The product of a highly bold imagination, only a tribal artist might be endowed with, the strangely conceived image blends into one form the forms of Shiva’s mount Nandi, Lord Ganesha and his mount mouse, and Shiva symbolically by means of his attributes. Nandi riding mouse, the mount of Lord Ganesha, is in the main role while the figure of Nandi, the image’s base form. Obviously a rare specimen of Bastar art style the image – a brass-cast, is one from a home-workshop of a tribal artist of Raigarh, the centre of Bastar’s brass-casting art such as Sarguja being that of painting, Kondagaon, that of terracottas and wood-work, Bastar itself, that of beaten iron artifacts and bamboo-craft, and Kanker, that of wood-work. Raigarh is also the known centre of Kosa silk textile – silk producing, spinning, weaving and dying. The statue is cast using lost wax technique and brilliantly painted, especially the saddle-mattress in bright blue, and Nandi’s tail, horns, bells as well as Shiva’s trident that the mouse holds, in subdued gold.
The blending of such forms is very intricate as also queerish. Using it as his basic image the artist has on one hand adhered strictly to Nandi’s iconographic form as prevalent in the tradition, its characteristic sitting posture, tail along its curve, hump, neck, style of ears, horns and even the bearing of the face and its right-inclining profile, and on the other, has woven around it features of the image of Lord Ganesha. While the idol of his mount mouse has been assimilated in full his father Shiva’s presence has been symbolically portrayed. Except its broad figural structure, back, tail, body posture, adornment along with saddle, chains of bells etc, Nandi’s figure has been modelled by assimilating aspects of Ganapati image. The Nandi’s bull-figure has over its neck the elephant head along trunk and tusks, and the trunk also carrying a ‘laddu’, the favourite sweet of Lord Ganesha.
This elephant-head of Nandi – a strange combination, obviously a representation of Lord Ganesha that Nandi assimilates into its being, has over it a headgear, the usual form of Lord Ganesha’s image. However, this headgear has been adorned with frills of bells, the bull’s most usual adornment – again the artist’s attempt at blending the two entities. The form of eyes – wide open but drowsy, and bold eyebrows trespassing into the forehead region, the cheeks – all covered with wrinkles except their central parts, and unusual form of ears – winnowing basket like wide upper side as those of an elephant, and angular towards bottom, as those of a bull, present a strange combination of two anatomies. The image’s headgear has attached to it on its right a crescent and from the headgear’s top is bursting a stream of water – the river Ganga that emerged from Shiva’s knotted hair. The image has on its forehead a trident mark that Shiva’s devotees used and still use as ‘tilaka’ – the ritual forehead mark, obviously a feature of Ganesha’s form.
The father’s mount and hence as affectionate as him Nandi does not mind if the mount of his master’s son the mouse jumps on to its back and wants to enjoy a ride. Even if it thought of disallowing the tiny mouse of a ride on its back it could not do so. The cunning mouse carried along it Shiva’s authority – his trident, double drum and snake around its neck. The bell hung along a cord on the trident suggests that the mouse has uprooted it when Shiva was engaged in penance for such bell is hung on his trident when he is absorbed in meditation. Thus too, the mouse had the master’s special leave to use his mount, and Nandi submits to it. As for the vane mouse grown a bit arrogant it does not hesitates even in using the great Shiva’s ‘damaru’ – double drum and carrying his trident.
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.