Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya


Stone, Karnataka

12th century CE

S 110

The Shalabhanjika is a common decorative motifs generously depicted in Indian stupa and temple architecture. Common to Hindu, Jain and Buddhist architecture they are mainly designed as bracket figures.

They are often depicted as a well adorned lady standing gracefully under a stylised tree or grasping branch of a tree. She may also be shown engaged in different activities like dancing, playing a musical instrument or adorning herself with cosmetics and jewellery. They are known as Madanikas, Surasundaris or Devanganas in ancient and medieval Indian Shilpa texts. These celestial beauties were all-time favourites of Sanskrit and Prakrit poets and play writers. Often their nayikas (heroines) were associated with these themes; for e.g. Rajasekhara's 'Viddhashalabhanjika' and 'Karpuramanjari'

They are symbols of fertility and nourishment which can be deduced upon observing the efforts taken to carve their hips and breasts. The Yakshi (tree nymph) sculptures may be considered a prototype for them.

Here, a well adorned young lady stands under stylised tree in full bloom. Her sharp features are finely delineated; particularly interesting are her arched eyebrows and firm yet delicate chin. Her nose must have been well shaped once. She is shown standing cross-legged, in tribhanga pose. Holding a mirror in her left hand she is adorning her hair with her right hand. She looks engrossed in her thoughts. What is she thinking? Well, that's left to your imagination!

January 2021

Copy of Portland Vase

Jasperware, Wedgwood

England, late 19th century CE

Sir DJ Tata Collection


The Portland Vase, a delicately carved Roman cameo glass vessel of deepest cobalt blue covered with opaque milky-white glass, was probably made about the time of the birth of Christ, during the reign of Augustus (27 BCE - 14 CE), in Rome. It is one of the most celebrated of all antiquities. It is not entirely in its original form and was almost certainly made as an amphora with a pointed base, probably broken in antiquity and repaired with an unrelated cameo disc. The subject of the reliefs has never been definitively explained and many interpretations have been proposed.

Its fame in the 18th and 19th centuries, however, is due to the brilliant series of copies made in black jasper ware by Josiah Wedgwood (1730–95) after he was lent the original by the 3rd Duke of Portland in 1786. Wedgwood was one of the most innovative figures in the history of English ceramics. His many experiments with different kinds of bodies and glazes led to the perfection, around 1771, of a high-fired stoneware which he called “Jasper”. This was the material used for his Portland Vase copies. The subtlety of the original reliefs proved difficult to replicate, however, and the first successful copies date from 1789. The Wedgwood Company produced many copies of the vase and dating this one is not easy. It must date from before 1860, however, when the factory introduced a three-letter dating system. The inclusion of the Paris cameo under the base may suggest a date before 1845, when the British Museum detached it from the body and displayed it separately.

Chanda talking to a Friend

Folio from an illustrated manuscript of Chandayana,

Sultanate period, Probably Delhi-Jaunpur belt

1525–1575 CE


Chandayana is a folk love story of the Ahirs of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar which, was versified by Maullana Daud, a Sufi saint and poet in circa 1377 CE. The text in Avadhi or Hindvi narrates the romance of Laurak with Chanda and the hurdles they faced after elopement.

These paintings are mostly secular in content and imaginative in expression. The style shows a blend of Indian, Persian and Iranian features. Manuscript paintings of Laur-Chanda or Chandayana are excellent examples of this School. Persian influence is evident in the representation of the delicate figures, costumes, pale colours, and the use of arabesques and Chinese ribbon clouds.

Elephant in Musth

Rajasthani, Mewar,

Thikana Deogarh,

Iartist: Chokha, dated 1811.

Karl J. Khandalavala Collection


On a dark night of the fifth day of the month of Magasar (November–December), the royal elephant Madar Bagas has gone out of control while in rut. All four legs of the elephant are heavily chained, making it impossible for him to free even one of them. The person standing in front of him is trying to control him with firecrackers. The people working around appear tiny insignificant creatures in front of the mad, but majestic elephant. The white tusks against the dark background emphasize his fierceness. The shimmering metal chains glow in the light of the firecrackers thrown at him. The dark sky is dotted with tiny, glittering stars. The artist has emphasized the pinkish swollen gland between the ear and the eye of the elephant to suggest his state of musth which generally occurs in the winter months from November to January.

Only an artist like Chokha who excelled in recreating atmosphere and the mood of the moment in his paintings, could capture such a scene. He has subtly used shades of black and grey, and the technique of heavy stippling and fine lines to enhance the body contours of the elephant. Chokha was fond of using black in his paintings.

Inscription on the reverse:
Portrait of elephant Madar Bagas (from?) Kotah, presented by the painter Chokha on the fifth day of the dark half of Magasar (November– December), Samvat 1868 (= 1811 CE).


Folio from an illustrated manuscript of Devi Mahatmya

Illustrations 43; Folios 54

Western India, Surat

Samvat 1776 = 1719 CE

56.38 | Folio 32

The Devi Mahatmya of the Markandeya Purana (Adhyaya 81-93) is probably the most popular text copied and illustrated in almost all parts of India for religious merit as well as for reading and recitation. It contains the myth of the destruction of the all-powerful demon Mahisha and his retinue, by goddess Durga, the embodiment of the energies of all the gods.

The painting illustrates Brahmani, the shakti of Brahma, riding a canopied chariot, holding a sword and a noose in her upper hands while holding the reigns of her chariot with her lower right. Instead of a single swan as her mount, the artist has engaged a pair to draw her chariot. The Devanagari inscription on top reads as “Bhavani”.



Tamil Nadu

Period of Raja Raja Chola, Early 11th century CE

Ht. 39.1 cm

Karl & Meherbai Khandlavala Collection


Out of the various forms of Shiva, the image of Chandrashekara is peaceful and benign. As his name indicates, he has the moon on his head adorning his matted locks.

According to the legend, Shiva repulsed the demons with nonchalance. They threw at him a black antelope, but he killed it and held aloft. They flung the crescent at him, but he caught it and tucked it in his hair. Chandrashekhara stands erect, holding an axe and an antelope in his upper two hands. His right hand is in the abhayamudra, while with the other one he bestows a boon. His slim and elegant body is decorated with the necklaces, armlets, earrings and other ornaments.

This beautiful statuette, produced during the reign of the famous Chola King Raja Raja Chola in the 11th century CE, is a typical of the Chola bronze.