Stories in Stone: Shiva appeases Parvati


Stories in Stone is all about sculptures — either standalone or entire narrative panels. Each post in this series showcases one such sculpture, looks beyond its iconography and deconstructs the details in an attempt to understand the idea and/or the story it conveys.


The sculpture under discussion in this post has a bit of an identity crisis. The temple it is located in refers to it by one name; I refer to it by another name based on its iconographical details; and a book that I highly respect and refer to frequently refers to it by a third name. What’s in a name, you may ask? Plenty, I say, for in this case, with change in identity, the story and the context changes as well.

The sculpture in question is that of Shiva and Parvati and is located one of the external niches of a shrine in the outer praharam or circumambulatory path of the Lalithambigai (also spelled as Lalithambikai) Temple at Thirumeeyachur (or Thirumiyachur) in Tamil Nadu. At this temple, Shiva is known here as Meghanathar and though He is the main deity here, the shrine to Devi or Lalithambigai is more popular

Like most temples, the Lalithambigai Temple too has a sthala puranam or legend associated it. There’s a long version and a short version and since this post is about a particular sculpture and not the temple, I’m going to stick to sharing the short version with you.

Continue reading “Stories in Stone: Shiva appeases Parvati”

Advertisements
Krishna in Indian Art, Krishna in Art

Celebrating Krishna in Art

“Indian art would be incomplete without Krishna”.

I first heard this statement and variations of it all through the year-long (2015–2016) course on Indian Aesthetics  at Jnanapravaha Mumbai. I must confess to feeling a little bemused with this statement at that that time, because I didn’t really know much about Indian art, and what little I did was not about Krishna.

But as the course proceeded and I was introduced to different forms and styles of Indian art that perception changed. From the classical to the folk to the contemporary, from sculptures to manuscript and miniature paintings, from wall frescoes and murals to prints to contemporary interpretations, and more — Krishna was the constant all through.

And as it usually happens with any kind of growing awareness, I started noticing Krishna everywhere around me — roadside shrines, people’s homes, museums, posters, book covers, etc. It was no different when I travelled and I saw Krishna in the most unexpected of places. This new-found interest even led me to dig into my photo archives to see if I had captured any images of Krishna. Not surprisingly, I found quite a few. That is when the idea of this post was germinated in my mind.

Krishna in Indian Art, Krishna in Art

But the idea really grew and took shape when I attended an exhibition titled “Visions of Krishna” at the Artisans’ in Mumbai in August last year. I loved the exhibition, particularly the lithographic and oleographic prints on sale. The exhibition also helped me visualise the idea of a blog post on the myriad ways Krishna is  depicted in art.

My initial idea was to write a post around the exhibition and I even got a draft written but for some reason I never published it. This was a year ago. When I looked at the draft again a week or so back, I decided to revive it and broaden the scope by including art, not just from the exhibition, but from all over. And that is how this post took shape.

As the title indicates, this post is a celebration of Krishna in art by exploring Krishna as a sculpture, as a painting, as a terracotta panel, in print; Krishna as a divine being, a mischievous child, a romantic hero, as a destroyer of evil; Krishna represented in the traditional form or in a quirky manner, as a form to be worshipped or as a medium to sell hair oil ! In other words this collection of 22 images is Krishna all the way !

Continue reading “Celebrating Krishna in Art”

“Mutable”: The changing nature of ceramic and clay art in India

I love experiences that challenge me, make me think and occasionally shake me up a bit — not too much, mind you, just a little. Be it a book, travel, a music performance, food… the memories that have stayed with me are the ones that offered something extra by way of perception. The exhibition on “Mutable: Ceramic and Clay Art in India since 1947“ at the Piramal Museum of Art in Mumbai was one such experience. Curated by Sindhura D.M. and Annapurna Garimella, Mutable showcases 70 years of ceramic and clay art objects sourced from artists, artisans, institutions and private collectors from across India.

I wasn’t aware of this exhibition till photos of its preview night on October 13, 2017, exploded on all my social media timelines. Friends who knew of my interest in all things art tagged me and I went dizzy just keeping up. In the days that followed, tantalising articles and write-ups in newspapers followed, tempting me to drop everything and visit the exhibition, but as it happened it took me 10 days before I could actually do so.

It was my first visit to the Piramal Museum of Art and when I walked in on that October afternoon, I didn’t know where to look first — the large open exhibition space or the exhibits. Exhibition spaces fascinate me in how they are designed to interact with the exhibits within and also how their very design enhances or limits viewer experience. In this case the large open gallery, a viewing gallery on the first floor, a domed roof and the exhibits promised a great experience.

And I wasn’t wrong. Continue reading ““Mutable”: The changing nature of ceramic and clay art in India”

The painted rooms of Bundi Palace

When our group arrived at the ticket counter for the Bundi Palace on that November morning in 2016, the sight before me took my breath away. A path ascended and disappeared seemingly into nowhere, while part of the Palace loomed up above me, soaring up to the skies. In the distance, walls of the Taragarh Fort snaked away, disappearing into the mountainside it was built on.

Taragarh Palace, Taragarh Fort, Bundi Palace, Art, Painted Rooms of Bundi Palace, Royal Wall Paintings, Bundi School of Painting, Travel, Rajasthan, Incredibl India

If I had been awed by that first sight of the Palace and Fort when I had arrived in Bundi, I was spellbound now. I couldn’t help but recall Rudyard Kipling’s words when he first saw the Fort and the Palace at Bundi in the winter of 1887.

such a Palace [is] … the work of goblins rather than of men. It is built into and out of the hillside, in gigantic terrace on terrace, and dominates the whole of the city.

Our group was at the palace to see the paintings within and our explorations weren’t too different from Kipling’s. Like him, we too walked up a steep, stone-paved path and entered the Bundi Palace Complex through the Hathipol, and then explored its many corridors, rooms, halls, etc. with a guide authorised to unlock the many closed areas and tell us stories about them. [1]

Continue reading “The painted rooms of Bundi Palace”

Travel, Rajasthan, Hadoti, Madan Singh Trust Museum, Kota Garh, City Palace, Painted Rooms, Palaces of Rajasthan, Museums of Rajasthan

The painted rooms of Kota Garh

When we arrived at the Rao Madho Singh Trust Museum in Kota on that November morning last year, I was taken aback to see the freshly whitewashed exteriors of the Museum building. I mean, why would a red sandstone structure be whitewashed over? The white is so blinding in the mid-morning sunlight that I had to shade my eyes to even look at it.

Travel, Rajasthan, Hadoti, Madan Singh Trust Museum, Kota Garh, City Palace, Painted Rooms, Palaces of Rajasthan, Museums of Rajasthan
The Madho Singh Trust Museum in the Kota Garh or City Palace

Travel, Rajasthan, Hadoti, Madan Singh Trust Museum, Kota Garh, City Palace, Painted Rooms, Palaces of Rajasthan, Museums of Rajasthan The Museum is located within the historic Kota City Palace or Kota Garh complex, which consists of many buildings, but none of the other buildings in the palace complex were whitewashed. In fact, the building next to the Museum has been spared the whitewash (except for the domes) and I was able to admire the intricate stone jaalis or lattice-work that covered the entire structure.

The building with the jaalis, however, was not open to the public, making me wonder if the whitewash was for the benefit of the visitors to the Museum, who (according to the website) visit it see its

rich collections of arms and armour, royal regalia and ritual paraphernalia, textiles and objets d’art, and world-famous miniature paintings and wall frescos.

As our group was entering the Museum, there was a moment of panic where I wondered if the interiors of the Museum have been whitewashed over as well, obliterating the wall paintings that I was most keen to see. But then just past the Elephant Gate (see header), I looked up and saw a gloriously painted ceiling (see photograph below) and I knew that all was well.

Continue reading “The painted rooms of Kota Garh”

Jhalawar, Gadh Mahal, Gadh Palace, Government Museum, Sculpture Gallery, Chamunda

Stories in Stone: The Chamunda of Chandrabhaga

Stories in Stone is all about sculptures — either standalone or entire narrative panels. Each post in this series showcase one such sculpture, look beyond its iconography and deconstruct the details in an attempt to understand the idea and/or the story it conveys.


Jhalawar, Gadh Mahal, Gadh Palace, Government Museum, Sculpture Gallery, ChamundaThe Government Museum at Jhalawar has a stunning collection of sculptures on display. With a few exceptions, most sculptures are in good condition and easily recognisable for what/who they represent.

One large room/gallery is crammed with sculptures found from the nearby areas of Chandrabhaga, Jhalrapatan, Kakuni, etc.; more sculptures are exhibited in the corridor outside. Knowing how museums function, I’m pretty sure that only a fraction of the Museum’s collection is actually exhibited; there would be many more sculptures in storage.

There are dikpalas (or guardians of the directions), various forms of Shiva, Vishnu, and Devi, and some very interesting composite sculptures. But the sculpture which stood out for me, and is the topic of today’s post, was a poorly preserved, but recognisable sculpture of Chamunda (see photo on the left) placed in the corridor.

Before we get into the details of this sculpture, let us place Chamunda in context through her creation myth, associated stories and standard iconography.

Continue reading “Stories in Stone: The Chamunda of Chandrabhaga”