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.
The 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.
I love museums. I love museums that are interactive even more. And if a museum allows me to photograph their exhibits, particularly their more unusual ones, then they become my best friends. The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London, is one such museum, with a lot of beautiful and rare exhibits, including many from India.
But what caught my eye on my visit there, was an exhibit I had never seen before, and for that matter never even heard of before—a minbar.
A minbar is a prayer pulpit used for the midday service on Fridays. This magnificent minbar is made of panels of cedar wood with delicate inlay of ivory and wood, enhancing its intricate geometrical patterns. The minbar also has traces paint and gliding work. According to the information plaque, the minbar was made for Sultan Qa’itbay, who ruled Egypt from 1468-1496.
The holy month of Ramadan is underway, a month of fasting, prayer and piety. I could think of no better way to wish everyone Ramadan Kareem than by sharing this museum treasure with you.
The Museum Treasure Series is all about artifacts found in museums with an interesting history and story attached to them. You can read more from this serieshere.