Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya


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.

Paithani 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.


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.

Hanuman in the Service of  Rama

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.


Parel, Mumbai
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.

St John Plate Obverse

St John Plate Reverse


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