Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

(Formerly Prince of Wales Museum of Western India)

Previous Months

Object of the Month - October 2017

Ramayana

A View of Chandpal Ghat

Drawn by James Baillie Fraser (1783-1856)

Engraved by Robert Havell Junior

Coloured Aquatint

Published in London, 1826

H 36.5 x L 54.4 cms

2015.113

This is plate 1 from James Baillie Fraser's 'Views of Calcutta and its Environs'. Fraser arrived in Calcutta in 1814 and in six years had produced these animated sketches of the busy city, published later as a collection of twenty-four superbly aquatinted plates.

This first plate in the collection extends from the west end of the city, where Esplanade Row meets the River Hooghly. It was the main landing place for visitors to the fast-growing city. The chunam (lime) - covered buildings, shining brightly in the sunshine, as here, were an exciting introduction to the city.


Object of the Month - September 2017

Ramayana

Kali Fighting Demons

Folio from an illustrated manuscript of the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana

Pahari, Guler

1781

Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection

2009.136

This painting illustrates one of the most dramatic moments described in the Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana(canto 87).The Great Goddess manifested a fierce form of herself known a Kali, to destroy two invincible demons–Chanda and Munda. When the asura army fell into disarray as she “fell upon the great asuras impetuously dealing slaughter among the host”, Chanda and Munda rushed against her. The foreground depicts the finale of the episode.

This folio is one of the several sets of the Devi Mahatmya series produced by the Guler artists around 1780. They are obviously traced from the same charba as their basic composition is the same, the difference being only in detailing and palette.


Object of the Month - August 2017

Ramayana

 

Ganesha

Porcelain

Germany

20th century

Gift of Mrs. Rekha Naik in memory of her husband Dr. Deepak Naik

2015.135

Ganesha, in spite of his elephantine head with blinking small eyes on either side of his elastic trunk, short arms, bulging girth overhanging his stunted legs is universally adored by Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.

He is the lord of obstacles (Vighnesvara) and aso the remover (Vighnahara or Vighnanasin) of the same. Hence he is propitiated, both by men and gods, at the commencement of all ceremonies. As a god of wisdom he is invoked in the beginning of any writing to insure literary success.


Object of the Month - July 2017

Ramayana

 

54.1-12_Obv

Illustration from MSS of Ramayana

Rama, Lakshmana and Visvamitra

Rajasthani, Mewar

Dated VS 1706 (1649 CE)

India is the home of the guru-shishya tradition where the pupils stay in the house of the teacher. The teacher is supposed to treat his students as his own sons. This tradition is prevalent even today especially in the fields of music and dance. Education involved not just the study of Vedic hymns, rituals and philosophy, but also the study of the Upavedas which included the study of warfare (Dhanur-veda), health (Ayur-veda), theatre (Gandharva-veda), time (Jyotish-shashtra), space (Vastu-shastra) and polity (Artha-shastra). At the end of the education, students were expected to pay their teacher’s fee before moving out of the teacher’s house. This is called guru-dakshina, a transaction fee, after which all obligations to the teacher were severed.


Object of the Month - June 2017

Maitreya

Vase and Cover

England, Royal Crown Derby,

c. 1890,

Porcelain

Sir D.J. Tata Collection

33.1107

The tall vase is of two-handled “water drop” form, with bulbous lower part and long, slender neck. It has a circular foot and stands on a separate stepped plinth, modelled with multiple scrolls, beading, and other motifs. The body is decorated in relief with gilded foliage on a red ground, the rising scroll handles have triangular pierced panels of foliage at their bases, and the neck is modelled with openwork scrolls below the domed ogee cover.

The Royal Crown Derby porcelain factory was founded in 1876 as the Derby Crown Porcelain Company and changed its name following a visit by Queen Victoria in 1890. Like Worcester, Derby had been an important centre of the English china industry since the middle of the 18th century and Royal Crown Derby traced its origins to the factory established in about 1756 by William Duesbury.

The late 19th century company was particularly known for its display wares. This particular vase, apparently a previously unrecorded shape, is a technical tour de force and typical of the eclecticism of its age. It is extremely thinly constructed and its plinth is entirely separate. The design is a combination of influences from many different sources. The form of the vase and its high, openwork scroll handles combine elements of gothic revival and Islamic metalwork, while the red body with gilt flowers in more than one colour of gilding is inspired by Japanese lacquer, then extremely sought after in Europe.


Object of the Month - May 2017

Maitreya

MAITREYA

Gilt Bronze

Nepal

13th Century C.E.

Gift from the collection of Smt. Amaravati Gupta

67.39

This magnificent gilded figure is Maitreya, the Buddha who is to appear in future. It is one of the most outstanding images from Western Nepal.

Maitreya is the embodiment of compassion. Like all Bodhisattvas, he is enlightened and beyond the bondage of the world.

He is portrayed here wearing a tall mukuta with stupa and adorned with earrings, necklaces, bracelets and other royal ornaments. He stands with eye closed in deep meditation. His smile is benign and beautiful. His left hand holds a kalasha (pitcher) and his right hand is in the vitarka mudra- that of holding a pearl between the thumb and the third finger symbolizing the attainment of knowledge.

Buddhists, wait for Maitreya, the Buddha yet to come.


Object of the Month - April 2017

CommonGreen Magpie 01

The common green magpie (Cissa chinensis) is a member of the crow family, roughly about the size of the Eurasian jay or slightly smaller. It is bright green in color (often fades to turquoise in captivity), slightly lighter on the underside and has a thick black stripe from its bill to the nape. The wings are reddish maroon. Due to excess exposure to sunlight, they often appear turquoise (instead of green) in captivity. After its death, the color of the bird changes into blue. Like other Magpies, the Green Magpies are shy birds and not easy to see.

It is found in the area starting from the lower Himalayas in north eastern India up to central Thailand, Malaysia, Sumatra and northwestern Borneo - in a broad south easterly band- in evergreen forest, clearings and scrub.


This bird finds its food both on the ground and in trees. They are carnivorous and mainly feed on arthropods and small vertebrates. It will also eat flesh from a recently killed carcass.

Green magpie builds hefty roofed nests mainly on the trees and tall bushes; often in tangles of various climbing vines. They mainly use sticks, leaves and mud for building their bowl-shaped nest. They usually lay 4–6 eggs at a time. They are also known for their lifelong pairings.


Object of the Month - March 2017

VasewithHundredFlowers

VASE WITH ‘HUNDRED FLOWERS’

Porcelain

Jiangxi province, China

Late Qing dynasty, 19th century CE

Sir D. J. Tata Collection

Acc. No. 33.1377

The Chinese believe that when all flowers are in bloom, they augur good tidings and bring prosperity. This vase with a tall neck is covered with painted peonies, chrysanthemums, lotus, lilies, pink asters and many other flowers. Known as mille fleur in the West, this motif is known as baihuadi in Chinese, (hundred flower ground). This auspicious design was developed at the Qianlong imperial workshop to signify that the Qing empire would last as long as flowers continued to bloom, the motif flourished during the next two reigns. Though the blue seal on the base indicates that the vase was made in the Qianlong era, the piece was most probably made in the later Daoguang period, as indicated by the second character qing, which is missing a vertical stroke.


Object of the Month - February 2017

When Britain was expanding its political and economic hold over India, an artistic and technological shift was happening that enabled an accurate pictorial record of the country. By late 18th century CE, drawing and painting was making space for variety of prints (lithographs and others) recording the land, its people and their culture. A century later photographs replaced both as a more reliable visual record. After 1770, professional artists began to visit India and observe the country through the eyes of British taste. They made oil paintings for local British residents, as well as drawings, which could later be worked up in England into engravings. Suddenly the market had numerous copies of the same subject.

After the Anglo-Maratha war, the British residents started taking interest in western India. The appearance of Captain Robert Melville Grindlay’s book “Scenery, Costumes and Architecture” shows a shift of interest from Eastern to Central India, Rajputana, Deccan and Gujarat. This print captures the view of the mystical Kailash Temple at Ellora in Aurangabad district, Maharashtra, at a time when India was in the process of discovery. The late 18th to early 19th centuries were a time of many changes. History was transitioning from the medieval to the modern. Such records are important because the mid of the 19th century saw the rediscovery of an ancient India as well as the making of the modern. These prints record India as it was just before this transit.

2007.299 1

 

2007.299

Great Excavated Temple at Ellora

By Robert Melville Grindlay (1789 – 1877)

Drawn on the spot for the Hon Lady Hood

By Captain Grindlay in 1813

Coloured aquatint by J. B. Hogarth with etching by G. Rawle

Published in Grindlay’s Scenery, Costumes and Architecture

Chiefly on the western side of India

London, 1826 – 30

Vol. I, pl. 12

Gift by Pauline & Roy Rohatgi


Object of the Month - January 2017

22

 

Phuldan – Flower Vase

Deccan,

19th century CE

Damascene work

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection

22.901

The ground of the tall, slender vase is richly ornamented with gold damascene work. The body of the vase is divided into four panels, each in the shape of a large petal. Each panel has eight-petalled flowers all over. Similar flowers decorate neck and base. The term “damascening” is derived from the name of the ancient city of Damascus in Syria where it originated. It reached India during the Mughal period, probably through Iran and Afganistan. Initially this technique was used mainly to decorate hilts of daggers, swords, and shields. However, later it was also used to embellish articles of daily use like boxes, huqqa bases, vases, trays, etc. Metal objects, especially those of steel or iron, were embellished using the damascening technique. The art is practised in many countries though there are variations in the decoration from region to region. It is an art of decorating one metal with encrusted designs in another metal, usually gold or silver. A laborious technique is to cut grooves in the surface of the base metal, to receive thin gold leaf or wire which is hammered carefully into the incised pattern. In another technique gold leaf or wire is inlaid or applied to a surface which has been prepared by crosshatching or chasing with a sharp tool. This work is a bit superficial compared to the former technique. It is therefore called koftgari or false damascening.

 


Object of the Month - December 2016

nataraja2

 

B 72.1

Name: Nataraja - the Lord of the Dance

Bronze

South India, 18th century CE

Presented in memory of Bai Dossibai and Seth Cawasjee Clubwala by their grandson Nariman

Shiva is the creator, sustainer, dispeller of ignorance, grantor of solace and destroyer. These five essential acts are called Shiva panchakrityas. The destruction by Shiva, according to Shaiva Siddhanta, is both the end and the beginning. Nataraja is the depiction of Shiva as cosmic dancer. He performs tandava, a vigorous dance which is source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. In this cosmic dance Nataraja trampled Apasmara purusha a demon representing ignorance. It is believed that Shiva always remains in his Nataraja form suppressing Apasmara for all eternity. He did not kill him to maintain balance of knowledge and ignorance.


Object of the Month - October 2016


Name: Venus and Adonis

Giuseppe Bartolommeo Chiari (1654-1727)
Oil on canvas
Italian
Sir Tatan Tata Collection
22.4554

Adonis, in Greek mythology, is the god of beauty and desire. The narrative of Venus’ love for Adonis first appeared in the 1st century BCE Roman poet Ovid’s mythological narrative, ‘Metamorphoses’. As Adonis is about to go for hunting in the forest, Venus seizes him and persuades him to love her, although Adonis is not very interested and cares only for hunting. After they part, Adonis is soon killed in a hunting accident. Venus’ sensuous nude figure is shown passively lying in the foreground while Adonis, with his hounds is all set to escape from the scene for hunting. Cupid is shown pulling his cloak trying to divert his attention to Venus.

Giuseppe Bartolommeo Chiari was an Italian painter of the late-Baroque period, active mostly in Rome. In 1666 CE, joined the Italian Baroque painter Carlo Maratta or Maratti (1625 –1713) as an assistant and in a short period of time he became one of the leading painters in early 18th century Rome, winning commission for major ceiling decoration in the Palazzo Barberini and in the Palazzo Colonna.

The Venus’ figure is reminiscent in pose of ‘Sleeping Venus’ by Giorgio Barbarelli da Castelfranco, (c. 1477/8–1510), Italian painter of the High Renaissance, which is on display in the Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden, Germany

Recently the signature of the artist has been discovered on the base of the chariot and near the left breast of Venus. The InfraRed image of the signature clearly reads ‘Joseph Clarivs’- the anglicised version of the artist’s name.


Object of the Month - September 2016

Name: Harappan Storage Jar

C. 2500 – 1900 B.C.E
93 x 79 cms.
Acc. No. 1637

The Harappan jar consists of three parts- a narrow base that is usually made in a chuck or using a mold, a large rounded body and a narrow neck, both of which were made separately and added on to the base. The points where the three sections are attached are smoothed over. But since the mid section of the jar is thick and heavy, string is tied around this section to keep it together after the pot has been shaped. The string leaves an impression on the soft clay when the jar is fired and the string burns away.

The jar is coated with a red or purple-black slip on the inside and a black or purple-black slip on the outside. The slips that create an impermeable surface, the large size of the jar and their narrow necks suggest that they were most suitable for storing liquids (wine or water) or grains.

Similar jars have been found in a number of Indus sites such as Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Chanhudaro and others. They have also been found in Hili in modern day UAE and since they are not part of the local assemblage there, it clearly shows that these jars were brought there from Harappan sites.


Object of the Month - August 2016

Name: Indian Pangolin

Scientific Name: Manis crassicaudata

The Indian pangolin, thick-tailed pangolin, or scaly anteater is a pangolin found in the plains and hills of India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan. It is not common anywhere in its range. It has large, overlapping scales on its body which act as armor. It can also curl itself into a ball as self-defense against predators such as the tiger, lion and leopard. It is an insectivore that feeds on ants and termites, digging them out of mounds and logs using its long claws, which are as long as it’s fore limbs. It is nocturnal and rests in deep burrows during the day. The Indian pangolin is endangered by hunting for its meat and for various body parts used in traditional medicine.


Object of the Month - July 2016

Name: Megha Raga

Deccani, Hyderabad
circa 1725 CE.
22.3305

The term Raga connotes harmony and melody as well as a musical mode. An individual Raga was associated with the deity to whom the Ragas were dedicated. Ragamala paintings depict Ragas’ respective personified form or presiding deified form conceived by traditional musicians and poets. These paintings were created in albums containing most often 36 or 42 folios, organized in a system of ‘families’ consisting of a male Raga as its head and 5 or 6 Raginis (wives), sometimes many Ragaputras (sons) and Ragaputris (daughters) and even Putravadhus (daughters-in-law).


Object of the Month - June 2016

Name: Asiatic Lion

Scientific Name: Panthera leo persica

The Gir National Park and Wildlife Sanctuary in Western Gujarat is the only habitat for the Asiatic lion (Panthera leo persica). The population recovered from the brink of extinction to 411 individuals in 2010. It is listed as Endangered by IUCN due to its small population size.

Severe hunting by Indian royalties and colonial personnel led to a steady and marked decline of lion numbers in the country. By 1880 only about a dozen lions were left in the Junagadh district. By the turn of the century, they were confined to the Gir Forest and protected by the Nawab of Junagadh in his private hunting grounds. In 2015, the lion population was estimated at 523 individuals.


Object of the Month - May 2016

Laksha-Chaitya - A Millon Stupas

Cloth Painting

Nepal

15th Century C.E.

53.25

Laksha-Chaitya pata is a symbolic offering of one hundred thousand chaityas (stupas) to the god. It is a name of a vrata or ritual observed by Buddhist devotees which involves the donation of one hundred thousand chaityas in the name of the deity.

This particular pata is devoted to Tathagata Vairochana, one of the five Dhyani Buddhas. He is seated on a lotus pedestal in dharmachakra-pravartana mudra (gesture of turning the wheel of law by the Buddha) flanked by a white Avalokiteshvara and a yellow Maitreya. Within the garbhagriha (main shrine) are seen four Taras in yellow, blue, green and red. Personified figures of the moon riding a chariot drawn by seven geese are shown in the two vignettes. There are celestial beings in the four small vignettes. In small rectangles on the four sides are depicted the four Tathagatas- Amitabha (red), Amoghasiddhi (green), Akshobhya (blue) and Ratnasambhava (white).

An interesting feature of this pata is the depiction of Jataka, Avadana and stories of the Buddha within rectangular frames immediately around the central stupa and on the extreme outer border.


Object of the Month - April 2016

Objectofthemonth April2016


Shree Rampanchayatan
Chitrashala Steam Press
Pune
Early 20th century
78.6/30

The word panchayantan has Sanskrit origin. Pancha means five and ayatana means containing. It means group of five gods worshipped together. Panchayatan gods are Ganesha, Shiva, Vishnu, Surya and Shakti. The arrangement of the Panchayatan is done in such a way that the particular god is placed in the centre of other four gods. For example, in Shiva Panchayatan, God Shiva is placed in the centre and others are placed around.
The concept of Rampanchayatan was introduced at a later date which has Ram, Sita, Laxman, Bharat and Shatrughana.


Object of the Month - March 2016

mar2016

Portrait of Shivaji (1674-1680)
Deccani
Bijapur
18th century CE


Object of the Month - February 2016

Ganesha Puja
Kalamkari on Cotton
Tamil Nadu
20th Century CE
177 x 292 cms.
82.5

A large size Kalamkari pata on cloth depicting a scene of Ganesh Puja.

Ganesh with the four hands seated on mouse. At his back there is a big parikar is seen which is surmounted by a Stylized Kirtimukha. He is being worshipped by the devotees on either side. Two main devotees are standing with lamp, bell, a dish of sweet balls and incense burner. There are flying figures of females with flower baskets in the sky above the row of devotees.

At the top along the border there is a design of folded curtains on either side. A flower creeper design is shown running all along the border of pata.

The background of the painting is off-white. The colour used is Indian red, Pale yellow-ocher, light blue and light green.

Published in Hamsafar


Object of the Month - January 2016

Baramasa-Set

Pausa
Baramasa Set
Rajasthani, Bundi
circa 1770 CE
24.5 x 15 cms.
15.335

Hindu month of Pausa. The poet Keshavdas says that

In the month of Pausa nobody likes cold things, whether they are water, food, dress or house. Even the earth and sky have become cold. In this season everyone rich and poor alike, likes oil (massage of oil), cotton (cotton filled clothes), betel, fire (to warm the room), sunshine and company of woman. (During the month) the days are short and nights are dark and long. This is not the time to quarrel with ones lover (meaning thereby that this is the time of union of lovers). Keeping all these aspects in mind the Beloved asks her Lover not to leave her in the month of Pausa.

'Baramasa' or 'Songs of the twelve months' is a poetic genre that describes each of the months of the Indian calendar in terms of love and its rhetoric. The most famous one is Keshavdasa’s Kavipriya which mirrors his mastery of the selection of words and phrases and describes the life, ceremonies and rituals of the people in different seasons. It is a popular subject in Bundi School as it gives the artists an opportunity to indulge in his love for landscape.


Object of the Month - December 2015

Datta
Bronze
Deccan
20th Century CE
Gift of Angela and Ernst Misha Jucker
2012.557

Dattatreya is a composite figure combining the three gods of the Hindu trinity into a single three-headed deity. Dattatreya carries the characteristic insingnia of Vishnu (conch and discus), Shiva (trident) and Brahman (begging bowl and rosary). He is accompanied by 4 dogs, who represent the four Vedas and a bull. His cult was primarily located in the Western regions of Maharashtra and Karnataka.


Object of the Month - November 2015

Baramasa-set

Baramasa Set - Month of Kartika
Rajasthani, Bundi
Late 18th century CE
35.5 x 24.3 cm
57.18/2

Hindu month of Kartika. The poet Keshavdas says that

Woods and gardens, rivers, earth and sky are clear and shining bright illuminated by lamps (of Dipavali festival). The days and nights are full of joy, and couples are gambling. The courtyards and walls of every house are gay with colourful paintings of gods and goddesses. The whole universe is pervaded with celestial light and all men and women are gay with love. This is the month for earning merit by sacred baths, giving alms and worship of God.

'Baramasa' or 'Songs of the twelve months' is a poetic genre that describes each of the months of the Indian calendar in terms of love and its rhetoric. The most famous one is Keshavdasa’s Kavipriya which mirrors his mastery of the selection of words and phrases and describes the life, ceremonies and rituals of the people in different seasons. It is a popular subject in Bundi School as it gives the artists an opportunity to indulge in his love for landscape.


Object of the Month - October 2015

Kali

Kali
Porcelain
Germany
Early 21st century CE
Gift of Smt. Rekha Naik in memory of Late Dr. Deepak Srinivas Naik
2015.169

Devi or the great goddess is the divine feminine aspect which is being worshipped by Indians throughout the ages. She is worshipped in both benevolent and ferocious form and known by various names like Uma, Gauri, Parvati, Jagadamba, Bhairavi, Durga, Kali, Chandi, Bhavani, Chamunda and so on. Her worship symbolizes the acceptance of the female energy.

Since prehistoric times the female energy is worshipped as a giver of life and fertility. Indus Valley sites (2600- 1900 BCE) have yielded a large number of female clay figurines which are probably of mother goddesses.

During the Gupta period (320- 647 CE) the worship of the Great Goddesses gained popularity. By this time the text- 'Devi Mahatmya' glorifying Devi was composed. Devi Mahatmya considers that Devi represents all the three aspects – prakriti (creation), maya (illusion) and shakti (power). She creates, pervades and sustains the Universe. Shakti here is not a consort of male deity but rather she is a universal phenomenon, the sole reality.

The goddess is worshipped in her benign (Saumya) and ferocious (Ugra) forms . In her ferocious form she is the slayer of demons like Madhu-Kaitabh, Mahishasura, Shumbha, Nishumbha. She has several manifestations that are dreadful, dangerous and bloodthirsty.


Object of the Month - September 2015

Sawai Madhavrao Worshipping Ganesha

Sawai Madhavrao Worshipping Ganesha
Gouache on paper
Deccani, Satara
Dated 1854 AD
31.2 x 23 cm
27.8

All Hindu ceremonies commence with an invocation to Ganesha. In Maharashtra, to which area this painting belongs, he is specially worshipped in Hindu month of Bhadrapada coinciding generally with September. Clay images of Ganesha are installed and worshipped for five, seven, ten or eleven days after which they are taken in a procession and immersed in the river or sea.

Sawai Madhavrao (1774 – 1795 AD), Peshwa of the Maratha chief of the Deccan and an ardent Devotee of Ganesha is seen offering worship to his tutelary deity.


Object of the Month - August 2015

Silk with Jari

Sari
Silk with jari
Chander, Madhya Pradesh
Early 20th Century
Gift of Smt. Kalpana Vora
98.4

This unique specially commissioned sari expresses the feeling of patriotism of its wearer. It has star-shaped buttis woven all over the ground in silver and golden jari. The slogan Vande Mataram is woven in green and maroon resham (silk thread) on the buttis and also all along the border.

This revolutionary song was written by Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay in 1882. It soon became an inspirational slogan for freedom fighters. The song was first sung in a political context by Rabindranath Tagore at the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress. It became a national song of the independent India in 1950.


Object of the Month - July 2015

Meghmalhar

Acc No 55.78/2
Ragini Meghmalhar
Ragamala Set
Rajasthani, Kotah
Late 18th Century CE

Ragamala paintings depict Ragas’ respective personified form or presiding deified form conceived by traditional musicians and poets. These paintings were created in albums containing most often 36 or 42 folios, organized in a system of ‘families’ consisting of a male Raga as its head and 5 or 6 Raginis (wives), sometimes many Ragaputras (sons) and Ragaputris (daughters) and even Putravadhus (daughters-in-law).

Bundi and Kotah artists have been prolific in the creation of the Baramasa and Ragamala series of paintings and have adopted very similar compositions for each of themes.

This painting has Krishna, dressed in red and gold, holding a veena in his left hand and dancing in the centre. He faces a female figure to the left who is playing on a pair of cymbals. To the right is a woman playing mridanga.


Object of the month - June 2015

Jyeshtha

2009.207
Month of Jyeshtha
From a set of Baramasa,
Rajashani, Kotah,circa 1760.

Bundi and Kotah artists have been prolific in the creation of the Baramasa1 and Ragamala series of paintings and have adopted very similar compositions for each of themes. This paintings is from one such dispersed Baramasa set. It includes lush green foliage, birds and animals, hillocks and river, architecture, and human beings, each being and important part of the drama.

The agony of the summer heat is depicted more through suggestion than through realistic representation of the season. The inspiration for the imagery of this season must have been derived from the Ritusamhara of Kalidasa.2 Describing the summer season he writes that the peacock who has sheltered beneath the peacock’s parasol of plums.

The sun is shining brightly in the sky, through the thick green vegetation. The elephant shelters the lion cub just as the snake is sheltered by the peacock. The hunters and fowlers sitting under the tree let the deer and the birds roam peacefully.The hero and heroine enjoy the cool of the water fountain, while the ducks enjoy its spray. In keeping with the tradition of Kotah artists, the Blue God takes the role of hero and is seated on the balcony of the second floor with his beloved. His face is highlighted by a circular white shadow and the tender faces of the fair-complexioned ladies are highlighted by dark shadows.


Object of the month - May 2015

Paithani Sari

Sari
Silk, Brocade
Paithan, Maharashtra
19th Century A.D.
542 x 108 cms. (Acc. No.97.12/4)
Gift of Shri Bansi Mehta from his wife Sushila Asher’s Collection

Paithani textile derives its name from Paithan, a small town near Nasik, which is the centre of its production even today. It is a typical creation of the weavers of Maharashtra and its peculiarity lies in the use of an interlocking technique to create borders and designs in highly contrasting colours.

Like several other regional styles of weaving, Paithani is also a family-based craft passing from generation to generation. Minute minakari designs in the pallu using various colours is woven with the help of multiple spindles (tillies), which makes it a very laborious and complicated task. Paithani textiles mainly consist of sari, pugdi piece, dhoti and dupatta, out of which, the sari of course is the most elaborate. The sari generally has brocade borders and a big golden pallu with colourful floral and other designs. Occasionally, the ground is decorated with fine buties in gold. The pallu is richly decorated with a variety of motifs like asavali, akroti, bangdimor, Ajanta lotus and huma parinda. Some of the saris have a coin motif known as ashrafi spread all over the fabric.

The ruling families of the Peshwas particularly partronised Paithani. Their fondness for Paithani is reflected in many of the letters ordering dhotis, dupattas, turbans etc. in different varieties and colours. Documents show their preference for plain dhoti with silver and gold thread work, turbans in green and dupatta having asavali or narali work in red, pink, orange and green. Besides Paithan, many other regional centres began to weave Paithani. Yeola, one such centre became famous for its mango designs. Paithani was not only popular with the Marathas but it also attracted the Nizam of Hyderabad and his family who had visited the Paithani centre several times. His daughter-in-law Begum Nilofar even introduced new motifs to the border as we as pallu designs.

Traditionally known as Jambhul Rang Paithani, this purple Paithani originally belonged to the Nizam family as reported by the collector herself. It has nearly woven Jai Phul (Jasmine) jari butis all over which are closely spaced near the pallu. The broad borders are done in narali pattern. On the ground near the pallu there are eight guldasta butis in the shape of mango and a diaper of cartouches containing flowers done in a silver jari. A beautiful interplay of gold and silver is seen in the silver mango motifs on the golden pallu. The pallu also has a band of vine pattern border running all around.


Object of the month - April 2015

Hanuman

2009.537
Money God Hanuman
India, Karnataka, Gadag,
c.16th century
Bronze, 32.5 cm. ( 13.3 x 11x 38.5 cms)

Hanuman is the name for both a species of money as well as the devout simian follower of Rama, the divine hero of the epic Ramayana and an avatar of Vishnu. Apart from being represented with Rama, Hanuman is the focus of widespread worship by Hindus as a remover of difficulties (sankatamochana). This image once certainly belonged to a group that must have included Rama, Lakshmana, one of Rama’s siblings, and his spouse Sita. From Hanuman’s posture and attitude of devotion it can be surmised he would have faced his master.

But for his simian head and the tail that rises to the back of the head, he is essentially a human figure. His hands are joined against his chest in the classic Indian gesture of greeting and devotion. He wears a dhoti with a broad belt and several hanging ornaments over his garment that create a pleasing rhythmic pattern. By contrast the torso is more sparsely adorned though there is a suggestion of a short jacket around the chest. Only a few of the ornaments and the dhoti are represented on the back which is otherwise well modelled.


Object of the month - March 2015

Hanuman in the Service of  Rama

2009.134
Hanuman in the Service of Rama
Pahari, probably Mandi, circa 1770.
30.5 x 23.5 cm (with border),
23.3 x 16.5 cm (without border).
Formerly in the Sir Dorab Tata Collection, Bombay.
Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection

This well-finished miniature with gold shows Rama and Sita back in Ayodhya after their many tribulations described in the Ramayana. The faithful Hanuman is seen washing Rama's feet. The setting is the palace of a Hill raja in the architectural fashion of the second half of the 18th century. Sita and her maidens are all Pahari ladies and Rama is a Pahari chief, save that he wears a crown instead of a turban. Rama's face is painted blue because he, like Krishna, is an incarnation of the God Vishnu, whose colour is always blue. The long forest exile is over and Sita has been rescued from Ravana.

To those familiar with the epic, the feeling of joyous reunion, subtly suggested in the faces of Rama and his consort, will be apparent. The artist's interpretation of the undisturbed happiness which Rama and Sita were not to enjoy for long, is undeniably sensitive. There is a sense of isolation which is suggested by the battlemented walls that shut out the palace from the outer world. The royal couple seem so far away from the whispered rumours of evil tongues, which are to end their newfound bliss. Here in the company of a few adoring handmaidens and the ever faithful Hanuman, there is peace and rest and soft music after the long travail. The maiden in the middle of the group to the right holds Rama's bow and quiver of arrows. They are a reminder of the days in the forest and the struggle against Ravana. Rama also wears a flower garland. Comic relief is afforded by Hanuman who glances up at the girl playing the drum as if he does not approve of her performance. The Indian artist was always most successful in humanizing Hanuman's monkey form.

The curtain, partly rolled up, at the top of the picture, is a common device borrowed from Mughal painting, while the doorkeeper standing in the distant entrance-arch, is another favourite Mughal cliché derived from Persian miniatures. The workmanship of this painting is of high excellence, particularly the faces of Rama and Sita, which are in Kangra kalam and have a delicate porcelain-like finish, which the colour reproduction fails to convey. Airy pavilions of white or pink stone and semicircular arches supported by elegant pillars were greatly in fashion. Silver was used for woven and painted textiles, huqqas, and other objects. It was also used to depict water and lotuses. Silver tarnishes after a time and in consequence, it is always seen as a metallic grey-black wherever it appears in Pahari paintings. The cushions in the painting are an instance in point. The mount surrounding the miniature is pink with close hatching of short strokes in a darker pink.

Though ascribed to Mandi, women with similar features are also found in paintings from Guler and Chamba, and this painting could equally well be assigned to Guler. Roerich acquired a similar painting stated to be the work of a Mandi artist; hence, the Mandi attribution. But in this connection the migration of artists from one state to another must always be borne in mind.


Object of the month - February 2015

Shiva

SHIVA
Basalt
Parel, Mumbai
Maharashtra
Mid 6th Century A.D.
Gift of Smt. Kesharbai Sadanand Paralkar
96 x 41 x 18 cms. (Acc. No. 81.6/1)

This image of Shiva was in active worship until very recently in the Baijanath Mahadeva temple at Parel, about 12 kilometres north of the museum. Stylistically, it is similar to the sculptures at Elephanta and belongs to the same period i.e. 5th- 6th Century A.D.

The image is carved in conformity with the then prevalent Western Indian style sculpture, which was a continuation of the Gupta idiom.

We have here, a well-proportioned body standing erect in a position of perfect balance. It is lightly decorated with a string of beads around his neck and twisted hair on his head. His eyes are in a meditating state and the third eye, a distinctive iconographic feature of Shiva images is also present. His right hand holds a trident and the left is akimbo. His dhoti, tightly curled into a rope at the waist forming a central loop in front, connects this image to the family of sculptures from Shamalaji in Gujarat. The face of the tiger on the vyaghracharma (tiger skin) draped around his waist is distinctly carved on the right thigh.


Object of the month - January 2015

St John Plate Obverse

St John Plate Reverse

a22.4521

Plate with the Birth of John the Baptist

Limoges, France
Mid-16th Century
Polychrome enamel on copper
19.8 cm
Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection

The circular plate is painted in grisaille, heightened with flesh tones, small touches of red, and gilding. The centre depicts the birth of St. John the Baptist, within a band of griffons, masks and vases on black ground around the rim; the reverse is painted with four masks and strapwork, within rubbed gilded bands of arabesques and laurel. The reverse bears two old paper labels, including an exhibition or dealer’s label with initials A.S. & C.

This plate probably belonged to a set painted with a series of scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist. The story of his birth is only told in the Gospel of Luke.

The Tata plate is not signed but is close in style to the work of jean de court (active 1555-85). He was not the inventor of the decoration however. The ornamental border and strapwork to the reverse is in the typical decorative language of mid to late 16th century Mannerism and the main subject, set in a fashionable contemporary interior and depicting the newborn being washed and, in the background, being dried and warmed by the fire, is almost certainly derived from an engraving. The exact surce has not been traced but a cycle of engravings of the life of the Baptist by Martin van Heemskerck includes a very similarly composed scene


Object of the month - December 2014

dec_obj

SARI

Acc. No. 97. 12/2
Silk, Batik
Shantiniketan, West Bengal
1935-1939 A.D.
Designed by Nandalal Bose
490 x 114 cms.
Gift of Shri Bansi Mehta from his wife Sushila Asher’s Collection.

BATIK is one of the earliest methods used for creating designs on fabrics. There are diverse opinions regarding the origin of the art. According to some scholars it originated in China while some ascribe its origin to India and Java. Popularly it is known as Javanese art of wax printing. The design is created by resist dyeing process using wax as the resist, which retains the original fabric colour in the patterns, after dyeing the material. It was forgotten in our country till the University of Shantiniketan revived the art around 1923. Pratima Tagore learnt this Batik technique in Paris and started the workshops at Shantiniketan.

The present sari is a unique example of Batik specially designed sometime around 1940 by Nandalal Bose, a renowned artist of the Bengal School, for a performance to be staged in front of Gurudev Tagore. Gauri, the daughter of Nandababu, executed it in Batik. The sari is designed on motia or off-white fine silk and the patterns were drawn with brush and tjanting method in which a copper vessel filled with hot wax is used. A gentle flow of wax is maintained through the spout to draw a freehand design. The brown silk sari has bold floral creeper designs on the pallu, border and in the centre where it is to be pleated into multiple folds.

The sari was worn by Sushila Asher while performing the famous dance drama Shyama as well as Natir puja in 1940, in the presence of Gurudev Tagore.


Object of the month - November 2014

garuda_deepa_nov

Garudadipa – Lamp with Garuda

Maharashtra,
Early 20th Century CE
Brass
Height 30 cm
Sir D. J. Tata Collection
33.725

The impressive lamp must have been made for a Vaishnava temple. Garuda, the vahana (mount) of Lord Vishnu, is shown in human form, identified by his large out-stretched wings and sharp, beak-like nose. He wears a mukuta (crown) with a serpant, earrings, necklace, armbands, kadas (bangles), and yajnopavita (sacred thread), and has the typical U-shaped Vaishnava tilaka on his forehead and similar marks on his body. He is shown subduing a Naga with his left knee. This is a symbolic representation of the mythology connected with Garuda and his Naga cousins whom he defeated.

The interesting part of this figure is the lamp placed behind Garuda’s head. The lamp is in the form of a padma (lotus) which is also one of the attributes of Vishnu. Interestingly the lamp can be opened and closed as required. When not in use, the form presented is that of a lotus bud, but unscrewing the bud to use the lamp the fuel receptacle appears as a round bowl forming the centre of a full-bloomed lotus.

The practice of using animal and bird figures for lamps and other ritual objects is common in India. This is probably because the vahana which is favourite of a particular deity is a suitable medium for conveying a devotee’s gift or offering to the god. The Garudadipa is one of the 16 lamp types (Shodashadipa Lakshana) mentioned in the Shilpashastras.


Object of the month - October 2014

MAHISHASURAMARDINI

Basalt
Elephanta
Maharashtra
Mid 6th Century A.D.
116 x 37 cms.


This is a fragment of what must have been a magnificent image of Mahishasuramardini. In the mythological story, the witty demon Mahisha troubled the Gods endlessly until Goddess Durga came to their help. She killed the demon Mahisha (who in the form of a buffalo) and therefore is known as ‘Mahishasuramardini’ – one who killed the buffalo demon. This sculpture is from the nearby Elephanta caves. It is overpowering with its strength and vigour. The artist has vividly captured the forceful attack of the goddess on the buffalo demon and depicts his agony, as he turns his head up in deadly action.

The tail of the buffalo is curled as it happens with the cattle in times of anxiety. The goddess has her foot on the back of the buffalo demon completely subjugating him. Even though the upper part of the sculpture is lost, the modeling of the solid mass of the body of the buffalo, the firm, strong legs of the goddess, and vivid depiction of her act of killing, suggest the work of a great artist.

Elephanta is an island located about 12 kms. away from this Museum. The cave structures are decorated with grand and marvelous stone sculptures. Though many of these sculptures are mutilated, their sizes as well as quality of workmanship testify to their importance as sculptures from Western India.


Object of the month - July 2014

‘The Mahomaden Pilgrim’ is the painting by Savalaram Haldankar which won him the gold medal in 1925 in the exhibition of Bombay Art Society. On the mountainous background, an old man draped in shawl is set off for the pilgrimage carrying a huqqa and a bundle. The high points of this painting are the dramatic effect achieved through light and shade.  He had a fascination to depict play of light and shadows. Haldankar was a promising student of art since childhood. Inspired by his teacher, N. S. Malankar, he joined Sir J. J. School of Art, Bombay as a student in 1903. He was taught by Cecil Burns, Walter Robotham, Ganpatrao Kedari and A. X. Trindade.

After passing from Sir J. J. School of Art, Haldankar soon earned a name as a master portrait painter and began receiving important commissioned works. One such request was from Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru to paint a portrait of Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya, the work now displayed in Parliament House, New Delhi Pt. Nehru also awarded him the title “Kalamaharshi”.


Object of the month - June 2014

Raas Krida on Sharad Purnima
Rajasthani, Nathdvara, 19th century CE
(Acc. No. 78.7/2) Painting size: 55*42 cms.

Dance, drama and music forms an essential part of Bhagavata sect since ancient times. As early as 400 B.C. Bhasa the great dramatist presents Raas dance associated with Bhagavata cult. There is a mention in the Bhagavata Purana where Krishna says that “My stories should be sung, dance and enacted on festive occasions” (XI.27.44).

Philosophically the most important dance of Krishna is the Raasmandala (Raas Lila) meaning circle of delight or ecstasy. The love of Krishna and the gopis takes place in a circle which has no beginning nor an end and goes on and on for eternity. In the Vaishnava cult this mystic dance has a special ritualistic significance.

Dashma skanda of Bhagavata Purana describes the Raas lila of Krishna. With a desire to sport with gopis on a full moon night of Sharada Ritu (October-November), Krishna invites gopis by playing melodious music on his flute. Enchanted by the music, gopis rush to him and Krishna starts dancing and sporting with them amorously. On receiving Krishna’s favour gopis feel immense pride. Realizing this, Krishna disappears from the scene and comes back only on repeated pleading of the gopis and plays maharass with them. With his divine power he multiplies himself and dances with all the gopis and simultaneously. He thus convinces them that he participates in their lives, giving freely of himself to each and everyone and ensuring that he is lovingly and completely available to his devotees. The dance leads the gopis to the path of liberation where the individual soul jivatman joins the divine soul parmatman.

There is a long tradition of circular dance in India. The earliest reference of a circular dance is in the Harivansha Purana (5th century A.D.). The dance is referred here as ‘Hallishaka’ where many women dance in a circle around one man. In Indian Philosophy a circle has many symbolic connotations.

Svetastara Upanishada says:

“This Universe is a wheel
Upon it are all creatures that are subject to
Birth, death and rebirth
Round and round it turns
And never stops”.

The Tradition of raas dance still continues.
Krishna through Yogamaya became many so that he could give his love to all. He was like a sapphire in a necklace of gold. There was such harmony of ragas and raginis that hearing it, water and wind no longer flowed. The moon together with the starry sky being astonished rained down nectar with its rays. The wives of Gods gathered in the sky. Meanwhile night advanced and six months had passed. The name of that night has been the night of Brahma.

Surdasa