(Photographs: Anusha Pinto| Text: Ornella D’Souza)
Valentine’s Day can get borderline annoying. Chocolates, jewellery, soft-toys, cards, candy hearts and flowers in an over-dose is like Red Riding Hood painting the town red on Christmas Day. Ah exaggeration. Yet very apt for the in-your-face mushiness this day garners. Psst! glow-in-the-dark lingerie just entered Indian markets! That does seem wild but how about a gift that tells you of a time when love came with no frivolous nonsense?
This is what Anusha and I stumbled upon at a recent Arts and Crafts exhibition in Mumbai. We found love. No not for ourselves. In three varied Indian art-forms; of paintings adulterated in unbelievable detailing. Pathachitra, Madhubani (Mithila) and Mughal miniature paintings. Here, love is bold, fierce, raw, fearless and passionate. Just as each of the paintings’ intricate framework has almost no space unpainted; the love reflected here leaves no room for shame, hesitancy or any hula boos. What more, the canvas and paints, are a fusion between nature’s array of flora and fauna. Eco-friendly to the core.
So come celebrate India this Valentine’s Day, with our ‘Love on the Wall!’ concept. These extracts from Indian history mash Indian mythology plus Mughal aristocracy with Kama sutra and milder forms of love, so flawlessly. Hang these on any wall that make a home or office; they’d make everyday beautiful.
If you like what we are trying to do here, then share the love on your Facebook Wall.
*We are open to putting a basic black frame around the picture you buy. This will cost you extra. To place an order, mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on the numbers mentioned on the right hand side of this page.
This is a limited edition. Just one of each piece. So your love gets something almost as exclusive like a lil’ piece of your heart.
Touted as one of the oldest etching techniques, engraving on palm leaf scrolls originated as manuscripts for birth horoscopes (jaman kundali). These were created by the astrologers of the Nayakar community in Orissa. In time, the Chitrakar painters around Puri, Orissa, made such parchments into pictorials. The process is a lengthy one. Toddy palm-leaves are dried during a course of six months (leaving them in the sun the first 15 days and bringing them indoors the second half of each month). The parchment is then prepared by stitching palm strips. (Some parchments, like the ones we’ve collected, have semi-circle flaps to showcase a diverse theme on each side). With an iron-nib engraving tool or Lekhana; episodes from of Ramayana, Mahabharata, Krishna Lila, Vishnu Purana folk tales of Lord Jagannath and the erotic Kamasutra are etched out on the strips. Black dye created out of charcoal til oil, turmeric and bean leaves, is finally rubbed over the etching to highlight the figures and give the entire parchment a polished look.
These palm scrolls don’t garner insects and are washable. (Just soak in lukewarm water for a few minutes and then wipe with a dry cloth). You don’t need to frame these. Just roll it up when you need a change in decor.
a. Dashavatar of Lord Vishnu -SOLD
Five circles display five avatars of Lord Vishnu on the top. Coyly hiding under these Vishnu’s incarnations are five Kamasutra positions on the top flaps. Their bottom lids complete the other five incarnations.
Size: 18”x 6” Price: Rs 325
b. Lord Krishna and Radha love saga-SOLD
The beauty is concentrated at the core of this scroll, where Lord Krishna serenandes Radha with his bansuri. Circling this ‘circle of love’ is Lord Krishna and Radha, drawn in alternate circles. Almost unnoticeable are four Kamasutra positions, nestling cosily at each corner of the thick floral border. 10 arches (extreme top and bottom) show the 10 incarnations of Lord Vishnu. On the extreme right and left are five devdasis each, in a row.
Size: 10”x8” Price: Rs 325
Most detailed of the three parchments in our possession, this one glorifies the elephant God in diverse postures through 11 etched circles. The top flap of the circles has an animal painted on them, while the bottom flap has a Kama sutra position. The centre circle (also the biggest), lies between two columns which narrate scenes from Ganesha’s life, pictorially. The top column has baby Ganesha in his mother’s arms, surrounded with figurines of joyful women, while the bottom column shows Ganesha with an elephant head, being worshipped by a line of celestial beings. With thick flora and fauna border and beautiful women figurines decked in ornaments; this one is a steal.
Size: 12”x9.5” Price: Rs. 650
MADHUBANI (MITHILA) PAINTING
The Ramayana states that King Janak commissioned women from the bucolic Bihar regions of Madhubani (translates as forests of honey) and Mithila to create paintings, as decoration, for his daughter Sita’s marraige to Lord Ram. Since then, the womenfolk (considered as pioneers of this art-form) have been painting the walls and floors of their mud huts on mythological deities (figures from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, Goddess Durga and Ganesha) and other festive themes. Elements of nature like the sun, moon, tulsi, fishes, elephants, turtle etc., that are considered lucky charm are interwoven in this art-work. Colours are extracted from juices of fruits, plants and flowers. Like black hue is derived from burnt jowar or kajal, orange from the palasa flower and green from the bilva leaf or the saim creeper. For each colour there’s a brush, made from bamboo twigs topped with cotton rags. Different styles of Madhubani kept emerging over time. So today, the final six styles are Geru, Bharni, Kachni, Tantric, Gobar, and Godana.
Painting the kohabar (nuptial) room was of most prominence. The paintings here would dwell on love and fertility. So Ram marrying Sita or Krishna with Radha and his gopikas. Both the paintings in our possession apply to this room. They tell of Lord Krishna and his love-interest Radha. Here Krishna lures Radha with his flute (basuri) while reaching out to the pot on Radha’s head.
a. Radha and Krishna I
This is the Bharni style of Madhubani painting (vibrant colours and minimal use of lines).
Size: 10.5”x8.5” (with frame) Price: Rs 520
b. Radha and Krishna II
This is the Khachni style of Madhubani painting (intricate use of lines mostly less colour). Notice the accuracy in every brush-stroke and the intricate detailing throughout (peacock-feather jewellery).
Size: 15”x5.5” (without frame) Price: Rs 6, 500
MINIATURE MOGHUL PAINTING
Miniature paintings come from different parts of India- Bengal, Bihar, Orissa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. We procured ‘Mughul’ miniature paintings from Rajasthan. These tiny pieces of intricacy are highly influenced by the Persian way of life. This cross-culture was introduced by Mughal emperor Humayun when he returned to India (1555-56), commissioning two renowned Persian artists, Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad to set base here permanently.
So the Rajasthani miniature (Moghul) paintings sport Persian traits through court scenes/royalty and their muse in elaborate turbans, ornaments and rich attire/a hilly landscape for background and flora and fauna motifs. (All of it is clearly visible in the paintings displayed below). Miniature paintings used vegetable dyes and derivatives from nature as colours-precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver.
a. Lovers sharing a drink-SOLD
This pose, of two lovers across each other and the constant shade of blue running throughout the painting, are traits attributed to the Mughal paintings. *All the embellishments are in metallic gold paint.
Size: 11”x7” (with frame) 6”x 4” (minus frame). Price: Rs 520
b. Muse offering her master a drink
Women and alcohol-every man’s dream. Here a muse relaxes in slightly seductive posture to tempt her royal admirer with a drink. *All the embellishments are in metallic gold paint.
Size: 11”x7” (with frame), 6”x 4” (minus frame). Price: Rs 520
Have a great Valentine’s Day!
Anusha & Ornella