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Rishi Chyavana Worships The Tantric Roopa Of Lakshmi (Tantric Devi Series)

Rishi Chyavana Worships The Tantric Roopa Of Lakshmi (Tantric Devi Series)

The Lakshmi Tantra is an unusual book. It contains no mention of ritual worship, temple specifications, or any such specificity of rite. It concerns itself purely with the individual devotee, which in this painting is the Rishi Chyavana himself. He is paying homage to the tantric roopa of Lakshmi, which is the Shakti that lies behind Narayana. The form of Her that you see here is the roopa of all women as expounded in the Lakshmi Tantra - glorious, the complement of man, and deserving of worship. She is draped in vibrant yellow silks overlain with shringar comprising of pearls, emeralds, and gold. In Her four arms are the melodic conch, a lotus that is on the verge of bloom (matching lotuses are to be found on Her studded gold crown), the discus associated with Her husband, and the goad that sends shivers down the adharmee's spine. Note the naked prostrate figure beneath Her that constitutes Her gigantic asana.

The Rishi Chyavana has been exalted in the Brahmanas, where the first mention of this sage is found. His stories abound in the Bhagavata Purana, the Padma Purana, and the Mahabharata. Apart from his severe austerities, he is known most widely for how his wife, Sukanya, wrested for him the boon of restored youth. In this watercolour he is shown sitting amidst the wilderness on verge of dusk, engaged in his worship of Devi Lakshmi's tatnric roopa. From each of the trees and foliage that populate the forest, to the moors and the clouds in the background, each aspect of this complex painting has been finished with great skill and attention to detail.

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Dushyant-Shakuntala and Radha Krishna (Green-Lake Baluchari Love Sari)

Dushyant-Shakuntala and Radha Krishna (Green-Lake Baluchari Love Sari)

A romantic saree in every way, this Baluchari would be a one-of-a-kind addition to your wardrobe. For these figured silks that are designed to go into the Indian bridal trousseau, this earthy green shade is an unusual colour. The gold of the zariwork that graces the field, border, and endpiece add to its distinctly feminine charm. Baluchari sarees are famous as storytelling sarees from Bengal - zoom in on the zari-embroidered panels to make out the figures of Shakuntala-Dushyanta and Radha-Krishna, the age-old lovers of Indian folkore. The superb precision of the embroidery and the lifelike appeal of the figures portrayed would stun all who set eyes on you in this saree.

The endemic Bengali drawloom is the only one in the subcontinent to have the requisite mechanism for the multi-weft and multi-warp weave characteristic of figured silks, which explains the price and exquisteness of these sarees. Having traditionally been worn by the regional brides during their all-important wedding rituals and on the gorgeous autumnal Durgapuja festival, this relatively simple number stands out from the rest of the Balucharies in our collection. It is because of the prominence of the foundation green, what with the zariwork spaced out across the field. Teamed with your statement gold hand-me-downs, this is the perfect saree to wear on those post-wedding trips to the in-laws'.

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Ganesha With Parasole And Kamandalu, Under An Ornate Kirtimukha Aureole

Ganesha With Parasole And Kamandalu, Under An Ornate Kirtimukha Aureole

When one begins to look for the beloved Ganesha in itihasa, the older of the two, which is Ramayana, yields no result. One would expect the great Lord of auspicious beginnings to be invoked during Rama's departure to the woods or Hanuman's to Lanka in the search for Seeta, but it is not until the advent of Kaliyuga that the Ganesha cult evolves. When Krishnadvaipayana Vyasa had the greatest of epics composed in his mind, He turned to Lord Brahma in search of a scribe worth the task. It is upon His suggestion that he meditated upon Ganesha to invoke Him to be his scribe. Ganesha's condition was that his motions with the pen be not interrupted once He begins; Vyasa's, that He not pen down anything without understanding it first. With the sacred syllable of AUM etched at the beginning of the manuscript, Ganesha thus began the writing of the Mahabharata.

Indeed, no other deity of the Hindu pantheon could have made a better scribe for the greatest epic known to humankind. While His appearance is not on par with the characteristic handsomeness of Indian deities, it is His adorably boyish form that devotees love. His pot belly gives away His undying love of laddoos (He is holding one at the tip of His trunk). His chubby limbs are every ready to break into dance or to be raised in blessing. The innocent elephant-head stands for all the gentleness and wisdom associated with the mortal animal. This one-of-a-kind wood-cut sculpture of the Lord depicts Him in the midst of a walk along divine pathways, with a kamandalu in one anterior hand and an ornate parasol in the other. Lotuses about to bloom are in His posterior hands. His befitting silks and shringar are matched by the glamour of the Kirtimukha aureole that frames the composition and the grandeur of the pedestal on which the same is placed.

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Bhadrakali Worshipped By Both Dharm And Adharm, The Mortal And The Immortal (Tantric Devi Series)

Bhadrakali Worshipped By Both Dharm And Adharm, The Mortal And The Immortal (Tantric Devi Series)

Of the 32 Basholi watercolours that have been found of tantric devis, no less than 17 of them feature the Devi Bhadrakalil. The shaant swaroopa (peaceful form) of the super-wrathful Devi Kali, Bhadrakali is the wife of Veerbhadra. Her skin is the colour of barely molten gold, like a stroke of fiery lightning as local verses go. She is dressed in a feminine, flowing green skirt accompanied by a gold choli and translucent dupatta. Her shringar is dominated by pearls and gold. Her dense hair is piled atop Her head in place of a crown (one of the many things that sets this watercolour apart from the others in the series), held together long black winding snakes. More snakes wind around Her torso and Her limbs, each longer and blacker than the other, with its hood raised ferociously.

The Devi is flanked by dharm and adharm. To Her right are Indradeva and young siddha. While Indra is a heavenly being in His vibrant red silk and pearly shringar, and the thousand eyes that grace His body; the siddha is the perfect mortal and dressed like one. To the left of Bhadrakali is an asura, whose tribe is at perpetual war with the devas. He is big and boorish; and while His adornments are no match for Indra, He is as much of the immortal realm as He is. All three stand before Bhadrakali with their palms joined in namaskaram, supplicating to Her because She is all-powerful and lords over the dharmic cycle itself. Note how the shades of Her halo blend with the moors painted in the background of the painting.

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Dark-Cheddar Handloom Bomkai Sari from Orissa with Temple Border and Fishes Woven on Pallu

Dark-Cheddar Handloom Bomkai Sari from Orissa with Temple Border and Fishes Woven on Pallu

The unmistakable aspect of Orissa's Bomkai sarees is the muhajorhi endpiece. Muhajorhi refers to the contrasting colours and the angular discontinueous supplementary wefts that characterise the pallu, resulting in folk motifs. The marigold-and-silver Bomkai number you see on this page has a minimalistic endpiece - bands of silver punctuated by black, with miniscule saltwater fishes forming a one-of-a-kind pattern. The black goes on along the entire edge of these nine yards, making for a narrow border that brings out the beauty of the rest of this saree.

This saree is the colour of dense marigold petals, which shimmers from the pure silk it is made from. It is a solid colour, but for the long, tapering templetop motifs of the border jutting into the field. From everyday Tamil sarees to the one-of-a-kind Paithani numbers, the templetop-bordered saree is a traditional motif that never goes out of fashion in India, which means you cannot go wrong with this purchase. Teamed with some statement hand-me-down jewellery, this saree would look as good at poojas and havans as it would on weddings and parties.

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Shri Rajarajeshwari, The Embodiment Of Beauty

Shri Rajarajeshwari, The Embodiment Of Beauty

Each of the das mahavidyas, the ten deities of great wisdom, are a form of Sati, Shiva's wife. Sati assumes those forms in order to block the ten directions so that Her husband could not escape Her rage. Each mahavidya, a roop of the divine mother, has Her own qualities, mantras, and devotees. Shri Raja Rajeshwari is one of them, an embodiment of beauty like Durga and Kali are embodiments of power. Hence, She is depicted by artisans as brimming with the grace of youth. This Kailash Raj watercolour is no exception. The deity's skin is rubescent, Her shringar flawless, and Her stance one of divine fervour.

She sits draped in thick garlands on a solid gold throne, over which lies the train of Her red silk saree. It is studded with pearls and emeralds like the ones on the chunky gold pieces adorning Her lobes and torso and limbs. From beneath the generously inlaid crown emerge the black ringlets of Her much-sung-about mane. In Her four hands are the symbols of life and plenty. Colourful flowers are strewn on the floors beneath Her throne. A plethora of pooja samagri has been strategically placed on the foreground: a basket of fresh fruits, a tall curvaceous diya, and a kalash.

The artist's skill could be deduced from the richly coloured background of the painting. Steady brushstrokes, layered one after the other, convey the powerful glow of Her gigantic halo. The red core emanating a circle of yellow light that gradually emerges into a dusky blue, gives the viewer an impression of the setting sun.

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Aragon Plain Pashmina Handloom Shawl from Kashmir with Intricate Sozni Embroidered Paisleys on Border

Aragon Plain Pashmina Handloom Shawl from Kashmir with Intricate Sozni Embroidered Paisleys on Border

This solid-coloured pashmina is fit for a queen. The rich colour of moist earth becomes the fabric like no other neutral. Because pashminas have traditionally been woven in statement, feminine colours, this one is sure to stand out. An infusion of pretty pastels characterises the embroidered panels along the edges, which complement the field colour. The motifs are classic - paisleys and chinar leaves, superimposed with miniscule tendrils. These motifs are quintessentially Kashmiri, where these one-of-a-kind shawls are fashioned.

The texture is to die for. Softer than butter, warmer than toast, it could be layered over your choicest evening sarees and suits to exude an inimitable traditional glam. In fact, the word for the fabric comes from the Persian 'pashm', which means 'soft'. No other part of the world has the skill to work with this wool, which itself is endemic to the Kashmir-Tibet region. A single work of pashmina such as this one takes weeks, if not months, of labour to be finished, making these shawls as desirable they are the world over.

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Ornate Peacock-And-Kirtimukha Urli With Temple-Roof And Dangling Dias

Ornate Peacock-And-Kirtimukha Urli With Temple-Roof And Dangling Dias

Placing this urli in your home- or office-temple is akin to bringing to your space an essential aspect of the South Indian life. Urlis have traditionally been a South Indian thing. Placed at the entrances of homes, temples, and commercial establishments, it is supposed to be filled with freshwater, on which freshly plucked morning blooms are floated. This not only makes for a visual arrangement of striking beauty, but also fills the air with an inimitable scent. So simple, yet so powerful, the urli exudes something of superb calm and divinity. The one you see on this page is a highly decorative variant of this age-old element of home decor, a work of art that would uplift the divinity quotient of your space.

It is crafted from bronze, an exquisite medium perfected in the artisan-dominated recesses of Southern India. While bronze-sculpting flourished under the patronage of Chola rulers centuries ago, it is Bangalore that is today the home of contemporary works in bronze. This urli has been handpicked from the best that local studios have to offer. From the legs of the urli and the frontal edge of the curve of the bowl carved with peacocks and kirtimukha, to the ornate temple-esque structure on top, the entirety of the work bears a level of detail and precision that are to be found nowhere else in the world. Lighting the panchadia (set of five lamps) that drops from the 'ceiling' of the urli would add a world of glamour to the arrangement.

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Devi Dhumavati, The Most Unusual Of The Mahavidyas

Devi Dhumavati, The Most Unusual Of The Mahavidyas

Dhumavati is nothing like you would imagine a Hindu devi to be like. One of the das mahavidyas that the great Sati split into in order to contain Her husband, Shiva, Dhumavati is not characterised by the celestial splendour associated with even Her fellow mahavidyas. Her skin is smokey (dhuma is the Sanskrit word for smoke) and She wears the coarse colourless saree of the Hindu vidhva, as opposed to the resplendent youth and thorough shringar (the mark of the sadhva) of the Others. No living being is Her vahana. She rides a horseless chariot and is accompanied by a bunch of jet black crows, which are scavengers and widely believed in India to be the harbinger of bad news. In this muted portrayal by artist Kailash Raj the mahavidya's oddities are so lucid, the colours used so limited yet precise that if one gazes into this watercolour long enough one could almost hear the ominous cackling of the crows that flock to Her.

The Devi's iconography is a powerful depiction of Hindu widowhood. Apart from the highly symbolic white saree that drapes Her aged figure, Her unkempt tresses and no-makeup look convey keen existential sorrow. A bunch of akshamalas on Her neck, arms, wrists, and ankles is Her only shringar. A strange sense of hungering lines Her face. The eyes are listless. Static kula in one hand, the other raised feebly in varada mudra (gesture of blessing), Dhumavati is the very image of tamaguna. However, Dhumavati also implies an alignment of widowhood (an imposition, involuntary) with sanyasa (voluntary renunciation of one's wordly obligations). The Indian widow is no longer constrained by the demands of householding; she is is free to walk the spiritual path in pursuit of moksha. She stands for adversity that serves to build character.

In this light, Dhumavati is the bestower of siddhis. She is invincible and steady in the face of misfortune. The soothing background of the painting brings out the drama of the mahavidya's presence. Gently undulating mounds painted the palest of pastel green rise against the atypical hue of the sunset. It matches the colour of the chariot in the foreground, done up in tints and shades of gold, standing on the flower-studded grass beneath. Note the divinity exuded by the contrast of the gold of the chariot roof against the dimming blue of the twilight skies.

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Blue-Mist Handloom Carpet from Kashmir with Knotted Flowers

Blue-Mist Handloom Carpet from Kashmir with Knotted Flowers

Kashmir is a very important, and turbulent, religious and cultural centre. Famous for its craftsmanship and textiles, the likes of which are to be found nowhere else in the world, ours is a definitive collection of the produce of the looms of the valley. The most tasteful of sarees and jackets, made from wools and silks that are endemic to the mountains, are curated in our textiles section. Another of Kashmir's much-coveted produce is the statement Oriental rug, of which this is a fine example. Having emerged from the local handlooms of the region, it is a panel of sturdy homegrown cotton embroidered with ample proportions of silk to create an object of great beauty.

Knotted by hand, the plethora of flowers that could be seen on this took an eye-watering number of hours on the loom. Considerable skill and labour have gone into this to reproduce the picturesque local flora onto this rug. Varying tints and shades of brown, rich deep reds, and the occasional white make for a distinctly earthy palette, while the infusion of a dense azure into the central panel makes for an eye-catching colour combination. Note the concentric panels and the curves that define them, which are highly characteristic of these famous rugs of the Orient. A miniscule strip of matching azure hemmed along the edges, and short ivory tassels along the breadth, complete the picture.

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