The artist has drawn the Navagraha panel – symbolic icons of nine planets close to the moon on the top left corner, whereas a five-icon-panel, the symbolic vision of Pancha-Mahabhutas – five elements of which cosmos is composed, has been drawn on the top right corner close to the sun. This placing of the two sets of icons : Navagrahas and Pancha-Mahabhutas, seems to be well considered and based on the deep knowledge of Indian astronomy/astrology for while ‘grahas’ relate to the moon, fire, the ‘bhuta’ that is inherent and underlies in all other ‘Mahabhutas’ : water, earth, air and sky, and is hence the primary Mahabhuta, has its most manifest form in the sun. The Mahabhuta icon in the centre, obviously a representation of fire, has been differently conceived for its wider presence. Being cool by nature the moon has been painted in yellow, while the hot sun has a red face.
The sugarcane plant, dear to deities and their cherished food, a product of the earth, has been drawn just in the peripheral zone of the moon, perhaps because it matures under mild sun but brilliant moon, whereas close to the sun is a large lotus, a product of water, perhaps because it takes from the sun all its brilliance and vigour. The bottom corners have human world with its growth perspective which is primarily the result of male and female union. On one corner has been represented palanquin-bearers carrying a bride, an act leading to male-female union, and on the other, a married couple performing elephant worship, a ritual assuring fertility, growth and prosperity, which being associated with Lakshmi the elephant assures. Fertility, growth and prosperity are Lakshmi’s attributes. In the space in between, on the two sides there are representations of tortoise and fish, two of Lord Vishnu’s incarnations, and banana plant and bangles’ wearing ladies, both auspicious icons. Other symbols have identical connotations.
Primarily, the painting represents the folk vision of Brahmanda-chakra, the Jambu Dvipa – earth, with Mount Meru as its axis and six other divine bodies or constituents of Brahmanda, rotating around it. The central circle, symbolic of the earth, consists of nine circular zones whereas rotating ones consist only of seven. The central circle alone has a fish-zone indicative of the presence of life and water. Scholars have variously interpreted the nine layered formation of the earth, though more acceptably as the earth, seven ‘Lokas’ above and the ‘Patala’ – nether world below. Mythical Mount Meru has immeasurable length beyond space above or below.
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.