The classic Nataraja iconography has an interesting story behind it. It is said that Shiva decided one day to grace the kanakasabha (golden assembly) at Chidambram. The deities and sages gathered there told Him of the heresies of the Mimansaka sages inhabiting the surrounding woods. In keeping with His dharmic greatness, Shiva confronted them in the clearing where burnt their sacrificial fire. A blazing tiger emerged from the flames and attacked Shiva, but He overpowered it in a flash and made its skin His loincloth. Then a superlatively venomous snake rose from the firepit, but Shiva overpowered it and made its kind His adornment such that they sit with great docility on His limbs and tresses. Finally, the apasmara was born from the fire of the heretics, whose back was snapped against the weight of His powerful physique motioning in tandava.
The most unusual aspect of Shiva-Nataraja are His madly flowing locks that flank His handsome countenance. It indicates that the deity's power is five-fold. He projects the entirety of existence as we know it (srishti), preserves it (sthiti), causes its cyclical destruction (samhara), withdraws His energies inward (tirobhava), and reveals Himself to His devotees in all His grace (anugraha). It is this panchakritya (five functions) that the Nataraja embodies. The inverted-lotus pedestal He is placed on in all His shringar, in complementary colours in case of each finish, is typical of the murtis of Indian deities.
The much-revered Shiva parivar comprises of His wife, Parvati, and Their 2 sons, Ganesha and Kartika. Shiva Himself takes centrestage. His two posterior arms are holding divine weapons to battle adharma; He raises one anterior hand in blessing, while with the other He secures the lovely Parvati on His lap. She is also seated in lalitasana, and holds in Her hand a weapon. The harmonious, self-sufficient unit of life that They form together is superbly expressed in the way Their respective silhouettes have been made to align with each other by the artisans. Their intricately crafted, perfectly symmetrical crowns tower above Their heads, Their silk dhoties and ample shringar fit for the celestial realm They belong to. Seated in union on a layered lotus pedestal, with the graceful much-devoted Nandi sitting at the base, They form a complete picture of blissful togetherness.
They are flanked by Ganesha and Kartika, each of Whom has been sculpted with Their iconographies intact. From Ganesha's adorable elephant head, the baby fat on His form, and the humungous laddoo in His hand; to Kartika's radiant handsomeness and the sublime proportions of His form. Like Their parents, Their shringar is flawless and Their stance that of great benevolence and blessing. They are each on a much smaller layered lotus pedestal, which together with Shiva-Parvati's seat are placed on an elaborate stand decorated with petal engravings. The aureole equals it in maginificence. The sheer detailing on each layer - the outermost wave-like curves, followed by the twisted lotus petals, the smooth rim as if of a halo, more twisted petals, and two rings engraved with rangoli-esque motifs - sets this ensemble apart from run-of-the-mill enshrined Shiva-parivar statues.
A stateliness characterises this composition of Shiva. His gaze is powerful, directed straight ahead, which is matched by the dignified stance of the wide-hooded cobra that sits on His shoulder. From within the layers of His voluminous tresses that reach well below the shoulders emerge a couple of gigantic kundalas that dangle from His large lobes. The skill that has gone into sculpting this part of the statue is considerable. Each strand of the lord's hair has been defined. A sliver of the moon is balanced at the hairline, behind which towers His signature jatamukuta that is seemingly held in place by another snake. Amidst His tresses resides Ganga, who is said to have passed through there prior to descending onto the North Indian plains. A hand raised in blessing, on the open palm of which is tattooed an image of the sacred syllable, and the kamandalu He holds in the other complete the picture.
While the silhouette juts out in the shape of a broad shoulder on Shiva's side, it descends into a soft curve on Parvati's. Note the finesse of Her fingers, giving it away that She plays some divine melody on Her veena. One of Shiva's hands rests on the back of His trusty Nandi, a popular stance of the deity, while the other holds up the goad of dharma. Luxuriant adornments, starting from the neck to the navel, wind around the undulations of the torso that is skilfully carved in accordance with the essence of each deity that makes up the composite. While the hem of Shiva's dhoti lies mid-thigh, leaving the glorious musculature of His limb exposed to the devotee's view, Parvati's supple shape is draped over till the distinctly narrower ankle. Each of Ardhanarishvara's wrists and ankles is clad in bangles.
The one-of-a-kind pedestal of this sculpture makes this a must-buy. With the usual lotus petal motif etched on to the surface, it is like a circlet of freshly plucked lotuses placed atop a gigantic inverted one.
Lord Pashupatinath is seated in lalitasana on a piece of silken fabric on the back of Nandi. The animal is richly adorned, all the way from the horns through the neck to the hooves, which befits its status as Shiva-vahana. A sharply sculpted, taurine face is turned to the viewer with a gaze full of unshakeable bhakti (unconditional love, for Lord Shiva in any of His roopas). On its head rests one of the chaturbhujadhari (four-armed) Lord’s posterior arms and in the other is the image of a pashu (animal) subject.
The most striking aspects of this composition are the ones that establish it in the style of South Indian temple architecture. A wide pedestal embossed with elongated lotus petals, with a floral chakra at the centre. A characteristically layered aureole. The imposing kirtiumkham at its zenith, signifying the predominance of kala or cyclical time. Note the miniscule lingam emerging from the surface of the pedestal into the belly of Nandi.
The charming Belle is painted to be bejeweled with a lovely nose ring that is studded with silver, red and green beads that perfectly goes with the vibrant bangles combined with the remarkably carved thick bangles. Her long, moderately frizzy, charcoal-black hair is commended with a sparkling forehead band, bespangled with green and purple gems as well as a beguiling silver head pass, that soothes the eyes. Her ear droops under the weight of the charismatic gold and amethyst-painted drop earrings that enhance her mien. With the perfect jawline, her neck is beautified with a bewitching white pearl collar necklace that extends to become an artistically embellished, heavy and a luxurious ivory-stoned choker necklace that chaperone the dangling laced opera that lengthens to her navel.
The painting encapsulates the lass in a pleated, mauve lehenga with a chest-length red choli stitched with a gold colored lace, that deepens over her cleavage. Her diaphanous, Maya blue-dyed, floral dupatta drapes gracefully, failing to cover her light-complexioned skin.
Her henna painted fingers curl around the mirror as the art shows her as she does her shringara. However, an overwhelming feeling of melancholy grips the spectators heart, as the stripped blemishes color her arm brown. Her broken smile is a key to the clandestine that is dug under her maquillage, bringing into light her sadness that she tries to conceal with love, turning out to be the ultimate jackpot of a wonderfully depicted scenario.
The painting takes us to an enlightening festival where this young and beautiful damsel, dressed in a three piece red silk decorated elegantly with golden zari all over and adorned in the best of her gold jewels, sits graciously on this platform to perform the puja rituals of worshipping Lord Ganesha. She holds the puja thali that contains the bright flowers, a pot of water and Ganesha’s all time favourite motichoor laddoos.
Painter has very neatly and beautifully depicted the devotional expressions of this young lady with the sparkling eyes and that sweet red smile symbolizing her religious love for her lord. Vibrant and colourful flowers sprinkled in front of Ganesha’s small temple make us realize that, already many such ladies have performed their pujas before the sun sets. The deep yellow background pictures the time of the setting sun, as all the puja has to be performed before that and enjoy the bright lightening of diyas and candles at night.
This painting depicts the scene of a village as can be identified by the structure of the wall and large water pots that lay around the girl; trees painted in the background accentuate the greenery in the village with the applauding use of brush strokes in the striking attires as well as in framing the overall essence of the painter’s thoughts.
The painting even captures her better half, who protectively swings the entrancing lady. The handsome man is encapsulated as a possessor of a fawn colored countenance adorned with a thin imperial moustache. The Royal geezer is appareled in a light lava silver jama that drops down his ankles, swaddled in a tawny brown and golden stripped choga, revealing the silver cloth below his arms. A cinnamon brown, tuscany thread-embroidered turban sets down over his frizzy, unkempt hair, as a lavender shaded and orange tinted dupatta entangles in his manly wrists. He is emblazoned with ravishing white pearl ear tops and an elegantly layered opera that droops down his neck.
Although, this scene of giving one's lover a splendid ride should show cheerfulness, the illustrator has portrayed both the characters to look away, instead of smiling, a grim expression drenches their face, complimented with the pale and dusty fern green trees, depicting their despising lives, making it a painting with an intriguing secret, worth working out.
The royal is appareled in a chiffon white jama that is emblazoned with aqua white drop shaped stones, fastened around his body with a vibrant motif waistband tinted in an amber and watermelon orange tint, coupled with his bright yellow churidar pajamas which are embellished with yellow and green checkered lines. His feet are gracefully decorated with an olive painted khussa with golden imprints along with a fire yellow stripe of vibrant floral pattern envelops it.
The prince's ears are ornamented with pearl hoops and a tri-layered white pearl opera with lovely gemstones drapes over his chest. A thin brown belt goes diagonally from his left shoulder down his waist. An old fashioned dagger with a gold plated handle is sheathed in a leather covering embossed with intricate black-gold designs. The geezer's wrists are graced with sparkling silver bracelets and expensive stone embedded rings. His unkempt hair is cleverly covered in a cotton turban that is illustrated in vivacious colors and beady strands that droop over every pleat, luring the spectators. A strong blackish silver shield peaks across his thighs as the Highness takes on a grim expression with his eyes fixed in an infinite direction while a gloomy backdrop lingers over the spectators quite mysteriously making it your first and best shopping item.
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.
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