The mystique of cosmic existence aptly reveals in the painting. As the scriptures contend, the moment the cosmic mysteries unfold to the mind, engaged in the pursuit of knowing them, a galaxy of divine lights, formless, diffused and radiant, burst before it. This is the moment of the self’s divine experience of its union with the Supreme Self : the union of the spark with the ocean of light, and then there is nothing, no form, no space but the light, colours, its manifestation, and the form, the illusion of its being. Everything : forms, space, time, light and non-light, all melt and a glowing mass, immeasurable and impenetrable, emerges. The Madhubani artist has aptly transcribed this spiritual experience of the divine mystique on his canvas.
The diffusion is not completely formless for even when light floats in the space, it resorts to various formations. After the moments of divine experience are over and the mind returns into its normal being, the recollection of the divine experience takes to some forms, and it is from such forms that the enlightened masters : cosmologists, metaphysicians, thinkers … have made out their perception of cosmos, its elemental nature, breadth and everything. The painting seems to realise on its canvas this vision of cosmos, the Tantric vision in particular. As the long sustained Tantric tradition has it, while meditating on one of the methods of kindling Kundalini – being’s inherent energies lying dormant in the body, narrated to her by Lord Shiva himself, Parvati’s mind descended deeper and deeper till it reached the axis of the Great Void, which she found a deity form enshrining. When Parvati yet looked at it, her own being replaced the deity, and it was she who enshrined it. Apart that it suggests the devotee’s merger into the deity, the Tantra perceives cosmos, which is now also the modern science’s position, as consisting of an axis.
It is as this vision with an axis that this painting perceives the cosmos. Except in discovering its central point, its axis, the painting does not make use of geometrical measurements or the measurements in any form. The each of the four corners of the canvas has been conceived with a quarter of a circle – the globe, the all four making a complete circle, that is, the usual vision of the universe. Two of these parts have been painted as blue, suggesting the absence of the sun, and other two, red, suggesting its presence. When joined into a full globe, the centre manifests into a fish-form. Now the mind’s journey towards the axis begins. It goes deeper than the ocean’s waters beyond the reach of the fish across the multiple layers of light revealing a galaxy of colours to finally reach the axis. Here appears the same fish form, as would emerge when the four quarters of the corners are joined, and in its centre, its axis.
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.