Tag Archives: nature

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.

File:Fragment of Frieze with Acanthus Leaves Encircling Fruit and Flowers MET sf10-175-96s1.jpg

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

File:Rosewater sprinkler, Mughal dynasty, c. 1700, India, silver and gilt silver - Freer Gallery of Art - DSC05183.JPG

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

 

 

Floral forays : glimpses from the Taj

         Much has been written about the Taj Mahal, India’s iconic Mughal monument. A testament to love as it is believed, made by an emperor, Emperor Shahjahan for his favourite queen, Mumtaz Mahal or Arjumand Bano Begum. One is awestruck on seeing the Taj made from marble from Makrana which depicts so many elements of art and architecture. One can see domes, arches, minarets, windows, ceiling designs, parchin kari or pietra dura, calligraphy, Islamic geometry. Also jaali or trellis work. The finial on top of the biggest dome is also very ornate. Different views from the Taj show the beautiful embellishment and the exquisite use of marble to create this awesome wonder of the world. This mausoleum or rauza is one of the finest monuments of the world.

          This famous edifice is at an important Mughal city, Agra on the banks of the Jamuna river. Agra also has an awesome fortress, the tombs of Emperor Akbar, his consort, Jodha Bai and Vizier I’timad-ud-daulah of Emperor Jahangir. The chief architect of the Taj was Ustad Ahmed Lahori. The design is a synthesis though the Persian element is predominant.

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Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

 The Taj Mahal

Aye, build it on these banks,” the monarch said,
“That when the autumn winds have swept the sea,
They may come hither with their falling rains,
A voice of mighty weeping o’er her grave.”

They brought the purest marble that the earth
E’er treasured from the sun, and ivory
Was never yet more delicately carved :
Then cupolas were raised, and minarets,
And flights of lofty steps, and one vast dome
Rose till it met the clouds : richly inlaid
With red and black, this palace of the dead
Exhausted wealth and skill. Around its walls
The cypresses like funeral columns stood,
And lamps perpetual burnt beside the tomb.
And yet the emperor felt it was in vain,
A desolate magnificence that mocked
The lost one, and the loved, which it enshrined.

……………..Letitia Elizabeth Landon

   The Taj Mahal is situated a mile distant from the Agra Fort at a bend of the river Jamuna. The Taj was built on a large square area out of Raja Jai Singh’s garden. The Taj is considered a place of pilgrimage because Mumtaz Mahal had died during childbirth, ie. it is both a rauza and urs, hence it was designed keeping in mind the needs of both. there is designed place for pilgrims to stay, poor to receive food and gift of clothes etc. The Taj has a forecourt and gardens. The charbagh, mosque and tomb were built in the larger portion, ending in an open platform and raised terrace with the river in view. The mausoleum was placed on this terrace. The gateway at the southern end was the public entrance. The gateway at the northern wall of the forecourt is a three storeyed gateway.

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          Floral arabesques on spandrels, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

     The Taj unfolds as one walks through the monument. The outer gateway opens to a  large quadrangle surrounded by arcaded rooms and adorned by four gateways This monument took 22 years to build. A broad pavement leads to a gateway made of red stone and inscribed with verses from the Holy Quran. As one moves on, one can see  beauty and embellishement. There are the jaalis, pietra dura works as beautiful arabesques. Some views here are testimony to some splendid floral designs at the Taj.

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         Floral arabesques on spandrels,Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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        Floral arabesque in border and plant motifs on a dado, Taj Mahal, image, 21st  century.

Image result for iris flower illustrationIris flower, illustration.Image result for iris flower illustration
 The flowers which are depicted in the precincts of the Taj including the interiors and exteriors show floral compositions. Some of them resemble the iris flower if one looks closely or probably inspired by this flower ! Some patterns resemble the fuschia too.
Related image        Fuschia flower, illustration.

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Chevrons and vegetal motifs, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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          Petals, inverted, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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           Vegetal and floral arabesques,Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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        Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Vegetal scroll, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Floral scroll, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Ornamental scrolls, vegetal design, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

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         Detail, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

File:Taj Mahal, Agra, India...JPG

         Detail, Taj Mahal, image, 21st century.

 

 

References:

  1. https://www.poetry.net/
  2. Wikipedia.org
  3. Images are from Wikimedia Commons

 

 

Posted by –

Soma Ghosh

©author

Arabesque in architecture : glimpses from Mughal India

        The arabesque holds a special meaning. The Cambridge dictionary says that it is ‘a type of design based on flowers, leaves, and branches twisted together, found especially in Islamic art’.  The architecture of Mughal monuments in India offers many examples of arabesque art. The Taj Mahal, tomb of Emperor Akbar, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, the Fatehpur Sikri, the Agra Fort, the Red Fort and several others. The arabesque has also been defines as a vegetal design consisting of full and half palmettes as an unending continuous pattern in which each leaf grows out of another. It is symbolic of the unity of faith of Islam.

         The beautiful and striking designs created on many Mughal monuments are actually a combination of the arabesque-vegetal, geometric patterns and Islamic calligraphy.  Islamic art is diverse and made up of stunning patterns, due to the absence of figures which could make it an object of worship, which is prevented in Islam. However the core of the art is symmetry and harmony. There is an effort to convey the structure of everything through pattern. Geometry is an important element, it is sacred geometry with an inner and outer meaning.

             Arabesque art depictions, mostly combined with geometry and calligraphy have two types, the first is about the principles that govern the order of the world. Geometric forms have a built in symbolism.The principles include the basics of what makes objects structurally sound yet pleasing to the eye. The square has equal sides and represents the important elements of nature, earth, air, fir and water. The physical world is symbolised by a circle that inscribes the square and would collapse upon itself without any of the four elements. The second type is based on the flowing nature of vegetal froms, representing the feminine life giving force. The third type is the mode of Islamic calligraphy. it is also called the art of the spoken word. Many proverbs and passages from the Holy Quran can be seen in arabesque art. The coming together of these three forms create the arabesque in its entirety. The art is not just mathematically precise but beautiful and symbolic. Many Islamic designs are based on squares and circles, interlaced to form complex patterns. A common motif is the 8 pointed star made of 2 squares, one rotated 45 degrees with respect to the other. Another basic shape is the polygon, mostly pentagon and octagon. Islamic artwork is found in jaali work or trellis tilings, woodwork, kilims or rugs, leather book bindings, metalwork, ceramics  and ceilings.

A glimpse into this fascinating world of visual art includes images from two important tombs in Agra, North of India, both from 17th century Mughal era.

Tomb of Emperor Akbar 

Emperor Jalalluddin Akbar was the third Mughal emperor, born in 1542 A.D, who ruled from 1556 to 1605 A.D. Akbar’s reign significantly influenced the course of Indian history. During his rule, the Mughal empire tripled in size and wealth. Akbar promulgated Din-i-Ilahi, a syncretic creed derived mainly from Islam and Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Christianity. His tomb is at Sikandra, Agra, a structure with ornate and stunning Islamic art and architecture.

Tomb of Emperor Akbar, main entrance with  artwork, 17th century, Agra.

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Emperor Akbar, miniature painting,  17th century, MFA, Boston, U S A

Related imageTomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, tomb of Emperor Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.

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Ceiling detail, ”muqarna”,tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Sikandra, Agra.

Inlay panels on South Gate, tomb of Akbar, 17th century, Agra.

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               Jaali work, tomb of Akbar complex, 17th century, Agra.

 

Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah

          Mirza Ghiyas Beg also known by his title of I’timad-ud-Daulah  was a vizier in the Mughal empire, whose children served as wives, mothers, and generals of the Mughal emperors.He was the father of the famous ‘Nur-Jehan’ and grand father of ‘Mumtaz-Mahal’ of the Taj Mahal fame. He was made ”Vazir” after Nur Jehan ‘s marriage with Jehangir in 1611.

Related image

I’timad-ud-Daulah, painting, 18th century.

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Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, 8-pointed star pattern, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Detail, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, a quarter of each 6-point star is shown in each corner; half stars along the sides, 17th century, Agra.

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Gate, arabesques on spandrelsTomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Jaali design with 6 point stars and arabesques on the sides, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

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Arabesques on exteriors, tomb of I’timād-ud-Daulah, 17th century, Agra.

 

 

References :

 

 

 

Posted by

 

Soma Ghosh

 

©author

 

 

 

 

Tree of life : images from Golconda textiles

           The art of Kalamkari  originated in Machilipatnam, Pallakolu and other places along the Coromandel coast during the 17th century.  It originated as a religious tapestry and later became a secular craft under Muslim rule. The kingdom of Golconda in the Deccan, India was a trading centre for diamonds, gems and textiles. The word Kalamkari or working with the pen evolved when the Golconda Sultans called the craftsmen as ‘kalamkars‘. ‘Kalamkari‘ thus literally means, art work done using a pen. The craft continues to this day with many families devoted to this art. Natural substances from plants, trees and seeds are used in the art and called painted using resist and mordant technique. Depicted are some images using this technique, of the tree of life, a unique and universal concept.
    The tree of life is a concept mainly from mythology, a sacred belief connecting all forms of creation. it is depicted in various cultures and traditions of the world. The tree of life is thought of as related to the eternal, a destroyer of sorrow, health, fertility, wisdom and calmness. In the Hindu faith it is the wish fulfilling Kalpavriksha which grants every wish. In Christianity the tree is the source of eternal life. The tree of life is the tree of immortality in Islamic faith. The concept spans across cultures. It is asymbol of connectivity, having roots with the soil; the leaves and branches reaching to the sky, receiving the sun and air. The tree of life represents continuity as it grows from a seed and creates a fruit with seeds, which again gives birth to the new. The tree of life is a symbol of rebirth, the leaves fall in autumn or hibernate in winter and in spring the new leaves appear like being born again.
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Tree of life,  Tent Hanging or Curtain, late 17th century, Golconda, LACMA, U. S. A.
      Charles Darwin proposed a tree of life which is symbolic of the source of all living things. In Chinese mythology,a dragon and phoenix are depicted in the tree of life. The dragon represents immortality. The Bodhi tree is the wisdom tree under which Siddharta Gautama attained enlightenment and became the Buddha. This tree is seen as one where once can seek refuge from worldly desires. the Celtic tree symbolises the forces of nature joining together to maintain balance in the universe. Many animals are are also seen in the tree of life depictions. Birds too are seen on the branches. sometimes the underworld is shown with a water-monster. All forms of life are connected and humans should live in harmony with the world. Everyone has a right to exist and grow as we are children of the Universe.

                The block-printed and dyed textile from the Coromandel coast depicted below consists of a tree of life within ovoid medallions, flanked by cobras and peacocks, the border is of a continuous floral garland. Originally this technique of painted resist and mordant happened under the rule of the Golconda kingdom (1512-1687). However the practice continued in the following centuries with ups and downs, but continues to this day though the designs have changed over the years. The technique was called Kalamkari which is still prevalent.

A PALAMPORE COROMANDEL COAST, SOUTH INDIA, SECOND QUARTER 19TH CENTURY The block-printed and dyed decoration consisting of a central tree within ovoid medallions, flanked by cobras and peacocks, the border a continuous floral garland, small inventory or shipping stamp to a corner 116 ½ x 91in. (296 x 231cm.

Palampore, painted resist and mordant, dyed textile, Coromandel coast, 19th century.

Image sourced from Christie’s.com

       Palampores were a regular feature of the 18th-century chintz trade to Europe, where they were used as wall hangings and bed-covers and table-cloths. The embroidered palampore below was chain stitched in silk on cotton to create a painted effect. The craftsmen have worked out white silk stitches within the flowers to simulate the tiny white  patterns that appear on painted textiles. Instead of shown as emerging from the usual hilly mound, this tree grows out of an interpretation of a Chinese scholar’s rock, highlighting the overlapping of Chinese, Indian, and European motifs in 18th-century exotic textiles from the East.

* Palampore Cotton embroidered with silk mid-18th century (Coromandel Coast), for the European market Embroidered Palampore was chain stitched in silk on cotton to imitate a painted palampore with remarkable precision. The embroiderers even used white silk stitches within the flowers to simulate the tiny white reserve patterns that appear on painted examples.

Palampore, embroidered textile, cotton with silk, Coromandel coast, mid-18th century, Met Museum, U S A

        Palmapores depicting the tree of life show a central flower-and-fruit-bearing serpentine tree emerging from a hillock with stylized peaks or rocks. In addition to those produced for the Dutch and English markets, a class of smaller palampores was made expressly for the intra-Asian trade. This painted version depicted below was originally sourced to Sri Lanka, maybe produced for the European communities in Batavia and Colombo.


Palampore, Cotton (painted resist and mordant, dyed), India (Coromandel Coast), for the Sri Lankan market

Palampore, painted resist and mordant, dyed textile, Coromandel coast, early 18th century, Met Museum, U S A.
The textile piece below is a tree of life depicting the mound, peacocks and flowering tree. The border is an ornate double floral scroll. Done using the Kalamkari technique it is an exquisite work.

Olive-Multicolor Cotton Hand Painted Kalamkari Wall Hanging 46in x 32.5in
Tree of life, Kalamkari hanging, 21st century.

Image : Jaypore.com



References :

  • wikipedia.org
  • wootandhammy.com
  • spiritualray.com
  • old-earth.com
Posted by:
Soma Ghosh
Ⓒauthor

Kangra painting : timeless echo from the hills

 

     The valleys and hills of the Lower Himalayas in Himachal Pradesh, India is beautiful and inspiring. Nature’s beauty echoes here in greenery and cool scenery. The Pahari school of Indian painting flourished here during the 18th and 19th centuries. Of the different schools, the Kangra style is very famous and well known. The erstwhile Kangra princely state is majorly responsible for the development and flowering of the style. Sometimes Pahari school is used synonymously with the Kangra style though there are many variations ! Kangra painting has its  This style uses a lot of green and other refreshing colours.  The painters used colours from minerals and vegetal sources. The distinctive feature of this school is its emphasis on naturalistic images, greenery, flora and fauna.  The paintings are full of the shringara rasa (beauty and eroticism),the sense of lyricism is very evident in the paintings and soothes the eye and heart of the viewer. The love between Lord Krishna and Radha as described in Gita-Govinda, episodes from Lord Krishna’s life : Bhagavata Purana, the Nala Damayanti story, Barahmasa of Keshav Das have been the themes. The Sat Sai of Bihari Lal depicted Radha-Krishna in an architectural setting. Nayak-nayika bheda is also a theme of these paintings. One can recognise  a Kangra painting by some unique characteristics. Excellent greenery in different shades and vegetal forms like trees, creepers are all seen. There is an amazing attention paid to detail. Women are depicted as soft and beautiful, with sharp beautiful facial features. Night scenes with thunder and lightning are also found. The paintings have a sense of serenity found among the hilly valleys and greenery. Naturalism is at its peak in Kangra paintings.

       The origin of Kangra painting happened in the state of  Guler in the Himalayan valley during 18th century under Raja Dalip Singh who ruled 1695 to 1741 A.D. He gave shelter to Kashmiri artists at his court who were trained in Mughal style. The style was immortalised by the works of the sons of Pandit Seu, the celebrated Nainsukh( 1710-1778) and his older brother Manuku. who worked actively 1725 to 1760 at Guler. The style evolved to include Mughal elements and new local idioms. The early Kangra paintings were mostly portraits made during the reign of Ghamand Chand( ruled 1761-1774 A.D) made mostly by Gaudhu, son of Nainsukh.

    Kangra painting grew under Maharaja Sansar Chand (1775 to 1823). He occupied the Kangra Fort in 1786 and was a powerful king. Being an ardent devote of Lord Krishna, he patronised the artists who painted Radha-Krishna and the portraits of their masters. The Kangra style originated at Guler but later evolved its own freshness and character by depicting Shiva-Parvati, Radha-Krishna among other themes. Nainsukh’s sons were part of the atelier of Sansar Chand; Kama,Gaundhu,Nikka and Ranjha. They worked at Guler, Basohli, Chamba among others. Maharaja Sansar Chand annexed part of Chamba teritory in 1794 by defeating Raja Raj Singh. He defeated the Rajas of Sirmur, Mandi and Suket; the Raja of Guler, Prakash Chand became his vassal. In course of time however the enemies of Sansar Chand instigated the Gorkhas to attack Kangra who laid siege to the fort in 1805. The artists abandoned Kangra and his atelier was disturbed forever. He could not retain his fort and territories and had to shift to Tira-Sujanpur where he tried to revive the art. and some artworks were created. However the previous energy seemed to have got diluted and Sansar Chand  became a legend and patron of one of India’s iconic art forms. Kangra had been under the Mughals till 1786 and under the Sikhs from 1810-1846. At Nurpur, paintings were mostly done during the rule of Prithvi Singh (1735-89) and Bir Singh (1785-1846). Thus the principal centre of Pahari (of the hiils) painting was the Kangra valley; under the patronage of the rulers of Guler, Kangra and Kings of Nurpur. Later the artists migrated to Mandi, Suket, Kulu, Tehri Garhwal, Basohli and Chamba and Bilaspur.

A scene as described in the Gita Govinda by Jayadeva:

kaliya-visha-dhara-bhañjana
jana-rañjana e
yadukula-nalina-dinesha
jaya jaya deva hare 

O Deva! O Hari! You pulverize the pride of the venomous snake, Kaliya. You fill the hearts of your dearest ones with endless joy. You are the sun that makes the lotus of the Yadu dynasty bloom. May you be triumphant! May you be triumphant!

Kaliya's wifes and Krishna. Kangra c.1785-90. Painting of India.JPG

Kaliya’s wives and Krishna, painting, Kangra, c.1785-90.

By Ismoon (talk) 22:02, 24 February 2012 (UTC) – Own work, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=18487484

     Another scene as described in the Gita Govinda by Jayadeva:

meghair meduram ambaram vana-bhuvah shyämäs tamäla-drumair:
naktam bhéru rayaàm tvam eva tad imam, rädhe gåham präpaya |
ittham nanda-nideshataha calitayoù praty-adhva-kuïja-drumaà
rädhä-mädhavayor jayanti yamunä-küle rahaù-kelaya: 

The sky is thick with clouds; the forest area is dark with the tamala trees; the night frightens him (Krishna); Oh Radha! you take him home; This is the command from Nanda.  But, Radha and Madhava stray to the tree on the banks of river Yamuna, and their secret love sport prevails.

Krishna with flute.jpg

                                 Krishna with flute, painting, circa 1790 and 1800.

By Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Gallery – Smithsonian Freer and Sackler Gallery[1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2439033

Marriage of Parvati and Shiva, Opaque watercolor and gold on paper, First half of 19th century.tiff

                    Marriage of Parvati and Shiva, painting, first half of 19th century.

By Firedrop – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27694651

Radha celebrating Holi, c1788.jpg

Radha celebrating Holi, painting, c.1788.

By Anonymous – Victoria Albert Museum [1], Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4175518

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the Hermitage of Bharadvaja Page from a dispersed Ramayana (Story of King Rama), ca. 1780.jpg

Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana at the hermitage of Bharadvaja,page from a dispersed Ramayana, 1780.

By Kangra workshop – Page from a dispersed Ramayana (Story of King Rama),http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1976.15, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17104952

Rama Returns in Victory to Ayodhya, Pahari, Kangra, Fitzwilliam Museum.jpg

               Rama returning to Ayodhya, Pahari, Kangra, painted between circa 1780                                                                           and  circa 1790.

By Anonymous – The Fitzwilliam Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60015055

File:Damayanti Looks in the Mirror, Folio from a Nala-Damayanti LACMA M.83.105.6.jpg

Damayanti looks in the mirror, folio from a Nala-Damayanti, Kangra, circa 1790

File:Krishna Talks to Radha's Maidservant, Folio from a Satsai (Seven Hundred Verses) of Bihari Lal LACMA AC1999.127.5.jpg
Lord  Krishna talks to Radha’s maid, folio from a Sat-sai  of Bihari Lal, Kangra, circa 1825.

 

 

References :

 

Posted by :

 

Soma Ghosh

 

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Mughal miniatures : some fauna depictions

   Mughal miniatures are much admired across the art and history world and the artworks have captured the Mughal times and the opulence related with the Emperors and their reign.The Mughals ruled in India 1526 – 1857 A.D. The Mughals were patrons of art and maintained ateliers of their own. They had their own court artists.  The Mughal atelier included artists like  Abu’l Hasan, Farrukh Beg,Manohar, Govardhan, Inayat, Muhammad Nadir among others. Mansur was a 17th century painter under Emperors Akbar and Jahangir. He excelled in painting flora and fauna. Animal subjects were his passion and he earned the title of ustad or master during Akbar’s reign. He used to travel with the emperor recording natural subjects. He earned the title Nãdir-al-’Asr, someone who is unparalelled in his time.

Nilgai (blue bull).jpg

Nilgai, by Ustad Mansur, from the Shah Jahan Album, Mughal painting, 17th century.

Ustad Mansur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

File:DodoMansur.jpg

Dodo bird along with others, Mughal painting, 1625.

Ustad Mansur [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

Ustad Mansur Truthahn.jpeg

Turkey-cock, Mughal painting, 17th century.

By Ustad Mansur, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1938648

Siberian Crane.jpg

Siberian crane, Mughal painting, Indian Museum, Kolkata.

By Ustad Mansur – Indian Museum, Kolkata, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30561300

Ustad Mansur Chameleon.jpg

Indian chameleon, Mughal painting, 17th century,British Royal Collection,U.K.

By Ustad Mansur – The Royal Collection, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29182473

Spotted Forktail, by Abu’l Hasan, Shah Jahan Album,1610–15 A.D. Metropolitan Museum, New-York.

By Abu’l Hasan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

        Ustad Mansur  was a colourist for pages in the  Akbarnama. His animal paintings earned him a place in history of painting. He also drew some birds and animals from his own imagination or world of fantasy. He used floral borders around his compositions. His attention to detail make his works mesmerising to the viewer. There were copies of his works made. His portrayal of the dodo bird (now extinct) is an important source for zoologists. He remains the most celebrated; he mixed objective naturalism with artistic creativity and depiction.

        Ustad Mansur made portraits in his early career. He painted birds like the dipper described by Emperor Jahangir in his memoirs Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. His last painting was that of a zebra which had been gifted to emperor Jahangir. It is now in the V & A Museum, U.K. Jahangir was a keen naturalist like Emperor Babur. Emperor Jahangir has left amazing descriptions of fauna. As a prince Jahangir had his own studio in the 1580s with Aqa Riza, a  painter from Herat, as his chief artist.  He  made  Ustad Mansur copy all the flowers in the valley of Kashmir during his visit. During Emperor Akbar’s reign Mishkin was a talented artist. He has painted Laila-Majnun surrounded by many animals. Artists Abu’l Hasan, son of Aqa Riza and Manohar Das or Manohar, son of Basawaan during the reign of Emperor Jahangir were also good at making paintings of fauna.

Squirrels in a Plane Tree, by Abu’l Hasan, 1610, India Office Library and Records, London,U.K.

By Abu’l Hasan and Mansur (scan from book) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

"Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs", Folio from an Akbarnama MET sf30-95-174-8a.jpg

Akbar Hunting with Cheetahs, By Manohar Das, from an Akbarnama, Metropolitan Museum, New-York.

By Creator:Manohar [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

"Black Buck", Folio from the Shah Jahan Album MET DP246551.jpg

Black buck, by Manohar, folio from a Shah Jahan album, early 17th century, Metropolitan Museum, New York.

By Creator:Manohar [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Mansur-8.png

Peacocks, illustration, Mughal painting,17th century.

By Ustad Mansur, Nãdir-al-’Asr (Ustad Mansur, Nãdir-al-’Asr) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two Cranes - Ustad Mansur

Two cranes, Mughal painting, 17th century.

http://www.wikiart.org/en/ustad-mansur/two-cranes

 

Zebra, 1621 - Ustad Mansur

Zebra, by Ustad Mansur, Mughal painting, 17th century.

Source :www.wikiart.org/en/ustad-mansur/zebra-1621

References :

  • Court paintings of India/Pal, Pratapadiya, New Delhi : Kumar Gallery,1983.
  • Animals and birds in Mughal miniature paintings/Khanam, Zaheda,New Delhi : D. K Print world, 2009.
  • wikipedia.org

 

Posted by :

Soma Ghosh

 

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The Barahmasa : depictions in Indian miniature paintings

         The twelve months or Barahmasa correspond to the length of a year which is a span of time. During these months various seasons happen in nature. Human activities change and so does the scenery with its various elements, the sky, birds, water bodies, animals and vegetation. The various months are Chaitra (March-April). starting in the spring season.  The following months are Vaishakha(April-May), Jyestha (May-June, Asadha (June-July), Sravana(July-August), Bhadon (August-September), Ashvin (September-October), Kartikka (October-November), Margasirsa (November-December), Pausa(December-January), Magha ( January-February) and Phalguna (February-March).

    The folio from a Hindu calendar, Vikram Samvat is seen below. The left column shows the ten avatars of Vishnu, the center-right column shows the twelve signs of the Hindu zodiac. Top middle panel shows Ganesha with two consorts. The second panel shows Krishna with two consorts. The seasons are well recognized and has been depicted in all forms in India’s art and literature and it’s overall cultural landscape. Poetry, painting and sculpture have awesome portrayals and descriptions of the seasons. Seasons in India are part of her ethos and life. Festivals are also celebrated in connections with seasons.  The Barahmasa is a genre of poetry, a concept to which there have been many contributions. Indian paintings have been closely associated with literature. Many important literary works right from ancient times have been depicted  in art and sculpture. The Jataka tales have been depicted in many Buddhist sites of India.

  .     

Hindu calendar/almanac corresponding to Western years 1871-1872, Rajasthan. 

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

              Coming to the subject at hand, this theme has been depicted mostly from late medieval period.  An Indian treatise Chitrasutra composed by Vishnudhrmaottara, sometime during the interval of the Kushana and Gupta times has a set of guidelines on how the seasons are to be depicted in art. Painters have followed the guidelines in ancient and medieval India.

   The Barahmasa was popular in Hindi literature during 13th to 16th centuries and also was a part of Sufi poetry. However, Barahmasa in miniature paintings were mostly done or executed in the 17th and 18th centuries.  The paintings had writings in Devanagari on top or behind the painting. Many royal courts had their own painters and ateliers. This theme has not found much favour with Mughal miniatures and Deccani painting though nature by itself has been a subject of composition in these schools. Many animal and bird portraitures have been made in the Mughal paintings; the Deccani schools depict clouds, ponds and lotuses.

        The Rajasthani painting evolved in the courts of Rajputana. They were done in the mniature format. and also on walls of havelis(mansions), palaces and inner chambers of forts. The pigmetns were derived from minerals,plants, conches and precious stones too ! Gold and silver were used at places. The paintings depicted avrious themes from the social viewpoint, also stories form the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. Nature was depicted too’; these paintings were representative of a rulers legacy. The Rajasthani school has many sub-schools. like Jaipur,Bikaner, Bundi, Kota, Mewar. Alwar and Jodhpur. The style of painting has been influenced by Persian, European, Mughal and Chinese art of painting.The paintings are rich, mostly due to the arid desert landscape, dry hills and less vegetation.

     The Barahmasa theme has been depicted in Chamba, Garhwal, Guler, Kangra, Mandi and Nurpur schools from among the Pahari school. The Pahari schools developed in the hilly regions of North India during 17th to 19th century. From Jammu to Almora and Garhwal,Himachal Pradesh. the range is wide,varied and very interesting. Basohli school is from Jammu which is known for its bold colours. Kangra is famous for its Radha-Krishna depictions and its lyrical quality.; being greatly inspired by Jayadeva’s Geeta-govinda. Central India has the Malwa, Datia and Bundelkhand schools.

     The Chitrasutra as already mentioned has given guidelines for the seasons and they seem to be followed by artists across India. Summer is indicated by the sun in the sky, spring with its seasonal trees in bloom, humming bees,cuckoo depictions and men and women going around happily ! Further, summer depicts fatigue experienced by men,animals, dry pools,birds hiding in trees,lions and  tigers resting in their mountainous hideouts. The rainy season has its dark, laden clouds and streaks of lightning in the sky. Autumn has trees full of fruits,corn ripe in the fields, pools full of swans and lotuses. The winter has its dew and fog, the earth is a bit bare and misty. Crows and elephants are joyous.  There is snowfall in some places.

    Depicted below are some Barahmasa paintings from different schools. The month of Chaitra is depicted with the seasonal trees in bloom and men and women joyous and in conversation. Birds and sarus cranes are seen in the background and where the lotuses are abounding in the pool nearby.

1 The month of Chaitra. Barahmasa series. March-April. 1675-1700 (circa) Bundi. British Museum.jpg

Chaitra (March-April), Barahmasa, Bundi, 1675-1700 A.D, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762741

       The month of Jyeshtha is hot and humid, people are seen using hand fans reclining under shades and birds are hiding in the trees. The sun is scorching the earth and there is bright light around. Tree ahve shed their leaves due to the heat. The animals are resting in shade or retreating to the forest.

2 Jestha (may-june). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Jyestha (May-June). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800s, British Museum,U.K.

By Unknown – British Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=20762750

 Jyestha (May-June), Folio from a Barahmasa,  Uniara, Rajasthan, 1775, LACMA- public domain image.

      The Asadha month is the pre-monsoon month and clouds are seen to start arriving in the sky with sporadic rain. In Shravan the sky gets laden with rain bearing clouds and the opens with lightning and thunder ! Peacocks are happiest during this time and dance to full glory with their splendorous tail spread out. Nature all around is green and verdant. Pangs of separation are felt more strongly in this season. Forlorn heroines are eager to meet their beloved !

 Ashadha (June-July), Folio from a Barahmasa, Kota, 1700-1725.

LACMA- public domain image.

File:4 Sravana (july-august). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

Sravana (July-August), Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British  Museum,U.K.

See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Bhadon (August-September), Folio from a Barahmasa ,LACMA ,U.S.A

http://www.flickr.com/photos/50398299@N08/16260026998/ image by Ashley Van Haeften

          The painting below shows a forlorn heroine trying to go out to meet her beloved and her sakhi or friend refraining her as the sky is full of menacing clouds during the month of Bhadon.

'Virahini' (Lovesick Heroine), India, c. 1740, Honolulu Museum of Art, 10689.1.JPG

Virahini (lovesick heroine), Bhadon (August-September)1740, Barahmasa,  Honolulu Museum of Art,U.S.A.

By Unknown – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29363548

Bhadon (August-September), Barahmasa, Malwa, 1640-1650, LACMA- public domain image.
Bhadon (August-September). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

6 Asoja (september-october). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg

 Ashvin or Asoja, (September-October). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
 7 Kartikka (october-november). Barahmasa series. Jaipur, ca. 1800, British Museum.jpg
  Kartikka,(October-November). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
 See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
8 Margasira (november-december) Barahmasa series..jpg
Margasirsa or Agrahayana,(November-December) Barahmasa series,1800, Rajasthan. British Museum, London,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
         The month of Pausa is depicted with people warming their hands over fire and  sleeping under blankets to face the biting cold. Shawls are worn around the head and shoulders. People seem to be suffering from fever and are making visits to the vaidya or doctor for treatment.
Pausa, (December-January). Barahmasa, Jaipur, 1800, British Museum,U.K.
See page for author [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.
References :
  • Barahmasa/Dwivedi,V.P, Delhi : Agam Kala Prakashan,1980.
  • wikipedia.org
Posted by

Soma Ghosh

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