In this one-of-a-kind watercolour, She sits atop a delicate pink lotus in full bloom, Her tender foot rested on a lotuspad. Her figure is full and broad, adorned with ample golds and pearls and jewels. From beneath Her elaborate ruby- and emerald-studded gold crown emerges a sea of superbly curly, frizzy black tresses that seemingly have a life of their own. Note the glow of the third eye that suffuses the Devi's even temple.
Undulating hills, their verdant coat set off by the grace of the twilight sun, constitute the background, together with a couple of temple-like structures to the left of the painting.
Made from the popular medium of brass but with features as beauteous as if they were sculpted from bronze, the rest of the Sarasvati iconography is intact. She has the lithe form of a classical dancer, Her limbs bent in the most gracious of natya motions. An ornate crown as tall and slender as She is rests on Her brow. A dhoti of super-fine silk is draped navel downwards, while Her torso as well as arms and ankles are laden with layers of shringar fit for a heavenly deity. Apart from the veena in Her anterior hands, She holds a pothi and a rosary in the posterior hands. The sashes emerging from Her lotus-petalled halo spread about Her shoulders, while the ones descending from Her waist add balance to the composition. She is placed on a pedestal that has four layers featuring lotus petal engravings (alternate layers) and pistil-shaped carving (the topmost).
It is indeed the pale ivory creme and pastels of the dense madhubani border that bring out the blue of this saree. Having traditionally been done on mud walls and primitive canvases, the sharp geometric curves and the natural colour palette of this style of painting have been reproduced here on the delicate silk fabric. The border consists of one long sprig of foliage held in by panels of miniscule cursive and triangular motifs. The all-important endpiece, as well as the part of the border across the pleats leading up to the same, feature a rustic black-haired beauty dancing in the woods. More elaborate motifs of the evergreen florals of Bihar could be found in the gracious falls of this saree.
The depiction of Radha-Krishna in this painting is most unusual. While Radha is seen to dance to Her Krishna's music in many compositions, this one has the Krishna figure at the pistil. A figure of Radha is painted on each of the petals that surround it. Her arms are raised, Her ghagra flowing to the motions of the dance. Her jet black hair cascades down Her back. Despite the minimalistic strokes of the brush that are atypical of Madhubani paintings, the 12 figures in this painting are each replete with befitting shringar. Krishna's flowing silks and elaborate crown have been painted with painstaking detail, the trees behind Him the very picture of the Vrindavan of His boyhood.
Pilgrims to Tiruvanjali, where the samudra-manthan is said to have taken place, pray to the Shveta Ganpati on the banks of the Kaveri to this day. Polished almost the colour of rose gold, this sculpture of Ganesha brings out the innocence and generosity of His demeanour. Seated in lalitasana on a blooming lotus, He is draped in the silks and shringar fit for the heavenly being that is Shiva-Parvati's offspring. His trusty vahana, the mouse, stands at His feet, offering Him another laddoo (that plump belly is proof that no amount of sweets is enough for the Lord!). The usual implements are in His hands - weapons, His own broken tusk, and of course the laddooes. The superb crown, together with the ornately engraved halo and shapely, generously adorned elephant ear-flaps, conveys a great deal of majesty. Note how lifelike are the eyes of the Lord, and the tattooed trunk that curls down over His torso.
Ariwork has an instantly recognisable finish. The style is endemic to Kashmir, and as such no artisan in any other part of the world has the skill to produce such magnificent embroidery. Zoom in on especially the central red panel of this rug to take in its beauty. On the top is a continuous chain stitch supported by multiple small straight stitches beneath, done using locally made crewel needles. The resulting embroidery is of signature florals that include delicately curving tendrils, superbly shaped petals, and numerous other details that are indescribably beautiful. Laying this on your floors and chilling on it on a quiet evening indoors would almost transport you to the exotic Orient.
This painting therefore depicts the Buddha's face next to the form of a conch. It is a graceful, curvaceous conch; its body ornamented with engravings to enhance the natural beauty of its shape. Its rightward spirals are in tandem with the celestial motions of the heavenly bodies as well as the whorls the Buddha's tresses are arranged in, His conch-esque navel, and the urna (the third eye indicative of divine vision) on His brow. In this painting the Buddha's eyes are shapely and shut, the curve of His brow resembling the wings of the free albatross in motion. A long slender nose ends right above a lotus-like mouth, which are set against a full countenance bearing a composure of tranquility. The tips of His lengthened lobes almost graze His shoulders, on which is draped a robe of gold. While the background is occupied with cloud formations, a shower of gorgeous red petals dominates the foreground. Both these symbolisms are drawn from the rich thangka tradition of Tibet. Note the gentle glow of the halo that lines the silhouette of the Buddha, almost like it surrounds the conch itself.
An unusual crown seemingly made from sharp spines is held in place by a band of lotus petals. It is impossible to meet the gaze of Her raised brow without shuddering at the thought of one's own share of adharma. A fierce mouth completes the countenance framed by dangling kundalas from each ear. The rest of Her shringar comprises of necklaces cascading down Her torso, and a bunch of amulets and anklets that clothe Her gracious limbs. The pedestal She is sitting on is at the centre of an even larger pedestal, the base of which is engraved with lotus petals. From the base pedestal emerges a statement prabhavali (aureole) rimmed with flames that are a symbol of the destruction of adharma.
Balucharies are known to tell a story. The endpiece of this variety of Indian sarees are embroidered with contrasting coloured threads, such as pale gold against the deep shimmering pink of this one. Repetitive panels depicting moments of Radha-Krishna's togetherness are punctuated by rows of minsicule paisleys on the endpiece, and a panel of the lone Radha dancing runs through the centre. The border despite the narrowness is intricately embroidered with scenes from the Gita, as is the norm with these BEngali silks. As gorgeous as Indian silks get, we suggest you team this with the best of your gold hand-me-down pieces.
Amidst the gently blooming, pale pastel-coloured petals of the freshwater lotus, She sits with Her ankles crossed and knees raised. She strums the beautifully tattooed veena to make such divine music that makes the clouds in the background swim across the sky and the waters of the stream in the foreground swirl. The angulature of the curves of Her beauteous torso and the wisps of rich green silk that float about Her betray the fact that the deity is motioning to Her own music. From the flowers in Her black hair complementing the haloed gold crown, as minimalistic as the rest of Her shringar, to the gorgeous landscape that surrounds Her, each element of nature in this thangka is highly characteristic of this type of Tibetan Buddhist painting.
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