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The Banyan Tree And The Four Harmonious Brothers (Brocadeless Thangka)

The Banyan Tree And The Four Harmonious Brothers (Brocadeless Thangka)

The four harmonious brothers stand for a very basic tenet of Buddhism. Each of the four brothers, and the harmony in which they are positioned relative to each other, has great significance. It is in Buddha's Tittira Jataka parable that these brothers are first mentioned. When His eldest disciple, Shariputra, was left to spend the night under a tree while the younger disciples had selfishly secured their shelters in Vaisali, the Buddha narrated the parable of the four harmonious brothers in order to teach them the importance of seniority in terms of age. It is the story of four brothers who dwelt in the Himalayan foothills and amongst whom mutual respect had diminished. In order to establish seniority, they began to discuss the age of the banyan tree near them.

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.

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The Magnificence Of Dakshinamurti Shiva

The Magnificence Of Dakshinamurti Shiva

Amongst the Nataraja and the tandava pieces abound, the Daskhinamurti portrayal reveals a rare side of the Lord Shiva. On one of His Himalayan wanderings, Shiva was stopped by a group of wandering ascetics and beseeched to be their guru Himself. The kind and merciful Shiva agreed, and sat upon a mountaintop facing southwards. His newfound shishyas gathered round His feet with their hands in the namaskaram mudra, expressive of the deepest veneration. Thus emerged the Dakshinamurti roopa of the Lord, as could be seen on this page. An imitation of a rugged mountain is His asana, and from behind Him emerges a shock of wild mountain greenery. He has assumed lalitasana as is characteristic of Indian iconography. The posterior hands bear the damru (which produces the creative naad) and the flame (that destroys everything in its path), which is a representation of the dharmic cycle; while the anterior hands bear a pothi and the aahsirvaad mudra to complement His teaching.

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.

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Krishna Silhouette Pendant, Peacock-feather On His Crown

Krishna Silhouette Pendant, Peacock-feather On His Crown

This minimalistic pendant, beautifully smithed as it is, would be a statement addition to your jewellery box. If you are a devotee of Krishna and love jewellery that is unfussy, this is the number for you. It is a simple circular rim of gold, of a uniformly undulating texture. Within the rim is the image of Krishna Himself. He is the favourite of Hindus worldwide, especially young women, just like He was with the gopis at Vrindavan. He is infinitely loving, kind, and wise, and His charms are plenty. Formed in the choicest proportions of a youthful man, He makes divine music with His signature instrument, the flute. In this pendant, one could see the unmistakable silhouette of this deeply loved deity.

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.

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Reed-Yellow Sanskrit Sari from Jharkhand

Reed-Yellow Sanskrit Sari from Jharkhand

The eastern state of Bihar is the home of tussar, an endemic silk that is at once recognisable by its earthy sheen and creamy ivory colour. Having been cultivated by various tribal groups of the region since before the colonial era, the art of working with this fabric is now a thriving cottage industry in rural India. It is from the finest tussar produce that this saree has been handpicked to go into our collection, given its eclectic concept. The Sanskrit varnamala dominates the field of this saree. The letters are done in outlined, solid-coloured, and dotted variations, which give it an appeal of the unconventional despite the saree being a traditional Indian silk and the script ancient.

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.

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The Warrior's Lover In The Throes Of Passion

The Warrior's Lover In The Throes Of Passion

In the dead of night, she rises sleepless and inches towards his sword. She brings it back to bed with her, unable to contain herself in his absence. He is away at battle, while his lover pines from her concern for his well-being and the separation at having to let him go. The painting you see on this page is a sensuous portrayal of the lover's essay to substitute one of his swords with the warrior's presence. She presses the cold metal of the weapon against her torso and shuts her gorgeous eyes, probably like she would have responded to similar proximity with him. The gold of the ornate hilt matches the ample gold that glitter against the marble skin of her naked back.

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.

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The Splendour Of The Chariot-borne Soorya

The Splendour Of The Chariot-borne Soorya

Lord Soorya is revered as the prime source of life and nourishment by the peoples of the subcontinent. His many names include Vivasvat (Sanskrit word for 'brilliant'), Savitra ('nourisher'), and Lokachakshu ('eye of the realm'). Lore has it that He rides a chariot as brilliant as He is, drawn by no less than seven horses, across the skies each day in His bid to overpower the demons of darkness. He is one of the highest-order deities of Hinduism, and a lesser-known deity in Buddhism. This sculpture of the highly venerated Deva depicts Him with His usual two hands, seated in padmasana in His chariot. In each of His hands is a lotus, an image of the sun itself constituting the halo behind His towering crown. Seated before the ornately engraved compartment of the chariot, with the reins of all the seven horses in His hands, is Aruna, the charioteer of Soorya.

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.

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Gau Box Pendant Embossed With Tibetan Buddhist Mandala (Made In Nepal)

Gau Box Pendant Embossed With Tibetan Buddhist Mandala (Made In Nepal)

The gau box is a very expressive element of Tibetan Buddhist practice. What we call a box in our parlance is actually meant to be a portable shrine. The devotee installs one's chosen deity, preferably the ishtadevta or ishtadevi, inside the same and carries it around on one's person. It is designed with all the beauty and precision of artisanry that are due to a shrine, and conveys an essential aspect of Tibetan Buddhism. One's devotion is not confined by time or space, and has a mark on one's bearing even when one is elsewhere. Gau box-shrines have traditionally been worn on the traveller-devotee's belt or locket, to be placed at an altar when not on the road. The one-of-a-kind gau box pendant is designed to be strewn onto a chain and worn as a locket around the neck.

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.

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Caviar-Black Pure Pashmina Shawl from Kashmir with Kalamkari Embroidery All-Over

Caviar-Black Pure Pashmina Shawl from Kashmir with Kalamkari Embroidery All-Over

The Persian word 'pashm', meaning soft and superfine, is the root of the word 'pashmina'. When one hears the word 'pashmina' it conveys an image of something superbly beauteous, a texture that is inimitable, a sense of something that is one of the most desirable things in the world. This handpicked shawl is one such pashmina. It is deceptively lightweight and warmer than a tropical summer dusk. If you have been looking to invest in a statement pashmina or two to complete your wardrobe, this youthful yet complex number is where your search ends.

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.

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Mahavidya Shodashi (Tripura Sundari) as Visualized in Her Dhyana Mantra

Mahavidya Shodashi (Tripura Sundari) as Visualized in Her Dhyana Mantra

Shodashi (also known as Tripura-sundari, Lalita, and Rajarajeshvari) is a beautiful young girl of sixteen. She is shown seated on the navel of Shiva, who is reclining below her. They are on a pedestal supported by the gods Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, and Indra. Her dhyana mantra describes her as follows: "She shines with the light of the rising sun. In her four hands she holds a noose, a goad, bow, and arrow".

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."

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The Splendour Of Ganesha, The Vahana Perched On The Aureole

The Splendour Of Ganesha, The Vahana Perched On The Aureole

Among the plethora of brass Ganesha murties being made by modern-day artisans, this one stands out. The finish is a regular-smooth, the rich inlay widely used for the charm of the colours. What sets this handpicked figure of Ganesha apart is the statement-making aureole. The rims of six blooming lotus petals flank the central figure, perfectly symmetrically defined with inlay. On either side of Ganesha's padmasana (lotus-throne) is a band of inlay, from which emerges a tiny lotus leaning downwards and a handful of buds down the stem. The top of the aureole is perched on the inlaid rim that constitutes Ganesha's halo, above which is a rudimentary brass lattice leading up to an extension of the top of the deity's crown. Above the lattice is a pair of rats, Ganesha's little vahanas, on either side of a plate piled with laddooes, their backs saddled with inlay and their little necks belled.

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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