Lord Sadashiva is more of a Southern deity. This explains why He is to be found in some abundance amongst the artisan-studios in that part of the country. The one you see on this page has been handpicked from the studios of Southern bronzeworkers, the home of which is in present-day Swamimalai. From the one-of-a-kind subject to the high-precision artisanry the same has been captured in, this one is a fine example of the region’s workmanship.
A plethora of handsomely sculpted faces, the heads crowned, bear a composure of divine bliss. The Lord is possessed of numerous weapons to fight adharma with, apart from the anterior two meting out blessings to devotees. The tallness of His stature is complemented by the gracious pedestal that lies beneath His feet, a multitiered structure engraved with lotus petals all over. The gold finish of the murti features green undertones that are highly characteristic.
Every time Her husband has been incarnated as Vamana, Parasurama, Rama, and Krishna, She has accompanied Him as Kamala, Dharani, Sita, and Rukmini. Hence, She has come to embody the especially feminine virtues of beauty and devotion. She is as inseparable from Him as knowledge from intellect, coherence from words, and dharma from righteousness. A divine sense of calm is writ across Her supremely beautiful brow, the rest of Her form as rubescent as the lotuses She holds up in Her tender (posterior) hands. The right anterior hand is the ashirvaad mudra, what with Her chosen devotees amongst the most fortunate of our realm of existence. Her four arms stand for dharma (ethics), artha (wealth), kama (pleasure), and moksha (deliverance).
While the Puranas describe the birth of Lakshmi as the daughter of the sage Bhrigu and his wife Khyati, She is deified as having been born from the oceans during the all-important samudramanthan. Artist Kailash Raj depicts Her as such, emerging from the tempestuous waters. Complex brushstrokes in limited shades and tints of blue illustrate withh great skill the prevailing turmoil in the heavens. Note the graduated halo that surrounds Lakshmi - the gold glow of knowledge, followed by the pink ringlet of beauty, and finally the pristine layer symbolic of ethical purity.
It captures to spine-chilling perfection the frightening demeanour of the cross-cultural deity. His skin is adorned with the ashes of the cremation grounds. A wild, bloodthirsty gaze characterises the eyes. He bares His teeth at the onlooker, the twin fangs on either side of the jaws making a picture of the doom that adharma deserves. For a moustache He has the slithering bodies of two snakes sculpted on His upper lip.
It is not just iconographical perfection that makes this a must-have for the Lord Mahakala devotee. Dual rows of serpents with their hoods raised constitute the crown of Mahakala. It is a complex work, a sharp pointed spire punctuating the snakes that seem to be as fierce as the deity whose head they are sitting on. This could be a powerful visualisation aid for highly advanced sadhana or a remarkable item of home decor.
In fact, the colour white dominates the palette of this work. Her skin is dewy, the unusual colour of crushed olives. A milk-white swan, Her vahana, is seated in perfect stillness behind Her. Her asana is a gigantic lotus in full bloom, its pristine petals featuring undertones of powdery pink and gold. The waters flowing underneath are calm and clear as crystal.
There is so much of the dynamic in this painting. If you gaze into this painting long enough, you could almost observe the displacement of the swans flying in the background and see the flora in the foreground sway in the breeze. The brushstrokes employed at the waters convey a sense of gentle motion. From the tilt of Her neck and the direction of Her gaze, it seems that She is in close communion with the miniscule swans and lotus-buds in the stream, as if She is playing to infuse them with life and nourishment.
The one you see on this page is a gorgeous silk number that you could layer over Indian as well as western outfits. The base colour is a pale grey that takes on a silvery shimmer from the silk make. Superimposed on the same is a luxuriant network of ari embroidery. It is a kind of continuous chain stitch technique done with miniscule crewels. Its jet black and verdure makes for an appeal that is at once earthy and ethnic. Let this be your signature jacket this winter as you add a traditional spin to any gathering you walk in wearing this one.
Her skin, the colour of the inky tropical skies at dusk, is the embodiment of tamas. The usual aspects of the Kali iconography include the long garland of the heads of adharmees She has just slayed, the skirt of severed human arms She wears that are an offering by Her devotees of their karma, and Her luscious tongue protruding out of Her mouth in a stance that is decidedly bloodthirsty. What makes this a signature, one-of-a-kind Mahakali are the ten crowned heads and the ten limbs each. While the composure of each of Her beauteous countenances is superbly fierce, it is set off by the sheer variety of weapons and ritual implements in each of Her intricately sculpted hands. With five pairs of legs to match, the deity is in the middle of a tandava ritual on a battlefield lain with vanquished adharmees and their fallen weapons, embossed on Her enormous shield. Her luxuriant, dishevelled tresses complete the iconography, a symbol of Her untramelled freedom (this lends Her the name, Muktakesi).
Her form is characteristically naked punctuated by hints of shringar at the neck, waist, wrists, and ankles. Despite Her divinely fierce portrayal, it is impossible to miss the supple beauty of Her figure and the feminine appeal of Her sookshma features. Note how the third eye has been carved onto the temples of each Kali head in this Mahakali statue.
In the privacy of each other’s company, the ladies have let their hair and dupattas down. The peacock is eating out of the hands of one of them, while the other two look on. The painting boasts of a remarkable level of attention to detail - the gold booties on their richly coloured lehengas, the lush rugs and cushions they are sitting on, and the lifelike candle burning steadily in the foreground.
Upon gazing at each of the ladies in turn, one finds that each of the splendidly dressed ladies is fairer than the other. They are youthful and lithe, their irresistible figures enhanced by the skimpy cholies and low-cut lehengas they are wearing. Together, they are no less than the sultry glimpse of the skies in the background, the jewels on their flaxen bodies competing with the resplendence of the moon.
Also, the floral motif is an undying bridal statement. Zoom in on the kameez to truly appreciate the intricacy of the embroidery, which is done with zari (gold thread), a style of embroidery that defines traditional Indian fashion. Similar sequined motifs in gold grace the translucent peachy pink dupatta, which matches the hemline of the kameez. The super-flared style of salwar that completes this dress, popularly called the sharara, is what makes this an unusual wedding dress.
Clad in a loincloth, His shringar comprises of a bunch of snakes (He is considered the archenemy of death, of which the snake is a symbol). In fact, He is called Nagantaka, the devourer of snakes. According to Indian mythology, it stems from the acrimony between His mother, Vinata, and Kadru, Her sister/co-wife and the serpent-queen. He is seated with a knee touching the grand lotus pedestal, His hands folded in all humility in the Namaskaram mudra.
The dark burnished finish on the insides of His wings add to the beauty of His imposing wings. From the macrostructure of the same to the plumage and stance, they have been sculpted with a great deal of skill and imagination, the kind that stems from the heart of the Vishnu devotee. From the raw lines that make up the countenance to the rugged texture of the overall composition, the primal strength of Lord Garuda has been conveyed well in this workl
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