Haloed Krishna, The Tribhanga Murari, Plays On The Flute

Haloed Krishna, The Tribhanga Murari, Plays On The Flute

Krishna is the most popular subject of choice for artistes in India. The predominant deity to be featured in paintings and sculptors, it is because He is to most Hindus the superlative of all Indian deities. He is portrayed as the most handsome of youths, the calmest and wisest of minds to have descended on ihloka (our actual realm of existence), and the most divine of all flutists. The stance that He has adopted in this murti is how His devotees love to picture Him - He is the tribhanga murari, the flutist (murari) whose form is punctuated (bhang) in three (tri) places namely the shoulder, the hip, and the ankle. The features of His countenance have been painstakingly engraved to convey a composure of divine calm and wisdom.

Sculpted from brass, which is a popular medium for art of a devotional-spiritual nature, this Krishna murti comes in two select finish variations, each of which has been curated for our collection because of its elegance. The natural brass variation has been tastefully polished to project a series of shadows at strategic points on the Lord's physique, while the bronze-like cocoa finish is an intense brown colour that draws the onlooker into a meditative trance. With the usual silks and shringar of Indian iconography intact, the tassel on His lotus petal-rimmed and trishool-engraved crown draws it downwards on one side. A multi-tiered pedestal, a tier of which is composed of an inverted and superbly lifelike lotus, supports the race of the Lord.

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Gems-studded Filligree Pendant With Dancing Chaturbhuja Ganesha Motif

Gems-studded Filligree Pendant With Dancing Chaturbhuja Ganesha Motif

This statement pendant is a fine example of Nepalese handiwork. Art and spirituality are integral aspects of Nepal's way of life, and this bit of adornment has been handpicked because it pays adherence to both. This pendant depicts a flared dhoti-clad Ganesha who is dancing blissfully on a lotus pedestal, the rat (His vahana) at His feet. Despite the miniscule proportions of this ornament and the precious gold and gems it is fashioned out of, the level of detail that has been captured in the image is awe-inspiring. It is a truly devoted artisan who could have smithed such perfection onto traditional Nepalese gem-studded filligree.

The finest of gold wires have been used to do the delicate tracery that fills Ganesha's aureole and His dhoti, and contain the gems along the silhouette. Zooming in on the pendant will enable you to appreciate the high-precision workmanship as well as the superb-quality stones that have been employed to go into this pendant. The piece is perfectly symmetrical, and the iconography of the beloved deity is replete (four arms in motion, a bowl of laddoos, et al). Note how the petals of the lotus pedestal have been studded with gems of cool blues and an earthy red at the centre.

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Coral-Reef Handloom Carpet from Kashmir with Knotted Flowers

Coral-Reef Handloom Carpet from Kashmir with Knotted Flowers

The beauty and turbulence of Kashmir is captured in the region's signature handicrafts. While sarees and shawls of the widely coveted pashmina make abound, we also make it a point to add to our collection a handful of the latest rugs each season. These emerge from the famous handlooms that dot the valley, the skill for which lies within each inter-generational family of Kashmiri weavers. This sturdy yet luxuriantly patterned rug is one such example of Kashmiri handiwork. Made from a cotton foundation superimposed with superfine silk embroidery, these beauteous rugs have evolved to carpet Kashmiri homes with both warmth and aesthetics in the height of the Himalayan winter.

This rug features knotted flowers, a signature speciality of the Orient. Done painstakingly by hand, this technique yields exquisite results as could be seen in this carpet - singular patterns (a wide variety of local flora), intense colours, and a texture to die for. Note the dense ivory tassels along the breadth of this rug that set off the earthy colour palette of the field. Zooming in on each surface area unit would enable you to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness of each element of the pattern. Clothe your floors in this gorgeous Kashmiri rug to add to your space the elusive charm of the Orient.

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Simhavahini Devi Chhinnamasta

Simhavahini Devi Chhinnamasta

The Chhinnamasta belongs to the Mahavidyas (embodiments of great cosmic wisdom), the quirkiest of the Hindu devi pantheon. While the word devi inspires in one's mind an image of the calm and beauteous maternal figure, the das (ten) Mahavidyas are each poles apart from the same. Chhinnamasta, the sixth of the ten embodiments, is the severed-head version of the Tibetan Buddhist Devi Vajrayogini (in Sanskrit, 'chhinna' means 'separated', 'masta' 'head'). Her iconography is unsettling, in keeping with the rest of the Mahavidyas. She rides the most ferocious of wild beasts between Her legs (as opposed to the usual sidesaddle of Hindu devis), a lion so bloodthirsty its tongue protrudes out of its mouth from between its powerful white teeth. The streams of blood that spurt out of Her slashed-through neck pour straight into the mouth of Her own severed head, which She holds in one hand. With the rest of Her four hands She carries a container of fresh blood, wields a sword that she dips the tip of in the blood, and fondles the mane of Her trusty steed. The rest of Her is every bit in keeping with typical Indian iconography: a beauteous form clad in ample silks and jewels, an ornate crown with a moon sitting on it, and long black tresses that captivate the onlooker.

This watercolour conveys the contradictions that Devi Chhinamasta is all about. Her sahasranama is laden with paradoxes - from Prachanda Chandika to Sarvanandapradayini. This goes to show that Her wrath could be turned to something infinitely blissful with worship and devotion. Note the peacefulness that pervades the landscape behind Her. Undulating verdure punctuated with cool, still, grey lakes (one of which is in the foreground, at the superbly lifelike paws of the lion) and flower-laden shrubs and trees. A couple of birds soar against the light of the setting sun, while pristine templetops could be seen in the distance. These ar ein stark contrast to the superimposed imagery of blood and gore.

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Tribhang Murari Plays While The Cow Listens

Tribhang Murari Plays While The Cow Listens

Krishna is the choicest subject of Indian artisans. The most deeply loved of the Indian pantheon, it is also His great personal beauty that makes him a favourite with those who produce and patronise devotional-spiritual art. This Krishna murti has been handpicked for its apt portrayal of the highly characteristic deity. He is playing on the murali as He stands with His form jutting out in three places namely the shoulder, the hip, and the ankles. This is why He is called the Tribhanga Murari ('tri' in Sanskrit means 'three'; 'bhang', bent; and 'murari', one with the flute). He is a very devoted cowherd, and one of His beloved wards is standing right behind Him listening to the divine music that His flute exudes. The whole composition is on a pedestal as grand as they get, what with two layers of blooming lotus petals atop a row of engravings that resemble stacked-up scrolls.

The closely draped dhoti of richly embroidered silk, the handsomely sculpted torso that is bare but for the streams of necklaces that constitute His shringar, and the gorgeous sashes framing the entirety of His stature, are what bring out the Lord's youthful handsomeness to perfection. From the tips of His toes to the lobes of His ears, zoom in on each part of His physique to take in the beauty of His shringar. Each of His digits, the musculature of His limbs, and the superbly proportionate features of His countenance are said to be the hallmarks of a good sculpture. Note the multilayered crown and the multitiered halo that complement His gracious brow with the Vaishnava tilak.

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Frosty-Spruce and Maroon Sambhalpuri Handloom Sari from Orissa with Ikat Woven Peacocks and Elephants

Frosty-Spruce and Maroon Sambhalpuri Handloom Sari from Orissa with Ikat Woven Peacocks and Elephants

Sambhalpur in Orissa is where homegrown silks are dyed and woven to produce the region's signature sarees. Ikat is the style of weaving endemic to the region, which may have been in vogue in the western hills since the Middle Ages or even as recent as two centuries ago. It is virtually the hallmark of Orissa's handloom industry, and is characterised by dhadi (warp ikat at the borders) and muha (weft ikat in the endpiece). The Sambhalpuri silk you see on this page contains supplementary warp- and weft-work in addition to the bandha, and dyed the earthy colours - slate-green on the field, glimmering red and peach on the border and the endpiece, and pale browns and oranges - of the rural landscape of the state.

Zoom in on the complex field of this saree to ascertain the beauty of the motifs woven into the fabric. Between thick panels of the highly recognisable ikat weave are motifs of the local fauna. Elephants fiddling with the foliage with their trunks, peacocks perched on the upper reaches. These images have been very precisely and uniformly reproduced all the way till the fall of the saree. Do not miss the exquisite endpiece, and the rangoli-esque motifs on it. They are the inimitable result of the weave in question. While Sambhalpuri sarees are traditionally worn to poojas and other ritual functions, you could wear this one to any evening gala with a traditional spin. Your choicest gold pieces would go well with this one.

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Chaturbhuja Bhadrakali Pendant Round

Chaturbhuja Bhadrakali Pendant Round

Contained in a small, circular pendant, this image of the Devi Bhadrakali is as awe-inspiring and ferocious as they get. Portrayed on sterling silver, the iconography is stunningly replete. She is dark-complexioned and long-limbed. Her tresses fall in wild curls about Her shoulders, and a sliver of the silver moon rests on Her brow. Her pearls-and-jewels shringar is what practically clothes her besides the girdle of severed human arms around Her loins. In Her four arms (ashtabhuja) are the remains of vanquished adharmees and the sword She has weilded against them. The aspect of her that truly conveys Her power as Devi are Her large, bloodshot eyes, and their fierce, determined gaze.

Devi Bhadrakali stands on the prostrate form of a man on the grass. Except for the hints of adornment on His arms, neck, and lobes, He is naked. The dominant colour of the background is the rich golden yellow of the tropical sunset. A layer of thick, pale blue clouds have been painted along the arc at the centre of which is an embossed aum syllable in smooth silver. The foreground comprises of the glowing green grass on which the ensemble stands, superimposed with a jet of water. The pristine silver of the foundation rims the composition. This statement pendant would inspire whoever sets eyes on it with an eerie curiosity about Devi Bhadrakali.

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Krishna Disguised as a Gopi Teasing Radha

Krishna Disguised as a Gopi Teasing Radha

Rendered in Marwar idiom of Rajasthani art style, pursuing the theme, style and everything of an early nineteenth century miniature from Jodhpur, in its exactness except the painting’s size and the background colour of the circle in the centre containing the figures of Radha and Krishna, the painting portrays a grieving Radha for Krishna’s failure to reach there despite the promise he had made her, and Krishna disguised as a Gopi standing before her. Radha had brought with her lotuses for Krishna but the same now lie on the ground. She is unable to raise her head and dispel her disappointment which further aggravates when she thinks how for him she had adorned herself like a bride and had come so far in the night. The full large moon and the colourful nature around make her more miserable. The night is advancing and she does not know if he would join her or she shall have to pass the night in this grove of trees all alone save a few compassionate cows as eagerly awaiting Krishna’s arrival.

Krishna, mischievous as he is particularly when inventing ways for teasing Radha, is already standing before her but disguised as a Gopi and, as he had pre-meditated, Radha fails to recognise him not only because he is in a Gopi’s guise or has his face covered with the sari’s end, but also because with her bent head she is able to see only his feet and the sari worn around his legs. As if all this is not enough, for further beguiling her Krishna alternates his peacock feather-crest with an elaborate ‘benda’ – a forehead ornament, and instead of his usual flute carries a vina – a stringed instrument, like Todi Ragini manifesting the mood of separation in love. Except his blue body colour he has merged his identity completely with the Gopi’s. Maybe, Krishna struck the strings of his lyre but Radha, lost in his thought, might not have heard it at all, and this might have inspired Krishna to tease her more and more. Allegorically, Krishna as Gopi, that is, one as Radha – the soul in devotion, herself, asserts that a heart would find Him like itself if it truly merges in Him.

Obviously, it was after the Bhagavata Purana and the Jaideva’s Gita-Govinda discovered dimensions of Krishna’s divinity in his love’s sport, there developed a huge body of myths that sublimated not only Krishna’s fondness for Radha, or Radha’s passionate yearnings for him but also many lighter aspects of life, the essence of Krishna’s Vaishnavism that accepted the life as it is and discovered its divinity in its sublimation. The great masters like Vallabha and Chaitanya added to such narrative and poetic dimensions of the Bhagavata and the Gita Govinda philosophical perspective and devotional cult and elevated them to the status of God’s divine sport with Krishna manifesting Him, and Radha being its timeless medium. When the fanatic Mughal rule of the later days sought to trample Vaishnava icons under its boots and the institution of Vaishnavism was in great peril, Rajasthan emerged as the timeless sanctuary of Krishna’s worship cult and there emerged not only a huge body of art portraying Vaishnava myths but also numerous shrines.

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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SImhavahini Durga, Wielding A Weapon In Each Of Her Eighteen Arms

SImhavahini Durga, Wielding A Weapon In Each Of Her Eighteen Arms

No finite number of limbs suffices for the most ferocious of the Indian pantheon. The Devi Durga's force is invincible; Her weapons to vanquish all traces of adharma, many. While devies of ihloka (the earth) and parloka (the latter realm ie the heavens) are born to serve their respective husbands, Ma-Durga was born to conquer the most demonic and lord of asuras Mahisasura. When most devies adorn themselves with gold and jewels befitting their status in society, the finest of weapons such as the trishool that towers over Her head and the numerous goads and swords in Her many hands are Her primary shringar. Despite Her widely venerated ferocity, Her beauteous form is not wasted on devoted artisans who try to capture Her in their art and sculpture.

This fine bronze of the Devi Durga is an apt representation of this complex deity. She has eighteen arms, each wielding a unique heavenly implement, and rides the lioness no less fierce than She is ('simha' in Sanskrit is lion; 'vahini', one who rides). She is seated in lalitasana on Her back, Her stance unswerving, Her gaze determined. She is bedecked in a silken saree and ample golds that serve to bring out Her superlative beauty. Her haloed countenance bears a composure of maternal affection, which goes with Her anterior-most hand raised in blessing. The features are carved in such lifelike detail as could be found only in Swamimalai, the home of bronze. Together with Her vahana, She is placed on a sturdy tri-layered pedestal of relatively simple form.

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Almond-Cream Handloom Carpet from Kashmir with Knotted Flowers All-Over

Almond-Cream Handloom Carpet from Kashmir with Knotted Flowers All-Over

Nothing like a statement handloom rug from India to add some personality to your space. This sturdy, luxuriantly knotted number would be a great pick. Its pure cotton foundation gives it much-needed sturdiness, while the sheer variety of skilfully knotted flowers in the foreground oozes with traditional glamour. Kashmir has been the home of such signature rugs of the Orient, the exclusive artistry for which has evolved over generations of professional weaver families. In fact, the skill that has gone into the gorgeous silk embroidery as well as the kind of flora that has been reproduced in the pattern are both endemic to the valley.

The ivory tassels along the breadth of this rug bring out the flush of earthy tones and pastels that make up the colour palette. The one-of-a-kind floral and rangoli-esque motifs are best appreciated by zooming in on each of the delicately edged panels, separated by strips of the pristine foundation. They are made through the signature knotting technqiue of the Orient, using threads of silk against the cotton foundation. One could spend hours chilling indoors on this beauty, beating the winter with a large fire and gazing at the handiwork of Kashmiri artisans.

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