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Lord Shiva Grinding Bhang

Lord Shiva Grinding Bhang

Lord Shiva Grinding Bhang

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Watercolor on Paper
Artist: Kailash Raj

6.3 inches X 8.3 inches
Item Code:
HK18
Frame
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This sublime image of Lord Shiva, rendered against an opaque background, represents him as engaged in grinding ‘bhang’ – an intoxicating leafy herb popularly associated with Shiva as his most favoured drink. Of all herbal intoxicants in use in India, now or ever, ‘bhang’ is contended to have divine bearing not only because the tradition associates it with gods, specially Shiva, as their popular drink but also for its strange mystic power of dissociating the mind from the worldly things and linking it with the Supreme. Put on the list of narcotic products requiring licensing for their production and sale by the British in pre-independent India, ‘bhang’ was since Vedic days, or perhaps earlier, the herb that ascetics used as the tool of meditating on the deity, wrestlers, for physical might and better concentration, and the elite, the people of courts or classes, for enjoyment. “Bhang’ has been in use for celebrating festivals like Maha Shiva-ratri and Holi among others since times immemorial.

Not blue, which is sometimes his body colour, the Shiva’s figure in this miniature has been drawn in ash-grey, the colour of his ash-smeared body in his manifestation as Bhairava. A round face with well trimmed moustaches, sharp features, intoxicated eyes, long matted hair falling partially on the shoulders and a part knotted on the top with a snake holding it, a ‘tripunda’ and the ‘tri-netra’ adorning his forehead, and a thicker neck define the figure’s iconography. The great lord has been conceived with a robust anatomy. He is wearing a multi-stringed garland of ‘rudraksha’ around his neck as also armlets made of them. A pair of gold bangles and another of ear-rings apart, these are the snakes that adorn his neck, arms, wrists and ankles, and of course his grinding pot. He is wearing a large white ‘dhoti’ – an unstitched length of textile, around his waist in typical Central Indian style.

In paraphernalia around the figure of Shiva the painting makes a departure from the settled tradition. Instead of the lion skin which invariably comprises his seating mat Lord Shiva has been portrayed as seated on a carpet with silk-like look designed elegantly with floral stripes rendered in golden thread. His trident and damaru – double drum, are the essential attributes of his iconography but the trident’s blades and damaru’s body worked with gold are features foreign to their forms. A goblet with a tray, another, containing eatables, a larger bowl and a large size pitcher with a handle for holding it, all conceived with gold-like lustre, are articles not usually seen in Shiva’s iconography.

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.


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