I was listening to Wasifuddin Dagar’s Dhrupad recording (live concert, Adidam Center, New York, Jun 2001: legal mp3s available here, although low quality). At the start of one performance, he explains the meaning of ‘nirAkAr‘ to the (presumably) predominantly western audience as: “nirAkAr is shapeless”. Of course, a classical vocalist is not supposed to be versed in the fine art of translation but, it’s a fine example of how tricky the whole business is.
Even ‘formless’, (or without form, or better: not bounded by form?) a word usually used for nirAkAr, doesn’t quite fit. That’s because ‘nirguN/nirAkAr‘ are metaphysical words that cannot be translated one-to-one. They have to be defined in the context of the target culture/language.
Just like Kitsch?