This gentle watercolour depicts the two deities as one, seated in bhadrasana on a mat of tiger-skin. They are the primordial yogis, Lord Shiva having imparted the knowledge of yoga to His Parvat; in fact, Yogadarshana is the applied aspect of the more theoretical Sankhyadarshana. He wields a trishool; She, a noose. A sliver of the moon graces His matted locks, while Her gorgeous curls are held in place by a bejewelled crown. He is bare-bodied but for the loincloth, in stark contrast to which She is drawing the pallu of Her saree over Her torso with Her anterior hand.
Their mat is spread on the transverse section of a gigantic tree, set amidst the pale landscape of the lower Himalayan reaches. The painter has chosen a particularly verdant spot to depict his Ardhanarishvara in. In the foreground is the devoted Nandi on His haunches, looking ahead with a gaze as gathered and serene as the Ardhanarishvara’s.
The beautiful Devi is seated in Her altar on a pale pink lotus. In Her four hands She holds a rosary, a pothi (spiritual manuscript), and of course the veena. She is the deity of intellectual pursuits - learning and music and the arts - which explains the elements of Her iconography. Despite the fact that the work put into the mandir dominates the composition and the pratima is relatively tiny, She has been carved in beauteous detail: the composure of Her countenance, the shringar of Her neck cascading over the stem of Her instrument, and the one-of-a-kind blue-winged crown on Her head.
Natural, traditional motifs grace Her mandir. She is flanked by blue-lotus pillars, sandwiched between platforms engraved with coloured lotus petals. An unconventional templetop characterises the composition. A pair of large, young peacocks are seemingly holding the entire arrangement up on their heads.
Every time Her husband has been incarnated as Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, and Krishna, She has accompanied Him as Kamala, Dharani, Sita, and Rukmini. Hence, She has come to embody the especially feminine virtues of beauty and devotion. She is as inseparable from Him as knowledge from intellect, coherence from words, and dharma from righteousness. A divine sense of calm is writ across Her supremely beautiful brow, the rest of Her form as rubescent as the lotuses She holds up in Her tender (posterior) hands. The right anterior hand is the ashirvaad mudra, what with Her chosen devotees amongst the most fortunate of our realm of existence. Her four arms stand for dharma (ethics), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (deliverance).
While the Puranas describe the birth of Lakshmi as the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and his wife Khyati, She is deified as having been born from the oceans during the all-important samudramanthan. Artist Kailash Raj depicts Her as such, emerging from the tempestuous waters. Complex brushstrokes in limited shades and tints of blue illustrate withh great skill the prevailing turmoil in the heavens. Note the graduated halo that surrounds Lakshmi - the gold glow of knowledge, followed by the pink ringlet of beauty, and finally the pristine layer symbolic of ethical purity.
In fact, the colour white dominates the palette of this work. Her skin is dewy, the unusual colour of crushed olives. A milk-white swan, Her vahana, is seated in perfect stillness behind Her. Her asana is a gigantic lotus in full bloom, its pristine petals featuring undertones of powdery pink and gold. The waters flowing underneath are calm and clear as crystal.
There is so much of the dynamic in this painting. If you gaze into this painting long enough, you could almost observe the displacement of the swans flying in the background and see the flora in the foreground sway in the breeze. The brushstrokes employed at the waters convey a sense of gentle motion. From the tilt of Her neck and the direction of Her gaze, it seems that She is in close communion with the miniscule swans and lotus-buds in the stream, as if She is playing to infuse them with life and nourishment.
Indeed, no other deity of the Hindu pantheon could have made a better scribe for the greatest epic known to humankind. While His appearance is not on par with the characteristic handsomeness of Indian deities, it is His adorably boyish form that devotees love. His pot belly gives away His undying love of laddoos (He is holding one at the tip of His trunk). His chubby limbs are every ready to break into dance or to be raised in blessing. The innocent elephant-head stands for all the gentleness and wisdom associated with the mortal animal. This one-of-a-kind wood-cut sculpture of the Lord depicts Him in the midst of a walk along divine pathways, with a kamandalu in one anterior hand and an ornate parasol in the other. Lotuses about to bloom are in His posterior hands. His befitting silks and shringar are matched by the glamour of the Kirtimukha aureole that frames the composition and the grandeur of the pedestal on which the same is placed.
The Devi is flanked by dharm and adharm. To Her right are Indradeva and young siddha. While Indra is a heavenly being in His vibrant red silk and pearly shringar, and the thousand eyes that grace His body; the siddha is the perfect mortal and dressed like one. To the left of Bhadrakali is an asura, whose tribe is at perpetual war with the devas. He is big and boorish; and while His adornments are no match for Indra, He is as much of the immortal realm as He is. All three stand before Bhadrakali with their palms joined in namaskaram, supplicating to Her because She is all-powerful and lords over the dharmic cycle itself. Note how the shades of Her halo blend with the moors painted in the background of the painting.
This work speaks volumes about the personal devotion of the artisan. The Lord is shown to be wearing a gorgeous silk dhoti and sashes. The rest of Him is bedecked with a world of shringar, which gather against His skin in lifelike angles. One of the unusual aspects of this tribhang murari depiction of Lord Krishna is the fact that He is chaturbhujadhari (four-armed). His smoothly carved feet rest on the typical dual-lotus arrangement found at the feet of Indian deities (two lotuses with their pistils brought together), which in turn is placed on a multi-tiered quadrilateral pedestal. The same is engraved with rangoli-esque motifs, the lateral trappings set off by leonine figurines that are miniscule but majestic. The twoering kirtimukha crown of the Lord completes the composition.
The Yali sculpture that you see on this page is a pair of handcrafted brackets, chosen for its one-of-a-kind composition. The Yalis are adorned with green and orange fabric, their long tails wound around a matching floral motif. A couple of kneeling elephants raise their trunks at the feet of the respective Yalis. Their dense black mane contrasts sharply with the white of their spine-chilling dentures. At their feet are traditionally carved lotus-petal structures, more of which are to be found at the top of the pillars behind their backs and on the roof over their manes. Zoom in on the wood-carving to appreciate the beauty and precision of the workmanship.
Note how lifelike is the stance of the figure in the composition. This is despite the stillness - from the angle of the neck and the shoulders, to the superbly carved folds of His robe gathered about Him. Even though it is an unconventional visualisation, His personality is replete. Lengthened lobes, which are verily the sign of wisdom in this part of the world; a brow as thick and graceful as the outstretched wings of the albatross; and delicately sculpted fingers and toes, which are best zoomed in on. His composure, as especially conveyed by the mouth, is restful like a true yogi's. His eyes are half-shut, hair gathered in coils and piled atop His shapely head. Should you deide to seat this form of the Buddha somewhere in your interiors, it would fill the surroundings with an aura of divine calm and stability.
This brass sculpture captures the divinity of the Lord with considerable skill. Its smooth glistening surface exudes power. The musculature of His form, the lifelike silks that clothe Him, and the aspects of His shringar have been sculpted with great detail. His tail, glorious as it is, flourishes behind His head like a halo. A minimalistic crown sits on His brow, set off by a determined composure of countenance. In one hand is the signature goad, while the other is raised in blessing. A simple, statement double-lotus pedestal completes the composition. Zoom in on the embroidery on His sashes and His loincloth to admire the skill of the artisan who made this.
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