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The Unmistakable Silhouette Of The Nataraja

The Unmistakable Silhouette Of The Nataraja

Having visualised the cosmic cycle of creation-preservation-destruction in its unending evolution and devolution - timeless as much as it is temporal, within space as well as without - it is the figure of Nataraja that emerges. A solitary dancing figure, essentially alone. In stark contrast to the flute-playing Krishna surrounded by dancing gopis, the Nataraja is unaccompanied and never the flux of this cosmic dance or tandava. He may be accompanied by Kali or Parvati, whose lasya forms the other half of the tandava; or fuse into the latter to project the Ardhanarishvara. In His signature Nataraja portrayal, He dances to the eternal naad (sound) that led to creation and destruction, the very picture of which is His tandava. Note the damru and the flame He holds in His posterior hands, signifying creation and destruction respectively.

No other image so powerfully conveys the essence of Indian culture. The silhouette is striking - a towering crown of a five-hooded snake, flaming locks that resemble snakes as they motion, and the statement mudra of the limbs. He is clad in a mere loincloth, while live snakes adorn His body. For the five senses, He bears the third eye (of deep consciousness), the naad-emanating damru, dhatura's aroma, the ash-smeared skin, and the poison of the Nilkantha. This Nataraja composition of flawless in terms of both iconography and aesthetics, and would be a great investment to make to your space. From the complex flame-laced aureole to the figure of ignorance at Nataraja's feet, and the gorgeous double-lotus pedestal, each aspect of this murti has been sculpted with great skill.

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Early Morning Ganesha Home-poojan

Early Morning Ganesha Home-poojan

The boy-deity Ganesha is the most adorable of the Hindu pantheon. Because of His childlike love for laddoos and propensity to offer boons to His devotees, He is revered widely across the subcontinent. Naturally, Ganesha poojan is a very popular ritual in homes as well as in public. While the mass appeal of Ganesha Chaturthi celebrations in Maharshtra is well-known, this painting is an example of the former. A young Indian lady makes an offering of freshly plucked bel leaves to her dear lord. The time is early morning, as given away by the redness of the skies indicating the oncoming dawn. She has just stepped out of her bath: her braided tresses are limp with wetness, and she has not even draped her aanchal. She has immediately proceeded to gather the puja thali and kamandalu that she has placed next to her, complete with diya (handheld ghee lamp), vermillion, turmeric, tulsi leaves (again, freshly plucked), and a bunch of His favourite sweetmeats. Note the sheer devotion in the haze that she directs at Him with half-shut eyes, the supple dewiness of her skin, and the ample pearls and jewels that set it off.

The lifelike beauty of her icon is unmistakable. The chaturbhuja (four-armed) deity is in the same asana as His devotee, etched against a characteristically carved wood panel. He has the pot belly and the dhoti, ornaments, and crown usual to His iconography. His vahana, the mouse, sits next to its master with its forepaws in the namaskaram mudra. More laddoes, their colour a rich tempting gold, have been placed at His feet by the devotee together with some bel leaves. Bel leaves also adorn the crown of the puja panel. The tree next to which she performs the puja is so laden with pristine blooms and soft, green buds that its branches lean and almost touch the icon. The most unusual aspect of this watercolour is how the deft brushstrokes of the skies give way to the loamy Indian earth.

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Blue-Ribbon Pure Pashmina Shawl from Kashmir with Sozni Embroidered Paisleys in Multicolor Thread

Blue-Ribbon Pure Pashmina Shawl from Kashmir with Sozni Embroidered Paisleys in Multicolor Thread

The glamour of pashmina is unrivalled. This magnificent shawl, dyed the sombre yet beauteous inky blue of the Kashmiri nightskies, is a fine example of that charm of the Eastern world. Derived from the Persian word 'pashm' meaning soft, the pashmina yarn is spun from the naturally moulted hair of the endemic changra goats of Tibet and Ladakh. The skill required to work with such a select yarn - dyeing, weaving, embroidering through various techniques, et al - has been inherited by local Kashmiri artisans from the preceding generations. Zoom in on the gorgeously patterned paisleys on this shawl to appreciate the intricacy of the ancient embroidery technique.
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Experimenting With The Ganesha Silhouette

Experimenting With The Ganesha Silhouette

Ganesha is the most popular subject of choice for painters and sculptors alike in the subcontinent. He is a boy-deity, the son of Shiva and Parvati, and beloved of the peoples of Southeast Asia. His childlike demeanour is characterised by His chubby form and love for laddoes, so much so that His iconography is incomplete without a bowl of the Indian sweetmeat in one of His hands. This one-of-a-kind sculpture of Ganesha would be an unusual addition to your space. The stylised silhouette and the superbly glossy surface do not interfere with the traditional iconography of the deity.

A graceful tilak marks His temple, reaching all the way down to the base of His long curvaceous trunk. The adornment along the tapering length of His trunk is characterised by brief, rangoli-esque cruves. The eyes on either side of the trunk have all the vigour and innocence of a divine child. The features are given a natural gold-coloured finish that look amazing against the base tan of His complexion. The undulations of His gigantic ears are also coloured the same gold, making it look marvellously lifelike. Note the broken tusk on the left of His face, leading to the very telling name of Ekdanta (meaning 'single-toothed' in Sanskrit).

This Ganesha murti has a long torso, replete with the signature baby fat of His iconography. A long angavastram is draped over His shoulders, which cascades symmetrically down on either side of Him all the way down to His folded legs. The dhoti is tied way below the navel in order to make room for His pot belly, its silken folds as realistic as brass could get. The hands and feet of the deity are a matching gold tone, their delicate shape a fine example of endemic Indian workmanship. Do not miss the sumptuous laddoo on the palm of His left hand.

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Rishi Chyavana Worships The Tantric Roopa Of Lakshmi (Tantric Devi Series)

Rishi Chyavana Worships The Tantric Roopa Of Lakshmi (Tantric Devi Series)

The Lakshmi Tantra is an unusual book. It contains no mention of ritual worship, temple specifications, or any such specificity of rite. It concerns itself purely with the individual devotee, which in this painting is the Rishi Chyavana himself. He is paying homage to the tantric roopa of Lakshmi, which is the Shakti that lies behind Narayana. The form of Her that you see here is the roopa of all women as expounded in the Lakshmi Tantra - glorious, the complement of man, and deserving of worship. She is draped in vibrant yellow silks overlain with shringar comprising of pearls, emeralds, and gold. In Her four arms are the melodic conch, a lotus that is on the verge of bloom (matching lotuses are to be found on Her studded gold crown), the discus associated with Her husband, and the goad that sends shivers down the adharmee's spine. Note the naked prostrate figure beneath Her that constitutes Her gigantic asana.

The Rishi Chyavana has been exalted in the Brahmanas, where the first mention of this sage is found. His stories abound in the Bhagavata Purana, the Padma Purana, and the Mahabharata. Apart from his severe austerities, he is known most widely for how his wife, Sukanya, wrested for him the boon of restored youth. In this watercolour he is shown sitting amidst the wilderness on verge of dusk, engaged in his worship of Devi Lakshmi's tatnric roopa. From each of the trees and foliage that populate the forest, to the moors and the clouds in the background, each aspect of this complex painting has been finished with great skill and attention to detail.

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Dushyant-Shakuntala and Radha Krishna (Green-Lake Baluchari Love Sari)

Dushyant-Shakuntala and Radha Krishna (Green-Lake Baluchari Love Sari)

A romantic saree in every way, this Baluchari would be a one-of-a-kind addition to your wardrobe. For these figured silks that are designed to go into the Indian bridal trousseau, this earthy green shade is an unusual colour. The gold of the zariwork that graces the field, border, and endpiece add to its distinctly feminine charm. Baluchari sarees are famous as storytelling sarees from Bengal - zoom in on the zari-embroidered panels to make out the figures of Shakuntala-Dushyanta and Radha-Krishna, the age-old lovers of Indian folkore. The superb precision of the embroidery and the lifelike appeal of the figures portrayed would stun all who set eyes on you in this saree.

The endemic Bengali drawloom is the only one in the subcontinent to have the requisite mechanism for the multi-weft and multi-warp weave characteristic of figured silks, which explains the price and exquisteness of these sarees. Having traditionally been worn by the regional brides during their all-important wedding rituals and on the gorgeous autumnal Durgapuja festival, this relatively simple number stands out from the rest of the Balucharies in our collection. It is because of the prominence of the foundation green, what with the zariwork spaced out across the field. Teamed with your statement gold hand-me-downs, this is the perfect saree to wear on those post-wedding trips to the in-laws'.

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Ganesha With Parasole And Kamandalu, Under An Ornate Kirtimukha Aureole

Ganesha With Parasole And Kamandalu, Under An Ornate Kirtimukha Aureole

When one begins to look for the beloved Ganesha in itihasa, the older of the two, which is Ramayana, yields no result. One would expect the great Lord of auspicious beginnings to be invoked during Rama's departure to the woods or Hanuman's to Lanka in the search for Seeta, but it is not until the advent of Kaliyuga that the Ganesha cult evolves. When Krishnadvaipayana Vyasa had the greatest of epics composed in his mind, He turned to Lord Brahma in search of a scribe worth the task. It is upon His suggestion that he meditated upon Ganesha to invoke Him to be his scribe. Ganesha's condition was that his motions with the pen be not interrupted once He begins; Vyasa's, that He not pen down anything without understanding it first. With the sacred syllable of AUM etched at the beginning of the manuscript, Ganesha thus began the writing of the Mahabharata.

Indeed, no other deity of the Hindu pantheon could have made a better scribe for the greatest epic known to humankind. While His appearance is not on par with the characteristic handsomeness of Indian deities, it is His adorably boyish form that devotees love. His pot belly gives away His undying love of laddoos (He is holding one at the tip of His trunk). His chubby limbs are every ready to break into dance or to be raised in blessing. The innocent elephant-head stands for all the gentleness and wisdom associated with the mortal animal. This one-of-a-kind wood-cut sculpture of the Lord depicts Him in the midst of a walk along divine pathways, with a kamandalu in one anterior hand and an ornate parasol in the other. Lotuses about to bloom are in His posterior hands. His befitting silks and shringar are matched by the glamour of the Kirtimukha aureole that frames the composition and the grandeur of the pedestal on which the same is placed.

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Bhadrakali Worshipped By Both Dharm And Adharm, The Mortal And The Immortal (Tantric Devi Series)

Bhadrakali Worshipped By Both Dharm And Adharm, The Mortal And The Immortal (Tantric Devi Series)

Of the 32 Basholi watercolours that have been found of tantric devis, no less than 17 of them feature the Devi Bhadrakalil. The shaant swaroopa (peaceful form) of the super-wrathful Devi Kali, Bhadrakali is the wife of Veerbhadra. Her skin is the colour of barely molten gold, like a stroke of fiery lightning as local verses go. She is dressed in a feminine, flowing green skirt accompanied by a gold choli and translucent dupatta. Her shringar is dominated by pearls and gold. Her dense hair is piled atop Her head in place of a crown (one of the many things that sets this watercolour apart from the others in the series), held together long black winding snakes. More snakes wind around Her torso and Her limbs, each longer and blacker than the other, with its hood raised ferociously.

The Devi is flanked by dharm and adharm. To Her right are Indradeva and young siddha. While Indra is a heavenly being in His vibrant red silk and pearly shringar, and the thousand eyes that grace His body; the siddha is the perfect mortal and dressed like one. To the left of Bhadrakali is an asura, whose tribe is at perpetual war with the devas. He is big and boorish; and while His adornments are no match for Indra, He is as much of the immortal realm as He is. All three stand before Bhadrakali with their palms joined in namaskaram, supplicating to Her because She is all-powerful and lords over the dharmic cycle itself. Note how the shades of Her halo blend with the moors painted in the background of the painting.

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Dark-Cheddar Handloom Bomkai Sari from Orissa with Temple Border and Fishes Woven on Pallu

Dark-Cheddar Handloom Bomkai Sari from Orissa with Temple Border and Fishes Woven on Pallu

The unmistakable aspect of Orissa's Bomkai sarees is the muhajorhi endpiece. Muhajorhi refers to the contrasting colours and the angular discontinueous supplementary wefts that characterise the pallu, resulting in folk motifs. The marigold-and-silver Bomkai number you see on this page has a minimalistic endpiece - bands of silver punctuated by black, with miniscule saltwater fishes forming a one-of-a-kind pattern. The black goes on along the entire edge of these nine yards, making for a narrow border that brings out the beauty of the rest of this saree.

This saree is the colour of dense marigold petals, which shimmers from the pure silk it is made from. It is a solid colour, but for the long, tapering templetop motifs of the border jutting into the field. From everyday Tamil sarees to the one-of-a-kind Paithani numbers, the templetop-bordered saree is a traditional motif that never goes out of fashion in India, which means you cannot go wrong with this purchase. Teamed with some statement hand-me-down jewellery, this saree would look as good at poojas and havans as it would on weddings and parties.

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Shri Rajarajeshwari, The Embodiment Of Beauty

Shri Rajarajeshwari, The Embodiment Of Beauty

Each of the das mahavidyas, the ten deities of great wisdom, are a form of Sati, Shiva's wife. Sati assumes those forms in order to block the ten directions so that Her husband could not escape Her rage. Each mahavidya, a roop of the divine mother, has Her own qualities, mantras, and devotees. Shri Raja Rajeshwari is one of them, an embodiment of beauty like Durga and Kali are embodiments of power. Hence, She is depicted by artisans as brimming with the grace of youth. This Kailash Raj watercolour is no exception. The deity's skin is rubescent, Her shringar flawless, and Her stance one of divine fervour.

She sits draped in thick garlands on a solid gold throne, over which lies the train of Her red silk saree. It is studded with pearls and emeralds like the ones on the chunky gold pieces adorning Her lobes and torso and limbs. From beneath the generously inlaid crown emerge the black ringlets of Her much-sung-about mane. In Her four hands are the symbols of life and plenty. Colourful flowers are strewn on the floors beneath Her throne. A plethora of pooja samagri has been strategically placed on the foreground: a basket of fresh fruits, a tall curvaceous diya, and a kalash.

The artist's skill could be deduced from the richly coloured background of the painting. Steady brushstrokes, layered one after the other, convey the powerful glow of Her gigantic halo. The red core emanating a circle of yellow light that gradually emerges into a dusky blue, gives the viewer an impression of the setting sun.

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