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Paintings > Hindu > Lord Venkateshvara as Balaji with a Devotee
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Lord Venkateshvara as Balaji with a Devotee

Lord Venkateshvara as Balaji with a Devotee

Lord Venkateshvara as Balaji with a Devotee

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Artist: Kailash Raj

8.0 inches X 10.0 inches
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Viewed 18627 times since 2nd Oct, 2008
This innovative image of Balaji, created by specially arranged laces of white tiny jasmine flowers – a feat of massive imagination, is an exceptional work of art. It is out of a single lace-type and a single flower – all white except a few red and a few others shaded with yellow, that the artist has delineated not only his deity's costume and decorative features but also his anatomy. Except the face with a part of neck, the palms, and the feet with parts of ankles, the entire deity figure is cast by using flowers threaded into variedly sized, though alike styled, laces. The red ones of these flowers have been used for defining the flames emitting from deity's disc and goad, carried in the upper right and the upper left hands respectively, and with the yellow ones ends each decorative lace. Under deity's feet is a half lotus, an essential element of Vaishnava iconography, and this lone lotus is the only other type of flower used in the painting.

The painting comprises two arched shrines, or fire-arches, discovered against a monochromatic orange background. Both arches are cast in gold and rise on pillars. The smaller arch, for the devotee figure, has a pointed apex and a leaf-shaped finial surmounting it. The larger arch, which the deity enshrines, has a slanting apex with a 'Shrimukha' motif in its centre. It negotiates with the pillars on both ends by using conventionalised, but beautifully designed conch motifs. The colour of darkness is the background colour in both arches, but that in the smaller arch, it is lighter, while that in the larger one, it is darker. The symbolic thrust of this colour variation is apparent. The deity – Balaji, is the light in the darkness, and the devotee's darkness begins vanishing when he encounters light – that is, the deity.

In the Vedas, Vishnu is the god of vast oceans. Later, he was conceived as the cosmos manifest. In both cases, he was perceived as blue-complexioned; and, this same perception has continued ever since. In the South Indian painting, it inclined to be oceanic blue, as here in this painting, for the South Indian painter had ocean in his day today perception. The artist here has, however, preferred gold for palms and feet of his figure, instead of the routine blue. The palms also have on them the auspicious mark of lotus. In the kind of 'tilaka', the ritual mark on the forehead, it deviates from the Balaji image enshrining the Tirupati shrine. Tall crown, necklace with a large pendant corresponding to Srivatsa, long well-modelled garland of Parijata flowers, large ear-rings, broad girdle, and bangles are characteristic features of the iconography of Balaji. The disc and goad, which he is carrying in two of his hands, look more like decorative features. He is holding his two other hands in the gestures that impart 'abhaya' and 'varada'. In the style of eyes – small pupils against large white balls, facial features, ornaments and crown, and palette the painting reveals characteristic South Indian art idiom.

The Vaishnava devotees of the South India consider the image of Balaji, also known as Venkateshvara, Venkatachalapati and Shrinivasa, as the holier than that of any other incarnation of Vishnu. They believe that Balaji is Lord Vishnu's manifestation in his proto form, and not an incarnation. Tirumala, the seat of Balaji, is thus Vishnu's only abode on the earth, or rather anywhere in the three worlds for it was Tirumala where he permanently settled after he had abandoned Baikuntha, his heavenly abode. His presence at Tirumala is thus absolute.

This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.


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