This nineteen inch tall brass cast representing a celestial damsel applying vermilion to her hair-parting excels, in its proportions and finish, the finest of Chola bronzes. The brass, a comparatively tough metal, used in the casting of this statue, has been softened to gold's plasticity and lustre. The minuteness, with which each detail has been carved, renders it difficult for any eye to believe that it is a brass piece. The statue presents a pleasant blend of the skills of a jeweler who endows it with finest details and the vision of an aesthetician that shapes the figure adhering to the highest beauty norms. One gives it its glittering adornment and the other its proportions, unique figure and over-all impact.
The maiden, represented in this statue, has been modeled on the line on
which Khajuraho sculptor, working at its Parasanath temple, modeled his
Srangar-rata nayika holding a mirror in her left hand and applying vermilion
with the other. The Khajuraho maiden is possessed of the celestial charm and
the transcendental beauty, as are the mythical denizens of the Indraloka.
The represented figure is hence known as apsara, a superhuman maid. This
brass statue, due to the greater plasticity of its medium and being a
subsequent work, with other models and ideals of beauty in perception, marks
a subtle improvement over its stone counterpart. It blends, in its modeling,
the grace and plasticity of the worldwide known Gyaraspur Yakshi as well.
Khajuraho apsara is broadly a relief, which has limited scope to depict the
beauty of figure's back. This statue has greater perspective to feed the
viewing eye. In its total impact, the figure of the damsel, represented by
this brass piece, is endowed with greater mystic charm, mythical beauty and
divine grace, such as are not the attributes of this world.
As a matter of fact, it is the unique treatment of beauty and grace and the
great artistic skill that the figures carved in Khajuraho stones, or even
here in this metal piece, appear to be the inhabitants of a world beyond the
world of man. But, in reality, the artists, working on them, had in their
minds only the human figures as well as human aesthetics as perceived by
ancient masters. They identified the Indian maid, the nayika, not only in
her various characters but also in her various roles and wove around such
classifications their aesthetics. Each nayika type had its own demeanour as
well as the specific attributes of physique, that is, the body aesthetics
and the body language. This statue depicts one of the steps of
solah-srangar, that is, the sixteen steps of dressing and adorning a maid.
In Indian tradition, it is essential for a married woman to have vermilion
mark above her forehead on the hair-parting. She is wearing various
ornaments as these aesthetics prescribe for a married damsel. Each ornament,
carved of the ordinary brass, is a real jewel by any parameter. In a
pleasant gesture, the damsel is holding a mirror in her left hand and is
applying vermilion with the right. This gesture curves her figure
correspondingly, the left hip protruding and the right recessing. Her lean
belly also tilts to right and the fascinatingly moulded breasts make the
forward thrust. The face tilted slightly to her left, diagonally angled
arms, right leg's backward thrust and the geometry of the entire figure
create its own music and produce its own rhythm, which a sensitive ear
listens and eye perceives.
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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