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|Time required to recreate this artwork:||16 to 18 weeks|
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The four-armed deity has been represented in deviation from the usual Parvati concept. In her iconography, Parvati is a simple two-armed female. It is only when manifested as Durga, or Kali, that she has four arms. But in her manifestation as Durga, or Kali, she carries in her hands her characteristic weapons. Here the deity, instead of holding in her arms any of her weapons, is accompanying Shiva's dance moves by gesticulating her hands keeping in tune and time with his dance moves. This dance inclined form of the deity is alien to both, Durga and Parvati. So is her brown body complexion. Both Parvati and Durga have a body complexion, which glows like gold. Besides, this deity form is semi-nude. She has no upper garment and has her breasts fully exposed. This befits neither the iconography of Parvati or of Durga. In her various manifest forms, it is only Kali who not only inclines to dance but is also one of the three Adigurus of dance. Kali has deep complexion, usually black and in many of her manifestations walks nude and semi-nude. Thus, this deity form does not manifest Parvati, or Durga or even Kali but represents a blend of the various manifestations of the female energy often identified as Devi and Parvati, Durga, Kali and other female deity forms are her manifestations.
Obviously, the painting does not depict a legend but one of the cardinals of the Shaivite thought. Shiva is an entity beyond time and all-powerful but without Shakti is inert and a dead mass. Shiva's evening is the apex of inertness to evade which he invokes Shakti by performing tandava. The Sandhya-tandava is not thus a dance to amuse or please Parvati but a process to inhale Shakti or energy into his being and thus re-charge it and come out of his death-like inertness. Thus the Sandhya-tandava is not a personal thing between him and his spouse, or something casual, but rather a significant cosmic act effecting the entire cosmos for he is the sole source of life and his inertness would turn it into the dead mass. Hence, his Sandhya-tandava is everyone's concern and there assemble to witness and participate in it gods- Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, Ganesh, Karttikeya and others, cosmic powers- the sun, the moon, sages, rishis and munis- Narad, Sanak, Sanandan and others, celestial beings- kinnaras and gandharvas, the animal gods, men, women and other living ones.
The stage is set inside a closet consisting of hills on all sides. The darkness is seen descending over them. The sun has moved to down west but its effect is visible in variously shaded brownish sky. Random clouds, lurking in far off corners, have also turned pale brown and so appear the gandharvas riding on them. On Shiva's left there lay on the golden yellow ground the throne of the presiding deity the Shakti. She is seated upon a lotus laid over it. She has behind her a huge bolster and a small pedestal in her front to lay her feet on it. In one of her arms she is carrying a trident, while the other three are in the posture of dance. There is around her face a large halo and a rich crown on her head. The crescent and the third eye define her forehead and an emotionally charged face her entire being. She is attended by five maids, two carrying trays of snacks and the other three a chanwara, morachhal and fan.
The enthused Shiva is in a posture of dance. In his right hand he has a pipe and in his left his usual double drum, the damaru. His matted brown hair wave around his head and his snake has shot off his neck. He is wearing his tiger skin on his waist and that of the elephant on his back. He is in an emotional trance. On his right there stand Sun, Moon, Ganesh, Brahma and Vishnu paying homage with folded hands and Narad with his usual vina. Various gods, Brahmins, rishis and munis are seated in the foreground and Karttikeya and various animal gods towards his left. They are playing on jhanjha, mradanga, khanjari, trumpet and lyre. The entire scheme is delightfully executed. The rectangular canvas is reduced into a rectangular frame by a beautiful border consisting of floral design. This rectangular frame has been further reduced into an oval frame. All four corners have been beautifully negotiated by rendering on them floral and creeper patterns against a deep golden background.
This description by Prof. P.C. Jain and Dr Daljeet. Prof. Jain specializes on the aesthetics of ancient Indian literature. Dr Daljeet is the chief curator of the Visual Arts Gallery at the National Museum of India, New Delhi. They have both collaborated on numerous books on Indian art and culture.