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Royal elephants – splendid images from miniatures

     Elephants have played a major role in the mythology and history of India. The use of the animal has been documented via sculptures, historical researches and miniature paintings. Though it is true that horses and camels were also part of  royal entourages to draw vehicles and carry goods, the elephant was used in warfare, hunting expeditions, for executions, entertainment, in  processions, for gifts and a display of prestige. Elephants have depicted in the Ajanta murals. The scroll decorations at the base of many temples in India using the elephant motif. Many fort remains of India still have the elephant stables intact. Discover the depiction of these awesome pachyderms in Indian paintings made during the  medieval and late medieval times !

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Battlescene from the Mahabharata, Kangra painting, 1800s.

The elephant is a beloved animal in India. Many schools of painting have depicted this animal which is symbolic of mountains, clouds,heaven, rainfall and prosperity. The God Indra in Indian mythology has the elephant Airavata  as his mount. Goddess Lakshmi as Gajalakhsmi also is associated with the elephant, gaja, meaning elephant. Lord Ganesha, a favourite deity from Indian mythology, has the head of an elephant. The events from the Indian epic Mahabharata have been captured by the Kangra artists, one of the Pahari school of paintings. The battlescene at Kurukshetra is depicted and can see the elephants as part of the cavalry.

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Arjuna’s son Abhimanyu of the Pandavas fights Dushashana of the Kauravas in the Mahabharata battle, Kangra painting, 1803 A.D.

However it was the artists at the Mughal atelier who celebrated the presence of the royal elephants. Persian painters trained the Hindu artists during Emperor Akbar’s reign (1556 – 1605). They captured them in action, as standalone depictions, in various stances like fighting which was a sport, with Kings on  their back and a mahout sitting on them.  The elephants had names like Khushi Khan was Emperor Akbar’s first elephant. Another elephant Dilsankar is associated with him. A elephant called Damodar was gifted to Bairam Khan. Emperor Akbar was a great lover of elephants who tamed the elephant Hawa’i  known to be temperamental. He had 101 personal elephants in his stables.  The Rajput courts like Kotah, near Bundi, were influenced by Mughal art and the rulers commissioned artworks by both Hindus and Muslims which depicted elephants. Emperor Jahangir had an elephant called Gajraj. Emperor Aurangzeb confronted Sudhakar in 1633. Bahadur Shah Zafar had an elephant Maula Baksh who fought in the war of 1857 A.D.  The Deccan courts had in their ateliers Mughal artists among others who have made remarkable paintings of the elephants of the Sultans.

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Emperor Akbar on his elephant Hawa’i, chasing another Ran Bagha, across a collapsing bridge of boats, 16th century, V and A Museum, London.

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War elephants, Chitranand and Udiya collide in battle, folio from Akbarnama, 16th century, V and A Museum, London.

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Prince Salim (later emperor Jahangir) with Emperor Akbar returning from a hunt, on an elephant, early 17th century, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Australia.

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Elephants as depicted in the Padshanama, a chronicle of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan, 17th century, British Museum, London.

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Prince Aurangzeb tackling elephant Sudhakar, Padshanama, 17th century, British Museum, London.

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Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur on his elephant,  Atash Khan, early 17th century, School of Ali Riza, Bijapur.

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Sultan Ibrahim Adil Shah II of Bijapur from the Deccan on his elephant Atash Khan, painting by Farrukh Beg, 17th century, Met Museum, New York, U S A.

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An elephant in battle, Kota, Rajasthan, mid 18th century.

 

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Fighting elephants, Kota, Rajasthan, 19th century. 

Elephants are actually massive pachyderms who show a certain grace as they move and have a unique intelligence with a charming playfulness; have been decorated with ornaments and embellished textiles over the ages. The jhul (saddle blanket) and seeri (head-dress) are commonly seen. Elephants are a part of religious and some other processions in India, even today in the 21st century. Their bodies are painted decoratively along with trappings like the jhul and tinkling bells. The use of elephants represent pomp and ceremony since yore.

 

References

  1. wikipedia.org
  2. sahapedia.org/elephant-regalia-living-tradition
  3. ranasafvi.com/mughal-elephants/
  4. Images are via Wikimedia Commons
  5. smb.museum/en/exhibitions/detail/elephant-stories

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

Holi in painting – images from Modern art

           Holi is a well-loved festival of India and some other places. It has been well depicted in miniature and modern paintings. Beautiful and charming, abstract and mysterious, the images capture the essence of the celebration. Holi is a day of not just throwing coloured water and powder on each other but actually has a deep  cultural significance. It is a day of new beginnings. The day to end all past conflicts and rid oneself of past errors. A day of forgive and forget. Other than Hindus, Jains and Newar Buddhists also celebrate Holi, a festival of colour, a festival of love, the spring festival !

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Radha-Krishna playing Holi, modern painting.

       The festival of Holi denotes victory of good over evil, the end of winter and arrival of spring. It depicts a good spring harvest season. The festival lasts for a night and a day starting on the evening of the Purnima or Full moon day of the moth of Phalgun in the Hindu Vikram Samvat calender. The first evening or Chhoti Holi is Holika Daaahan, or burning of the demon Holika. She is the sister of Hiranyakashipu as per legend. People gather around Holika and sing and dance. Wood and combustible materials are used to make the bonfire, near temples and other open spaces.

The next day is Rangwali Holi. The day is full of fun and frolic, throwing of coloured solutions from pichkaaris. Groups sing and dance, playing drums and dholak. A drink Bhaang made from cannabis is consumed on this day, also thandaai. 

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Holi depiction, Modern art, Source : Pixabay

        In older days, washable natural plant derived colours from plants like turmeric, neem, dhak and kumkum were used. Nowadays, since the mid 20th century onwards, synthetic  colours are being used. Though in the 21st century organic colours are making a comeback! The festival of Holi is mentioned in the Puranas and by the poet Kalidasa during the 4th century reign of Chandragupta II. The festival finds mention in the Sanskrit drama Ratnavali. Many famous poets have written on Holi or made references to the festival. In Mughal India Holi was celebrated by the emperors as Eid-e-gulaabi. Grand celebrations used to tale place at Lal Qila.

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Holi, modern painting.

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Mughal royals celebrating the festival of Holi in Udaipur, image, City Palace, Udiapur, Rajasthan.

During the 19th century, Sikhs celebrated it as Hola-mohalla ,  an extension festival of martial arts, horsemanship, atheletics, archery and mock battles. Colonial British officials joined the Holi parties organised by Maharaja Ranjit Singh at Bilawal Garden in Lahore, previously a part of India.

A poem by Sarita Aditya Verma –

Let the evil within be annihilated
And grey be restored
Rejuvenated to vibrancy of colours of love

Dispersion of love and light
Through the prismatic heart
Every soul be washed anew
In colours of the rainbow in mirthful hues

Forgive and forget, past hurt
And in the beauty of love, regale
Let’s celebrate Holi
The festival of colours, harbinger of spring !

 

assorted-color hand painting

Holi depiction, modern art.

 

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • hellopoetry.com
  • Images from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

Lord Shiva – images from miniature paintings

          Lord Shiva is one of the trinity of the Gods in Hinduism along with Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu. Mahashivaratri is a festival celebrated every year in honour of Lord Shiva. It marks the day of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Goddess Parvati. There is a Shivaratri every luni-solar month in the Hindu calendar on the month’s 13th/14th day but once a year is Mahashivaratri, the great night of Shiva which also heralds the summer season. The festival is celebrated at night and is a solemn time for introspection, fasting and all-night vigil by the devotee. The festival is observed by chanting and discovering the ”Shiva” within us, overcoming of darkness and ignorance. Mahashivaratri finds mention in the Skandapurana, Lingapurana and Padmapurana. Lord Shiva has been depicted in miniature painting schools across India.

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Lord Shiva, depicting ”Bhairava raga” and Shiva as Bhikshatana , Ragamala painting, Pahari, Nurpur, late 17th century.     

      Shiva  or the auspicious one is the supreme being within Shaivism. He is known as the destroyer. Parvati is the equal complementary partner of Shiva. He is depicted as an omniscient and ascetic yogi who lives on Mount Kailash, but he is also depicted as a householder with his wife and two children.  Lord Shiva in his fierce aspects is seen slaying demons; his iconography shows the river Ganges flowing from his matted hair, third eye on his forehead, the trident as his weapon, and the ”damaru” or drum with him. Nandi the Bull is his vehicle. Lord Shiva has both a benevolent and terrifying aspect as mentions the Yajurveda.  The name Rudra and Bhairava depicts his fearsome aspects.  Lord Shiva is also called ”Mahakala” or great time which ultimately destroys everything. The name ”Shankara” reflects Lord Shiva as beneficent. So does the name ”Shambhu”, which means self-lit !
    In fact, prototypes of Lord Shiva has been found at the Indus Valley civilisation sites, a seal found at Mohenjodaro, representing Pashupati, an epithet of Lord Shiva. The figure is also seen seated in a yoga posture. This is still being debated though !

A five-headed Lord Shiva and Parvati seated with Nandi, Kangra school,miniature painting, 1800, San Diego Museum of Art, U S A.

Lord Shiva mourning the demise of Sati, Kalighat painting, 19th century.

Lord Shiva with Parvati and their children Ganesha and Kartikeya, Kangra school, miniature painting, San Diego Museum of Art, U S A.

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Lord Shiva kills Andhaka, the demon, painting from an appendix of Persian Razmnama, Harivamsa, late 16th century, V and A Museum, U.K.

Lord Shiva and Parvati seated on a terrace. Jaipur school, 1800s, British Museum, U K.

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by –

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

Mughal glass – delicate images of elegance

           Ever laid eyes on a delicate piece of glass with floral motifs worked out in goldwork and other colours? Most probably it would be an object from the Mughal times. The Mughal empire has ruled India for a considerable amount of time (1526 to 1858 A.D) They have left an indelible mark on the country’s history. Their designs still fascinate and remain etched as part of Indian art and architecture. The art was included in objects of utility and function too. They had special karkhanas or workshops where artisans worked.

Though glass has been in use since prehistoric times in the Indian subcontinent the Mughlas seem to have taken it to another level. It was used mostly to make beads, bangles and trinkets. The opulent era of the Mughals changed that by using the medium to make luxury tableware and huqqa bases (hubble bubble).

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Mughal huqqa base, glass, Muisee Guimet, Paris.

     During the rule of Emperor Jahangir (1605 to 1627) and Emperor Shahjahan (1628 to 1658) and Aurangzeb(1658 to 1707), the fashining of Mughal glass and trade flourished. Paintings of the Mughal era depict the courts and royal spaces used by the emperors and the nobility. One can spot the vessels and cups for pouring liquids like sherbets and the wine cups and ”huqqas” or water pipes.

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 An enthroned Mughal prince with four attendants, glass objects and vessels can be seen, Walters Art Museum, Maryland, U.S.A, Mughal miniature painting.

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Mughal huqqa base, glass, LACMA, USA.

          Different varieties of glass were present at the Mughal courts. Venetian, Spanish, English,Persian et al. Other than imports glass items were manufactures in India too. The Ain-i-Akbari by Abul Fazl mentions that glass was manufactured at Bihar and Alwar in Rajasthan. Glass bottles  were also made in English and Dutch factories in Patna and at Gujarat during the 2nd half of the 17th century. The early 18th century saw more manufactories being started. Mughal glass vessels are found in many museums and private collections across the world.

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Mughal huqqa base, clear glass with gilding,over shaped appliqué glass pieces and blue glass insets, 1700s, LACMA, U.S.A.

Mughal cups, cobalt blue glass with gilt floral decoration, early 18th century, V and A Museum, London.

Mughal gilt glass bottle, Gujarat, 18th century.

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India, Mughal empire, translucent glass with molded and wheel-cut decoration, 1700s, LACMA, U S A.

 

References :

 

 

Posted by:

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

Jatayu’s story – a tale of sacrifice

      A place in Kerala, south of India originally called Jatayumangalam has an interesting legend behind it. It is now called Chadayamangalam named after a bird Jatayu from the Indian epic Ramayana whose wings were clipped off by Ravana. Jatayu did the ultimate sacrifice by trying to stop Ravana, when Sitadevi was being carried off to Lanka by him. The rocks here hold striking carvings of Jatayu’s beak mark during his last breath and footprints of Lord Rama. The illustrations depicted capture the story and illustrate the bird’s devotion and supreme sacrifice to his object of worship !

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Jatayu fights Ravana, Hazara Rama Temple, Hampi, Karnataka, 15th century.

       The India epic Ramayana which is the story of Lord Rama, narrates the story of the sacrifice of Jatayu, the bird-vulture who was a great devotee of Lord Vishnu and knew that Lord Rama was his incarnation in human form. When Sita was found missing, Rama was highly aggrieved and he along with his brother Lakhsmana started searching the forests for her. She had actually been abducted and Ravana was waiting to avenge the humiliation of his sister Surpanakha by Lakhsmana.

As Sita was being carried off by Ravana in his flying chariot, she gave out loud wails for help to the forests with its all its flora and fauna. Nature heard her cries but no one could really help. At this time Jatayu was resting on a tree top. He heard the appeals of Sita and immediately flew off the tree and came close to Ravana’s aerial chariot. He tried to reason with him but Ravana was very angry and in no mood to listen. Jatayu then attacked him with his powerful beak and talons.

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Jatayu fights Ravana, painting, Illuminated Ramayana manuscript, Jammu, Punjab Hills, 1820.

In order to foil the evil act of abduction by Ravana, a fierce battle followed between Jatayu and Ravana. Ravana was way much stronger to him, but Jatayu managed to offset some of Ravana’s weapons and bring him down to earth with his chariot. But this enraged Ravana further and he shot arrows at the bird and slashed his wings with his dagger. Jatayu could no longer fly and hit the gound too. Sita rushed to his help but Ravana carried her off again in his aerial chariot.

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Jatayu with Lord Rama and Lakhsmana, painting, a local variation of Ramayana, Marwar, Rajasthan, 1820-40.

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Jatayu’s attempt to foil Sita’s abduction, folio from a Vaidehisha-vilasa, Kalighat painting, LACMA, USA, late 19th century.

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Jatayu-vadha, painting, Raja Ravi Varma, 1906.

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Book illustration, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists, Ravana fighting with Jatayu” by K. Venkatappa, 1914.

       Sampati was Jatayu’s brother. On hearing of his sibling’s predicament from one of his tribe he rushed to his side. The sun was very scorching on that fateful day. Jatayu was lying wounded and would soon die; Sampati covered him with large wings so that he would be comfortable in his last moments. Rama and Lakshmana soon arrived on the  poignant scene. With great difficulty Jatayu related his tale and informed Rama of the abduction and the route that Ravana was taking. This was of great help to him to understand Sita’s whereabouts in order to bring her back. Jatayu was thus the first informer. It is believed that Sampati’s wings got so scorched that he could not fly again. This is one version of the story. However Jatayu died and got liberation (moksha or mukti)  from rebirth by the touch of Rama. Thus ended a saga of devotion and sacrifice in glory !

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Jatayu sculpture, Jatayu Earth Centre, Chadayamangalam, 20th century, Kerala.

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Ravana fights Jatayu, depiction at Bhabanipur Chandranath Chatterjee Lane Sarbojanin Durga Puja pandal, South Kolkata. Bengal School of Art. 2011.

 

References :

 

  • Myths and legends in India Art/S.D Trivedi and Atul Jairath, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan, 2009.
  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

 

Posted by ;

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kaliyamardana – a story from the Bhagavata Purana

          Lord Krishna is a much loved deity in Hinduism. His childhood as Balakrishna, youth as a cowherd; later revered as the mentor and charioteer of Pandava Arjuna in the Indian epic Mahabharata who advises him on the battlefield in which he has to fight his own cousins. His actions, words and feats including his Rasaleela at Brindavan with his beloved Radha and other has been captured in art, poetry and narratives. Find the story behind a celebrated feat of Lord Krishna – the Kaliyamardana in which he slays a multiple hooded serpent of astounding strength who is tormenting people and been depicted in many artworks found all over India and outside India.

    The details of the story is found in the Bhagavata Purana, one of Hinduism’s 18 great Puranas.

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Krishna dancing on the head of Kaliya, Mughal School, India, 1590-1595 A.D, illustration from the Harivamsa, an appendix of Razmnama, Balarama and people watch from the riverbank.

        The story is very interesting and takes us to the banks of the Yamuna flowing through Brindavan in the north of India. Lord Krishna as a young lad who also lived nearby, played here along with his cowherd friends. The tenth canto of Chapter 16 describes an amazing feat of a young Krishna of subduing a serpent called Kaliya and the episode is referred to as Kaliyanaga-mardana. The depictions in art range from narrations in miniature paintings, stone sculpture, metal works and book illustrations.

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Episode of Kaliyamardana, page from a dispersed Bhagavata Purana Series, late 18th century, Brooklyn Museum, U.S.A

     Kaliya the serpent was originally from Ramanakadwipa and driven away from there because he was mighty afraid of Garuda the enemy of snakes. Garuda had been cursed by Sage Saubhari that if he ever came to Brindavan he would meet his end there. So Kaliya made Brindavan his home and lived there with his family. The giant serpent was residing in the river Yamuna and scared people away and nobody could go near to the site where he lived. He was also spilling deadly venom into the Yamuna which was frothing and bubbling over. One day Krishna and his cowherd friends were playing a game of ball. While playing the ball fell near the spot where Kaliya resided. Krishna’s friends urged him not to go after the ball. But Krishna jumped into the river and on seeing Krishna, Kaliya curled around his legs. Krishna’s mother Yashoda was very frightened of the serpent and asked Krishna to just come home. However Krishna stomped on his tail and warned Kaliya not to trouble anybody. Kaliya was a very strong serpent and pulled Krishna into the river. People gathered on the bank. Kaliya has got Krishna ensnared in its coils. However Krishna expanded himself forcing Kaliya to release him. After he was thus released, Krishna started dancing on the head of Kaliya which released the poison of the snake. Krishna took the weight of the whole universe and started beating him with his feet. Kaliya started to die and began vomiting blood. Kaliya’s wives came and begged Krishna to spare his life. Kaliya too  surrendered and promised not to harass anybody again. Krishna did a final  dance on his head and asked him to go back to Ramanakadwipa and assured him that Garuda would not trouble him again.

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Kaliyadamardana, Krishna ensnared, Brooklyn Museum, U S A, painting, created between 1750 and 1780 A.D.

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Image, Dharmshala, Khatu Mode, Mumbai.

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Kaliya’s wives praying to Krishna to release their subdued husband serpent Kaliya, Kangra, Pahari painting, 1785-90 A.D, National Museum, New Delhi.

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Carving of Lord Krishna subduing Kaliya, Sri Lakshminarayana Temple, Hosaholalu, Karnataka, 13th century.

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Krishna subdues serpent Kaliya, – lintel over the main door of the outer East gopura,  Prasat Muang Tam, Thailand, late 10th century.

    Krishna rose from the river while dancing on Kaliya’s head. People too on seeing Krishna danced on his head and Kaliya was finally pushed into Patala where  he stays to this day as it is believed.

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Book illustration, Myths of the Hindus & Buddhists (1914), Nivedita, Sister, Coomaraswamy, Ananda Kentish,  University of Toronto Digital Collection.

 

 

References

  • wikipedia.org
  • Memories of Childhood tales
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

Rani-ki-vav – sculptural marvels in a step-well

           A astounding marvel in architecture of a step-well along with embellishments of 500 principal and 1000 other minor sculptural creations are waiting to amaze visitors at Patan in Gujarat, India. Built in the 11th century on the bank of the river Saraswati by Rani Udaymati, wife of Bhima I of the Chalukya dynasty. Hence it is called Rani ki vav or the Queen’s step-well.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The step-well has seven levels of stairs with the panels embellished with sculptures. The themes are mostly religious or mythological. Udayamati was the daughter of Navavaraha Khangera and commissioned the step-well in memory of her husband Bhima I who ruled between 1022 and 1064 A.D. The step-well is well preserved because it was flooded by the Saraswati river and had got silted. This entire creation took 20 years to be made.

 

Ornamental pillars, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         Art historians Henry Cousens and James Burgess visited the site when it was totally in mud. They thought it was ahuge pit. However in the 1940s the excavations carried out under the Baroda State revealed the stepwell. In 1980s the Archaeological Survey of India took it further by more excavation and in 2014 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

         The entrance is located in the East while the well is located at the Westernmost end and consists of a shaft 10 m in diameter and 30 m deep. There is a compartmentalised stepped corridor with multi-storeyed pillared pavillions. The walls, pillars, columns, brackets and beams are all ornamented and embellished with carvings and scroll work, The niches too demand attention by their ornamentation with figures. There are 212 pillars in the step-well.

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Lord Rama, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Sculptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          The sculptures depict Gods, Goddesses, celestial beings, men, women, priests, birds and animals. Lord Vishnu image is the maximum form depicted here as ‘Seshasayi’ and ‘Viswaroopa’ and also as ‘Dasavatara’. Hindu deities Lord Brahma, Lord Shiva, Gods Ganesha, Kubera, Surya, Indra and Hayagriva are also depicted here. One finds Uma-Maheshwara, Lakhsmi-Nararayana, Ardhnarishwara, Chamunda, Mahisasuramardini, the Saptammatrikas and the images of Navagraha or nine planets as well. This step-well brings out the sanctity of water as a life giving force. This step-well is a form of subterranean water architecture and is like an inverted temple, a water management system symbolising the technological height of the step-well tradition in India.

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Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Mahisasuramardini, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

There are also celestial beings like Apsaras and celestial dancers and a Naga princess. also common men and women doing their daily activities, women holding children. Every sculpture seems sublime and infused with a special quality. The expressions have beauty and balance to mesmerize the onlooker. The jewellery and hairstyles depicted are also unique and can be a study on its own !

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Apsara , Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scuptures, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Scroll designs and lattice patterns, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Varaha avatar, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

          It is a fine and exquisite stepwell, classified as a Nanda type. It  is 65 m long, 20 m wide and 28 m deep. The fourth level is deepest and leads to a rectangular well. However at present the ground water levels have changed following the Saraswati river’s relocation.

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Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

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Avatars of Lord Vishnu, Rani ki vav, image, Patan, 11th century.

 

References :

 

 

Posted by:

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

Happy Diwali – Lord Rama comes home

         Diwali is celebrated with great excitement and festivity in India. The day marks the return of Lord Rama to his capital Ayodhya with his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana and Hanuman, the leader of his vanarasena or monkey army after his win in battle over Ravana, the lord of Lanka.After the battle between Lord Rama and Ravana, Ravana was ultimately killed by Rama and Vibhishana, his brother was made the king of Lanka. It is recalled that the city was lit with thousands of lamps on his return.

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Every year this day is commemorated across India. This is as mentioned in the epic Ramayana, the part of the story from Uttarakanda, the final chapter in the epic tale by Sage Valmiki. Lord Rama comes back in his Pushpakvimana to be coronated as king to Ayodhya. Presented here are some amazing depictions of the return of Rama and his coronation which led to his rule of thousand years also called Ramarajya, a glorious rule.

 

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Lord Rama starting to return to Ayodhya, Kangra miniature, late 18th century, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, U K.

       The Pushpakvimana has been described as a self-moving painted car, which was large with two storeys and few chambers in it, also with flags and colourful banners, and gave a melodious sound as it made its way across the sky.

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Shri Ramachandra or Lord Rama seen on Pushpakvimana with his wife Sita, brother Lakshmana, Hanuman and others, print, Modern Litho Works, Bombay , early 20th century.

The Uttarakanda narrates that Lord Rama reached the kingdom of Ayodhya along with Lakshmana, Sita, Hanuman, Sugriva, Vibhishana and the host of monkeys.  After he reaches his kingdom, his brother Bharata who has waited from him to come back restores the kingdom to his elder brother. After that the preparations for the actual coronation begin;  royal barbers are called and Lord Rama and Lakshmana are bathed, shorn of their matted locks and dressed in splendid robes; Dasharatha’s queens deck Sita with  jewellery  and the priests give orders for the coronation to take place.

 

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Return of Lord Rama, miniature painting, Sahib Din, 17th century, British Library, London, U.K.

”Making use of Ravana’s flying chariot, the exiles have left Lanka and flown swiftly northwards, the directional imperative now being from right to left. Reunited with Bharata and Shatrughna, who have kept Rama’s kingdom for him during the fourteen years of exile, they enter Ayodhya in triumph. They drive through the bazaars with their festive hangings to the palace where they are received by their mothers. Even Kaikeyi is forgiven. The monkey king Sugriva, his minister Hanuman and the other chief monkeys have assumed human form. Rama’s coronation begins his auspicious reign, a truly golden age for mankind – Ram-raj , Rama’s rule”…The British Library.

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Return of Lord Rama in a pushpaka vimana and preparations for his coronation, miniature painting,  Mewar, Rajasthan, 17th century.

      The Uttarakanda further narrates that Lord Rama as king was visited by many sages from far and near,they came from east and west and north and south, led by Sage Agastya, and Lord Rama venerated them and provided them with seats of sacrificial grass and gold-embroidered deer-skin. Then the sages praised him as he had won the battle and also slain  Ravana, the sons of Ravana, and had delivered men and gods from fear.

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Lord Rama’s as King of Ayodhya, artwork, 1940s.

'Woman Holding Fireworks', India, 19th century, Honolulu Museum of Art, 3269.1.JPG

Woman holding sparklers, India, 19th century, Honolulu Museum of Art, U S A.

 

References:

  • vyasaonline.com
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons, freepik.com (lamps image)

 

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

 

 

Goddess Durga – images from Madhubani painting

          The month of Ashwin  is the month of the Goddess or devi. The fervour can be felt all over India with Durga images everywhere. She is worshipped as Ma Durga  or Durga Mata. There are different legends associated with her.  In Bengal she is believed to come home from the mountains with her children and is worshipped with them alongside with great pomp and festivity !

       The concept of devi first appeared in the Vedas in 200 B.C. but gained focus in Puranic literature with texts like the Devi Mahatmya. Goddess Durga reigns supreme and is the divine feminine as Devi in Hinduism and a divine mother as Mata. Taken from the Devi Mahatmyam – the story goes thus – Durga as Mahisasuramardini is one of the manifestations of the Divine mother whose primary aim is to combat demons who threaten the cosmos. She has many arms and each has a different weapon. She rides on a lion and defeats the buffalo demon Mahisasura who has been given a boon that no-one can defeat  him except a woman. The demon’s entire army was challenged by Durga. Mahisasura attacked Durga as a buffalo-demon whom Durga kills with a trisula (trident) after a fierce battle. Feast your eyes on some awesome images done in the traditional Madhubani style of painting !         

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Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

        The images depicted here are of Goddess Durga from the Mithila school of painting, originated mostly in North Bihar of India which mostly depict religious stories in painting. It is called commonly called Madhubani painting which is made mostly by women. Madhubani art is being created since many centuries in some parts of Bihar, in fact there is no concrete evidence as to when it actually began. The art got national recognition when artists like Jagadamba Devi, Sita Devi were given National awards by the President of India. This art form is well-liked by the European and Canadian people among others. The exhibition Expo 70 in Japan and Asia-72 further established this art form ensuring sales of the paintings, which were made on other media like paper, instead of the regular floor or walls of the villages.  The art has become more visible and popular once it has come on to paper. Now one gets to see the art form on sarees, trains, picture galleries, five star hotels, walls of railway stations and private drawing rooms. However as noted by Indian historian Upendra Thakur in his monumental work, the art needs to be constantly protected from gross commercialisation.

    Madhubani paintings have many colour settings. Deep red, green, blue, black,light yellow, pink etc. Red is dominant in many paintings. A bamboo twig is used for drawing outlines. For filling colour pihua, a small piece of cloth tied to a twig is used. Women gather together and make the painting. A leader among them draws the composition and others fill colour. Younger girls assist the older women. Families keep paper notes of the artwork, to be made during ceremonies. It is even shared with the same caste from different villages. The styles get repeated but with variations, though the idioms remain the same.

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Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

          Goddess Durga is a favourite deity. Goddess  Kali is an important deity in Tantrik rituals and tantra has had an important effect in the making of Aripana (floor drawings) and wall paintings. The major motifs in Madhubani painting depict flora, fauna,  natural life. Gods, goddesses, lion, fish, parrot, turtle, bamboo, lotus, creepers, swastika among others. These forms are interchangeably used as per the ritual. Events like the thread ceremony, initial wedding formalities, final wedding rites, renovation of shrine all demand paintings. Paintings are made for both beautification and sanctification of the courtyard and threshold. Kohabara paintings augment well for the marriage. The kadamba tree, sun, flowers, peacocks, moon, palanquin, tortoise, fish are all depicted. Bhitti chitra or wall paintings are drawn on auspicious occasions. Symbols used in Madhubani painting have their own significance. Elephant, palanquin denote royalty. Sun and moon represent long life. Goose and peacock are symbols of welfare and calmness. Lotus denotes good luck the bamboo denotes future progeny.

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Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.Related imageDurga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

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Durga with Lakshmi and Saraswati, Madhubani painting.Related imageDurga with Lakhsmi, Saraswati, Ganesh and Kartik, Madhubani painting.

Exotic India Mahishasur Mardini Mother Goddess Durga - Madhubani Painting On Hand Made Paper - Folk                                   Durga slays Mahisasura, Madhubani painting.

 

References :

  1. Marg : a magazine of architecture and art Vol 3, No 3, Bombay : Marg Publications, 1949.
  2. Madhubani painting/Thakur, Upendra, New Delhi : Abhinav Publications, 1981
  3. Madhubani painting/Ananad, Mulk Raj, New Delhi : Publications Division, 1984.
  4. Madhubani art /Dayal, Bharti, New Delhi : Niyogi Books, 2016.
  5.  Images are from Wikimedia Commons and Amazon.in

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

©author

 

The Acanthus leaf : images from art and architecture

      The word ”Acanthus” recalls to mind the Corinthian columns from Greece. The leaf is a perennial, with thick, spiny leaves with serrated edges.  There are several varieties of  the acanthus plant. Though it is surmised that the motif of this leaf originated from the palmette design, it still fascinates. Acanthus depicts long and enduring life. The acanthus plant grows in and around  the Mediterranean. Check out the story of this unique leaf and its journey  in different media used in the human realm !

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Diagram, acanthus leaf.

Buddhist Capital from Gandhara, 4th century A.D

The Encyclopaedia Britannica says : Acanthus, in architecture and decorative arts, is a stylized ornamental motif based on a characteristic Mediterranean plant with jagged leaves, Acanthus spinosus. It was first used by the Greeks in the 5th century BC on temple roof ornaments, on wall friezes, and on the capital of the Corinthian column. One of the best examples of its use in the Corinthian order is the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens. Later the Romans used the motif in their Composite order, in which the capital of the column is a three-dimensional combination of spirals resembling rams’ horns and full-bodied acanthus leaves. The acanthus leaf has been a popular motif in carved furniture decoration since the Renaissance.

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Acanthus leaf.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Capital detail,temple of Olympian Zeus, 6th century,Athens, Greece. 

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Acanthus leaf design seen on the capitals, temple of Olympian Zeus, 6th century, Athens, Greece. 

A poem reads thus –

 The Corinthian of Greece and acanthus leaves-
The temple of Athens where the golden bell rings.
Its a tumble of tune a song for the yore-
The musical swells, as symphony soar.
The bride of Apollo does walk down the aisle, in virgin white lace-
by power of means she maneuvers with grace.
And Apollo himself wrote a passaged vow to wealthiest wealth of love that forever bows.
Without her, he says, the nights have no moon,
the stars will fall out of place,
neither courtesy of colors in midst noon nor there is such a beautiful face.
Apollo’s Bride, Cassandra, blushed with fury lust-
And by the ring she took his hand,
her lover Apollo took it by grand.
And together forever they treasured their land
Under Greece’s dome by the Corinithia of Acanthus leaves- ..
The bells continuously sing Golden bells’ ring
of what rumbles and bring
The definition of lovely things.

                                            ………………………..by Brittany Martin.

 Acanatha is a minor character in Greek mythology whose metamorphosis was the origin of the Acanthus plant. The tale goes that Acantha was a nymph loved by the god Apollo. Acantha, however, rebuffed Apollo’s advances and scratched his face. As a result, Apollo transformed her into the Acanthus, a plant with spiny leaves. The acanthus leaf has inspired  art and architecture right from the 5th century in Greece and Rome as mentioned. The leaf has inspired designs for wall papers, wood work as railings, on watches, as decoration on book illustrations. The 4th and 5th century art at Gandhara had a lot of Greek influence and the Buddhist capital below depicts the acanthus leaf used for ornamentation. The design is used as a modern tattoo too !Image result for acanthus leaf design

Illustration, Acanthus Capital.

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Fragment of frieze with acanthus leaves, Islamic art, 6th century.

Byzantine architecture too has celebrated the acanthus leaf motif. The leaves cover large surfaces. Also seen in the letters of Illustrated manuscripts including the borders. Many Roman buildings have captured the beauty of this leaf as foliage designs. Islamic art has also used this awesome motif.

Illuminated Book of Hours with acanthus leaf as ornamental border, 1406–09 A.D

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Mughal rose water sprinkler, acanthus motif design, 1700 A.D

Detail from the facade of the Cathedral in Syracuse, Italy, 18th century. 

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Acanthus block-printed cotton velveteen designed by William Morris, 19th century.

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Cushion cover, acanthus design, 21st century. (Image from Amazon.com)

 

References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author