Zoom in on the skin of the Buddha, stretched taut over His bones, to appreciate the lifelike precision of the work. From the sharp retractions of the jugular cleft and the soft abdominal wall, one could make out the uddiyana bandha that locks the prana out of the Buddha’s body.
Such are the severe and unpalatable rigours of the yogic ascetic. The body withdraws from food and water and suchlike, things that the indriya (perceptive and functional senses) reach out to, as a result of which one grows emaciated. This emaciation is not a sign of weakness, but of independence from extrinsic sources of nourishment that the non-ascetic could not survive without. This sculpture is a tribute to that phase in the Buddha’s journey to kaivalya (supreme independence).
Garuda, as could be seen in this ornate wood sculpture, has the perfection of a man and the power of an eagle. Limbs that harbour unspeakable strength are arranged in the namaskaram samasthiti (straight-line position of the body). The large scapular wings are of great vigour, but are now in rest to match the devotional stance of the rest of Him. A coat of shringar and sashes has been strategically embossed against the raw musculature of the divine form, in basic but well-defined pastel shades. Together with the serrations along the wings and the halo, the same are highly characteristic of temple sculptures in the ancient South.
On the unassuming brow of Lord Garuda sits a tapering crown. The miniscule lotus petals engraved on the same are similar in style and proportion to those on the pedestal. The unconventional silhouette of the same befits the one-of-a-kind deity that stands thereon.
Of all the new ladies-in-waiting appointed at the court, this particularly beautiful young creature had caught the nobleman’s eye. She glows with joy at his attentions, her newfound place in this world. The lush gold choli that blends in with the fair skin, reveals rather than conceals the torso in all the fullness of her youth. Her alluring decolletage is practically naked but for the layers of gold and pearls and jewels that are wound around it, all the way up to the line and crown of her jet-black hair.
The one bewitched by her is a young, handsome man himself. It had thrilled him to find her on his couch the moment he stepped into the room. As the seductress whisks away her brocaded aanchal, he could no longer teeter on anticipation and seizes her by the wrist.
Down the bust is a plethora of flowers and vines, embroidered using the ariwork technique. Indian fashion connoisseurs would instantly recognise the endemic crewel-work of the Kashmir region, an unparalleled statement in femininity and wearable heritage. The deep velvety pink dupatta is printed with complementary motifs in a cheerful yellow hue. The colour of its embroidered edges goes with the kameez. Depending on the mood of the jewellery you team this with, this dress could be a great evening number or the perfect pick for a daytime gathering.
The pot-belly, which is within moments of bursting forth were it not for the snake-knot, is intact in the iconography. So is the Indian sweetmeatball that He cradles in the left of His anterior arms. Concealed in the palm of the right which He raises in blessing is the legendary broken tusk. From the conchs in His posterior arms to the world of shringar on His person and the spiked halo behind His head, the image of Lord Ganesha is replete with characteristic detail.
There is much about this work of that sets it apart from run-of-the-mill Ganesha murtis. Firstly, the hem of His dhoti rests a good few inches above His knees, which makes it visibly short for an Indian deity. Afore His torso descends a long, slender trunk that is densely tattooed with vines. On His slightly scrunched-up brow is the silhouette of the trishool, indicative of His divine parentage. Finally, the prostrating mouse on lotus-tiered pedestal makes the composition complete.
The Devi Sarasvati, in Her unsurpassable snow-coloured beauty, stands on the pistil of a full-bloom lotus. Her tall, slender frame is clad in pastel silks and sashes, set off by ample proportions of gold on Her bare skin. A roseate halo surrounds the five-spired crown on Her graciously tilted head. From the rim of the serrated aureole behind Her emerges a plethora of vines bearing otherworldly flowers in blue and peach. As She strums Her veena, She looks on with serenity at the cycle of dharma slowly progressing in the realms She governs.
The landscape that surrounds Her is the very picture of the idyllic Himalayan setting. Verdant mounds, snow-capped peaks, magnificently coloured clouds against an inimitable azure sky. Her fair vahana the swan, its gorgeous body reflecting the golden rays of the sun, is swimming in deep blue waters (note the deft brushstrokes that convey the swift motion of the descending waters).
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