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Except a few minor deviations, as instead of his fair complexion he has been painted as blue-bodied, Shiva has in the painting almost the same iconographic features as he has in the Shiva Maha Purana, in Chapter 17 of the Dvitiya Rudra Samhita, in Dvitiya Sati-khanda. The text represents him, as does this folio, as five-faced, four-armed, three-eyed, and blue-throated, jubilant and the most beauteous, bearing crescent on his coiffure, carrying trident in his hand and imparting ‘abhaya’ – accomplishment of the desired, by the gesture of his hand. The great lustre of his body bursts even after it stands covered with ashes smeared all over it. Maybe, the artist’s grayish blue with which he has conceived his figure is merely the visual effect of the blend of body’s golden with ashes’ gray.
Shiva’s Pancha-mukha form, representing pancha-bhutas – five cosmic elements, the constituent of cosmos, and thus the cosmos itself, and his manifestations as Tatpurusha, Vamadeva, Aghora, Sadyojata and Ishan, has in this folio special significance. The Shiva who offered to wed Sati was not an aspect of Shiva but his total, the Purna Shiva, the Sadashiva, all his manifest forms and everything in the cosmos for there is nothing that exist beyond him or which is not his part. This totality further reflects in his attire. Apart that he is wearing tiger skin as his loincloth as one like a breast sheet, he is also putting on an antariya and a sash, the pieces of textiles, representing two life-modes and two cultures, both merging in him and seek in him their accomplishment. This totality of his merger into Sati reflects later in his love for her.
As per the boon Brahma had sought from Shakti, when Shiva, appearing in Brahma’s vision as Ardhanarishvara, had separated her from his being, a part of her was born as Sati, the daughter of Daksha, Brahma’s son. Brahma and Vishnu were deeply concerned about Shiva’s not agreeing to marry. They one day visited the Daksha’s house. Now Sati was of marriageable age. Her infatuating beauty dragged even Brahma into sexual desire. He however controlled his passion and with Vishnu narrated to her Shiva’s personality and qualities and convinced her that Shiva alone could be for her a befitting husband. Thereupon and after seeking her mother’s permission Sati resorted Nandavrata fast, and the penance that began with it continued for twelve years. Finally, Shiva appeared before her and not that he granted her a boon but rather expressed his desire to marry her.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr. Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of literature and is the author of numerous books on Indian art and culture. Dr. Daljeet is the curator of the Miniature Painting Gallery, National Museum, New Delhi. They have both collaborated together on a number of books.