishna, older in fact. Lord Krishna who is the epitome of intelligence and detachment, is believed to have possessed all these kalas, taking their practice back by millennia.

The 64 kalas that is, arts are mentioned in the ancient Shastras. Hinduism’s chatuh shasti kalas or chausath kalas show the importance accorded to Image Management since ancient times. These classical arts were considered necessary for cultural living.

Also termed bahya kalas, that is, the practical arts, the very term shows the significance of these kalas. Ranging from singing to instrumental music to the art of warfare, their detailed listing shows the great importance ancient Hindu culture accorded to these kalas and the value they bring to the practitioner’s life.

Kalas of Image Management

A full one-fourth of the kalas refers directly to Image Management. The fact that they go into such detail shows the importance accorded to one’s image by the ancients.

  1. Forehead adornments
  2. Personal grooming
  3. Head adornments
  4. Dressing
  5. Drapery
  6. Costume decorations
  7. Perfumery
  8. Jewelry making
  9. Hairdressing
  10. Impersonation
  11. Artful dressing
  12. Personal etiquette (and animal training)
  13. The meanings of words
  14. Dictionary studies
  15. Prosody and rhetoric
  16. Physical culture

When we see drapery, in particular, we find that although men and women until the 14th century wore the dhoti, women’s clothing became more intricate with the emergence of the sari. The drapery was detailed in that it was differentiated based on the taste, occupation and social status of the person. Fabrics ranging from cotton to silk were used depending on the occasion. The way a piece of clothing was draped was an expression of the wearer’s creativity, place of origin and adherence to fashion.

Kalas of Environment Impacting the Image

Another ten kalas focused on arranging the environment to project the right image. In addition to the way we project ourselves, the way we project our immediate environment adds to our image.

  1. Making decorative floral and grain designs on the floor
  2. Home and temple flower arranging
  3. Making flower garlands
  4. Gardening and horticulture
  5. Making flower carriages
  6. Mosaic tiling
  7. Bedroom arrangements
  8. Furniture caning
  9. Crafting wooden furniture
  10. Architecture and house construction

Kalas Indirectly Impacting the Image

Many other arts help create and project a person’s image. While the previous two were about projecting the right image in the right environment for one’s self, this list is geared towards drawing in the other person into that environment and into perceiving a positive image. Another one-fourth of the kalas are dedicated to such arts.

  1. Skills of cooking, eating and drinking
  2. Beverage and dessert preparation
  3. Sewing (making and mending garments)
  4. Embroidery
  5. Magic and illusions
  6. Ointments for charm and virility
  7. Manual dexterity
  8. Riddles and rhymes
  9. Poetry games
  10. Tongue twisters and difficult recitation
  11. Literary recitation
  12. Drama and storytelling
  13. Verse composition game
  14. Knowledge of foreign languages and dialects
  15. Memory training
  16. Game of reciting verses from hearing

Other Kalas

In addition to these, twenty-one other kalas make up the full list, including singing, instrumental music, dancing, painting, creating music with water, precious stones and metals, spells, and charms, decoding messages, games of wager, making mechanical devices, making toys for children, warfare and victory and more. Given the cultural milieu of the ancient times, even these can be said to be related to Image Management, for example, those pertaining to the performing arts.

Hence, long before Lord Krishna’s time, the 64 kalas have been taught, showing the importance of Image Management in ancient times. At the same time, it shatters the myth that Image Consulting is a new domain. Like much of ancient wisdom, the existence of the kalas has been ignored, yet they have withstood the test of time although in a different name. In seeking Image Management, people are acknowledging the relevance of the 64 kalas through all time – ancient, medieval and modern.

During earlier times, learning these arts and becoming an expert in them, or gaining the benefit of these arts from experts was the privilege of a few. Hence, opportunities were limited to the privileged. In the modern world, Image Consultants work in all domains, helping people project a positive image in the many situations they face in life, thereby enabling them to make the most of their opportunities. At the same time, those who want to become Image Consultants and help others by offering their services can find the answer to their desire and ambition here.

The entire look and feel of this shoot are visually pleasing as well as harmonious; from the attire to the colour choices to the jewellery, it was a delightful experience watching this creative piece of work.

The Tanishq campaign may have done well overall, however, it could have received a much better response if everything could have been viewed holistically.

About the Author

The author, Suman Agarwal, is the senior-most Image Consultant in the Indian Sub-continent and director of Image Consulting Business Institute. Image Consulting Business Institute is a pioneer in India and one of the biggest brands in the world in Image Management and Soft Skills Training Space. It offers programs for people to become Image Consultants and Soft Skills Trainers and at the same time offers Image Management and Soft Skills Training services to individuals and companies.

To become an Image Consultant visit
To hire an Image Consultant for personal consultation visit
To hire an Image Consultant for corporate services visit 
Suman herself undertakes select personal consultation and corporate training assignments. Write to for any such assignments.

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