Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Trip to the National Museum

The highlight of this weekend was a trip to the national museum. It does not mean that we finished admiring the museum. A complete visit of the national museum would mean many trips and many hours of walking around. With Dan, we are aiming at visiting one gallery at a time and spending whatever little time we have to admire the exhibits in that particular gallery well. This time it was the Rama Katha Exhibition, a collection of 101 illustrative miniature paintings from various illustrative painting genres all over India. The exhibition will be on till mid October this year. If anybody in Delhi is reading this, please take some time to go and see the painting exhibition. The sheer minuteness of the paintings and the amount of details the artists of yesteryear's have included inside a tiny frame is indeed breathtaking.

The galleries we missed and will be visiting one at a time some time later are,

1) Harappan Civilization
2) Sculptures
3) Buddhist Art
4) The rest of the Indian Miniature Paintings
5) Indian Scripts and Coins
6) Decorative Art and Jewellery
7) Central Asian Art
8) Manuscripts
9) Tanjore and Mysore Paintings
10) Ajanta Paintings
11) Maritime Heritage
12) Indian Textiles
.... and so much more. So if you visit the capital and go away after doing a quick India Gate and Qutub Minar, you are missing out on some serious visual splendor here.

The tale of Rama aka the Ramayana is widely illustrated in all sorts of folk, classical or modern narratives. As a research student, my Mphil research interest also loomed around the many narratives surrounding the Ramayana, specifically emphasizing on the marginalized women characters. The exhibition was a rich visual experience for the researcher and art enthusiast in me. But I am sure it will entice even the most casual visitors. In the Rama - Katha Exhibition, the miniature paintings on display showcased how different artists from different regions of India of the 18th or 19th Century took the simple narrative of the Ramayana and added motifs from life around themselves to beautify the picture. While a Rajastani piece had forts and palaces in the background, a Pahari style indulged in the lush green forests and vegetation. Depictions of kings and queens and their clothes and accesories also had such regional variations, be it a Dakhani crown or a Rajastani nose pin.
The Exhibition has variants of the Pahari style including the Basohli, Guler, Chamba, Mandi, Kangra, Nurpur and Bilaspur. Rajastani styles included were Mewar, Bundi, Kota, Jodhpur, Jaipur, Bikaner, Kishangarh and Deogarh. There were Central Indian styles, provincial mughal styles, Deccani and Kalighat styles of paintings in display. One interesting fact to note from the exhibition is that while there are depictions of Rama fighting the Asuras because they perpetuated violence and all that, there is one peculiar painting which shows a lakshmana roasting a deer, and in yet another curious one making the meat into hanging kababs. This story of Ramayana has endless possibilities to be told and retold from all sorts of perspectives, the thought of which gives me goosebumps.
While the time I got was spent in enjoying the minutest details of those brilliant paintings, someone else was having a lot of fun with the lights, the empty big room, the echo of his own voice and so on. Here is the little museum enthusiast of mine.

He surely had a lot of fun. I am glad it was not some gallery with harappan pottery displayed as centre piece and all. I really do not want to think about the Mr Bean adventure we might have had  to go through.

Among the Rama-Katha exhibition, what caught the most attention of mine would be the pretty designs in the borders and details. This is definitely the most picture heavy post so far. The pictures are not of great quality because of the glare of the glass and the humbleness of our camera, but still it is worth looking at.

And to think that all the colours are vegetable colours, and in each tile sized painting, about a hundred tiny brushes were used so that the colours wont mix up and make a mess! Talk about patience and art!

Another fabulous thing was the different versions of Ravanas in different styles of miniature paintings.

The way Ravana was depicted was quite interesting as there were single headed images to ten headed mughal muslim emperor look-alike Ravanas. I was thrilled at the coincidence of getting to meet different Ravanas painted by many anonymous artists from centuries before just after doing a Ravana Illustration myself. The thought that from two or three centuries ago another person sat down with his/her brush and tried to imagine how a Ravana would look like is exciting in itself. Check out the different Ravanas we saw.

The Malwa Style Ravana 

The Chamba Style Ravana 

The Mandi Style Ravana, who also reminded me of portrayals of Mughal emperors. Probably, somewhere an artist would have thought that a villain would look like a Muslim Emperor. Or on a higher probability, a hindu king would have ordered an artist to depict a Ravana in the costume  of a  Muslim Emperor. Are Ram Images and other such valorous god images modelled on reigning kings? One doubts. 

The Ravana who proposes to Sita. 

Another Ravana discussing war strategies with his brothers. 

A sad and pensive Ravana. 

Death of Ravana, one head at a time. I wonder what the woman standing next to him is doing; assisting in head chopping?

A one chop all heads gone killing of Ravana. 

There were some other pictures which were interesting. Like the illustrated sea of monkeys or the portrait of Rama. 

It is quite rare to get a glimpse of Rama all by himself without lakshmana or hanuman or other associates.

While we went to see the Rama Katha Exhibition, we also got a chance encounter with the Yogini. The catchphrase the museum authorities gave to the event of bringing an old loot back from Paris is interesting. Bollywood film makers can actually cook up a fantasy movie with a buffallo headed animal mutation of a woman and name the flick "The Yogini Returns". Anyway, glad we got a chance to meet the returned Yogini. The statue is amazing. 

The sculpture of Yogini Vrishanana was taken to France illegally and acquired by the art collector late Mr. Robert Schrimpf. Thanks to Mrs. Martine Schrimpf who decided to donate it back to India, the national museum now proudly possess the Yogini. May be a bufallo headed giant woman freaked her out or something. Anyway, good only. 
The yogini has a club in her hand and a fruit in another. She sits atop of her vehicle, a swan who picks on the fruit in her hand. The yogini cult is dated back to the 6th to 10th centuries and is an example of the worship of mother goddesses. 

Finally to end the day, the gleeful son and mom took pictures in front of the museum. 

We definitely are excited to be with ancient vyalis or modern copies of ancient vyalis.

And with some other mutilated god. My thrilled little museum goer. 

1 comment:

  1. Very much intresting..informative.......But roasted deer is not a wonder...its clearly mentioned in Valmeeki Ramayanam nas u may know......Love


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