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Apsaras on Column Piece

Apsaras on Column Piece
Item Code: ZA78
South Indian Temple Wood Carving
2.5 ft x 1.0 ft Dia
25.0 kg
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This wood piece with stone effects, the tough rendered tougher, creates absolute beauty and thereby supreme delight, the most tender of all human experiences and the tenderest of all ever created on earth. It echoes with the great aestheticism of India's temple art wherein sculpture blended with architecture to realise the highest form of art. This golden era of the great art began with Guptas of early India and almost ended with Chandelas of medieval days. Khajuraho temples are the apex of Chandelas' temple art and this piece has reflections of Khajuraho, though as much the emotionality of Gupta art and the precision and finesse of South Indian Chola bronzes. Every inch of Khajuraho temples, from plinth to tower and column to wall, has human figures, the temptingly beautiful maidens and youthful males, to populate it. This wood piece reproduces a member of the central column of a temple's 'Maha-mandapa', which usually has all its sides carved with beautiful lively figures.

This column piece has three youthful 'apsaras' and three parrots around it. The column has been conceived as the part of a tree trunk around which the artist has positioned his three figures. Parrots, a larger one and the other two smaller ones, are placed on stumps created by chopping its branches. All the three birds are mythically decorated and are charged with the same mood as is the entire piece. The larger one has its beak exactly directed to the nipple of the maiden busy in applying vermilion. It appears as if the bird would extend its beak and suck from her nipple. The other one, clasping the trunk with its wings, seems to be uniting in love with its counterpart, though the figure of the counterpart is only approximate.

The three 'apsaras', the maidens charged with brimming youth and inciting beauty, have very well defined sharp features - lotus-like eyes, oval faces, sharp noses, comely rounded chins, tempting lips, well shaped cheeks, proportionate necks, broad shoulders and impressively rising breasts. Their slender tall figures are highly proportionate. Their thin subdued waists as against their heavy thighs present a tempting contrast. The navels, supposed to incite in Indian Kamashashtra the irresistible sex passion, are exceptionally deep and eye catching. Their postures with multi-curves give extra projection to their hips and breasts and rhythmic elegance to their entire figures. Their spirally dressed hair further adorned by beaded ornaments are exceptionally beautiful. Each figure is a mound of gold of which the artist would not like to conceal any part. He has, hence, used no garments to cover their figures save a sash floating into air or trailing to ground or a girdle suspending from their waist upon their vulvas concealing but not rendering less fascinating their most distinctive private treasures.

All three 'apsaras' are delightfully adorning themselves obviously for uniting in love with their lords. One of them is applying 'mahavara', or lac to her feet. She is holding in her other hand the branch of the tree she is standing under. The other two are in the process of applying 'sindura', or vermilion on their foreheads. One has her hand above her head just upon the line dividing her hair and the other one has just picked the vermilion. In a less suited medium like the wood the artist has simply worked out a wonder of beauty.

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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