Suresh Neotia fell in love with Indian art half a century ago and developed a passion for appreciating and collecting objects of art. Over the years,
his art collection increased and diversified at different places - Kolkata, New Delhi, Mumbai, Ambujanagar and, finally at the Kalamandapa (the
Museum) at Jnana-Pravaha, Varanasi, which now houses the major part. The collection is being taken care of by Bimla Poddar. Under the
supervision of Prof. R.C. Sharma, former Director General of the National Museum of India.
The collection includes Indian miniature paintings representing almost all major and substyles. The specimens from Bikaner form the
largest number. Tangkhas from Tibet and Nepal and a unique sketchbook of the Nepal-Tibet style are remarkable items. The stone sculptures and
terracottas are comparatively small in number, ranging from 5th century BCE to 19th century CE, and have been collected from different parts
of the country. The coin collection comprises select specimens from pre-Mauryan (Punch Marked) to the British period. Similarly, textile
pieces of Persian origin, as well as beautiful Indian brocades and zari work celebrate the quality handwork of the weavers. An outstanding
acquisition is a copper plate with the seal of Emperor Harsha issued in his 23rd regnal year, corresponding to CE 629. There are also fine items
of decorative art in gold and silver, brass and copper. Some of these objects have been presented for view in major national and international
The Suresh Neotia Collection presents a feast to the eyes of the viewer he is a scholar, researcher, collector or a causal visitor.
Jnana-Pravaha, the Centre for Cultural Studies & Research at Varanasi represents the vision of its founders, Bimla Poddar and Suresh Neotia. It
aims to serve and promote the cause of culture by rediscovering and highlighting its universal elements - those that transcend all barriers.
Jnana-Pravaha presents varied and scintillating forms of the visual and performing arts, and endeavours to create an awareness about
the country’s cultural ethos and ethnic conventions. It is devoted to reviving and preserving old and obscure scripts which, while of immense
significance for the reconstruction of the cultural history of the sub-continent, have been neglected to point of being extinct. Through its
educational and research programmes and publications, Jnana-Pravaha is engaged in the dissemination of our tangible and intangible heritage.
Seminars, symposia and workshops on different themes form regular features of the Centre’s activities. In-depth studies of specific
subjects is a hallmark of the Jnana-Pravaha. Similarly, conducting special courses in early scripts like Brahmi and Kharosti affirms the
conviction of the Centre of the need to revitalize archeological source material. An independent research project for deciphering and studying
epigraphs and records have been launched with the appointment of Senior and Associate Fellows. Staging of Sanskrit plays is another
Jnana-Pravaha annual events.
The Vedas are the fountain of knowledge and are accepted as the earliest books of the world. To preserve their oriental style of
learning and recitation, Jnana-Pravaha has established a city unit known as the Samskara & Anushthana Kendra. The emphasis is on the
conventional and correct pronunciation of Vedic hymns. Young students undergo rigorous training in the Gurukula style under the close
supervision of the Acaryas.
It Must be a moment of great fulfillment for Sri Suresh Neotia, the collector of many rare and beautiful pieces of art and antiquity, to see his
collection housed and displayed so systematically in the Museum of Jnana-Pravaha, situated on the banks of the serene Ganga. As gratifying is
the occasion of the publication of a comprehensive catalogue of the collection where the world’s most renowned and distinguished
archaeologists and art historians have contributed. My felicitations and good wishes.
The traditional Indian art generally aims at manifesting the Unmanifest regardless of medium of expressions, such as stone, terracotta,
metal, wood, ivory, paper, etc. the aesthetic appeal and visual charm of art creations have inspired many a connoisseurs to collect, appreciate and
study such specimens. After some time, these are often viewed by other lovers of art and scholars through museums, art galleries, articles,
catalogues and in the modern times through electronic media. The art collection acquired by Sri Suresh Neotia during the last about four
decades, major part of which is displayed at the Jnana-Pravaha, Varanasi, deserves to be presented to the larger section of the academic world
through a well produced compendium.
The passion of collecting grips many. Some can afford it, others aspire but desist the temptation. It is almost an addiction. Once you
have tasted the desire for acquiring what catches your eyes, your taste, you cannot rest in peace until it is yours. It is this personal magnetism of
the art objects, the specific genre, or many genres, which have been the beginning of individual personal collections throughout the world, and in
India. The ultimate destination of most such collections is a public institution, a museum or a library. The complex and varied trajectory of
personal collections can fill volumes, and recently an impressive and educative collection has been done in the volume entitled Intimate World
published by the Philadelphia Museum in the context of Alvin O. Bellak collection of paintings. It is thus not necessary to recount the different,
fascinating journeys of collections of Indian art abroad or India. Suresh Neotia joins this galaxy of collectors in India, ranging from N.C. Mehta,
the one and only Rai Krishnadas, Goenka, Kanoria, Khazanchi and Karl Khandalawala, B.K. Birla and others. Of course, the personal collection
of Nasli and Alice Heeramanik constitutes the nucleus of the County Museum Los Angeles. Stella Kramrisch’s personal collection is housed in
the Philadelphia Museum.
By his own account, Suresh Neotia was attracted to the beauty of art objects through his association with his uncle Gopi Krishna
Kanoria and friend Akhilesh Mittal, then of Brumah Shell. Business and collecting art objects combined to create a collection, which was
significant for its range, as also the rarity of the objects collected. The decision to donate and house it in the young dynamic institution, Museum
or Art Gallery has become another significant and inescapable, a must, landmark, in the cultural landscape of Varanasi.
The Institute, Jnana-Pravaha has launched many important and meaningful programmes of research, seminars and training courses.
Each of these, be it those relating to epigraphy and numismatics, or texts, or art history, have been carefully planned and executed. For all this,
the Managing Trustee Smt. Bimla Poddar and the Honorary Director/Acharya R. C. Sharma, are to be congratulated Smt. Bimla Poddar generous
hospitality and grace has given the Institution a special Indian cultural style of organization. Today Jnana-Pravaha can justifiably claim to have
created an extended community of scholars, art historians and musicians. The Suresh Neotia collection will form an integral part of the
institution’s activities. It will be a very useful tool as a study collection for researchers and of course attractive for the lay visitor.
The present catalogue gives not only a bird’s eye view of the collections but also provides highly informed and detailed critical
comments by scholars and art historians who are undisputed specialists in their particular fields.
Divided into several sections of Sculpture, Terracotta, Painting, Copperplate-Coins-Metalware and Textile the catalogue is a virtual
history of Indian arts. It is not a conventional catalogue with brief annotations on single art objects; instead, there are overarching articles on
specific schools and styles, be it sculpture or painting. This manner of dealing with a catalogue will, I am sure, be welcomed by the reader, who
wishes to know not only about the object as a catalogue entry, but also wishes to learn about cultural background of the region, or specific style.
A case I point is the entries relating to Mughal Miniatures, and most of all Pahari Paintings. As mentioned above, the contributors include
internationally acclaimed scholars, Milo Beach, Pramod Chandra, B.N. Goswamy, R.C. Sharma and many others. I have enjoyed reading each
entry, and have learnt much. It is not necessary for me, who has been requested by Smt. Bimla Poddar, Sri Sursh Neotia and R.C. Sharma to write
the Foreword, to add a line to these entries. Also, this is not the occasion to comment on the history of Indian art or the critical discourse on it,
or for that matter the complex subject of the regeneration of a cultural heritage and the attempts at reconstruction through the assembly of parts.
These are subjects for pondering over with great seriousness and concern at another forum. I was, I believe, undeservedly but generously asked
to write the Foreword and can only thank those who bestowed this honour upon me.
I convey my sincerest felicitations and appreciation of all that has been achieved to the collector Sri Suresh Neotia, the Institution,
Smt. Bimla Poddar and Sri R.C. Sharma, and of-course all the art historians who have contributed to the book with their characteristic,
This Book presents some significant aspects of creative arts of India through highlighting the outburst of sentiments and vision of creator and
valour of his chisel, brush and hands applied on different mediums. It also reflects the moods and insight of the possessor beside his emotional
attachment to the objects. An art connoisseur has to pass through the ordeals of varied nature viz. artistic, aesthetic, psychological, financial and
a host of allied problems. The seed of art either effuses of its own or is sown in association of art lovers. It sprouts through concentrating on
artistic specimens and is further nourished by the visits to museums, art galleries and private collections. The appreciation of art is crystallized
through books and the company of art critics and scholars infuses maturity. The love for art is gradually transformed into passion and one is
often haunted by the aspiration of possessing the artifacts. He then feels conscious of affordability and administrative, legal and maintenance
procedure. An art collector thus attains the status of a true connoisseur.
Sri Suresh Neotia has passed through these stages during the last four decades. His addiction for acquiring, appreciating and analyzing
the art works would have reached the point of no return had he not been frustrated by the enforcement of Antiquities and Art Treasures Act,
which he feels as the most discouraging factor in preserving the tangible cultural heritage of the country.
When his sister-in-law Smt. Bimal Poddar decided to settle at Varanasi, Sri Neotia lent his full support in serving the cause of culture
in multiple ways including jointly founding the Jnana-Pravaha, Centre for Cultural Study & Research in 1996. This is ushering into a landmark I
the oriental studies and research as a result of its well-knit academic pursuits in pollution free, serene and pleasant ambiance with holy stream of
Ganga flowing towards north (uttaravahini), panoramic view of Ramnagar in front and the crescent shape of the shining Kashi in north. The
Institution is effectively engaged in promoting, rediscovering and disseminating India’s cultural ethos of universal appeal crossing all
It also houses a Kalamandapa (museum) presenting a variety of exhibits including paintings, manuscripts, decorative arts, textiles,
sculptures, terracottas, coins and copper plate of which some are unique and rare. Most of the items have been gifted by Sri Neotia. We are
certainly rich in miniature paintings and holdings of Bikaner School open horizons for future research. These have been put up in beautiful
setting reflecting the harmony of conventional and modern techniques of presentation.
The present volume highlights the important exhibits and also other items housed at different places. It is really an atonement that
these art treasures have been interpreted by eminent scholars and experts in the field of art in India and abroad. This is the manifestation of their
deep appreciation of Sri Neotia’s magnificent service towards preserving and arising interest and awareness of our rich heritage. We are indeed
grateful to them.
The illustrious academician Dr. Mrs. Kapila Vatsyayan gladly acceded to our request to pen a Foreword and her brilliant observations
have immensely enhanced the value of the publication.
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