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The All-Encompassing Lord Vishnu, The Deity With Skin Like Dusk

The All-Encompassing Lord Vishnu, The Deity With Skin Like Dusk

The Hindu dharm is a complex religion; and Lord Vishnu, its most complex deity. Like all Hindu deities, He is boundless in influence, non-specific in character, and all-embodying as a concept. The form you see here is His parlokiya roopa (heavenly form): tall and handsome, chaturbhujadhari (four-armed) with the signature discus in one them and the conch in another, and a complexion of blue overtones. He is the most serene and compassionate of the devas, which applies to each of the avataras (bodily manifestations) He distills Himself into in order to descend to ihloka (earthly realm). From Narasimha and Parshurama to Krishna and Rama, what is common to each of His avataras is the dusky blue skin and the role of saviour for us mortals.

This murti of the Lord has been cast in bronze. India's bronze sculptural tradition dates back to the Pallava rule in the third century, when it started to produce icons for the magnificent temples of the South. With the later patronage of the Chola dynasty rulers, the skill to work with bronze truly flourished. Today, South India is the home of bronze, this one having been handpicked from Swamimalai. From the tapering crown that towers above His head to the inverted lotus pedestal He is on, this fne sculpture bears all the signs of authentic Southern workmanship. Note the lifelike portraiture of the digits as well as the spiritually engaging composure of countenance.

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The Pensive Elder Daughter-In-Law

The Pensive Elder Daughter-In-Law

It is an evening of ritual gathering and feasting at her home. Perhaps it is a pooja. The elder daughter-in-law of an affluent landowning family, as could be gleaned from the ample gold and jewels on her person, is looking on at the festive bustle. Moments ago, she had excused herself from the elders gathered there, probably on the pretext of briefly supervising the kitchen. She has stopped in the shadows of one of the doors leading into the arena, overcome by a strange womanly emotion. Her family is showing off the new younger daughter-in-law to the guests, which makes her remember her own initial days in the family. What she is feeling is a mix of fondness and envy and jealousy, the kind that only a woman's heart could contain all at the same time.

It is not likely that her younger counterpart is her equal in form. The elder daughter-in-law is an olive-skinned beauty, set off by the shimmering gold-bordered pink of the lehenga she has chosen for the occasion. Her eyes are a soft brown and large, their expression somewhat withdrawn. It is the raised brow and the subtly pursed mouth that betray the goings-on of her heart. It is the norm in large Indian families to fawn over the latest addition by marriage to the clan, in terms that could be either exalting or demeaning and even both. It is the attention being bestowed upon her that is making the subject of this painting a tad out of place. Perhaps she will take it out on her when they are engaged in domestic tasks together, by chiding her on some excusable pretext but also by helping her make herself at home.

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Statement Spikes Necklace With Spike Drop Earrings, Studded With Pink Gems

Statement Spikes Necklace With Spike Drop Earrings, Studded With Pink Gems

Temple jewellery is a thing in India. No other culture in the world has a whole branch of the complex art of jewellery-making devoted to spiritual life. Having evolved in South India, temple jewellery are those that are made especially with an icon of a deva or devi in mind. They are primarily designed to adorn the deities housed in the magnificent temples of the South. They are worn by the mortal devis of ihaloka, of course, to weddings and poojas; however, it is to a distinctive style and appeal that modern-day temple jewellery refers to.

Of that finish and make, this sterling silver set is a fine example. It consists of a three-tiered necklace of silver beads, from which a series of solid silver spikes jut out. It would look superbly elegant as it sits against your decolletage, teamed with those matching drop earrings. Each comprises of a couple of those identical silver spikes smithed together to drop from a complex silver stud. A brilliant pink gemstone of miniscule proportion has been studded at the head of each silver spike in the whole set, infusing to this ensemble a much-needed dash of femininity and colour.

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Eclipse-Blue Kashmiri Carpet with Knotted Flower Vase

Eclipse-Blue Kashmiri Carpet with Knotted Flower Vase

Nothing like a Kashmiri rug to add some personality to your space. Fashioned from pure homegrown silk and finished with rich pastels, this is a one-of-a-kind number. The resham foundation is coloured an inky blue, the kind that characterises the bitterest nights of the Kashmiri winter. The same has been superimposed with knotted stitch embroidery, a technique that is to be found in abundance in the rugs and outerwear produced in the valley, and hemmed in by a strip of shimmering gold brown.

The composite motif of bouqueted foliage conveys a stillness that is also dynamic. Pale greens, blues, oranges, and reds have been interspersed with bits of white and black, each hue being brought out to perfection by the background. Amidst the tips of the tendrils on top flit about a couple of huge butterflies. From the shape of the vase the arrangement is in, it is the kind that is woven at home by grandmothers and grandaunts in Kashmiri homes. Note how one of the tendrils, burdened by a particularly heavy-petalled flower, has broken off and now lies at the foot of the vase.

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Motioning In Dance, The Veenavadini Devi Sarasvati

Motioning In Dance, The Veenavadini Devi Sarasvati

She leaps into the air as Her veena exudes music. Her hips are jutted out, Her delicate anklet-adorned feet in mid-air. She is chaturbhujadhari (four-armed), one of which holds a pothi to indicate Her learning. Her silks and shringar flow about Her as She motions. She is gracious, Her form cast in superlative proportions of the feminine. This dynamic composition is of none other than the Devi Sarasvati, wife of Lord Brahma, presider over learning and the arts (which are a prerequisite to the process of creation, over which He presides). Her name means "one that flows", and indeed learning and art flow from Her like the pristine Northern river named after Her.

The medium captures the Devi's gorgeousness to perfection. An elite medium to work with, bronze has flourished in the hands of Southern sculptors since the Pallava and especially the Chola ruling periods. Today, South India is the home of bronze where the best of contemporary examples of India's great sculptural tradition are put together. Not only does this take a significant degree of skill to work with bronze to produce something like this, but also this composition has been suffused with the artisan's personal devotion. Note the sthirsnigdha composure of countenance, the towering crown that sets off Her stature, and the beauteous angulature of Her limbs. From the vines that frame Her form to the layered lotus pedestal, it bears the hallmark of Southern workmanship.

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The Calm Figure Of Lord Indra, Next To The Fire-Spewing Dragon

The Calm Figure Of Lord Indra, Next To The Fire-Spewing Dragon

Lord Indra is the most popular Vedic deity, having thousands of hymns dedicated to Him in the Rigveda (a text dated 2,000 BC) and a large number of Pauranic stories narrating His valour. He is the supreme Aryan king, of a roopa the colour of marble, set off by a mass of jet black curls spreading about His pristine shoulders. He is seated in His characteristic ardha-padmasana amidst the lush Himalayan landscape on a mountaintop. Beneath Him is a lotus pedestal with multi-hued petals and a red-and-gold velvet back. A bejewelled gold crown with a delicate pink lotus on the brow holds His hair in place. The same is complemented by the rest of the shringar and silks that clothe His divine being.

Every square inch of this thangka comprises of the gorgeous colours and motifs that are to be found in these traditional paintings. Flowers of ethereal shapes and tints grace the religious flora. The leaves have a distinctive shape, so do the clouds and the canopies. The foreground features a series of hills and shrubbery in romantic pastels and a stream of thick Himalayan snowmelt making its way to us mortals down below. A fire-spewing dragon is at the Lord's side, a popular motif in art that belongs to this part of the world. It has a long serpentine body, a vicious set of teeth, and fire in place of brows and whiskers. It is a stark contrast to the calm exuded by the deva by its side.

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Minimalist Gold Pendant Studded With Water Sapphires And Diamonds

Minimalist Gold Pendant Studded With Water Sapphires And Diamonds

This is a minimalistic gold pendant that you could wear with both traditional and contemporary outfits. It will tone down to former if you do not want a look that is too heavy, and glam up the latter. The central gold loop has five smaller diamond-studded loops spaced out evenly across the circumference. From these secondary loops jut out a series of pale purple cordierites set in polished gold. The whole thing is suspended from a stylised gold loop set with more diamonds, through which you could string a gold chain and wear this around your neck.

The glassy, translucent water sapphires that have gone into finishing this pendant have been picked for their brilliance. Cut and faceted to maximise their natural aesthetic appeal, they have been smithed onto the gold with a great degree of skill. While these gems are regarded as a more reasonable substitute to sapphires, cordierites stand in a class all their own because of their durability and pleochroism. Watch heads turn towards your decolletage as you walk in anywhere with this pendant gently motioning against your skin.

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Caviar-Black Baluchari Sari from Bengal Showing the Story of Dushyant and Shakuntala and Love Gods Kamadeva and Rati

Caviar-Black Baluchari Sari from Bengal Showing the Story of Dushyant and Shakuntala and Love Gods Kamadeva and Rati

Drape yourself in a Baluchari silk to make a statement replete with history and art and devotion. Having been woven since the mid-eighteenth century, these figured silks are endemic to Bengal; the Baluchar region in Murshidabad district, to be precise. It is the only Bengali saree to be woven on the drawloom, and features a complicated multi-warp and multi-weft weave. These unique silks are often chosen by the more reserved of Bengali brides as their wedding saree (the Banarasi variety made nearby in eastern Uttar Pradesh being hands-down the more popular choice). The one you see on this page would be a great one to drape on one of the ritual evenings succeeding your phere.

The field of this saree is luxuriantly done up in woven images of the gorgeous Shakuntala in her garden. The rest of the story is in the pallu, as is the norm with Baluchari sarees, where she is shown with Raja Dushyant. More such figures have been woven onto the moderately thick border as well. The inky black of the foundation together with the glimmering gold of the zari in the foreground, makes for a colour combination that you cannot go wrong with. Teamed with your newest gold possessions, this silken number is as bridal as they get.

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Sheshashayi Vishnu, And The Birth Of Lord Brahma

Sheshashayi Vishnu, And The Birth Of Lord Brahma

The image of the Sheshashayi Vishnu induces great calm and stability in the mind of the devotee. Shesha is the name of the naga (snake) on whose coils the Lord lies in sleep, which is the Sanskrit word for 'end'; 'shayi' in Sanskrit stands for one who is lain down. It is the volatile moment between destruction and re-projection, the transitional state between two cycles of time and existence as we know it. It is a powerful image and as one looks upon it, one visualises the chaotic but amniotic ocean that surrounds Him as He dreams the world into being. He is a superbly handsome deity as captured in the select medium of bronze, this composition having been handpicked from South India for its high-precision finish.

It is inimitable, owing to the degree of labour and skill poured into this work. India's bronze sculptural tradition remains unmatched in traditional art across the world, paintings having dominated most of the art of the western world. The South is the home of this tradition, which began with the patronage of the Pallava rulers and flourished under that of the Cholas. Note the lifelike coils of Sheshanaga, and the lotus that springs forth from His navel as expounded in the Mahabharata. Thus was the Lord Brahma born, who went on to project the subsequent cycle of time and existence of which we are a part. A quiet rishi of the South is seated in ardha-padmasana at the tail of Shesha. He is steeped in dhyana.

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Chaturbhujadhari Devi Kali, With The Beauteous Eyes

Chaturbhujadhari Devi Kali, With The Beauteous Eyes

Madhubani art is so called because it is endemic to Bihar's Madhubani district; the Mithila region, to be precise. Having been practised by local women, it is a form of bhitti chitra ('bhitti' means 'wall'; 'chitra', 'painting') used to decorate the home and the hearth. Understandably, the themes dominant in the folk art produced by a simple, reserved people are devotional and draw from the rich mythology of the culture. This contemporary Mithila painting is no exception. It is a rudimentary Mother Kali composition - the long-haired, long-tongued chaturbhujadhari Devi with the determined, almost fierce gaze. Her husband, the Lord Shiva, lies supine beneath Her divine feet. From the traditional mud-wall canvas, Mithila art has evolved to be done on portable canvas such as paper treated specially for the purpose in this case.

It is characterised by thick black outlines, filled in with solid colours with no shading. The painting you see on this page deviates from Madhubani colour conventions, featuring a black-and-white colour format. White spaces are minimised with finer and finer detailing in black, the pigment for which has been derived from carbon black. Despite the rustic mood of the work, Her iconography, as well as Her husband's, is replete. Her hands bear the implements of wrath, and She is naked but for the deathly skirt of severed human arms. Between Her large beauteous eyes is the tattoo of a trishool, indicating that it is to Shiva She belongs. Zoom in on any portion of the background to appreciate the time and labour that must have gone into the same.

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