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Kutch Artisan At Work

Kutch Artisan At Work

Located in the landlocked western recesses of the subcontinent, the Kutch region of Gujarat is home to lively folk fashion and vibrant aesthetics, both of which are characteristic of the local style of embroidery. It is the most notable of Indian embroideries, a Geographical Indication of the place it comes from. Note the embroidery the artisan holds in her hands. Striking foundation colour, silver sequins, and abundant florals. These are atypical, and could be observed on the artisan's ghagra as well, what with the mirrors glimmering in the pale light that surrounds her. The rest of her outfit are a good picture of what Kutch fashion is all about - brightly coloured gold-sequined choli, luscious dupatta, and lots of chunky silver jewellery.

She sits on the floor in the fullness of her own company, probably putting together the bestu varas gifts for her mother- and sisters-in-law. The just-right afternoon light illuminates her workroom. On the rustic straw mat she is sitting on are her sewing supplies spread about her. Her legs are crossed, with one knee raised to support her wrists as the fingers motion dexterously through the embroidery. Zoom in on her hands to admire the lifelike beauty of her long, artisan fingers. She eyes her work with love, pleased with the way the embroidery is turning out. Her lashes are lowered in the direction of her hands, their sublime thickness setting off the beauty of her long nose and full mouth.

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Radha Inching Closer To Her Krishna

Radha Inching Closer To Her Krishna

Much has been written about the undying love between Radha and Her Krishna. The years they spent loving each other in Vrindavan are to this day the subject of devotional art and literature as well as popular imagination. This exquisite brass sculpture captures the divine lovers in a moment of togetherness. They are locked in each other's arms, their fingers on the verge of meeting. Zoom in on the skilfully carved figurines to take in the unusual stance each is in - the neck thrown back, the shoulders slightly closing in, the knees delicately hinged, all of which convey that the lovers are subtly inching closer to each other.

To seek life and something of the the dynamic in static forms of art is habit with us, and it is because of the very quality of dynamicism that this work of art has been handpicked for our collection. On a wide double-lotus pedestal stands the amorous couple in each other's embrace, their ample silks and shringar in keeping with classical Indian iconography. The delicately balanced crowns on their heads seem to be wound around the hair pulled back across the head. A feather sits at the root of Krishna's crown, a singular aspect of His iconography. Note how the superbly lifelike features carved onto their faces convey a composure of sheer bliss of being into each other.

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Vibrant Shringar Of The Devi Saraswati

Vibrant Shringar Of The Devi Saraswati

This superb portrayal of the Devi Saraswati is replete with all that makes folk paintings of the type so coveted. Madhubani paintings have evolved in Mithila of Bihar as interior decorations for the mud homes of the region. They are characterised by rudimentary lines, a limited but definitive colour palette that is derived from natural vegetable pigments, and themes that betray the spiritual-devotional inclinations of the simple folks who make this art. This painting is a fine example of Madhubani: the minimalistic silhouette of the Devi, the vivid colours permeating those lines, and the sacredness of the Devi Herself. With Her four hands She plays on the veena, carries a pothi, and counts the beads on a rosary. She is the deity that presides over wealth and resources, prerequisites to preservation that is in turn presided over by Her husband, the Lord Brahma.

This painting is bound to fill your space with an abundance of colour. The Devi is seated in lalitasana, Her form bedecked in brightly coloured silks and shringar, the most notable of which is the thick orange garland that cascades from the neck all the way down to the floor. Her gold kundalas and nath (nosering) and crown against the jet black tresses about Her shoulders and waist, are huge and go with the ultra-feminine makeup on Her divine countenance. Not one but two peacocks are on either side of Her. While She is shown seated on a bed of colourful flowers, the foreground is dominated by a freshly blooming lotus. Note the vibrant red background that hints at something of a court of the Devi in question.

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Navagraha (The Nine Planets) - With Each Deity Facing the Correct Direction, Highly Auspicious and Suitable for Rituals and Worship of Navagraha

Navagraha (The Nine Planets) - With Each Deity Facing the Correct Direction, Highly Auspicious and Suitable for Rituals and Worship of Navagraha

Possessing this ornate sculpture from the Exotic India collection is equivalent to having the entire heavens upon a small stand in your house. Navgrah (Sanskrit for 'nine celestial bodies') is the collection of deities in Whom are manifested the divinity contained within each celestial body of the solar system. Soorya, Chandra, Mangal, Budha, Guru, Shukra, Shani, Rahu, and Ketu are arranged delicately on an elaborate, common base, each facing the direction ordained to them by the essence of the universe.

Bronze has been the preferred metal of sculpturors since time immemorial. Even though sculptures of brass are more abundant due to the commercial availability of the alloy - especially across the Exotic India website - it is bronze that has a more artistic, elite whiff to it. The members of the Chola dynasty constituted the key patron group of bronze sculpture, who demanded great skill in this art form, funded innovative methods that have gone down in history, and caused the golden age of bronze casting to flourish in the subcontinent.

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Dancing Ganesha, Four-headed, Eighteen-armed, Captured In Vivid Red In Brocadeless Newari-style Thangka

Dancing Ganesha, Four-headed, Eighteen-armed, Captured In Vivid Red In Brocadeless Newari-style Thangka

Ganesha is as popular with Nepalese Buddhists as He is with Indian Hindus. Called Vinayak in the Kathmandu Valley, which is the origin of the Newari style of art and architecture, this widely loved and venerated deity has been captured in vibrant colours and detail in this brocadelss thangka. He is dancing on a large, black, rather vicious roopa of His vahana, the rat, as His eighteen arms flailing around His portly frame as He motions in dance. His silken dhoti is a pastel red, matching the dye on His inner palms and complementing the pastel-coloured sashes on His troso. In fact, red is the dominant colour of this thangka, from the rich red of the aureoles (even those of the accompanying deities in the corners) and the inner flaps of the Lord's ears, to one of His four pastel-hued heads. The colour, together with the lifelike stance of His limbs and the ecstatic composure of countenance, conveys motion supremely well.

The thangka has all the hallmarks of Tibetan art. A vivid colour palette, Dikapals and other guardian deities that flank the central figure, and a cheerful lotus pedestal. From the bejewelled gold crown and the halo rimmed with gold petals to the entirety of His delicate shringar, the sheer amount of gold in this thangka matches the generous proportions of red that characterise the Neweari style. In each of His hands are objects of dharmic significance, more of which are painted against the dense turquoise background. Note how fiercely He guards His favourite laddooes from toppling over as He dances with a bowlful in one of His hands.

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Devi Gayatri On Blooming Lotuses

Devi Gayatri On Blooming Lotuses

Anybody even remotely associated with Indian culture has listened to and probably chanted the Gayatri mantra, an amalgamation of sacred Sanskrit syllables that expresses one's veneration of Paramatma. Many sources identify Her to be the prakriti roopa of Gayatra (Savitra), a solar deity described in the Vedas. The Devi Gayatri is the parlokiya (otherworldly) personification of this all-important mantra, wife of the majestic Sadashiva, and a roopa of Parvati. Like Her husband, She is panchamukhi (five-headed) and dashabhujadhari (ten-armed), the most powerful form of the Hindu Devi that there is. In each of Her hands are dharmic implements such as the begging bowl, the dharmachakra, and divine weapons to defeat adharm; while the anterior pair of hands are poised in blessing.

The sculptural depiction of the Devi is flawless in terms of the beauty and power expressed. Her gaze is straight; Her composure of Her full-featured countenance, determined. The folds of Her silken saree gather over Her lalitasana in lifelike folds. Starting from the crown and the kundalas to the rest of Her shringar, their luxuriance conveys Her divine presence. Zooming in on the back would enable you to appreciate the sheer amount of detail that the sculptor has put into this work - the five cascades of gorgeous hair gathering in one superb mane down the back, the petalled halo. What sets this Gayatri Devi sculpture apart from the usual Hindu devi iconographies is the majestic lotus arrangement that functions as Her pedestal. Two freshly bloomed lotuses have been placed with the bases of their pistils together, and the Devi Gayatri is seated amidst the flared petals of the one opening upwards.

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Nandi Muzzling The Feet Of Ardhanarishvara

Nandi Muzzling The Feet Of Ardhanarishvara

Of all the folk art forms in India, pattachitra is the most complex. One of the oldest art forms to have flourished in the subcontinent, it is what a lot of people know the state of Odisha by. 'Patta' in Sanskrit means canvas, and 'chitra' picture. And it isn't your run-of-the-mill canvas that functions as the foundation to the pictures. The patta of pattachitra is made in a week-long process that starts with soaking tamarind seeds for the first 3, pestling them thoroughly, and heating them in an earthen pot. The natural paste that emerges is called niyas kalpa in the local language, which is used to glue 2 pieces of fabric. This is further given double coats of soft powdered clay and polished with a rough stone followed by a smooth stone to produce the finished canvas.

The natural pigments that are used for the chitras look great on this patta. While themes usually revolve around Jagannath (for the obvious reasons) and avataras of Krishna, this pattachitra depicts the Ardhanarishvara instead. The deity is stands on a blooming lotus with the seated Nandi muzzling Shiva's feet. Parvati's saree is long and flowing, while Shiva is draped in an austere tigerskin. Her shringar is ampler and more feminine than the grim bands of rudraksha on His limbs. The curves of Her anatomy are more defined, Her thick straight tresses cascade down Her back while His wavey locks are flying in the wind. His jatamukuta is complemented by Her luxuriant crown. Winged celestial beauties floating amidst the clouds on either side of the pattachitra on top complete the composition.

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Vajrayogini - Tibetan Buddhist Deity

Vajrayogini - Tibetan Buddhist Deity

This image is that of dakini Vajrayogini. A dakini is the most important female principle in Tantric Buddhism, representing the ever-changing flow of female energy. They are the guardians of teachings and are considered the supreme embodiments of wisdom. The dakini can help change human weaknesses into wisdom and understanding, and the concept of self into enlightened energy.


There are two kinds of dakinis-supramundane or "beyond worldly," and mundane, or "worldly," ones. The second are usually referred to as yoginis. Yoginis are mystical partners of yogis, to whom they give secret wisdom and magical powers. In fact to reach Buddhahood, the practitioner (yogi) requires the help of the following three:


1). His lama or teacher,


2). His yidam, or meditational deity, and


3). His dakini.


There are three different types of Vajrayogini, according to how three different masters viewed her. One of these masters was Mahasiddha Naropa who received his teachings from Vajrayogini around the eleventh century. His disciples began calling this aspect of Vajrayogini as Naro Kha Chod, or Naro Sky Goer, according to the vision and teachings of Naropa. The teachings of Naro Kha Chod were first introduced into Tibet by the Nepalese brothers named Pom Ting. There thus followed a lineage of teachings of Naro Kha Chod that continues to the present day. She is very popular, and all sects follow her practice.


It is according to the sadhana written by Naropa that the present statue is sculpted. Her face is semiwrathful. She has three eyes, and her mouth is open. Her crown is made up of five dried human heads. Her right hand holds a chopper pointing downward. Her left hand holds a skullcup filled with swirling human brains inside. Under her bent left hand there is a khatvanga, a staff decorated with human skulls, vajra, scarf etc. Her naked body glistens with her vehement passion. She is very youthful-looking, and has a beautiful shape with large, pointed breasts and firm nipples. Her necklace is made up of dried human skulls, and she is wearing bone ornaments on her arms and feet, and also a bone apron on her body. She is crushing under her outstretched left leg Dushenma, lying face up. Her bent left leg is stepping on Bhairava, who lies face down. A large fire halo representing wisdom is behind her.


This description by Nitin Kumar, Executive Editor, Exotic India.


References:


Lipton, Barbara, and Ragnubs, Nima Dorjee. Treasures of Tibetan Art: Collection of the Jacques Marchais Museum of Tibetan Art. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.


Short Description of Gods, Goddesses and Ritual Objects of Buddhism and Hinduism in Nepal, Handicraft Association of Nepal, Kathmandu, Nepal, compiled by Jnan Bahadur Sakya.

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Ganga Aarati In One's Solitude At Dashashvamedh

Ganga Aarati In One's Solitude At Dashashvamedh

Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India, home to no less than 2,000 temples of Hindu culture and tradition. The ghats and mandirs in this city provide ample opportunity to spiritually cleanse oneself, so strong is the presence in the city of all that is holy. Its patron deity is Kashi Vishvanath, whose temple is the biggest of all the ones located along the banks of the Ganga that flows through Varanasi. It attracts numerous pilgrims throughout the year, and houses one of the twelve jyotirlingas in the subcontinent. He is a manifestation of the Lord Shiva. The surrounding ghat, the Dashashvamedha Ghat, has its own legends. The name comes from the ten (das) horses sacrificed by Brahma in the Ashvamedha yajna that He performed here, having built the ghat to welcome Shiva to ihaloka (this realm). It is the largest and the liveliest of the ghat of Varanasi - with the fall of dusk, it comes alive with numberless aratis that are conducted by local priests in honour of the sacred river. This painting is aglow with one such aarati, the goblet being majestically swung by a priest at a relatively quiet spot on the Dashashvamedh Ghat.

The priest is in traditional saffron and ivory clothing. The sindoori rug he stands on is strewn with petals from the flowers of offerings he has made to the mother of all rivers. On a raised platform are arranged the stuff of traditional Hindu offering and aarati - a conch, a handheld bell, a bunch of fresh moist marigolds, and some libation contained in a jar. More lamps are placed at the side, from the earthen diyas to the traditional Indian lampstick and the crackling dhunuchi letting out the auspicious smoke. Note how naturalistic is the portrayal of the flames dancing in the winds brought forth from the Ganga. A number of rickety wooden boats are parked near where the dhoti-clad priest stands offering his arati, which one could make out against the inky blue of the Ganga by zooming in. The same is separated from the all-encompassing darkness of the nightsky by a film of black paint that constitutes the Varanasi cityline.

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The Ethereal White Tara, Tibetan Buddhist Devi In Superfine Brocadeless Thangka

The Ethereal White Tara, Tibetan Buddhist Devi In Superfine Brocadeless Thangka

White Tara is one of the great Bodhisattvas who confers longevity on Her devotees. Her strange prowess was actually revealed to Vagishvarakirti, an Indian sage who then captured Her in a series of three texts called Cheating Death. He further passed these on to Atisha, a Buddhist master, who had these tajen to and translated into Tibetan in 1042. It is said that White Tara had always been Atisha's guardian deity, having looked after him since his childhood and appeared in his visions. Today, the White Tara practice comes to us through more than one lineages. Gampopa, Milarepa's disciple and founder of the Kagyupa Order, is one line of transmission; Gedundrup, the first Dalai Lama, is another. The thangka on this page is a picture of the devotion that She inspires in the hearts of the pure to this day.

The White Tara is the very picture of beauty and serenity. As if sculpted from a pearl, She is bedecked with gold and jewels, rubies and emeralds and turquoises no less. Her pastel-coloured silks and sashes float about Her body, setting off the graceful poorna-padmasana that She has assumed. Clouds and lotuses and wild Tibetan foliage, all quintessential elements of the traditional thangka, frame Her figure, seated as She is on a gorgeously coloured lotus in full bloom. The aureole that surrounds Her has been painted in intricate detail. The foresty green hue of Her halo, rimmed with gold lotus petals, sprouts shocks of ethereal greenery throughout the circumference. Beneath Her lotus-pedestal is a hint of the ocean's blue, at the mouth of which is a bunch of precious Buddhist offerings. Two wrathful deities surrounded by their respective flame-aureoles hold up to Her a plateful more of offerings each.

The beauteous countenance of Tara is framed by lengthened earlobes, and a tiara of gold, jewels, and flowers rests on Her brow. Her half-shut eyes radiate an otherworldly calm and collectedness possible only for a deity as powerful as She is. Note the eyes on the palms of Her hands as well as the soles of Her feet.

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