Wednesday, December 22, 2010

IN PURSUIT OF SIVA ICONOGRAPHY - I

PILGRIMAGE  EXTRAORDINARY !



This is my season of thanksgiving! Before Ruby and I embark on our journey through AP and North Karnataka in pursuit of Siva/Shakti/Vishnu iconography.

My interest in Siva iconography was kindled by the books I could lay my hands on @ NY Libraries - at Schwarzman Building  and Lincon Center. Three  from the books I went through were presented to me on the eve of our departure by my elder son  Sujash and his friend Miriam .Two rounds of thanks go to them.

Bhiksatana Siva from temple @ Kanchipuram (not in my current itinerary)
(Photo used from Internet)

Special thanks go to my e-friends who have spent valuable time in advising me about the logistics and other innumerable details of the trip I have planned for February,11.

Siva and Vishnu are two major deities of  Hindu religion, worshiped across the country.Vishnu has ten 'manifestations -Dashavatar - whereas Siva has none.Most of Siva temples have SivaLinga and a few have an idol like the following :


Siva-Shankara-Bhairava @ a temple in Chittorgarh,Rajasthan

But through the ages, Siva's imagery has gone through lots of changes. He has been visualised , through centuries,as  the following, perhaps many more :
  • Pasupati of pre-Vedic ages.
  • Rudra, the Archer of Vedic hymns.
  • Bhikshtana Siva, Androgyneous Siva
  • Kalyana Murti,Gajasura-sanhara Murti,Gangadharana Murti etc
  • Bhairava, Kal-Bhairava
  • Nataraj and
  • Linga
Who knows if some of the later ones were based on heads of sects practising Saivism ? A great disciple was transformed , in the followers' mind as an 'avatar', an incarnation of Siva. Foremost example - Lakulisha .I believe, imageries of Bhairava and KalBhairava  were connected to real lives.

Those who are very much interested may please read the excellent and handy compilation of Margaret Stuteley :


Ruby and I  hope to capture many of Siva's imageries during this 'pilgrimage'.  And those of Shakti and Vishnu too.We shall not be able to savour the beauty of miss the Ganges and majestic Himalayas like  the pilgrims to Kedarnath and   Badrinath  . Instead, here, my bonus will come from another 'H' - history. And the Tungabhadra, the river which inspired novelist   Saradindu Bandopadhyay.

Friday, December 10, 2010

A NEWYEAR'S GIFT FROM A TRAVEL-PHOTOGRAPHY-FREAK









The 'SURPRISE' Gift




When DJ Ray insisted on getting my address as he wanted to send a 'New Year's Greetings' by post, little did I expect the surprise he was readying for despatch!!

I came to know DJ Ray through flickr.com. When I was studying about Iconography of Siva during my stay in New York  June-August, 2010, Those days, I spent a good amount of time on Internet resources looking for materials on this subject.This is when I came across photos of DJ Ray and Mukul Banerjee , covering wall reliefs from Badami/Aihole/Pattadakal.

I left an elaborate  comment on his photo of  'Nataraja Pattadakal', highlighting the details from the viewpoint of Siva's Iconography ( view : http://www.flickr.com/photos/djray1943/4718038964/) , thus earning his acquaintance. The reward came yesterday noon. It is a 12-pages table calendar, printed on glossy paper. Each page....26.5 cmX 22 cm in size....contains 22.5cmX13cm photos of architecture/reliefs from Hampi/Badami/Aihole/Pattadakal clicked by DJR.
















What a wonderful gift! Thanks a lot DJ Ray!


Readers of this page - please take your time to appreciate this person's pages of wanderlust in http://www.flickr.com/photos/djray1943/with/4718038964/.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

DURGA PUJA IN CALCUTTA - 2010

A FEW THOUGHTS ON THE EVENING OF  NABAMI


The earliest  images of Durga Puja I recall is  of  a village in Murshidabad district , known as  Shimulia , wherefrom the family of my mother originates. My grandfather, who was a doctor in Calcutta, had his establishment in Shimulia village. I recall the Candimandap, the Goddess in Her full glory, the priest's puja offering in chaste Sanskrit and sacrifice of goats on Sandhipuja and Nabami. My grandfather's elder brother would match the crescendo of  the dhakis' percussion with loud calling out  of prayers  during the moments of sacrifices. Later, I  realised, he ... and the priest , Bhondul masai.... used to be under the influence of alcohol at those moments.

After my grandfather expired,  fund flow  for this Durga Puja dried up. Later, as my uncles did nor take any interest in their ancestors property, their relatives sold off the buildings and landed property piece by piece.
The Candimandap is now nearly flattened, but for a small portion where idol of Maa Carcikaa.... worshiped by the family for generations.....has been kept. With a son of my mother's cousin's family getting financially established and being in a position to revive the tradition. I did not have an opportunity to be present at Shimulia this Puja (2010), but, offer my prayer to the deity as I found Her last February when Ruby and I visited Shimulia village .




Decades after, in my sixties, I have collected a good number of  Duga Puja's photos. Since I purchased my 1st digital camera while @ Durgapur , I have taken scores of photos of  Puja for many years. I am no longer young, I  visit   a few pandals in Calcutta in the vicinity which have earned good name for splendour and artistic merit. A good representation  of  current days style of decoration and display  I have collected through years !


One of the best  idols I have seen is here :







 I do not like the doll-like idols which have become quite popular these days in Calcutta. Initially, this style  appealed a lot , but now , repetition  has rubbed off the novelty. Here is a photo of one such idol which is a few years old. I was quite fond of this style .... but too many copies have now been made. The advantage of  having such an idol has probably a relationship with cost. This type of  idol is relatively small in size and therefore organisers do not have to shell out a fortune for the kind Ballygunge Cultural or Ekdalia Evergreen needs. So,  other attractions like pandal decoration gets a good share of  the collection .



But,  the hype in media  before and during the Puja days have brought a question in my mind. There is a lot of emphasis on the crowd a Puja pandal attracts. We find a spirit of carnival among the revelers ! The more is the publicity, the more crowd the pandal pulls.... thus attracting larger Corporate contribution. I often wonder, so much time goes into planning  a pandal's shape and decoration and hundreds of man-hours go into creating it ,  do not   fare appreciation from the swelling crowd. Thousands of people streaming through the In- and Out-  gates get just a glimpse of the splendour created as the volunteers herd the people at every stage. If one has to savour the 'creations', only time to visit is early mornings .... when lighting cannot be enjoyed.... and the evenings of Dashami/Ekadashi , when crowd pressure is minimal.I remember once Badamtala Puja committee had displayed a style based Kalighat's pata. I went in the evening of Ekadashi and could take as many photos as I wanted to , because there was a handful people around. but, then , the maximum number pandals one can cover will be between 10 and 15, hardly more !

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

SIVA THE ICON -III

SIVA  & JESUS - ARGUMENT on ASCETIC /EROTIC  IMAGERIES.





Nataraja Siva from Srimukhalingam temple,AP,India. Siva has Nandi on his right and Devi on his left. His ithyphallic image beautifully poised,exudes cosmic joy and power.


Siva is a major deity of Hindu religion. Through centuries, millions of followers  have worshipped him. His imagery's , as we find in Sanskrit and vernacular texts, in temples and caves ( Elephanta, Ellora et all),paintings vary widely. He can be Shankar the Benevolent,  Bhairava the Ferocious, Nataraj the Cosmic dancer,Lakulisha the Ithyphallic yogi.  Sects of Saivites , through centuries of practices, built up Siva's imageries with conflicts among them.Not all the sects believed in being celibate ascetics.Nor  the Vaishnavites among Hindus always been kind to Saivites while penning puranas and other religious scriptures.Tale of Siva and the wives of sages in the 'pine forest' is well-known ( refer to Part I ) . Here, Siva was under attack for cuckolding sages.

Besides the above ,scriptures tell us : Siva was married  to Sati whose  dead body he carried across the world on his shoulder till Vishnu cut the body in pieces by his Wheel  and relieved Siva. He  stayed an ascetic for centuries thereafter,burnt KamaDev, god of Love, to death.Then he married Parvati and enjoyed divine conjugal life again for centuries till Kartikeya , also called Skanda , was born, but not from the womb of Parvati.

Siva and Parvati in an intimate posture in Mount Kailash as Ravana attempts to disturb them.Ravana will be severely punished by Siva for interruption and creating discomfiture of Parvati.
Ellora Cave 29.

Yet he is the super Yogi - Yogeswar.

Lakulisha - one of the greatest Yogi incarnation of Siva. Ithyphallic.
British Museum, London.


Wendy O'Flabberty  has brought out all the tales connected with Siva in her book : Asceticism and eroticism in the mythology of Siva'.This book was published in 1981 and as far as I know , created no ripple among Hindus in India - probably was overlooked . I have found this conflict has been  brought out in an extensive article  titled 'Shiva The Sensuous Yogi',published in the internet during April 2002 ) - refer to http://shiva.exoticindiaart.com/. Very likely, this article will not be accessible from India, because Siva is not portrayed as a celibate ascetic here and this theme is offensive and unpalatable to many Saivite Hindus .

Not only in India, but even among the more liberal society of Christians in the Western hemisphere,celibacy  is considered very important to religious order.But, unfortunately,the burden of life-time celibacy is not easy to  carry.There has been many scandals and power struggles in Vatican's history, at the root of  which are instances of  failure of people in religious order.

It becomes very much apparent when  I was reading internet sources  about  possible relationship between  Jesus and Mary Magdalene. My impression is that a large section of  followers of Jesus believes it would have been improper for Jesus to have a normal conjugal life .Without going into deep discussions about what were written and what were implied in the religious writings by his disciples, disseminated over centuries,let us read:
  • http://au.answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070227040110AAfvdD5, including comments
  • http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20081217130718AAmugoz, and
  • http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/1282/were-jesus-and-mary-magdalene-lovers, a 1998 article, published  much before the hype 'Da Vinci Code' generated.
to understand how segmented the view point is about this  relationship .

To-day, what we have about the life of Jesus is partly from the ancient writings ,their interpretations for centuries and troves of work of art.Enthusiasts have taken time to publish  collections of the best on Mary Magdalene in the internet I  was floored by the collection of 'Bible Art Gallery'.

Let us take a look at  the few that struck my heart :

'Noli me tangere'  ( John - 20.17) - Touch me not - by Titian. See how tender is Jesus in his refusal . He  is not walking away harshly, but, he has bent towards Mary Magdalene.When Buddha and ChaitanyaDev left the beds of their conjugal partners, did they bid  goodbye as tenderly?

Let us have a closer look at Titian's interpretation of the scene of parting :

Titian  added a sensuous dimension into this painting through nearly nude image of  Jesus.His naked body , clad by just a loin cloth, tells a story to the viewers, to those who are willing to listen. In direct contrast to the robed figure of Jesus in Frescos by Fra Angelico  and  Giotto .

Two of the best work on Jesus and Mary Magdalene are where one of the two characters is not present. First one is a sculpture ....clay to be turned to bronze , capturing the moment when, amid tears, she utters ; Rabbouni !!' ( which means Teacher). Jesus is not present in the composition, yet the viewer does feel his presence.




The 2nd one is a masterpiece by Mangegna -'The Lamentation over Dead Christ' . The viewer will feel s/he is standing at the position of Mary Magdalene, where the bruised feet of Jesus protrudes beyond the marble slab of the tomb chamber. This is a subdued  and highly acclaimed tempera work of this great artist.

The Lamentation over the dead Christ.
Pinacoteca di Berra, Milan.
  

My own  Comment :

Though many people  continue to debate about the relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene,  I feel, it is not very important to mankind if Jesus was celibate or not. He was a great preacher. If he found solace in a relationship  during the turbulent days of his life in company of the 2nd Mary of his life, so be it.Unfortunately for the mankind, his teachings on tolerance and love have been violated by his followers through centuries.

To me , it is important that he dies on the cross every time justice suffers  and hate prevails.In continents and in Institutions and at homes.

His teachings and Siva's present-day imagery - 'Shantam-Sivam ( Tranquil and Good) ' are the essences we can carry in our heart.





NOTES : 
1 A. FRESCO BY FRA ANGELICO - http://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.lib-art.com/imgpainting/7/0/18907-noli-me-tangere-fra-angelico.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.lib-art.com/paints/nolimetangere.html&h=1087&w=900&sz=173&tbnid=c7Z8QfpR8I8EKM:&tbnh=150&tbnw=124&prev=/images%3Fq%3DNoli%2Bme%2Btangere.&zoom=1&usg=__TosqnRUSmwZ5ZrhSv8yJnL3UK3Q=&sa=X&ei=FfJyTOCZIJTNjAfh0rT7CA&ved=0CDgQ9QEwCQ.
Museo di San Marco, Cell 1, Florence.
B. FRESCO BY DIOTTO - http://www.shafe.co.uk/crystal/images/lshafe/Giotto_Arena_Chapel_Noli_me_tangere.jpg
Capella degli Scrovegni, Padua

2. BIBLE ART GALLERY - http://www.bible-art.info/MaryMagdalene.htm

Friday, August 13, 2010

SIVA THE ICON - II


A book from National Geography.
A wonderful gift I received during 2010 trip to NY.

Siva's Blessings

After I completed the blog on Siva, I circulated an e-mail requesting a few friends to have a look at the same.

I received two responses - one from DJ Ray and the other from Suraj Nowlakha. I have inserted a quote from DJR's e-mail in the ' Comments' column.Suraj has sent a number of Sivalinga's photos . I did not include any Sivalinga's photo in my 1st blog on Siva.Here is the 1st one...that of Somnath temple.......one of the twelve photos he forwarded to me.


The Linga is made of white stone while the Yonipatta is covered with silver .
Milk drips from a bowl on the Linga to soothe the same.

I found an interesting photo of the 'Brahmanaical Triad' in a book on the Asian art collection of Brooklyn Museum ( Unfortunately, the day I visited this Museum, this section was closed to visitors) . This one is from Kashmir, an 8th century green chlorite sculpture. Here we find Brahma and Vishnu standing on the sides of phallic symbol of Siva. Brahma on the LH side has two geese which are his 'chariot'. On the RH side, we find Vishnu with a female and male figures on his two sides. According to the book, the female figure symbolises the mace Vishnu carries and the male his 'Wheel of law'.


8th Century Green Chlorite figure of 'Brahminical Triad'.
Source - Brooklyn Museum.

The most pleasant reward for all the work I did during my Library visits @NY came from Sujash, my elder son and his University-friend Miriam. On 7th August ,2010,we were discussing about NYPL @ Miriam's place over a lunch of salad, after a long walk @ 11oth Street and Harlem. Miriam enjoys reading and travelling. I mentioned the books I enjoyed reading during my visits, but could not copy as many pages as I wanted to ( because @ 30 p/page, the cost is high even @ USA standard) and the only book I could not find there. She asked for the list and yesterday ( 12th August) , I found a packet of three books as a gift from Miriam and Sujash.


The cover of this book has now changed. But, I could not copy the image of the cover from Internet source.


A remarkable book by a person who learnt Indian classical dance and created this wonderful collection of writings and photographs while
elaborating the nuances of Nataraj's postures.


Saturday, July 31, 2010

SIVA THE ICON - I



Tension between the imageries of Siva




'If he is naked what need he has of bow?
If armed with bow then why the holy ashes?
If smeared with ashes what needs he has with a woman?
Or if with her, then how can he hate Love?'


- 'Asceticism and eroticism in the mythology of Siva', Wendy O'Flabberty.Translation from a Sanskrit poem written perhaps around 1000AD.



Bhikshatana Siva - The Wandering Mendicant.Matted unbound hair, naked except a girdle of snake around his hip,wearing sandals ( the only imagery of Siva wearing a footwear ), skull of Brahma in his left hand. Siva is naked, but, not ithyphallic. A dog accompanies Siva.

Interpreting the intrinsic meanings of Hindu Iconography is a subject that requires scholastic understanding of our religious history, ditto of mythological tales and study of allied fields. As I glanced through some of the work on Iconography of Siva, written by Western writers during my visit to NY in 2010, I found the list of books and articles each of them referred to is simply enormous. Among the writings I went through,I was most impressed by the book of Anne Marie-Gaston, an exponent of Bharat-natyam herself, on Siva’s dance-form, as expressed in wall-reliefs in temples across India and Stella Kramrisch. The other books I could lay my hands are by Homer John Custead and Charles Dillard Collins.

Present day anthropomorphic image of Siva

It is quite well understood that the worship of Siva as a ‘Linga’ has a long history. But, Siva in his sitting posture, with the crescent on his matted hair, tiger-skin covering his loin, trident on his right-hand, is comparatively new. The first image of a Yogi, wearing buffalo-horns as his head-gear, sitting in a straight posture, ithyphallic – ‘unencumbered by a loin cloth’ is where we start from. This image ( see below) is from Harappa and probably dates back to BC. Was he a god of Fertility? Was he a Lord of animals – a ‘Pasupati’ among the non-Aryan gods? There is no answer yet.

A pre-Vedic age imagery of an ithyphallic Yogi, presumed to be a god of fertility and a Lord of animals ('Pasupati' )


Then we have Rgveda slokas,referring to 'Rudra', the Roarer .The Roarer was an archer too. But, Rgveda has no mention of Siva .One point is very clear – Siva is no vedic god. A lot has been written by serious students of Siva’s mythology on evolution of Siva/Mahadeva from the Yogi of Harappa , tension between Siva’s imageries as erotic/ascetic, benevolent/ferocious.

A coin from Kushan era.King Vasudeva ( 190-230 AD ) on the left. On the right, Oshio - probably derived from a Prakrit word 'HAVESA',representing the Sanskrit word 'Bhavesha', the Lord of Being. The ithyphallic god has his trident in his left hand and is accompanied by his bull. ( Note : 1)

Bhikshatana Siva - The Wandering Mendicant, at Darukavana. Wives of sages submit themselves to Siva as an cuckolded sage gesticulates furiously. Siva's finger is raised upwards, a gesture copied centuries later by a sculptor , who created a statue of Siva's disciple Sambandar (Note : 2)
Photo : Obliged to Sardonik , Trekearth.

Yet another depiction of Bhikshatana Siva . Parsvanath temple at Ranakpur, Rajasthan. Siva is not young and his hairs not unbound like the preceding image . Siva is naked, but, not ithyphallic.Wives of the sages are seen dancing around him.I did not understand the relevance of the dancing figures when I took this photo in Sept,2009... thus missed out the details of the RH side.

Among the mythological tales woven around Siva/Mahadeva , the most interesting are :
  • Beheading of Brahma.
  • Bhikshatana Siva and his encounter with the sages of Darukavana after their wives fell for Siva’s charm.
  • Dance of Siva after he vanquished the challenges of the sages of Darukavana.
  • Slaying of Gajasura. Destroyer of Tripura.
  • Dance of Siva after Andhakasura was tamed & Gajasura slayed. 
  • Hari-Hara.
  • Androgynous Siva.
  • Birth of Kartikeya.
Stone statue of Natesh Siva from Bangladesh.Siva dances on Nandi , not Apasmara.
Siva is  ithyphallic.
Through ages, followers of Saiva sect have added to their sacred text. The ‘tales’ have been written and re-written, trying to establish the supremacy of Saiva sect above the other. Upper class Aryans have come into the fold of this sect….yet a large group of those on the fringe of the society continued to be followers of Siva.
A painting showing Siva and Parvati in mountain Kailash, as Ravana shakes it.This imagery has been used repeatedly by Indian sculptors.

All these, specially the rivalry among sects, added much to the ‘twists’ of the tales. One point is clear…. There seems to a lot of conflict between Siva and Brahma in Hindu mythology. One of the Western writers I mentioned above has drawn an arrow diagram that portrays the conflicts between the two from the starting phase to development in the Bhikshatana Siva and Natesh Siva imageries. 
I have taken the liberty of using a few photos from the Internet .I acknowledge the debt with thanks.

Three manifestations of Siva - somber,benign and ferocious. Photo taken at Chittor, Rajasthan.According to Hindu mythology, Siva has eight manifestations -Sarva,Pasupati,Ugra,Asani,Bhava,Mahadeva,Isana and Rudra.

No blog on Siva's Iconography can end without a para on and a photo from Elephanta Cave. A very nice reference book is written by Charles Dillard Collins , title being 'The Iconography and ritual of Siva at Elephanta'.We find the earliest reference of this cave in the record of Gracio da Orta, a Portuguese physician and scientist,in the company of Portuguese sea Captain Martin Afonso de Soma. He wrote : '.....On the walls , all around,there are sculptured images of elephants,lions,tigers,and many human images,some like Amazons, in many other shapes well-sculptured..Certainly it is a sight , well worth seeing, and it would appear that the devil had used all its powers and knowledge to deceive the gentiles into its worship'. An useful link to an exhaustive album is at : http://www.google.com/images?q=elephanta+caves+pictures&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=univ&ei=xFNUTPX1BcG78gavscX-Ag&sa=X&oi=image_result_group&ct=title&resnum=1&ved=0CCAQsAQwAA&biw=922&bih=520.

I have picked a nice photo from this album. The relief shows marriage of Siva and Parvati , again an imagery which inspired sculptors through centuries .


Siva-Parvati's marriage - Kalyansundarmurti. Elephanta caves. Source - Internet.

I end with one terra cotta panel from the hexagonal temple ( 19th century) of Ilambazar, Birbhum district , WB which shows an unconventional depiction og the Ganges coming down to the earth ...... she is not shown as coming down on the matted lock of Siva !


From left to right : Bishnu,Ganga riding on makara, Bhagiratha praying with folded hands,Siva, ithyphallic Ganesha and Bhagiratha looks up as the river flows down to the earth.

Notes :
2.View : http://postbalki.wordpress.com/2009/01/31/kolaru-pathigam-from-gnanasambandar-surprisingly-different-1/

Friday, June 25, 2010

A WALK ON 5TH AVENUE

5th Avenue the Great !



When Ruby and I came to New York from Banbury (Oxfordshire), some of my friends thought that we would stay away from the more crowded areas of New York for weeks. We visited London and Oxford for one day each,, which, well.... was far less than 'enough'. One of them has vowed to come down to Banbury during the 2nd stint there in August-September and make us travel to Oxford by train and visit Bodelian Library.

Ruby standing in front of 'The Ego and the Id' ( Sculpture by : Franz West.20' tall. Hardly impressive !

We ,however, were not lazy about '5th Avenue' at all. Within a few days of our arrival in NY for a 8+ weeks' stay, Ruby and I went to visit the 'temples' of brands of high fashion.We started from Bay Pkway station of Brooklyn at around 4.15 pm and got down at 5thAve/59th Street station. On our left was the southern corner of Central Park. We walked along the footpath with kiosk of books, children playing around the 'The Ego and the Id'.We found the whistle-blowing Traffic Police persons in the same state of agitation as in Calcutta.

Not a moment of rest for these Traffic control police persons. Crossing between 59th Street and 5th Avenue.

Next,we crossed the 5th Avenue and went down to the underground shop of 'MAC'. A very crowded joint with visitors and enthusiasts overflowing the Shop. The price tags generates a bit of awe. For a couple of years, my elder son suggested if I should buy a mini-Mac, but I never took the plunge. Later, we sat by the side of the fountain of this plaza and started our walk.



I am standing in front of the 'Apple' Store on 5th Avenue.

Fountain by the the side of the 'Apple' Store

The great brand names were ablaze in an area of 2 blocks X 2 blocks. Armani, Dior, Louis Vuitton , Yves Saint Laurence, Sony ,Prada, Swarovski...... et all. Tall handsome young men in dark formal attires were supervising the entrances of these high temples. If one of them ever think of writing about his experiences, it will be 'who's who' among the top celebrities of the nations. The mannequins , however, were mostly uninteresting except for those in the windows of Bergdorf Goodman. We did not venture into any of these 'high fashion' shops ..... the doormen looking formidable.....but took a stroll into Swarovski and Sony. Swarovski salespersons were very friendly but tried not to mention that whatever items we enquired about were manufactured in Thailand. In the showroom of Sony, we had the very 1st exposure to 3-D TV. A children's cartoon was being played and a few persons stayed glued to the visitors' seats, though I did not find the show great !

'Eiffel tower' painted at the entrance of Louis Vuitton store.

Refection of one skyscraper on another , opposite Bergdorf Goodman.


A passer-by stares at a mannequin, attired in a very fashionable dress. The array of shark/skeleton/other strange objects makes this window very special, whereas refection of a car whizzing past make the scene very real ! To enjoy the big-sized photo, please click on the photograph or request for the original size .


It was nearly dark before we returned to 5thAve/59th Street station....... en route we took photographs of the fun items ,e.g., rickshaws and horse-drawn carts. I took a few photos of the pond of Central Park and Pulitzer fountain in Grand Army Plaza. Another 2-3 hours of walking and clicking will complete this photo-feature.


View of Grand Army Plaza - statue of goddess Pomona ( godess of wealth) atop the fountain on the left hand side, quiet in the middle of crowded 5th Avenue-59th Street crossing.

A place for everyone...... fast and stylish cars, limousines, rickshaws and even horse-drawn carts !





PS - Getting into N-train was not easy for me that evening. I was slow to enter after the Metrocard swipe and the 'Go' signal. Babai advised me to walk to the next station instead of waiting for the mandatory 20 minutes. Ruby and I walked to '7th Avenue/57th Street' station, but that took no less than 20 minutes. We should have waited for 20 minutes coolly and take a few more photos !

View of two skyscrapers beyond Central Park.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

SUMMER VACATION @ BANBURY, OXFORDSHIRE

ENRICHING EXPERIENCE : HISTORY OF INDIAN ARTS

Statue of Hari-Hara in British Museum



I write this blog for me as well as for two of my young friends ,one in Pune,india and the other in London, UK.

Pankaj Sakpal of Pune is a Design specialist, but, I know him through flickr.He is one of my few acquaintances who has an appetite for non-fictional books . He was the first person to invite me to make a presentation on Bengal's terra cotta temples to a small gathering of his friends in Pune when I visited that city in 2008.

Amit Guha is an IITian who lives in London ,and in spite of his busy schedule, devotes a lot of energy for the cause of Bengal's terra cotta temples.Whenever he is home in Calcutta, he steals two or more days from his crowded schedule for visiting terra cotta temples in a small town or a village in West Bengal's districts. I could not act on his suggestion of visiting British Museum's lecture session on Indian Art organised by SOAS, but, could find other opportunities in this line.

Four weeks at Banbury is a vacation , not a sight-seeing trip. My wife Ruby and I spent good amount of time at home, with family members, on computer , sorting out the large nos of photographs we have taken on our days out. My vacation has been considerably enriched by the very helpful and kind persons at Banbury Library.

Earlier during 1970s, during stint in Glasgow , I got myself enrolled in a local library.It was a small one. The library in Banbury cannot be called a big one , but adequate for a small community of 35000 people.Ground floor of this Library has 5 major sections : non-fictional, fictional,children-specific,audio books &video and large print . The entire 1st floor is for reference section on various subjects, town's history and lineage of families, maps/directories and computers.

I found a book on 'Hindu Iconography' written by Margaret Stutley in the reference book section of Oxford's public library .I got a very favourable response from the authorities .The book was sent across to the library in Oxfordshire for my studying and copying . This library has several excellent books on 'History of Arts' section. For example, books on Classical art from Greece and Rome, Isms and understanding Art, which I could never find in National Library or Asiatic Society in Calcutta.

Statue of Lakulisha in British Museum


I have scanned lots of pages from this book of 'Hindu Iconography', specially several manifestations of Shiva/Rudra. My interest in this matter was aroused by the statue of Hari-Hara and ithyphallic Lakulisha ( was he a great Shaiva sage from Gujarat , 200 AD or a manifestation of Shiva *) in British Museum. The evolution of Shiva's current imagery from the pre-Vedic days to 20th/21st centuries ia interesting reading....... I shall collect more materials regd. this subject once I return to Calcutta. Many scholars believe that pre-Vedic Shiva and Vedic Rudra merged during course of centuries , during which there used be a lot of conflict between the followers of Vishnu and Shiva.

I have little knowledge in Jain Iconography...... may be Pankaj has. See the Jain equivalent of Rudra's image ( Ranakpur temple) in : http://www.flickr.com/photos/cshyamal/3987378782/ and Bhairav's photos in : http://sudhansu-nayak.blogspot.com/2009/01/64-yogini-temple-hirapur-detailed-view.html.

* A note below the statue describes Lakulisha as one of the biggest Shaiva sages whereas on searching 'Lakulisha' in 'British Museum's website, one finds this :
'an aspect of the Hindu god Shiva standing on the vanquished dwarf of ignorance, Apasmara, and flanked by two diminutive figures.'
(http://www.britishmuseum.org/search_results.aspx?searchText=Lakulisha&withinResults=all&searchPrevious=kakulisha&currentPage=1)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

PRESENTATION @ ROTARY SADAN,09/04/2010



Front cover of our Brochure.


Article published in the AnandaBazaar Patrika ahead of the Presentation.


'TERRA COTTA TEMPLE TOURISM"


My friends , Somen Sengupta , Rangan Datta and I got an opportunity to make a presentation to a 160+ strong audience @ Rotary Sadan, Calcutta on 9/4/10 on Terra cotta temples of West Bengal. Somen covered the travel-related subject, Rangan the architecture and I spoke on the 'Iconography'.

Timir Roy, President of Rotary Club of Gardenreach helped us a lot to get this venue . He worked hard on our behalf to get media attention,. Our friend Soumitree Ghosh Dastidar played a very good role in roping in several TV channels.Connections of Rangan Datta and Somen also helped.All in all, our very 1st attempt did receive good publicity and audience support.

We started dot @ 6.30 pm with Timir and Ruby making short introduction about the subject and speakers.We could finish our Presentation within the scheduled time ......did not drag at all!

We three felt happy to note that the audience sat through the 3-part presentation .... however, the question-answer session found a part of the crowd melting away.

I am very pleased that I could bring out the best of the plaques of my collection, specially those which have some special point in imagery One example is here : 'Art of reverse similarity'.


'Abduction of Seeta and Jatayu' - Unconventional description @ Gangeswar temple , Baronagar at the centre. Conventional imageries by Ravi Verma and on RadheShyam Temple @ Bishnupur on its two sides.

This panel got a special mention in the article published in the Hindustan Times dated 17/04/10.



We three have planned more such presentations in the future. We have to incorporate a few suggestions :
  • Introduce a few hilarious 'moments'. Otherwise , the presentations tend to become a little too 'heavy'.
  • A bit of pause between the presentations, perhaps in form of a short Q&A session.
  • A mic. on the collar and a hand-held mouse so that the speaker can move around the dais. Staying stuck to the podium looks too formal.
  • More joint rehearsals.
I end with thanks to Amitabha Gupta for his designs of our Invitation Card and the brochure, Timir ,Somen, Ruby and Rangan as we could work as a team without friction and the sponsors and well wishers for their support.