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Friday, 12 October 2012

Kukkutarma - The City of the Fighting Cocks

This painting pays tribute to what I consider the cradle of South Asian civilization – Indus Valley Civilisation. The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the world's earliest urban civilizations, along with its contemporaries, Mesopotamia and Egypt. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley developed new techniques in Carnelian products, seal carving and metallurgy (copper, bronze, lead, and tin).

The painting is an abstract depiction of Pashupati, (believed to be the earliest known illustration of Lord Shiva) along with the emblem believed to translate into Kukkutarma, the city in which it was used as currency, the city which is currently known as Mohen-jo-daro (based in Pakistan)
I really enjoyed painting this one and had a lot of fun mucking around with the materials to give me different textures and effects. Lots of moulding paste and liberal use of rabbit skin glue gave me the different textures I needed to make it look(in my view!!!) like something arcane. I am quite pleased with this one.... :)

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The God Men of Varanasi

This painting pays tribute to Varanasi (also known as Benaras, Banaras or Kashi) which is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world. She is located on the banks of the Ganges River and is regarded as a holy city by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains alike.

The city is more than 3000 years old and is supposed to be the oldest city in the world (though Jericho also claims the same).  It is the heart of India and an epitome of the synthesis of cultures, religions and races since Varanasi is the place where Buddhism was founded, that birthed 3 important Jain Tirthankaras, that houses the Roman Catholic Diocese of Varanasi, that has a significant native muslim community and an equally big Jewish expat community.

My painting reflects just one aspect of this wondrous city- the Yogis in saffron lining the streets and inhabiting every nook and cranny of Varanasi, those wandering monks who have renounced all earthly possessions and have dedicated their lives to the pursuit of Nirvana

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

The Banyan Tree

The Banyan tree is one of the most revered trees in India. It has the ability to survive and grow for centuries, thereby symbolizing immortality and is often compared to the shelter given by God to his devotees.

We invariably find this tree planted in front of many temples and in many villages in rural India, life revolves around this tree under which, the village ‘council’ makes all important decisions, people gather and meet for social events, children play and sometimes even go to school, people worship etc

In Hindu mythology, the tree is called ‘Kalpavriksha’, the tree that provides fulfillment of wishes, fertility and material gains. On a recent visit to the Maldives, I found that even in what is now an essentially Islamic society, this aspect of the Banyan tree still resides in the heart of the Maldivian Society. This tree is also sacred to the Buddhists. Lord Buddha is believed to have sat under this tree in deep Meditation for 7 days after gaining enlightenment.

As a child in India, I was always fascinated by this massive tree with hanging roots and spent a lot of time lying on the ground, looking up into the tree. This is the perspective I used to paint ‘The Banyan Tree’

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

A Divine Love - 4ft x 2.5ft; Acrylics on Canvas


This scene is painted in the Kerala Mural style and is commonly found in most temples and palaces in Kerala. The scene shows Krishna and Radha in a lover’s embrace and is a very popular theme to be found on temple walls. Radha is the feminine aspect of Lord Krishna and is not separate from Krishna. This re-iterates the Hindu philosophy (and co-incidentally also Plato’s!) that every person has an other half perfectly fashioned for them and only when together, do they make a whole. The exchanges between Radha and Krishna to be found on temple walls symbolise supremely transcendental love that brings one a step closer to the divine.

Kerala murals are painted using shades of the 5 primary colours – Indigo, Terre Verte, Red Ochre, Yellow Ochre and Carbon Black. The whole painting is restricted to the use of these 5 shades and is very stylised in composition. I use acrylic colours and gesso but the methodology I use is exactly the same as is used in the original style, where they use vegetable dyes and lime.
This is my second Painting in this style and took AGES to paint! It took ages to paint the last one too.... By the time I'm midway through these murals, I've already started 3-4 other paintings to help me cope with my impatience... I think the results are well worth the impatience and frustrations. :) And so I'll most likely keep on with it! Might end up doing just one mural a year though....

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Ushus (70cm x 50cm; Acrylics and mica flakes on Gallery Wrapped Canvas)

Ushus is one of the primary Goddesses from the Vedic times and is the daughter of the skies. She embodies Dawn and carries the mark of the sun on her forehead in the form of a red bindi.

‘Ushus’, my painting depicts one of India’s best recognised symbols – the Bindi... or the pottu, tilak or teeka as it is known in different parts of the world or even in different parts of India. For generations, the bindi has been the most visually attractive of all forms (there are 16 of them in all) of body decoration in India. 

An authentic kumkum bindi  is of special significance since turmeric is dried and coloured with a lime to give  the rich red colour; the colour known to symbolise power!  However, it serves a higher purpose than just decorative.

The spot on the forehead between the eyebrows where the bindi is applied, is the location of the Ä€gnya Chakra which, in the language of yoga, is said to be the major nerve center in the human body. According to ancient Indian texts, the entire body emanates energy in the form of electromagnetic waves. This is especially intense all over the forehead and even more so, on the subtle spot between the eyebrows. That is why it is believed that worry generates heat and causes a headache. The bindi cools the forehead, protects us from stress and prevents energy loss.

I decided to call the painting Ushus, after my mother, Usha, who I’ve always known to sport a bindi on her forehead. Back when she lived in India, she used to sport a large red bindi on her forehead. In fact, it was her one claim to drama, when otherwise, she is fairly self effacing!

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram

This painting is inspired by the legends behind the shore temple of Mahabalipuram. Englishman D R Fyson, a long time resident of Chennai, wrote a book on the town called ‘Mahabalipuram or Seven Pagodas’. The city and its myth was made popular in Europe by Southey through his poem, The Curse of Kehama in 1810. The modern city of Mahabalipuram was established by the British in 1827.

Mahabalipuram, now called Mamallapuram, has various historic monuments built between the 7th and 9th Centuries and has now been classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Megalithic burial urns, cairn circles and jars with burials dating to the very dawn of the Christian era have been discovered near Mamallapuram. Chinese coins and Roman coins of Theodosius I in the 4th century CE have been found at Mamallapuram revealing the port as an active hub of global trade in the late classical period.

Another name by which Mahabalipuram has been known to mariners, at least since Marco Polo’s time is "Seven Pagodas" alluding to the Seven Pagodas of Mahabalipuram that stood on the shore, of which one, the Shore Temple, survives.

The legend I mentioned earlier was also recounted by Fyson in his book. He tells of a local myth (which I recall hearing as a child in India) regarding the Pagodas. The myth claims that the city of Mahabalipuram was so beautiful that the God Indra sank it during a great storm in a fit of jealousy, leaving only the Shore Temple standing. He tells of local fishermen, who claim that at least some of the other temples can be seen glittering under the waves from boats.

A renowned archaeologist in India, Ramaswami wrote explicitly that “There is no sunk city in the waves off Mamallapuram. The European name, ‘The Seven Pagodas,’ is irrational and cannot be accounted for”. However, the missing temples continue to fascinate locals, archaeologists and lovers of myth, especially so, since the recent Tsunami of December 2004.

Anecdotal evidence shouldn’t be ignored and the breakthrough happened in December 2004 when a Tsunami struck the shores of Southern India. The waters off the coast of Mahabalipuram pulled back about 500metres and tourists and locals alike saw a long straight row of large rocks emerge from the water. Though this was soon reclaimed by the ocean, centuries worth of sediment was lifted off these stones and left a few previously hidden statues and small structures uncovered on the shore. Since then the Archeology department and the Indian Navy have uncovered more statues and cave temples off the shore of Mahabalipuram, thereby validating the legends....

Friday, 5 October 2012

Jatayu's Wing


This painting is inspired by the tale of Jatayu, the King of Vultures. Jatayu has a brother Sampati and they have a history very similar to that of Icarus and Daedelus. Jatayu and Sampati are both demi Gods in the form of birds and on a whim, they decide to fly to the Sun God’s abode.

However, as they fly closer, the heat from the Sun becomes increasingly painful. Realising the danger of the situation, Sampati decides to protect his brother and encloses him in his wings. This is where the story deviated from Icarus and Daedelus. Sampati’s wings burn beyond redemption and he spends the rest of his life earthbound. Jatayu, on the other hand gets away with minor injuries, for he has not yet fulfilled his destiny.

And then one day he hears Sita’s calls to rescue her from Ravana and rushes to her rescue. A battle ensues between Ravana and Jatayu, when Ravana cuts Jatayu’s wings off. Lord Rama and Lakshmana come cross the dying bird, who informs them of Sita’s capture and whereabouts (Lanka) and thereby fulfills his destiny. Due to Jatayu’s truthfulness and loyalty to Lord Rama, he is given moksha.

My painting portrays the moment of Jatayu’s demise (when Ravana cuts his wings off) and the moksha he gains as a result of staying true to his ideals; that moment when the darkness that cloaks him gives way to moksha, the state to which every being aspires.