The majestic wings set this Lord Garuda composition apart from other vahana iconographies. They spread wide lateral to His broad shoulders, and close down around His torso such that the tips of the wings graze His dhoti-clad hips. Zoom in on the same to observe the sweeping serrations made by the artisan - it is a fine example of high-precision handiwork. Note the lifelike angle of curvature of the silhouette, which betrays the sculptor’s fine attention to detail.
The Lord Garuda is seated with one knee on a simple pedestal. He is wearing a short dhoti that reveals the musculature of His powerful limbs. His hands are in the Namaskaram mudra, which He uses to greet Lord Vishnu. An elaborate crown and halo grace His head, from beneath which emerge a cascade of thick locks. His handsome face bears an expression of fierce, unwavering devotion.
The gold-and-silver colour palette of the painting makes a statement of abundance. In fact, Devi Lakshmi presides over resources because it is quintessential to the preservation of the universe, for which Her husband, Lord Vishnu, is responsible. The face of Vishnupriya is beauteous and tattooed, the sumptuous gold crown sitting on Her head befitting the same. A composure of life and vibrance characterises Her countenance.
The dominant colour is a creamy ivory dye across the field. The same is set off by the dense fuschia border and the ample proportions of rich, dark black in the endpiece. Sparsely placed booties in fuschia and black go well with the luxuriant embroidery along the entire length of the endpiece, done in pristine white thread. Of course a regional saree such as this one would be incomplete without the signature templetop border, the characteristic weave of which is best appreciated by zooming in. The instantly recognisable silhouette is derived by local weavers and artisans from the plethora of temples that the state is known for.
While the holy cow is a favourite subject with devout artists and sculptors to this day, this one stands apart from the majority of such works. This is because it is the dynamic depiction of an inimitably divine moment between mother and child. From the angle of the mother’s substantial neck to the stance of her young one, this sculpture is a picture of life in motion and the maternal fervour that sustains it.
The composition is inlaid with high-quality stones in richly hued pastels and poised on an inlaid pedestal. The credit for such tasteful, high-precision handiwork goes to the local artisans of Patan, Nepal. A rudimentary but discernible image of Devi Lakshmi lies on the cow’s back. She presides over resources and plenty, in the stock and growth of which the cow plays a crucial role. This explains the reverence accorded to the cow-mother in India’s predominantly agricultural economy.
It is a depiction of Lord Shiva after the Tibetan Buddhist style. He is in the midst of His destructive tandava, His pristine yogic musculature exposed to view but for the tigerskin loincloth He wears. A venomous snake slides down His torso and raises its hood. His jata (dreadlocks) are held in place by the typical five-spire crown of Tibetan Buddhist iconography, matched by the characteristic facial features and kundalas.
A wide halo burns bright behind His head. Further behind it lies a flaming aureole befitting His divine presence. He dances on the soft bed of a lotus, its petals curling up from the force of His motions. The setting serves to tone down the powerful influence of the tandava. A gently flowing stream in the foreground; sublime verdure and azure; and the soothing - almost feminine - strokes of the brush that define the clouds.
The colours that have gone into this work are singular and feminine in an unusual way. On a foundation of electric blue is a coat of dense embroidery in slate-green colour, comprising of paisleys in a multitude of proportions, interspersed with delicate leafy tendrils. A characteristic panel is layered along the frontal edges, wherein lie the solid green buttons. The fact that the embroidery on this number is done solely by hand makes this a wardrobe investment.
Zoom in on the skin of the Buddha, stretched taut over His bones, to appreciate the lifelike precision of the work. From the sharp retractions of the jugular cleft and the soft abdominal wall, one could make out the uddiyana bandha that locks the prana out of the Buddha’s body.
Such are the severe and unpalatable rigours of the yogic ascetic. The body withdraws from food and water and suchlike, things that the indriya (perceptive and functional senses) reach out to, as a result of which one grows emaciated. This emaciation is not a sign of weakness, but of independence from extrinsic sources of nourishment that the non-ascetic could not survive without. This sculpture is a tribute to that phase in the Buddha’s journey to kaivalya (supreme independence).
The drape is inimitable, as is a non-issue with the fruit of Bangalore handlooms. Like most of the sarees of this variety, this one features dense zari-embroidery on the broder and the endpiece. A panel of richly adorned peacock pairs graces the edge, and a row of elephant motifs has been embroidered alongside the same. The layered endpiece comprises of a coat of gold zari weave against the fuschia, which gives off an inimitable colour. This saree is best draped at a pooja or a pre-wedding ritual in the family.
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