Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya

October object of the month


Head of Bodhisattva


Hudda, Gandhara

4th century CE

Ht. 21.5 cm

Karl and Meherbai Khandalavala Collection


With the invasion of Alexander in 326 BCE, the Gandhara region got peopled by Greeks. In the Parthians and other settlers who were converted to the prevalent Buddhist way of life. The art form we call Gandhara resulted. It flourished from the 2nd to 4th century CE.

The image of the Bodhisattva in Buddhism was introduced for the first time in Gandhara art. As you can see in this stucco, the head is fashioned after the Graeco-Roman ideals of anatomical perfection.

This Bodhisattva head has a princely charm. The features are well-defined: beautiful eyelids and deep eye sockets under elegantly curved eyebrows, an aquiline nose, a broad forehead, thin lips, and a tuft on his head denoting wisdom. The light beige earth colour, the texture of the material, and the naturalistic modelling of the face make it almost human.

Like stone, stucco was a popular medium in Gandhara from at least the 1st century though along with clay it became more popular in the 4th–5th century.

Radha Krishna

Pahari: Garhwal

c. 1795 CE

Acc No 48.2

Lila Hava is the playful love game of Radha and Krishna imagined by the Pushti Margi ashtachap poet Surdasa.

The painting shows Radha and Krishna seated in the solitude of the forest enjoying the ecstasy of love. Radha fully immersed in the shringara rasa is wearing just a translucent odhani. The amorous play of the couple has reached its fulfilment and now Radha, whose inner soul is already united with her beloved is eager to change her outer appearance “you become Radha and I will become Madhava!” She has crowned herself with the mukuta of Madhava (Krishna) and now doing shringara of Krishna. Their love drenched eyes are completely lost in each other. The artist seems to have understood the philosophy of the theme very well. The lush green forest with a few blossoms and a few chirping birds are the only witnesses to this divine drama. The bluish-grey background suggests the advent of dawn.

Vishnu as Narayana

Illustration to Vishnu Purana

Pahari, Kangra

c. 1790 CE

Acc No 92.25

The painting narrates an episode from Vishnu Purana, establishing Krishna as an incarnation of Vishnu. According to the story, there was a time when the earth was overburdened with demons. One amongst them was demon Kalnemi who was reborn as Kansa, the king of Mathura. The earth, then taking the form of a cow went to the gods. All of them, including Brahma and Indra then went to Vishnu for help. Vishnu assured the gods that he will descend on earth once again and destroy the demons.

The painting depicts Vishnu and Lakshmi seated on the coils of polycephalous Ananta in the midst of Kshirasagara. Four-faced Brahma along with Indra and other gods are standing in the right corner with a white cow representing the earth. The milky ocean is depicted by aquatic animals floating on the waves. The green grassy area around the ocean suggests the earth.

This theme was mainly popular with the Pahari painters.

Ragini Todi

Artist: Nisaruddin

Rajasthani, Mewar, Chavand

1605 CE

Acc No 2009.307

Ragini Todi is one of the most beautiful folios of the famous Chavand Ragamala dated 1605. The heroine holding a vina is proceeding somewhere, and turns to look back at the two blackbuck fawns following her, gently coaxing them to return home.

Generally, Ragini Todi is described as a lady attracting deer. A careful study of the painting makes it obvious that the lady is walking away while the fawns follow her. The imagery is reminiscent of the famous scene from Abhijnana Shakuntala where a fawn follows Shakuntala who, on taking leave of the members of the hermitage of Kanva, proceeds towards the kingdom of Bharata. She feeds the tiny one fresh shoots of grass and coaxes it to return. Sangita Damodara, one of the earliest treatises on the iconography of the ragas, datable to the 15th century, visualizes Ragini Todi in similar manner:

Standing near a dense forest, fondling the deer with the shoots of lotus,

with beautiful eyes like half blown lotus, possessing the complexion of a

lotus garland, she is the Ragini Todi.

The term todi connotes parting or breaking in Persian. Traditionally Ragini Todi is also considered to evoke sad feelings. The pain of parting with the daughter after her marriage, so poignantly described by Kalidasa, is an unforgettable experience for every parent. It is possible that musicologists derived the iconography of this raga from this description of Kalidasa. The melody itself may have developed from the songs which are sung at the time of bidding the daughter goodbye. Even today, these songs form a part of the wedding ritual of almost every community in India.

The date of the painting was read by Khandalavala himself in the colophon of the set which is now in the Gopikrishna Kanoria collection.



Tamil Nadu

Early 11th century CE

Gift of Lady Cowasji Jehangir

Accession No. S 63.35

Sadashiva is considered to be the highest form of Shiva as the supreme being from whom all others have originated. Shaivagamas gives description of Sadashiva murti as having one face, three eyes, and a crescent on his jata mukuta. He should be adorned with all the ornaments including the yajnopavita. Sadashiva is seated on a lotus pedestal with his two upper hands holding trishula and akshmala. His natural right hand is broken and the left hand is in the varada mudra. His tall jata mukuta has a crescent tucked on it and he is also adorned with the ornaments attributed to Shiva. The image represents the most important characteristics of Chola art.

Though Sadashiva images were popular in South India, they are also known to have come from Bengal, Madhya Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh.

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Guardian Figure (one of the four Shitenno figure)

Polychrome wood

1679 CE; Enpō period

Kyoto (?), Japan

Sir Ratan Tata Art Collection


The figure shown here is one of the four Shitenno (guardian/ heavenly) figures of paradise. He is responsible for the protection of one of the four cardinal directions in a Buddhist monastery. Each figure stands on a demon symbolizing the victory over the evil, that is the victory of the Buddhist law. It must have been protecting the central Buddhist figure. Glaring and blazing, he is armoured and stands in a highly animated form that came to become part of the Japanese art from the medieval period. This figure from the CSMVS is not identified. The iconography however suggests that he could be the protector of the south. The exhibit is signed and bears an inscription stating that it was made by a great priest sculptor Fukuji during the Enpo period in Omiya (Kyoto)