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Nandi Muzzling The Feet Of Ardhanarishvara

Nandi Muzzling The Feet Of Ardhanarishvara

Of all the folk art forms in India, pattachitra is the most complex. One of the oldest art forms to have flourished in the subcontinent, it is what a lot of people know the state of Odisha by. 'Patta' in Sanskrit means canvas, and 'chitra' picture. And it isn't your run-of-the-mill canvas that functions as the foundation to the pictures. The patta of pattachitra is made in a week-long process that starts with soaking tamarind seeds for the first 3, pestling them thoroughly, and heating them in an earthen pot. The natural paste that emerges is called niyas kalpa in the local language, which is used to glue 2 pieces of fabric. This is further given double coats of soft powdered clay and polished with a rough stone followed by a smooth stone to produce the finished canvas.

The natural pigments that are used for the chitras look great on this patta. While themes usually revolve around Jagannath (for the obvious reasons) and avataras of Krishna, this pattachitra depicts the Ardhanarishvara instead. The deity is stands on a blooming lotus with the seated Nandi muzzling Shiva's feet. Parvati's saree is long and flowing, while Shiva is draped in an austere tigerskin. Her shringar is ampler and more feminine than the grim bands of rudraksha on His limbs. The curves of Her anatomy are more defined, Her thick straight tresses cascade down Her back while His wavey locks are flying in the wind. His jatamukuta is complemented by Her luxuriant crown. Winged celestial beauties floating amidst the clouds on either side of the pattachitra on top complete the composition.

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Vajrayogini - Tibetan Buddhist Deity

Vajrayogini - Tibetan Buddhist Deity

This image is that of dakini Vajrayogini. A dakini is the most important female principle in Tantric Buddhism, representing the ever-changing flow of female energy. They are the guardians of teachings and are considered the supreme embodiments of wisdom. The dakini can help change human weaknesses into wisdom and understanding, and the concept of self into enlightened energy.


There are two kinds of dakinis-supramundane or "beyond worldly," and mundane, or "worldly," ones. The second are usually referred to as yoginis. Yoginis are mystical partners of yogis, to whom they give secret wisdom and magical powers. In fact to reach Buddhahood, the practitioner (yogi) requires the help of the following three:


1). His lama or teacher,


2). His yidam, or meditational deity, and


3). His dakini.


There are three different types of Vajrayogini, according to how three different masters viewed her. One of these masters was Mahasiddha Naropa who received his teachings from Vajrayogini around the eleventh century. His disciples began calling this aspect of Vajrayogini as Naro Kha Chod, or Naro Sky Goer, according to the vision and teachings of Naropa. The teachings of Naro Kha Chod were first introduced into Tibet by the Nepalese brothers named Pom Ting. There thus followed a lineage of teachings of Naro Kha Chod that continues to the present day. She is very popular, and all sects follow her practice.


It is according to the sadhana written by Naropa that the present statue is sculpted. Her face is semiwrathful. She has three eyes, and her mouth is open. Her crown is made up of five dried human heads. Her right hand holds a chopper pointing downward. Her left hand holds a skullcup filled with swirling human brains inside. Under her bent left hand there is a khatvanga, a staff decorated with human skulls, vajra, scarf etc. Her naked body glistens with her vehement passion. She is very youthful-looking, and has a beautiful shape with large, pointed breasts and firm nipples. Her necklace is made up of dried human skulls, and she is wearing bone ornaments on her arms and feet, and also a bone apron on her body. She is crushing under her outstretched left leg Dushenma, lying face up. Her bent left leg is stepping on Bhairava, who lies face down. A large fire halo representing wisdom is behind her.


This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.


References:


Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.


Short Description of Gods, Goddesses and Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal, Handicraft Association of Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal, compiled by Jnan Bahadur Sakya.

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Ganga Aarati In One's Solitude At Dashashvamedh

Ganga Aarati In One's Solitude At Dashashvamedh

Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, home to no less than 2,000 temples of Hindu culture and tradition. The ghats and mandirs in this city provide ample opportunity to spiritually cleanse oneself, so strong is the presence in the city of all that is holy. Its patron deity is Kashi Vishvanath, whose temple is the biggest of all the ones located along the banks of the Ganga that flows through Varanasi. It attracts numerous pilgrims throughout the year, and houses one of the twelve jyotirlingas in the subcontinent. He is a manifestation of the Lord Shiva. The surrounding ghat, the Dashashvamedha Ghat, has its own legends. The name comes from the ten (das) horses sacrificed by Brahma in the Ashvamedha yajna that He performed here, having built the ghat to welcome Shiva to ihaloka (this realm). It is the largest and the liveliest of the ghat of Varanasi - with the fall of dusk, it comes alive with numberless aratis that are conducted by local priests in honour of the sacred river. This painting is aglow with one such aarati, the goblet being majestically swung by a priest at a relatively quiet spot on the Dashashvamedh Ghat.

The priest is in traditional saffron and ivory clothing. The sindoori rug he stands on is strewn with petals from the flowers of offerings he has made to the mother of all rivers. On a raised platform are arranged the stuff of traditional Hindu offering and aarati - a conch, a handheld bell, a bunch of fresh moist marigolds, and some libation contained in a jar. More lamps are placed at the side, from the earthen diyas to the traditional Indian lampstick and the crackling dhunuchi letting out the auspicious smoke. Note how naturalistic is the portrayal of the flames dancing in the winds brought forth from the Ganga. A number of rickety wooden boats are parked near where the dhoti-clad priest stands offering his arati, which one could make out against the inky blue of the Ganga by zooming in. The same is separated from the all-encompassing darkness of the nightsky by a film of black paint that constitutes the Varanasi cityline.

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The Ethereal White Tara, Tibetan Buddhist Devi In Superfine Brocadeless Thangka

The Ethereal White Tara, Tibetan Buddhist Devi In Superfine Brocadeless Thangka

White Tara is one of the great Bodhisattvas who confers longevity on Her devotees. Her strange prowess was actually revealed to Vagishvarakirti, an Indian sage who then captured Her in a series of three texts called Cheating Death. He further passed these on to Atisha, a Buddhist master, who had these tajen to and translated into Tibetan in 1042. It is said that White Tara had always been Atisha's guardian deity, having looked after him since his childhood and appeared in his visions. Today, the White Tara practice comes to us through more than one lineages. Gampopa, Milarepa's disciple and founder of the Kagyupa Order, is one line of transmission; Gedundrup, the first Dalai Lama, is another. The thangka on this page is a picture of the devotion that She inspires in the hearts of the pure to this day.

The White Tara is the very picture of beauty and serenity. As if sculpted from a pearl, She is bedecked with gold and jewels, rubies and emeralds and turquoises no less. Her pastel-coloured silks and sashes float about Her body, setting off the graceful poorna-padmasana that She has assumed. Clouds and lotuses and wild Tibetan foliage, all quintessential elements of the traditional thangka, frame Her figure, seated as She is on a gorgeously coloured lotus in full bloom. The aureole that surrounds Her has been painted in intricate detail. The foresty green hue of Her halo, rimmed with gold lotus petals, sprouts shocks of ethereal greenery throughout the circumference. Beneath Her lotus-pedestal is a hint of the ocean's blue, at the mouth of which is a bunch of precious Buddhist offerings. Two wrathful deities surrounded by their respective flame-aureoles hold up to Her a plateful more of offerings each.

The beauteous countenance of Tara is framed by lengthened earlobes, and a tiara of gold, jewels, and flowers rests on Her brow. Her half-shut eyes radiate an otherworldly calm and collectedness possible only for a deity as powerful as She is. Note the eyes on the palms of Her hands as well as the soles of Her feet.

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Haloed Parvati Seated On An Exquisite Pedestal, A Flower In Her Hand

Haloed Parvati Seated On An Exquisite Pedestal, A Flower In Her Hand

Bronze is a select medium, somewhat of the elite as opposed to brass, in sculptural traditions across the world. Having flourished in the South under the patronage of the Chola dynasty rulers, it continues to be the medium of choice for sculptors devoted to spiritual art. In this seated depiction of the most popular of Hindu devies, bronze brings out the ethereal beauty of Parvati, the wife of Shiva who is responsible for the cyclical destruction of all creation post preservation. It has been handpicked from Swamimalai, the home of modern bronze art. Her long gracious limbs are arranged in the characteristic lalitasana; one hand supports Her frame on the inverted lotus asana (seat), while the other seemingly holds a flower. Her lissome proportions are matched by the typical Southern-style crown resting on Her haloed head, tri-layered with a lotus petal in the centre at the hem, with a generous proportion of Her gorgeous locks escaping from underneath. Note how the rays of Her halo resembles the petals of a freshly bloomed lily.

Her shringar is relatively simple but replete. A clutch of necklaces, a sash cascading down across Her distinctly maternal torso, a kamarband to hold the silken dhoti in place, and a profusion of bracelets all along Her arm and anklets and rings. Her sweet sharply featured face is framed by long, kundala-laden ears, the beautous brow dotted with an elongated bindi. Despite the minimalistic sculpture of the countenance, the radiance of wisdom and maternal calm pours forth from the composure. Note how the silk of the dhoti clings against Her superb musculature, revealing Her divine proportions. In fact, the hallmark of good sculpture lies in the precision with which the limbs and the digits are carved. The pedestal is atypical of Indian iconography - numerous layers, freshly blooming lotus, a world of intricate engraving in each layer.

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The Intelligent Eyes Of Ganesha, Lover Of Laddoos And Son Of Shiva

The Intelligent Eyes Of Ganesha, Lover Of Laddoos And Son Of Shiva

There is much that is unique to the Madhubani painting tradition. A number of factors have contributed to its being accorded the Geographical Indication status. The skills required to produce something that is authentic and conforms to the highly specialised style is limited to the women of India's Mithila region found in present-day Bihar. Two-dimensional imagery is the primary characteristic of these paintings. The imageries are simplistic, the pigments employed plant-based (with the occasional inclusion of lampblack and ochre). These paintings are made using rudimentary twigs and brushes, sometimes nib-pens, and even matchsticks and fingers. In a bid to beautify their traditional mud-hut dwellings, the women of this highly compact geographical pocket have been making these paintings on their freshly plastered walls and floors. The Ganesha before you is a vivid example of this folk art form that conforms to the style and tradition of Mithila.

Madhubani paintings are evolving. Today they are not only the stuff of mud walls but also mobile works of art done on cloth, canvas, and handmade paper. This painting is done on handmade paper, and depicts a popular religious subject, Lord Ganesha, like most Madhubani paintings do. He is the boy-deity loved and worshipped by all for His inimitable innocence and generosity with divine boons. The laddoo-wielding trunk and the broad kundala-adorned ears are signature aspects of Ganesha. Superbly intelligent eyes and the Shaivite tilak indicative of His parentage complete the countenance. His shringar-laden and janeu-clad torso resembles that of a chubby child; the dhoti-draped limbs are no different either. A plateful of laddooes lies before Him, whilst He holds naother pot of His favourite Indian sweetmeat in one of His four hands. The remaining hands (in anticlockwise direction) bear a nutcracker, a mudra of blessing (this one is tattooed with the swastika), and a gorgeously blooming lotus. Unusually enough, jet black hair cascades down His back from beneath the rim of His crown, and the background resembles some sort of a darbar that He is holding.

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The Incomparable Beauty Of Ganesha, Seated On An AUM Pedestal

The Incomparable Beauty Of Ganesha, Seated On An AUM Pedestal

Much has been written about Ganesha. As Hindu dharma's most adorable boy-deity, He has inspired countless artisans and painters and poets across the subcontinent since time immemorial; and how could He not? So overcome by love are His devotees - and so widespread His followers - that His form is ubiquitous on the streets, inside homes, and across commercial establishments in India. This is because He is generous with His blessings, so everyone set to begin some venture seeks His attention; and many find His childlike demeanour irresistible. The innocent yet wise elephant head, the form of a chubby little boy, and His undying love for laddoos are a few aspects that add to His demeanour. Folklore has numberless explanations for this one-of-a-kind anatomical quirk, each surpassing the other in terms of how reasonable it all sounds to us mere mortals. The long and the short of it is that Shiva-Parvati's son was born a very handsome baby but due to circumstances possible only within the parlokiya (heavenly) realm, He is now revered more for His svabhaava than svaroopa.

And what a svabhaava is contained within that svaroopa. With the mace He holds in His posterior right arm, He overpowers the adharmee; with the conch in His posterior left, He heralds the victory of dharma over adharma. His anterior right hand, its palm tattooed with the sacred AUM syllable, is raised in the eternal dispensing of blessings and boons. Between the remaining hand and the tip of His baby-trunk He cradles a freshly made laddoo, His favourite Indian sweetmeat without which His iconography is incomplete. This sculpture is a fine example of the Ganesha svaroopa. Luxuriant silks and shringar that cover almost entirely His bare torso, the intricately sculpted crown fit for a ruler of the divine realm, the characteristic halo. The charm of His countenance, set off by the trishool tilak that indicates His parentage and the beauteous engraving along the length of His trunk, lies on the painstakingly sculpted arch of His lifelike brow. Ganesha is the wisdom of a child personified.

The pedestal that Ganesha is sitting on in this composition is what sets it apart from your run-of-the-mill Ganesha murties. It consists of two platforms separated by two rows of petal engravings. A georgeous engraving of AUM constitutes the centre of the pedestal. To one side of it is a laden kalash, to the other is His vahana the mouse. Even the vahana also holds a laddoo for His lord in its little paws. The sincerity and attention to detail that have gone into this sculpture could be gauged from the photograph of the back of Ganesha. Note how the silk drapes across His shoulders, the gorgeous engraving on the back of His crown as well as the entirety of the halo, and the naturalistic musculature down to the tips of the limbs.

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Kathak, A Beauteous Dance That Tells A Story

Kathak, A Beauteous Dance That Tells A Story

The thing about kathak, or any of the nine classical dances expounded in the Natyashastras of India, is that it conveys a narrative. A history, a spatial awareness creeps up in the mudras and the repertoire of kathak. It is also called natvari nritya, the dance of the Lord Krishna. The dance has its origins in the Vedic yug of 4,000 years ago, when nomadic kathakars (katha is Sanskrit for story, so a kathakar is a storyteller) of the Vaishnava faith wandered the North Indian plains disseminating mythology to the masses. These devotional recitation-and-gesture routines faded as the Islamic invasions began, and emerged in the courts of the Muslim monarchs as a more rigorous dance form meant to entertain. Today kathak scholarship is as much about the piety of its history as it is about the seductive perfection of the dance, of which this painting is an apt picture.

The dancer in question in immersed in her routine, as could be gauged from her composure of countenance. She is bedecked with traditional vividly coloured makeup and silver jewellery, her jet black hair as characteristic as it is of Indian women parted neatly into a bun. A pristine halo, carved and decorated with considerable attention to detail, sits on her head, adding grace to the movements of her neck. Her hands are in the same mudra that the Nataraja famously holds His hands in. Gold bangles grace her dusky wrists, her palms painted on with rich red alta. A similar dye graces her gorgeous feet in the foreground of this painting. The brocaded border of her resplendent purple saree has lifted up to accommodate her raised leg, revealing the highly characteristic ghungroo-studded anklet and a hint of bare skin. The beauty of this painting lies in the naturalistic portrayal of the dancer and the ghungroos in the foreground that add music to the imagery.

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Ten-Armed Durga Killing Demon Mahishasura

Ten-Armed Durga Killing Demon Mahishasura

This pata-chitra – cloth painting, rendered in vertical format on a fine piece of cloth, a blend of mercerized cotton and silk, using primarily the blue and black and the subdued tones of yellow and green as subsidiary palette, represents the ten-armed Goddess Durga enshrining a magnificent sanctum. Typical of Orissa pata-chitra tradition, in the painting most of the forms and effects are line-drawn, the brush seems to have been used only for rendering background against which such forms are discovered or for rendering the thicker areas, though these could be both, the brush-work as also the densely drawn lines. The judiciously used colours attribute to the white of the background the status of yet another colour – the one like others, and perhaps more effective than any of them, for it is in its contrast that they all find a form, effect and their entire magic. The sanctum’s interior has been conceived with deep lustrous blue, and the sky above, with as dark black. In characteristic Oriya tradition a large number of miniaturized flower-plant-motifs scattered all over break the monotony of this deep blue interior, and the tiny cloud-motifs, rendered in light blue floating in the space above, of the sky. The Oriya pata-chitra painters are unparalleled in creating most delightful effects: a kind of lyricism and rhythmic vibrancy, out of a deep background in blue or even black, which could otherwise be monotonous, by sprinkling over it multiple repeats of any design-motif, even an irrelevant floral pattern, a dot, or whatever. The painting’s pata-chitra character, typical of Orissa tradition, reflects as powerfully in the style of its architecture, especially in the tiered temple-tower, pedestal and the sanctum’s arched opening with moderately deep corbels, and in the beautifully painted facade.

The ten-armed goddess is holding in her hands on the right side sword, trident, disc, lotus-bud and an arrow, and in those on the left, snake with shield, conch, mace, bow and in the fifth, the demon’s hair. In an astonishing move, she gets up from over her mount lion and while supporting her massive figure just on a single foot, set firmly on her mount’s back, she charges upon the demon with a mighty blow of her other foot, and another, that with her spear on his chest and the completely dismayed demon submits to her and to his destiny. Baffled by her blows as he is, the goddess catches hold of the demon’s hair and drags him close to her feet where her mount lion charges at him and tears his figure, and her ferocious snake, one of her attributes, shakes him with horror disabling his all mental faculties. The goddess rises into the space pervading it in entirety and the demon, overpowered by her blows, falls on the ground blow.

Installed in a sanctum the figure of the goddess, obviously the goddess Durga – the most widely worshipped female divinity and one of the most widely worshipped deities of Hindu pantheon, is essentially a sanctum image. Durga’s votive images, enshrining sanctums, are mostly in operative forms though at the same time she has a form that is all-pervasive, the act she is represented performing being just the most insignificant aspect of her being. She is usually represented as killing a demon, in most cases the buffalo demon Mahisha, known in the popular tradition as Mahishasura, and hence, the goddess, as Mahishasura-mardini – suppressor of the demon Mahisha. In popular sculptural/visual traditions Mahisha, meaning buffalo, is a figural blend of human and buffalo anatomies, mostly a human head emerging from a buffalo’s body; however, sometimes, as here in this powerful painting, he is also represented only with human anatomy. In myths and conventions of visual representations, it is mostly Mahishasura whose body the goddess’s lion is alluded to as tearing for accomplishing the goddess’s crusade against evil powers. Sword and shield are widely alluded to as being Mahishasura’s attributes. This determines the demon’s identity as Mahishasura.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.

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Cream Authentic Kani Pure Pashmina Shawl with Kadha Handloom Weave

Cream Authentic Kani Pure Pashmina Shawl with Kadha Handloom Weave

Pashmina is a wonder of the east. Having dressed royalty and the select since time immemorial, it is more than merely a fabric. Pashmina is a statement in itself. It exudes a beauty that takes an eye-watering amount of time and rare skill to put together. In the superbly arid, high-altitude plateaux of Tibet and Ladakh, roam the endemic changra goats. The fine downy hair from the underbellies of these goats are gathered by combing by hand, and spun into yarn in Kashmir. This is followed by dyeing, weaving, and extensive embroidering, each of which is done in Kashmir by local artisans. No other part of the world has the requisite skills to work with this one-of-a-kind yarn. The dyes used are exquisite, the weaving techniques complex, and the embroideries as time-consuming as the results are breathtakingly beautiful. Which effectively means that each work of pashmina, such as this soft luscious number, is a unique work of art and has taken months to be finished.

It is the finish that makes the pashmina shawl worth it. Handpicked from the looms of Kashmir, this is a particularly youthful number. The singular kani weave is the weave of choice employed by artisans to work with pashmina. Each colour that you see on this shawl - from the foundation cream to the ultra-feminine pastels it is superimposed with - has been woven in separately with bobbins ('kani' is the Kashmiri word for 'tiny sticks'), leading to the meticulous designs on the foreground. Numerous tendrils in shades and tints of green fill up the spaces amidst the riot of coloured petals, making this an ideal accompaniment to brightly coloured bridal sarees and suits. A row of short, dense tassels graces each of the edges of this shawl, which would lend to your ensemble a hint of the fun and the flirtatious.

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