The elephant had seen it in the form of a substantial little bush when he was a baby; the monkey remembered it from his childhood as a mere shrub; the rabbit had seen the same tree as a leafless sapling; while the partridge had carried its very seed in its body and planted it there. Hence, the partridge came to be honoured most among the brothers. The way the four creatures are arranged in this thangka symbolise the harmony, stability, and mutual respect that now defines them. In the gorgeous shade of the luxuriant banyan tree the brothers stand one on top of the other according to age, while ducks and lotuses abound in the pond in the foreground and numerous verdant hills dot the landscape in the background.
It goes without saying that the Dakshinamurti roopa of the Lord is the most magnificent and awe-inspiring. The degree of skill and labour that have gone into this particular Daskhinamurti Shiva, as well as the finish variations chosen for it to be made available in, rightly convey the grandeur of His guruship. From the natural textures of the mountain to the musculature of the Lord, each aspect of this sculpture pours forth an aesthetics that is to be found only in the art of India. The shishyas with their gleaming crowns as well as the figure of ignorance that Shiva crushes with His feet are all carved with jsut the right proportion of detail. What distinguishes this from other Dakshinamurti compositions is the gorgeous headdress that frames His compassionate countenance and complements His shringar.
The face is carved from a piece of shimmering silver, topped with a hint of gold that functions as a crown. A necklace of miniscule silver stones has been smithed below the same. The rest of His form is in outline, done with select quantities of gold that indicate the sashes and shringar of His form. A stick of gold, which is what seems to be the flute, is to His right, together with a beautifully blooming silver-coloured lotus. The statement-making aspect of this pendant is the gorgeous peacock-feather smithed at an angle to Krishna's crown - a shapely carving of silver, embedded with glassy-coloured stones, dominates the handiwork.
Conventionally, tussar silks have been worn by upper-caste women during the ritual preparation, cooking, and eating of meals within the home. The practicality and ritual correctness of this variety of Indian sarees comes from the fact that the tussar fabric is fairly water-resistant and repels stains. The modern-day woman dons the most exquisite tussars such as this one on more glamorous pursuits outside the home. The woven border is neither too thin nor too thick. It is set off by rows of a dotted pattern, and a line of dancing silhouettes filled in with black. An interesting gradient of black and ivory characterises the endpiece, punctuated with a panel of text in the Sanskrit language. Team this saree with a set of understated gold ornaments to make the most of its singular appeal.
The dynamicism of the painting comes out in the bangles on her wrists, the bejewelled streams of gold on her tresses, and the purple silk draped around her curvaceous hip that matches the makeup on those eyes. One could almost listen to the rustling of the silk and the tinkling of her shringar as she motions against the piercing edge of the sword. She is an exceptionally beautiful woman with full, expressive features, and a head of luxuriant hair as black as a tropical night. Note the background infusions of rich red colour, which serve to convey the passion that has seized the lady in the foreground.
Born to Kashyapa (a Vedic rishee) and Aditi (who is the heavenly mother-figure), He is sung about in the Rigveda. Samja, the daughter of Vishvakarma, is His wife, and He is the father of Manu, Yama, and Yami. It is from fragments of His superb glamour that the signature weapons of the other devas (the trishool of Shiva, the discus of Vishnu, and the lance of Karttikeya) have been fashioned. Understandably, He is the chief of the lords of the respective planets in the solar system. Having been somewhat replaced by the Brahma-Vishnu-Shiva trinity in terms of importance, He is the chosen deity of worship during new-year festivities in Nepal and in the South. This sculpture of the chariot-borne Soorya is replete with the splendour expounded poetically in the oldest of the Vedas.
It is a fine example of Nepalese handiwork. While the paintings and sculptures produced in the region are coveted by spiritual art patrons across the world, its jewellery is no less. This pendant boasts of a sterling silver foundation, overlaid with dense gold filligree and gemstone embellishments. The delicate tracery as well as the pastel blue and red gems, each more exquisitely shaped than the other, are both characteristic of regional workmanship. The quadrilateral motif that dominates the foreground (and surrounds the central red, gold-rimmed gemstone) is the all-important Buddhist mandala.
The luxury and price of this one shawl could be understood once you consider that an average male of the endemic Hyrcus goat species, which roams eye-wateringly high Himalayan altitudes, yields annually just enough moult for a fraction of a scarf. Add to that the fact that it takes great degrees of skill, labour, and time to turn it into fabric, dye it, and embroider it to produce what you see on this page. The abundance of floral motifs, highly characteristic of kalamkari art, has been done against non-uniform pastel-coloured panels. Note how the same colours have been put into the stripes along the edges.
There is an interesting legend behind the origin of Tripura-sundari. We are told that once upon a time Shiva referred to Kali by her name in front of some heavenly damsels who had come to visit, calling her "Kali, Kali" ("Blackie, Blackie"), which she took to be a slur against her dark complexion. She left Shiva and resolved to rid herself of her dark complexion, through asceticism. Later, the sage Narada visited Kailasha and, seeing Shiva alone, asked where his wife was. Shiva complained that she had abandoned him and vanished. With his yogic powers Narada discovered Kali living north of Mount Sumeru and went there to see if he could convince her to return to Shiva. He told her that Shiva was thinking of marrying another goddess and that she should return at once to prevent this. By now Kali had rid herself of her dark complexion but did not yet realize it. Arriving in the presence of Shiva, she saw a reflection of herself with a light complexion in Shiva's heart. Thinking, that this was another goddess, she became jealous and angry. Shiva advised her to look more carefully, with the eye of knowledge, telling her that what she saw in his heart was herself. The story ends with Shiva saying to the transformed Kali: "As you have assumed a very beautiful form, beautiful in the three worlds, your name will be Tripura- sundari. You shall always remain sixteen years old and be called by the name Shodashi.
Tripura-sundari is described in great detail as extremely attractive, beautiful, and erotically inclined. The Lalita-sahasranama details her charms from head to foot, and the majority of the Saundaryalahari is similarly occupied with her attractive appearance. She is often said to give desire and to suffuse the creation with desire. The Saundaryalahari also states that that a worn-out old man, ugly and sluggish in the arts of love, can be restored to physical attractiveness and vigor by her glance. The Prapancasara-tantra says that her worship has such an amorous effect that celestial females such as gandharvas, yakshas, and siddhas come to the sadhaka "with gazelle-like eyes, breathing heavily, their bodies quivering and moist with the pearly sweat of passion; and throwing away their ornaments and letting their clothes fall from about them, bow themselves before him and offer to do his will."
This elaborate aureole serves to bring out the flawless iconography of chaturbhuja Ganesha (four-armed). The adorable, tattooed trunk and large inlaid flaps for the ears; all four hands occupied by His signature elements, such as the bowlful of His favourite sweetmeats and the broken tusk with which He scribed the Mahabharata; and portly form that devotees dote over, replete with shringar fit for a king. The inlay has been strategically placed across the brass in keeping with high aesthetic standards. There is another of His vahanas at the unassuming pedestal, kept simple with a few inlaid inverted lotus petals to direct the focus to the aureole.
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