The texture is to die for. Softer than butter, warmer than toast, it could be layered over your choicest evening sarees and suits to exude an inimitable traditional glam. In fact, the word for the fabric comes from the Persian 'pashm', which means 'soft'. No other part of the world has the skill to work with this wool, which itself is endemic to the Kashmir-Tibet region. A single work of pashmina such as this one takes weeks, if not months, of labour to be finished, making these shawls as desirable they are the world over.
It is crafted from bronze, an exquisite medium perfected in the artisan-dominated recesses of Southern India. While bronze-sculpting flourished under the patronage of Chola rulers centuries ago, it is Bangalore that is today the home of contemporary works in bronze. This urli has been handpicked from the best that local studios have to offer. From the legs of the urli and the frontal edge of the curve of the bowl carved with peacocks and kirtimukha, to the ornate temple-esque structure on top, the entirety of the work bears a level of detail and precision that are to be found nowhere else in the world. Lighting the panchadia (set of five lamps) that drops from the 'ceiling' of the urli would add a world of glamour to the arrangement.
The Devi's iconography is a powerful depiction of Hindu widowhood. Apart from the highly symbolic white saree that drapes Her aged figure, Her unkempt tresses and no-makeup look convey keen existential sorrow. A bunch of akshamalas on Her neck, arms, wrists, and ankles is Her only shringar. A strange sense of hungering lines Her face. The eyes are listless. Static kula in one hand, the other raised feebly in varada mudra (gesture of blessing), Dhumavati is the very image of tamaguna. However, Dhumavati also implies an alignment of widowhood (an imposition, involuntary) with sanyasa (voluntary renunciation of one's wordly obligations). The Indian widow is no longer constrained by the demands of householding; she is is free to walk the spiritual path in pursuit of moksha. She stands for adversity that serves to build character.
In this light, Dhumavati is the bestower of siddhis. She is invincible and steady in the face of misfortune. The soothing background of the painting brings out the drama of the mahavidya's presence. Gently undulating mounds painted the palest of pastel green rise against the atypical hue of the sunset. It matches the colour of the chariot in the foreground, done up in tints and shades of gold, standing on the flower-studded grass beneath. Note the divinity exuded by the contrast of the gold of the chariot roof against the dimming blue of the twilight skies.
Knotted by hand, the plethora of flowers that could be seen on this took an eye-watering number of hours on the loom. Considerable skill and labour have gone into this to reproduce the picturesque local flora onto this rug. Varying tints and shades of brown, rich deep reds, and the occasional white make for a distinctly earthy palette, while the infusion of a dense azure into the central panel makes for an eye-catching colour combination. Note the concentric panels and the curves that define them, which are highly characteristic of these famous rugs of the Orient. A miniscule strip of matching azure hemmed along the edges, and short ivory tassels along the breadth, complete the picture.
India's bronze tradition has been dominated by such powerful spiritual themes because it originally produced icons for the magnificent temples of the South. Having begun during the reign of the Pallavas in the eight century, then risen to prominence under the patronage of the Cholas from the ninth to the thirteenth centuries, South India has evolved to be the home of bronze. The hallmarks of this great tradition are all over the Devi Mahishasuramardini: Her stature, and the lissome silhouette that accompanies it; the tapering crown that looms on Her head; and the delicately fashioned digits on each of Her limbs. An expression of divine triumph and joy characterises Her gracious brow.
Each of the tathagatas come with their own mandalas and iconographies. Their mudras are unique, the motifs on their respective lotus thrones differentiated and symbolic. Zooming in on each of the figures would enable the viewer to appreciate the differentiations, the only one of which that has been conspicuously highlighted and that is the colour of the skin. The blue, gold, white, red, and green are each associated with their own elements, directions, and maladaptations of the soul. The dominant red-and-gold colour scheme of this thangka makes this a highly desirable panchatathagata composition to possess.
While vibrant reds and greens are the colours associated with Indian weddings, this shimmering ivory number would be a great pick for the rituals preceding and succeeding the evening of the pheras. It has the characteristic thick border of the sarees of this region, and the entirety of the field is woven in with tropical petal motifs in glimmering tones of gold. These Mughal-style motifs that almost always find their way into these sarees lend it something of the regal. Teamed with the best of your latest gold possessions, this Banarasi would indeed turn you into a queen.
The two are in gorgeous saffron garb, the bejewelled silks of the same teamed with ample proportions of gold shringar. Both the saffron colour and gold are considered auspicious in Hindu culture, with each being the dominant colour at poojas and the preferred make of temple jewellery. The size of the statues is small but the precision of the finish is high (best appreciated by zooming in on different aspects of each figurine), which speaks volumes for the quality of the craftsmanship. Elaborate turbans sit on both their heads, in keeping with the appeal of the rest of their attire. Sculpted from the best of homegrown marble, the medium captures the divine beauty of Krishna's togetherness with His Radha.
Her feet are naked but for the copious proportions of silver round her ankles and toes, a hint of which peers out from underneath her lasciviously draped odhni (note how it reveals rather than conceals her matronly bosom). She's dressed in the locally produced ghagra of the Northwestern desert region, and carries in her hand a tambourine that she thumps on to earn her bread. The rest of the men in the frame pay no attention to her - they are used to her presence, having probably seen as much of her as there is to be seen. The surreal appeal of the painting is complemented by the realistically portrayed earth that dominates a major part of the foreground.
Baluchari sarees have a history that goes back more than two centuries, probably all the way to the Middle Ages. The weaving techniques employed to produce these sarees, as well as the means of embroidery, are all possible on the Bengali drawloom to be found only in this region of Bengal. Having traditionally been worn during the autumnal Durgapuja festival, the collection of no saree-loving woman is complete without atleast one Baluchari. Pick this carefully handpicked number to go into yours for the superior quality of the silk and the lifelike appeal of the superimposed zari.
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