Item Code: PP02
Gujarati Kalamkari Painting on Cotton79.5 inch X 50 inch
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The sanctum occupying the central part, a vertical rectangle, has been differently conceived from the flanking spaces using a different or rather contrasting palette and bold icons of both, the goddess and her mount and even those of ‘maladhara’ – garland-carrying flying Gandharvas above the sanctum’s tower. Though the sanctum enshrines a votive icon of the goddess, the thematic identity of this part is well defined, something not seen in delineation of other two parts. The sanctum has been conceived with a deep maroon background with ‘jangha’ – the lower half, and the space above flanking the sanctum-tower being covered with leafy vines, and the rest, with floral hangings suspending from above. The sanctum is a simple structure consisting of an elliptical plan, a brilliantly patterned and coloured foreground and the base space, equally colourfully designed columns on the sides and lintel above and corners manipulated with beautifully designed cones and a conical fluted dome above.
The six-armed Goddess Durga, carrying in her hands trident, sword, pot, skull bone – a strange weapon widely used in this Kalamakari not often seen in other iconographic traditions, battle-axe and flywhisk, is riding her mount lion. Conceived with a white spotted black body, multi-coloured mane, horns’ like ornamentation over the head and timidity in eyes it looks more like a massive goat rather than a lion. The figure of the goddess is almost fully wrapped in a multi-coloured stiffened sari worn in characteristic Bengali style. She is wearing bangles covering her fore-arms almost in full, ear and nose ornaments and a tall exceptionally colourful crown consisting of five cones and an elaborate crest. A large vividly patterned and multi-coloured space up to the top on the right defines the sanctum’s front elevation. The shrine is built on the bank of a lake teeming with various species of fishes, crocodiles and mythical half-fish-half-maidens and half-fish-half-men.
In typical folk tradition, not in tune with Kalamakari cult, the flanking spaces teem with various kinds of men and women, divinities, celestial beings, species of birds and animals : real and mythical, vegetation and more, as also some myths and legends. Unlike the usual convention of folk paintings, both corners, the extreme right and extreme left, enshrine the icons of the sun god, not the sun on the right and the moon on the left. The uppermost register on the right enshrines Lord Ganesh and dancing worshippers with pots on their heads moving shrine-wards. Second register too has dancers, and the third, male and female warriors alternately.
There are in various registers different animal species : rhinoceros, elephants, lions, stags, horses …, scene of lion-hunt, trumpet-blowers, wood-porters, mythical males and females with horse-forms and wings. Most of such forms are also on the left, though here there are also a few forms suggestive of some known-unknown legends and episodes from the lives of Rama, Krishna and Shiva : Shravana Kumara, the devoted son who takes his blind parents to pilgrimage of all sacred ‘tirthas’ on his shoulders; penitent Shiva wandering with Brahma-hatya, that is, Brahma’s severed head; Rama going after the golden deer – demon Marichi in disguise, and Ravana abducting Sita; Krishna subduing the venomous serpent Kaliya; a couple thrashing a child in a mortar, an unknown myth; and, divine entities : four-armed Durga, bull-riding, lion-riding, peacock-riding goddesses…
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.