Chintamani Lokeshvara , Museum Treasure, Museum Exhibit, Himalayan Art Gallery, CSMVS, Mumbai, Nepal, 19th Century

Museum Treasure: Chintamani Lokeshvara

The Himalayan Art Gallery at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) reopened earlier this year after a period of extensive renovation and restoration. For some reason, I had never entered the gallery in its previous avatar and the re-opening and ensuing write-ups in the newspapers gave me the perfect chance to remedy that.

One rainy afternoon in August this year saw me at the Himalayan Gallery, which has a collection of prayer wheels, a Buddhist shrine, sculptures, jewellery, tangkhas and more, displayed there. The gallery is bright and colourful and the soft Tibetan music played in the gallery transported me to another time and place.

Among all the exhibits on display, what caught my eye was a rectangular wooden plaque, which at first glance seemed to be heavily carved. A second, and closer, glance revealed that not only was the wooden plaque intricately carved, it was studded with gems of all shapes and sizes. The information plaque read: Chintamani Lokeshvara.

Chintamani Lokeshvara , Museum Treasure, Museum Exhibit, Himalayan Art Gallery, CSMVS, Mumbai, Nepal, 19th Century
Chintamani Lokeshvara, Jeweled Plaque, Nepal, 19th Century CE

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Museum Treasure: The Bhu-Varaha at CSMVS sculpture gallery

The sculpture gallery of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) has many treasures within, with some of them being more impressive than the others. One of the “quieter” sculptures is that of a 10th century Varaha from Karnataka.

On my visits to the sculpture gallery, I would give this sculpture — which is about 3.5 feet in height and about 2 feet in width — only a cursory glance, passing it over for other exhibits. It was not until I had to write an assignment as part of my Indian Aesthetics course at Jnanapravaha, where I had to choose one of the sculptures in the gallery that I had my first good look at the Varaha.

And regretted not having paid attention to it before, so rich were the details and the iconography. At the end of my detailed tour of the sculpture gallery, there was no doubt which sculpture I would be writing about. 🙂

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Museum Treasure: The 8 Shivas

When you enter the sculpture gallery at the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya (CSMVS) at Mumbai, look to your left. You will see a towering slab of ‘stone’, about 11-12 feet in height. If you stand in front of the slab and position yourself a few feet away from it, this is what you will see.

Mahadeva, Ashta Shiva, Parashiva, Sculpture Gallery, Relief, CSMVS, Museum Treasure, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu SangrahalayaYour eyes will be drawn to the central standing figure and the 6 figures who surround him. Two figures emerge from his shoulders and one rises from behind him. You will notice three more figures emerging from the middle figure — two from his sides and one from behind him. In addition to these 7 figures, you will notice five more figures grouped around the legs of the central standing figure.

Now move closer to see the finer details on the relief.

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The Jewish heritage of Mumbai

Somewhere in Basra, c. 1831

The room was dark and the only light, feeble as it was, came from a flickering oil lamp placed in a corner of the room. But it was enough for the fortune-teller to recognise the man being ushered in by his son.

“Salaam, Master,” the fortune-teller greeted the robed man.

You know who I am, ” the robed man said. It was a statement and not a question.

“Who doesn’t know you, Master?” said the fortune-teller. “Everyone knows you and about you.”

“Then you also know why I have come here.”

“I can guess, Master,” the fortune-teller bowed.

“I have no choice but to leave this region. Where should I go? London? China? Where does my future lie?”

The fortune-teller was silent for a long time. Just when the man was about to ask him again, the fortune-teller said.

“Your should leave immediately for Bombay in Al-Hind [Arabic for India]. A bright future and fortune lies awaits you there.”

The robed man was surprised with the response, but he knew better than to ignore the fortune teller’s advice. After paying him handsomely and thanking him, the robed man left. His mind was already planning for the move to Bombay.

And sometime later in 1832, the man arrived in Bombay and over the next 32 years made a phenomenal contribution to the city that Bombay was developing into. That man was David Sassoon

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