Thursday, July 19, 2007

Khajuraho - A life in stone

A Khajuraho image from my second dip into central India. It was in October 2004. I had done a trip in central west a year before, touching Indore, Ujjaini, Bhopal & Panchamarhi (Maharashtra and Madhyapradesh). This time in 5 days or so, I did Khajuraho, Varanasi & Saranath. A journey, touching the most precious jewels in India's rich heritage and history. Actually I went to visit Varanasi, the fabled pilgrimage, the living symbol of faith, an exposition on the chakra of life and its finality in the death (or non-finality in death?). More on that on a seperate blog.

My contribution to the vast number of images published on Khajurao erotic poetry (hence a stereotyped kind, still couldnt resist publishing it).
It would be great injustice to portray that the temple site is only about eroticism. Khajuraho is a rich iconography in life of men and women, god and goddess. It has ideas and scenes from war and peace, art and dance and references to the most meditative and erotic sides of life. On the basement walls, you will see royal processions engraved with elephants, infantry and the King, then battle scenes where scores of soldiers fighting, hunting scenes with King astride on elephant and animals being pursed, domestic scenes of cooking and feeding babies, musicians on concerts, acrobats performing, festivities and ceremonies, loving couples and dieties, women in their most sensous postures and the most shocking so called 'Kamasutra' postures.
The absorbing architecture and carvings of the temples are needless to mention. The imposing Kandariya Mahadeva temple's tallest spire go upto a height of 30 meters with smaller 84 spires surrounding it. These temples are compact and tall, raised on a high platform (there was water around them in former times) with an ambulatory path around, but with no enclosure wall. Each has the essential sanctum containing the chief image, joined to the hall of worship by a vestibule. The hall is approached trough a porch; both have pyramidal towers. Larger temples have lateral transepts and balconied windows, an internal ambulatory and subsidiary shrines. On the walls are the major sculptures of gods and goddesses in two rows, with celestial nymphs in attendance on the raised sections and loving couples in the recesses. All the figures are resting their weight on one leg, thus accentuating their curves. The nymphs shown attending to their toilet, bearing offerings, dancing, playing musical instruments or as sensual lovers, are executed with great skill.
There are some 25 temples surviving (believed that there were about 85 temples). The temples were built by Chandela kings from mid- 9th century to early 12th century. There is no explanation for chosing Khajuraho as the temple site, which is supposed to be so remote to any cultural centre or major city even in 9th century. However The temple site was abandoned when the dynasty moved into forts to defend the invading muslim armies. It was forgotten to become a den of tigers till it was re discovered by Captain TS Burt in 1938.
You will see temples dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, Surya gods. Some believe these temples to be centers of tantrik mysticism, which regards sex as an important part of human development and the attainment of the Absolute. Others believe that they were constructed as such to lure men and women back to the family and worldly life, which play an important part in Hinduism, from the austerities preached by the Buddha that were gaining favor with people of that time.
Whatever be the motivation its a celebration of life, a rather unrestrained one.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Clay Art - Bastar

Collection of clay art at Chitrakoot water fall near Jagadalpur. Part of the Bastar regions art forms and collections. The impressive feature is their originatlity and ingenuity. The elephant headed pots, the aborgine drummer, the wide eared elephants, masks, lanterns, boxes, pots and various other animals. The ornamentation is intricate and beyond what you would associate with tribal art. The only diety who we are familar with is Ganesha here. He appears quiet different.
Efforts are on the way to preserve these art forms by helping the natives to market them in exhibitions across the country. The artisans from the tribes are given assistance to continue making them and selling them.
The sculpture like clay work where mother feeding the baby attracted my attention most. Its a stage where art is growing from simple representation to an event or an instance, there by introducing the emotions in the observer. We are not sure when these art reached the maturity level displayed today. But I feel this is like prehistoric and in that sense it is very impressive. The miniature form of the sculpture makes it even more loveable.

Tribal Art - Bastar

From the trip to Bastar. In an artshop in Jagadalpur. Jagadalpur is some 300Km from Raipur the capital city of Chattisgadh. My destination was Chitrakut water fall near Jagadalpur. I wanted to buy something for this memorable trip.

It was probably the only place where tribal life is not touched by the modernity. Everything preserved - tribal markets, costumes, cultivation, cattling, hutments, raw materials, forests and more importantly the art. I was fascinated by the fact that most of this art was so sophisticated and still not imitated in better part of the country. I admired the simplicity of those bronze and caste iron statues. It portrayed the life of the tribal in its most common circumstances, carrying water bags, carrying cut wood. The figurines were not clumsy or erotic. They looked very much living beings. The dieties they portrayed was even more astounding. Far from vedic mythological houses, the dieties were actually very home grown, they were either an animal or transformation of an animal-human.

I was fascinated by the similarity of these statues with the findings from the indus valley civilisation. The form and spirit they resembled some of them I found in the text books and history books. I felt probably this is pre vedic civilisation preserved for us in the tribal lands of chattisgadh. If pre vedic culture was indigenous, then it has to be something similar to this.

I have no sound footings to prove this..nor did I try to confirm my impressions. Its just like a hunch. Its there..

Monday, July 16, 2007

Istanbul - Memories of a city

A painting after a long time. Inspired by turkish writer Orhan Pamuk's 'Istanbul memories of a city'. The view of the Istanbul city from the bosphorus river is attempted in a painting. Of course I have never visited the city myself. The basis of the painting is a photograph from Pamuk's book, a silhouette of the city with mosques and endless mansions along the bosphoros. All along the memoir the river is the romantic icon of his own life in the city. River is the only changeless element in the everchanging world of Istanbul.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Greying memories - Panvel trip

A weekend outing to the Ghadeshwar dam near Panvel in Mumbai in 2004 June. After all the dreariness and the sweat and the dust of the summer, finally, the rains have arrived. Its hope back in life..water everywhere, gushing through all the waterways, filling all the pools and rivers. Its green again all around us, that walk in the drizzle is back again. A cigarette and a masala chai to add the spice to a late morning rain..its a way of celebration of life..

We (I and my collegue Hemant, photo being taken by my classmate Rahul) are walking across the narrow ridge to reach the dam. The photo was taken in a lush green setting with a misty hill in the background. The memories are greying. I dont know if I will ever visit that place again... The nostalgia alchemied in Adobe Photoshop to bring the shadow effect of the past...

We did walk around the dam drenched in the shower. We had our small lunch in the form of batata vada and masala chaat. We had a dip bath in the downstream in the dam. Well, since that wasnt enough relaxing we went on for a long walk along the bus route, eventually finding out a small water fall on the way, where we did one more round of bath... its green paddies and flooding actually wonder whether this place is just 18km from Vashi (Mumbai suburb)...

Ghadeshwar has an old temple of Ghadeshwar, an incarnation of Shankar, overlooking the ‘Ghadi’ lake at the left flowing below it. Every year during Mahashivratri a yatra takes place from the temple drawing large crowds from villages nearby.

Some more googled text - Ghadeshwar also affords an eastern side distant silhouetted view of Matheran peaks including the Sunset point, Porcupine point (visible from Babdev village) and also the Panama point as well as the peaks of Pebgad and Bikatgad. From right to left of Ghadeshwar you see a table-land-like peak, which is Chanderi. To its left is Maishmaal next to it though very far away is Malang gad near Kalyan. You could not miss the curious sight of the ‘Toplya Dongar’ (the basket-shaped hill) which resembles the sight of the conical tip an inverted basket or the knobby tip of a monkey cap.

Against the Bules Skies

One of my favorites - the dry and barren tree against the back drop of sky bule .. All your worldliness gives away to new hope, beauty and context.. for a moment you are up in the sky absorbing the spreading buishness... if you can spot a half moon in the same picture its an added joy.... photo taken from the botanical garden in Melbourne on a summer evening....

Friday, July 06, 2007

Sikandra, Agra

The photograph is taken from the inside walls of the Akbar tomb in Agra (Sinkandra). Cloudy background gives the minarets and the wall a different appeal. The Akbar tomb is probably greener than Taj itself. It is in someways not really cropped and polished which gives the monument the atmosphere of a tomb than a palace or something (Taj actually gives you the feeling of grandeur fitting its creator than austerity of a tomb). Number of visitors are also meagre compared to Taj. The atmosphere is serene and calm. The tile and pattern work is intricate and ornamentative.
Sikandra, Akbar's tomb in the former Lodi capital, is a grand affair, much under-rated in comparison to the Taj Mahal. Akbar started building his mausoleum in the true Timurid tradition, but the actual monument was completed by his son Jahangir. He pulled down most of the earlier structure and redesigned it according to his wishes and the result is more than impressive. There is a huge gateway, Buland Darwaza, modeled on the famed victory gate at Fatehpur Sikri, leads to the great garden enclosure. The decoration on the gateway is strikingly bold, with its large mosaic patterns. The walled garden enclosure is laid out in the char bagh style with the mausoleum at the center.